Photography and styling powerhouses Guddu Shani have cemented their place in the fashion industry over the past decade. Perhaps, two of the most elusive people in the industry, the husband-wife duo avoids attending celebrity get-togethers and mingling with designers. Among their feats are launching model Rabia Butt, working exclusively with SanaSafinaz, and now being what they claim is the only 360-degree fashion advertising agency in Pakistan.
Through their company 360, Guddi and Shani plan on launching a fresh pool of fashion photographers. When they started off, they didn’t have the platform or money to lend impetus to their career, which is what they hope to provide newcomers with. “We’re merging all our divisions into a one-stop solution, where one creative head has been assigned one brand each to make their work consistent,” he said. They have one office in Lahore, one in Thailand, and are also looking to expand to Italy soon.
As the name suggests, Guddu and Shani aim at offering a well-rounded campaign to their clients. Commenting on how monotone the visuals of designer brands are these days, he said, “In every magazine issue, we used to see how inconsistent brand communication is.” The two got the opportunity to create brands with SanaSafinaz. “We designed a 360 campaign for SanaSafinaz, ensuring all their communication is consistent.”
Having majored in Fine Arts and Graphic Design from Punjab University, the dynamic duo broke into the fashion photography scene back in 2004. Shani shared that the two set foot in the market in hopes of creating quality images and something true to their roots. “Athar Shahzad and Khawar bhai were our teachers when we started out and we studied their work for its aesthetics,” Shani said, adding that mediocrity of preceding works is what drove them to pursue photography.
Of the gaping void between theoretical knowledge and its practical application, Shani said the duo realised the education they pursued did little to put them at par with what was happening internationally. “We had learnt the black-and-white film, while the world was working with digital, so we had to educate ourselves from the internet, workshops and seminars,” he explained.
The distorted beauty standards prevalent in the fashion industry have recently been under the gun. On digital manipulation of photographs, Shani said, “In fashion advertising, I believe it’s acceptable to Photoshop because people know what they’re seeing isn’t real. But it’s criminal to alter fine-art shoots. They’re meant to be an expression of the artist.” He acknowledged that pictures have long been improved upon in advertising, as the “brand isn’t selling the model, they’re selling a product.”
Shani holds that the trend of using editing softwares such as Photoshop has changed because clients don’t ask for ‘perfect’-looking faces anymore. “We just do colour-correcting and remove shadows now, and the target audience wants real people rather than a 45-year-old model trying to look 18 with touchups,” he stated.
Guddu and Shani remain modest about their string of achievements, including bagging this year’s Lux Style Awards nomination for ‘Best Fashion Photographer’. “I feel good about it but you can’t compare a photographer with over 10 years of experience to a new one. We make money round the year but newcomers have been making real contribution to fashion, so they must be promoted,” he said. “My contribution to the fashion industry is in terms of advertising, but that isn’t real fashion. Budding photographers have been experimenting with frames, models and lighting, so they need to be promoted.”
On where they draw inspiration from, Shani shared it’s always been classic art movements. “Our formula has generally been to work with one art movement every year. We’ll focus on Futurism next year.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 16th, 2015.