Milan Lama began his career as a photographer eight years ago. Today he is one of the most renowned and sought after fashion photographers in the country. Although he has his education in travel and tourism, the pull of the lens was a stronger one. Milan is mainly self taught although he did some workshops and short term courses in photography. What really makes his work stand apart is his ability to reproduce feelings and emotions in his compositions; it is somehow personalized and carries his unique signature. In a conversation with WOW’s Ankita Jain, he shares his journey from photographer to visual artiste.
How and when did you become interested in photography?
I have been very passionate about art and the field of creativity from an early age. When I was in seventh grade, my elder sister got herself one of the latest Nokia phones with a decent camera. Since then I started exploring by taking pictures at home and on school trips. That’s when my journey started.
What kind of camera and tools do you use most in your work?
My first camera was a Canon 7D which I used for more than eight years. It had been my go to weapon for curating all my visual art. I even used Canon 6D for commercial projects now and then. But frankly speaking, updated gear and equipment has never been part of my journey which I was earlier obsessed with. Rather, I invested in curating creating content that best fits my vision. I remember doing a few of my campaign photo shoots with a smart phone. So, it’s definitely not about what you use, rather the perspective and the vision you put into your work.
What is your most striking memory as a photographer?
My first ever fashion editorial photo shoot in collaboration with a fashion magazine featuring Lumanti Shakya in Thailand. I believe this was the first international location set up from Nepal for a campaign. This project holds a special place in my heart.
Tell us a little about the surprise launch that will happen at the Miss Universe Nepal Grand Finale.
A long awaited vision is turning into reality and that too from a stage as grand as this; it’s like a dream come true for me. I will be launching a quality, Made in Nepal swimwear brand for both men and women in collaboration with a talented fashion designer Sabin Dhungana on the Miss Universe Nepal stage.
Do you think using photo-editing tools is justified in photo shoots?
I used to be into clean photographs some time ago which meant editing a model’s skin to look flawless depending upon the skin of different people I photographed but with time I learnt different tools and techniques to create natural looking yet high-end images.
What distinguishes your work?
The more clarity I have about the people, location and equipment I am working with, the more the work itself thrives. Having said that I pay attention to the best attributes of each element involved in the project and capture and enhance what’s already at hand in any project.
What has been the biggest influence on your development as a photographer?
There are a lot of things in life that influence my work but my biggest influence has always been progress. I am adamant that each new project that I take on has to be better and more fulfilling than the last one. Self improvement fuels my work and gives me enthusiasm to keep getting better. And growth never stops as long as we are alive.
What are the major differences between the Nepal market and the other major Fashion hubs like India, Paris, Milan, New York?
The fashion industry of Nepal is comparatively younger than those of these major fashion hubs in the world. The industry itself in these places are more facilitated and richer but the way I see it, the difference is in people’s vision more than anything. It is obvious that we are still lacking in many aspects but that doesn’t have to dictate our work, it doesn’t mean that our passion for fashion has to be any lesser than the professionals in these places. It’s mind over matter.
What are some of the changes you have witnessed in your eight years in this career?
I think I entered this field during a very important period in our society… as artistes were getting exposure on a bigger scale from different social media platforms. This exposure helped not just me but all my contemporary artistes as we had a chance to explore, experiment, get inspired by, and have an ability to showcase our art to a wider audiences. The growth in exposure led to an increase in quality work which then elevated the artistes’ respect in the society. When I started pursuing photography eight years ago, the general masses were yet to view makeup artistes, models, photographers and other artistes in the fashion industry as decent professionals. This industry has come a long way in the last eight years, however there is so much room for growth and I am glad to be a part of the change.
What makes a good photo?
In my opinion a good photo consists of clear vision, choice of passionate team, a proper plan of execution, and a budget for all the things mentioned because no artistes should have to work for free.
What qualities do you look for in a model?
I prefer working with passionate models who are cooperative, humble and confident in their skills. The whole team needs to work towards the same artistic vision so models who are in front of the camera need to be patient and persistent.
I love being behind the camera as well as being in front of the camera where I am comfortable.
Nepali models are still underrepresented in the fashion industry. Your comment.
There’s an ocean of opportunities in the global fashion industry, I think it’s a matter of access. There are a few Nepali models who are doing well in the international fashion scene like Anjali Lama, Varsha Thapa, Aditi Budathoki, Muna Gauchan, etc. They just need to be clear about what they want and how far they want to go as a fashion model. Good research about the fashion industry in Nepal and beyond is a must. They should also know what’s right and what’s wrong for them ethically so that they do not get exploited or taken advantage of.
Which photographers do you look up to and why?
There are a few international photographers I really admire for their work but I look up to photographs more than I look up to people.
Three tips you would like to give budding photographers who are pursuing fashion photography?
I love how the industry is growing so well. I am glad to be part of this as one of the pioneers. For all the photography enthusiasts, I would suggest three matras that worked for me so well. These are:
Stay true to your vision
And always be patient with your journey
What would you like to be remembered for?
A simple human being who lived his entire life doing something he loved by curating quality and detail oriented visual craft.
Favourite celeb/model to shoot with: In my recent experience it would be Miss Universe Nepal 2020 Anshika Sharma.
Who is it easier to shoot – the men or women: Women because they have a lot of possibilities to experiment with different looks and poses.
Besides photography: Creating art, travel, food, lifestyle, decor and branding content
Natural or studio light: I have always loved experimenting with the natural/ambient light. I am flexible in both the lighting setups according to the project requirements.
Favourite genre: Fashion & Beauty