Fashion photographer Vipin Gaur, 39, is a quiet guy. So much so that even after eight years of living in Eldeco Utopia, in Noida's Sector 93 A, his fellow residents don't know what he does for a living. This is surprising, given he is a fashion photographer, a job that naturally screams for attention with its high-voltage glamour. With several high-profile ad campaigns to his credit — Xiaomi, Marks and Spencer and Berger Paints, to name a few — his latest claim to fame is a unique limited-edition calendar for 2017 released last week at a glitzy event in Club BW, the lounge at Surya Hotel in Delhi, attended by the movers and shakers of the city, including young politicians such as Alka Lamba and Shazia Ilmi.
Far removed from the usual bikini-bodies-on-the-beach and star-studded calendars that have become the norm, Gaur chose to use dancers and choreographers instead, and captured them in aesthetically driven acrobatic positions, telling the story of a relationship. Shot over a period of three days (one day for rehearsal, one day for the actual shoot and one for post-production) in his Sector 26 studio, no special preparations were made, except to drape the entire studio in black with plastic sheets, and using flour and a smoke machine for effects.
"Ever since the trend of launching calendars started in India two years ago, the subject line had been the same tried and tested one: Just place some models in bikinis on a foreign beach, and your calendar is ready," he says, referring to obvious examples, such as Kingfisher calendars. In fact, he himself had done a similar project in 2012, which he shot in Goa.
"Where is the art there? Where are the skills? The focus, naturally, is on the models, not the photographer," says Gaur, who was an IT professional before he took the "risky'' move of switching to a new career in photography eight years ago. "I want to establish myself on my own and not just by shooting products for advertising commercials," he adds.
One look at the calendar, and you would know where he stands. The images boast of drama, emotion, momentum and energy, captured with very little post-production work using few resources: The studio space was small and he used no fancy gadgets. "Creativity should never be limited by a lack of gadgets," says this father of a 14-year-old son.
The limited-edition calendar has already run out of print — he distributed it among his colleagues in the ad industry. A second print run is in the pipeline.
Being in a profession that needs constant networking, shouldn't he be staying in a more central place, such as South Delhi? "I hate Delhi," he says, without blinking. "Congestions, traffic. Oh, I can't even..."
By contrast, his sector is in splendid isolation, peaceful and quiet, with CEOs, media professionals, sports stars (former cricketer Maninder Singh lives on the floor below his), designers and models (Krishna Somani) and retired bureaucrats as neighbours. There is a gym and pool for exercise, and it hardly takes him 20 minutes to reach Jasola via the Expressway. For meetings, people come down to his Noida studio for discussion. Being a gated community, it's also safe. And being a diverse community, all festivals are celebrated.
Not that he contributes a great deal to the society's RWA activities. By his own admission, he is not a very outgoing guy. Secondly, RWA work is a thankless job. "Residents should take responsibility of their respective floors, instead of being in charge of the entire society," he feels.
His wife, also his muse, Gunjan, however, is pretty active. They have a WhatsApp group called Eldeco Moms, which is used effectively by residents: Need a maid, tutor or driver? Just send a message and the problem is sorted. He cites one example: "My son was ill for a while when I wasn't in town, and my wife needed a blood-pressure-monitoring machine. She posted her need on the group and within minutes not one but five neighbours landed up at our place with the gadget."
Yes, the society could do with some proper landscaping; it also requires a service lift to carry heavy furniture upstairs.
As for Noida, he feels the city needs a bit of nightlife. Some cool places such as Imperfecto have recently opened, but it still has a long way to go. But Noida, he says, knows how to throw good house parties.
Back to his career, he would like to work more on his personal projects and shooting fashion editorials for high-profile magazines. "Rather than copying Western concepts, I would like to work on original Indian ideas for the West to copy," he says, adding that nowadays anybody with a DSLR camera shooting Page 3 parties calls themselves fashion photographers. "Fashion and photography are two very different subjects, and you need to understand both," he advises.
He would also like to conduct workshops and help out budding photographers. He has already done a few workshops in association with Canon. "Come to me!" he says, if anyone wants to learn. "The joy of passing on knowledge is like no other."
With a hotshot photographer in your neighbourhood, budding photographers from Noida shouldn't let this opportunity slip by.