Women in black: Photographer's quest to capture beauty in every form

In this collection of black and white portraits, Sharmistha Dutta experimented with moods, emotions, and of course, light.

Photographs by: Sharmistha Dutta

I find beauty in every face, in every soul. From the electric and dynamic, to the elegant and sublime, my quest to capture beauty in every form continues. Combine that with my love for black and white photography and I can keep shooting portraits forever. It does not matter if I am doing a social documentary or a commercial assignment, I always take time out to photograph  portraits, both candid or posed. 

Urban portraiture is definitely a big favourite. In this collection of black and white portraits of actors, artists and fashion designers, I experimented with moods, emotions, and of course, light. My effort was to bring out the true character of these women, so beautiful and yet so distinctly different from each other.

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Payal Jain

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“I believe I am a nomad, a​n explorer and artist, passing through the world in the quest to discover myself. I am constantly inspired by art, architecture, music, books and travel. Design for me is a resplendent journey of evolution, one that drives me, gives me immense joy and remains my eternal love. I had a childhood steeped in painting, sculpture and music, with parents who were intensely passionate about the arts! By the age of eight, I had attended live performances of the greatest maestros of Indian classical music and attended over a few hundred exhibitions of painting, sculpture and ceramics. My love for all forms of art grew into the pursuit of fashion, and a passion for Indian heritage, weaves and crafts.”

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Seamlessly blending Indian recherché and craftsmanship with modern western silhouettes, Payal Jain’s name is synonymous with eternal style. Counted amongst India’s most respected couturiers, brand Payal Jain was established in the early 90s and houses couture, prêt-à-porter, home and corporate design. She describes her brand ethos as having ‘a western body with an Indian soul,’ which is embodied in each collection that she presents season after season.

​The twinkle in her eyes and her easy charm made things very easy for a photographer who had just started shooting portraits. Even though I was supposed to shoot a few photos, essentially ‘corporate portraits’, I ended up doing some experimental ones. These remain my favourite photos of her.

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Rakhi Biswas

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“In a world ​where everything needs to be perfect to the T, I find beauty in imperfection. I prefer a messy look to perfectly blow-dried hair; I prefer smudged kohl to the symmetry of perfectly applied eyeliner. My idea of beauty is effortless - raw and authentic. A fashion stylist by profession, I have worked with various magazines as well as e-commerce platforms. One of my career highlights was when I collaborated with Sharmistha Dutta for Durga, a social documentary on gender bias and the life of widows in India. I remain grateful to be a part of a project, that is close to my heart.”

When I first decided to shoot Rakhi, what stuck me was her typically Bengali look. With lovely long hair and expressive eyes, she exuded an easy charm. It made perfect sense to photograph her in an unstudied set up with abundant sunlight to achieve that perfectly natural portrait.

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Vidushi Mehra 

“For me, beauty isn’t as important as elegance and confidence. As a stage performer my aesthetics are related to my sets, lights and sound for my performances.”

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A multifaceted performer on stage and in film,​ Vidushi directs, produces, acts, and even executes her entrepreneurial skills on multiple fronts. She has acted in Hindi films like No One Killed Jessica and Aisha. She is currently immersed in theatre with her first directorial debut, Death and the Maiden, which was scripted by Chilean playwright, Ariel Dorfman, in 1990.

Vidushi exudes a particular dynamism associated mostly with actors. From extreme euphoria to the depths of immense sorrow, I have live​d and breathed the emotions she brought to life in front of the camera.​ Her enthusiasm ​to experiment with emotions, ideas and concepts is infectious. I have shot her numerous times and yet we are never sure what the results of the shoot will be. And that’s what makes the photos dramatic and edgy.

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