Trust and Connection: Shravya Kag Celebrates Women of Indian Origin for SEEMA

Feb 11, 2021
Photographer Spotlight

Shravya Kag explores every facet of a story, diving deep into the how, what, where, when, and why. Her photo and video documentary work intersects between identity and personal space, focusing on the experiences and lives led by people of color and folks within the LGBTQ+ community. Recently, the Brooklyn-based storyteller has worked with SEEMA Magazine to provide the publication a unique lens through which to view these stories, ones the world needs more of.

SEEMA magazine's November 2020 cover photograph of Aroon Shivdasani

SEEMA, a platform focusing on “connecting and empowering women of Indian origin globally,” first hired Shravya, born and raised in Vijayawada, India, way back in the beginning of 2020.

I have been working with SEEMA magazine since March 2020 when a friend recommended me for the gig. I filmed their first ever women’s summit and created promotional social media content.

Since then, Shravya has photographed three stories for SEEMA, a magazine that, according to the photographer, allows her plenty of freedom and creative control. She was initially appealing to the magazine because of her extensive experience creating social media content, behind-the-scenes clips, and event recap videos. However, as they got to know the documentarian, the people at SEEMA realized she brought much more to the table than just experience.

SEEMA magazine's cover for 2020

Most of the people I photograph are not trained models, so striking up an engaging conversation with them during the shoot allows me to get the image that best tells the story. I have a knack for making the collaborator comfortable in front of the camera.

SEEMA observed Shravya at work and then quickly requested her services again for their summer cover featuring restaurants owned by South Asian women. This was right after the pandemic struck, and these restaurants had taken quite a hit from COVID-19. Next, Shravya documented for the magazine a day in the life of another South Asian entrepreneur.

Woman working in a restaurant wearing PPE

Then, Shravya was called for the Fall Cover featuring Aroon Shivdasani, the retired Executive & Artistic Director of the Indo-American Arts Council. The IAAC’s mission is to build “awareness of artists and artistic disciplines… as well as nurture and promote emerging artists whose heritage is from the Indian subcontinent.” This shoot took place at Aroon’s home, where Shravya photographed her interacting with the countless art pieces Aroon had collected over the years.

Aroon Shivdasani in the living room of her home, by Shravya Kag

When winter began nipping at our heels, Shravya was traveling to Washington, DC to a location she’d never photographed in before. She had only thirty minutes to scout for SEEMA’s Winter Cover, could only bring a minimal amount of equipment with her, and was working on a very tight schedule.

I think the most challenging photoshoot was with Maya Ajmera in DC. I was unfamiliar with the location and pretty limited in obtaining a wider variety of images. However, the light was beautiful that day, and we found an alley and a playground that added depth to the images.

SEEMA magazine's December 2020 cover photograph of Maya Ajmera by Shravya Kag

While Shravya loves experimenting with her setups and lighting, she could not get too crafty during these shoots. Instead, she focused on connecting with her subjects.

Working solo helps me develop a sense of trust and connection with my collaborator, thereby making most of these photoshoots incredibly seamless.

This sense of connection is vital to Shravya’s process. After each photoshoot, if she has time, she’ll wait until day two to process them.

Photograph of Maya Ajmera in a park on a sunlit afternoon

I cull the images on the first day, then go back to them the next with a fresh pair of eyes if the turnaround allows for it. I make exposure and color adjustments to suit the mood of the story. After that, they’re good to go.

See more of Shravya’s work at shravyakag.com.

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