The simplicity of black and white | Sunday Observer

The simplicity of black and white

7 November, 2021

Shivantha Nirmal is a emerging artist, who uses photography as his means of creative expression. He tries to see the world differently and give a fresh and unusual view on reality and find ways to play with viewers’ emotions making them feel and even see things that are not even there.

Shivantha Nirmal

The inspiration behind Shivantha’s debut photography exhibition is an interesting contemporary theme. As he recalled, since the beginning of the pandemic, Shivantha noticed a drastic change in human culture which had been directly affected our day-to-day behaviour. With that strange feeling in mind, in June, he roamed around in Colombo and spent some time in streets devoid of people and captured the moments of changing street lives.

“While I was walking with my friend in the heart of Colombo, I felt something mysterious and that sight took me to a frame of Will Smith’s movie ‘I am Legend’. Seeing places where we used to hang around with friends at night, empty, awakened my nostalgia for a moment. Some homeless people roamed around without hope, contrarily the only hope they might have would have been “live today”. These images contain lost but deserved sensations of all living souls,” Shivantha said.

Shivantha has been totally obsessed with black and white photography since his young days. In black and white photography, you can converse deep languages in a minimal frame. He sees simplicity in the two deep colours of black and white. As a photographer Shivantha always captures his moments in black and white. His main genres are street art photography, portraits and conceptual fine art in black and white.

It’s interesting to take a glance behind the scenes, and hear this young and aspiring artist’s unique story on how he got into photography, his inspirations and passion for life.

Excerpts of the interview:

Q: Tell us about your process of getting the person, place or thing that is in front of the camera the way you want?

A: While concentrating through the frame, I connect with the person in front of the camera. Then I see the person in front of the camera revealing extraordinary feelings he or she is gifted with. As soon as I see the great harmony and composition while I’m walking I capture it. I believe steadiness in the photograph comes with calmness.

Photographs cannot be spiritually strong if you put a forceful attempt into the photo. In the streets you find various interesting moments. In every moment there are hidden stories. Framing those hidden stories into a black and white pictures will retain permanence.

In the exhibition ‘Strange White’ all the moments that I have captured are based on a concept and all of them are natural and unaffected.

Q: Which photographers influenced you, and how did they influence your thinking, photography and career path?

A: My first inspiration for art started when I was schooling. Since my young days I used to explore human nature by looking at people on the streets.

I’ve spent hours on the streets and I have had a craving for psychology since then. Eventually I’ve started taking pictures with my camera phone in black and white as a hobby. With time I started learning photography by myself. Then I got to know about well-known photographers Nicolas Wreeland, Henry Cartier, Daido Moriyama, Alan Schaller and Olga karlovac. Ironically my passionate attitudes towards this art and inspiration from renowned artists influenced me to take to photography.

Q: What is it exactly that you want to convey with your photographs, and how do you actually get your photographs to do that?

A: We all see many changes in this aesthetic world. To capture a photograph in a meaningful way you need to photograph in your world. My photographs spiritually connect with people and it’s an experience for the viewer.

I capture all my photographs in black and white. In black and white photography, you can converse deep languages in a minimal frame. I see simplicity in the two colours black and white. Every picture delivers a story and a set of emotions.

Q: What technology/software/camera gear do you use to keep focused on what you do best, as you photograph?

A: In my art I believe gear doesn’t matter to me to capture good pictures. It’s all about mind and eye. Sometimes I use my phone to seize some inherent moments which come to my sight at any time. Capturing the moment is very important to me rather than missing the moment, getting my camera out. In photography purity and the quality comes within the depth of the photograph.

Q: What was your career path?

A: I’m a tea taster by profession and a passionate photographer. I’ve got inspiration from tea tasting since it is also a peculiar art. Apart from that I would call myself an artist rather than a photographer, because fine-art photography is created in line with the vision of the photographer as an artist, using photographic tools as a medium for revealing creative expression. My goal of photography is to express an idea, a message, or a feeling.

Q: What do you wish to gain through photography? Can you make a living being a professional photographer in Sri Lanka? Or is this your sheer passion?

A: As I said earlier, I’m working as a tea taster. But hopefully I’ll be doing photography full time in the near future. Since I’m not a commercial photographer it’s a bit hard to survive in Sri Lanka.

And on the other hand, in Sri Lanka most of the people are not aware much about this fine art photography. So I do have sort of a challenge in front of my camera as I try to cater my creations to a target audience which has not commonly been touched by anyone before. Nevertheless, the end result of my creations is to make people's way of thinking to see the value of being enthusiastic towards this brand of art and I want people to take these art stories to their homes and hang them on their walls to experience the conceptual journey of what I had been through, while enjoying hot coffee. In that case I’m selling my photographs.

Q: What motivates you to continue taking pictures? Economics, politics, intellectual or emotional?

A: Spirituality in Buddhism motivates me to take pictures. Expressing deep feelings into an art piece helps me all the time to come up with strong concepts. It’s a combination of philosophies and psychology.