Documentary photographer, Abhishek Howlader, grew up in a tribal state of Chhattisgarh in India. “The ‘raw’ nature and the local art has always brought me immense pleasure” he says when talking about the inspiration for his work. After moving to the city of Mumbai for his studies, Howlader says he missed home dearly, “I chanced upon a camera and it became my lifeline (my addiction), Through the lens, I found my tribal home again in a big city.” Through the rediscovery of his roots, his work brings him closer to his new home in the city and combined with his passion of photography, he aims to aid other in rediscovering their raw roots.

Berlin-based portrait and documentary photographer, Lilli Nass, is part of the Ostkreuzschule Berlin and was recently announced as a finalist of the new BFF-Förderpreis 2022. After picking up a camera for the first time at the age of 13, Nass has since found her love in analogue photography, capturing the expression and processing of grief. Rooted in the belief that delicate topics deserve space and thought, her photography offers a stillness and documentary of people and still life.

Abhishek Howlader and Lilli Nass. IMAGO Photography Scholarship Shortlist.
Photography by Abhishek Howlader, instagram: ah_photos
Abhishek Howlader and Lilli Nass. IMAGO Photography Scholarship Shortlist.
Photography by Lilli Nass, www.lillinass.format.com

How did you start out in photography? 

Abhishek: I have been living in a small hamlet surrounded by hills in central India with a river cutting in the middle of this small hamlet. Nature, art and music was part of it. I started painting as a self expression. Later my father bought a Kodak disposable camera to capture different family moments. Eventually I got hold of it and then it became my primary tool of expression 

Lilli: I started out as a teenager. Photography very early became a tool of expression for me. Whenever I wanted to clear my head, long walks with my camera became my most important outlet for emotions.

What excites you about photography?

Lilli: To have an excuse to see places I usually wouldn’t see and meet people I usually wouldn’t meet. It’s a wonderful tool for curiosity. Especially how versatile it is – When a story can be told without much text, just via the photographic image – I get very excited.

Abhishek: It’s about how a small box can capture a moment, an emotion and the vast story in just a small piece of 4×3 paper. 

Abhishek Howlader and Lilli Nass. IMAGO Photography Scholarship Shortlist.
Photography by Abhishek Howlader, instagram: ah_photos
Abhishek Howlader and Lilli Nass. IMAGO Photography Scholarship Shortlist.
Photography by Lilli Nass, www.lillinass.format.com

What topics are you most interested in?

Abhishek: I am interested in documentary, portraiture and Black & white street photography.

Lilli: Photographic stories being told. Places with a history, family stories or odd occurrences and myths retold by image. Social change and inequality made visible.

What is your favourite motif in front of the camera?

Lilli: People and details or still life found.

Abhishek: I like to shoot street and chaotic environment where there is an overlap of culture, texture and emotions. Sheer rawness of the emotion and society intrigues me.. 

Abhishek Howlader and Lilli Nass. IMAGO Photography Scholarship Shortlist.
Photography by Abhishek Howlader, instagram: ah_photos
Abhishek Howlader and Lilli Nass. IMAGO Photography Scholarship Shortlist.
Photography by Lilli Nass, www.lillinass.format.com

How would you describe your creative style? 

Abhishek: I am a monochrome guy. I like my photographs to be full of texture and grittiness which gives a raw and intense appearance. If I decide to use colour, I like them to be muted.

Lilli: Dreamy, yet specific due to my format of choice, 6×6.

 

What do you want to express with your pictures?

Lilli: That expressing and processing grief is important. Delicate topics deserve space. Why would they not? They’re the base of human emotions and are just as important as the bright, unconcerned sides of life. The two coexist.

Abhishek: Sheer rawness and like to invoke strong emotion and feeling. It should tell a story about the subject and moment.

Abhishek Howlader and Lilli Nass. IMAGO Photography Scholarship Shortlist.
Photography by Abhishek Howlader, instagram: ah_photos
Abhishek Howlader and Lilli Nass. IMAGO Photography Scholarship Shortlist.
Photography by Lilli Nass, www.lillinass.format.com

Do you have a source of inspiration for your photography?

Abhishek: It’s the environment I am in. The inspiration comes from the moment itself. The feeling I get when I see through the viewfinder into the scene. 

Lilli: Whenever I feel uninspired or am in a personal crisis with my Photography, I listen to Alec Soth’s talks about Photography. Music and getting emerged in a feeling is a huge inspiration as well. The caretaker created a 12h piece about the stages of Dementia. That played a huge part in my source of inspiration for my series ‚cursare‘. 

Abhishek Howlader and Lilli Nass. IMAGO Photography Scholarship Shortlist.
Photography by Abhishek Howlader, instagram: ah_photos
Abhishek Howlader and Lilli Nass. IMAGO Photography Scholarship Shortlist.
Photography by Lilli Nass, www.lillinass.format.com

What influence do your environment and the people around you have on your work?

Lilli: A huge one. I think often the direct environment is forgotten easily, when it can be powerful to document what you’re closest to. 

Abhishek: The environment and people around me plays quite an important role in my photography. Environment can trigger someone to either enjoy the process of photography or make you uncomfortable even to touch the camera. Similarly, people can make and break the photographic process. If you are not enjoying the photo creation process you would not get the best or even mediocre images.

Abhishek Howlader and Lilli Nass. IMAGO Photography Scholarship Shortlist.
Photography by Abhishek Howlader, instagram: ah_photos
Abhishek Howlader and Lilli Nass. IMAGO Photography Scholarship Shortlist.
Photography by Lilli Nass, www.lillinass.format.com

What does social media mean for your photography and does it have an influence on your work?

Abhishek: Although I am not very active in social media, but surely social media has a very significant role in the photography industry as a medium to connect with like minded people. Share your art and creativity. But, one has to be really careful in how they operate in that sphere. It’s not all about gaining followers and attention. It’s just a small aspect of this. I should be used to gaining knowledge and learning. One’s creativity should not get completely influenced by Social media. Like taking pictures to just gain followers. I feel this kills the inner creativity of a person.

Lilli: I mainly see social media as a way to connect with other people from the creative field. I dislike the way social media has become commercialised and often being less about the picture itself. But being able to discover so much work of other Photographer’s is great.

Abhishek Howlader and Lilli Nass. IMAGO Photography Scholarship Shortlist.
Photography by Lilli Nass, www.lillinass.format.com
Abhishek Howlader and Lilli Nass. IMAGO Photography Scholarship Shortlist.
Photography by Abhishek Howlader, instagram: ah_photos

Where do you see your photography in the next few years?

Lilli: I would like to be able to work on a Photobook. I want to continue this series in multiple chapters. And: Hopefully working for more magazines!

Abhishek: I would like to have my pictures exhibited in galleries. Maybe create a photobook. I would also like to explore other genres of photography too. 

Abhishek Howlader and Lilli Nass. IMAGO Photography Scholarship Shortlist.
Photography by Lilli Nass, www.lillinass.format.com
Abhishek Howlader and Lilli Nass. IMAGO Photography Scholarship Shortlist.
Photography by Lilli Nass, www.lillinass.format.com
Abhishek Howlader and Lilli Nass. IMAGO Photography Scholarship Shortlist.
Photography by Abhishek Howlader, instagram: ah_photos
Find out more about the IMAGO Photography Scholarship here. Interview by Marcia Hyndman.