Music lover, hair experimenter and one of the country’s most talented fashion photographers, Anushka Menon is easily one of the coolest girls in the industry. Below, she chats to Jossbox about making it in photography, her favourite music finds, and becoming an aerial silk performer (think Cirque du Soleil, complete with 100% respect-worthy dance skills and muscle tone).
What’s your morning and nightly beauty regime like?
Aesop’s Fabulous Face Cleanser or Burt’s Bees Intense Hydration Face Cleanser, followed by Aesop’s B & Tea Balancing Toner, Parsley Seed Anti Oxidant Eye Serum and Face Serum. In the winter, I use Burt’s Bees' Intense Hydration Day Lotion to moisturise. I follow the same routine at night.
What’s your advice to photographers who are starting out in fashion?
Don’t wait for your big opportunity. When I first started out I approached a bunch of photographers to assist them but none of them took me on, so I just had to force myself to work. In the first few years, expect to spend your own time and money building a portfolio, shooting the kind of work that you would eventually like to do.
I started by doing a lot of small, random shoots which led to catalogues, lookbooks, editorials and finally, advertising. To be perfectly honest, advertising pays the bills and so you have to be able to hack the advertising world as a photographer. And if you’re a woman, don’t be afraid to be aggressive if it means standing up for yourself.
Bombay or Delhi?
Bombay for work and to party, Delhi for the luxury of space.
Who are you most inspired by?
There’s a photography duo called Mert & Marcus – they are my fashion photographer gurus. I love their techniques and the attitude that jumps out at you from all their images – bold and sexy and outrageous and just so striking. Everything about their photographs is perfect, whether it’s the hair or makeup, the person they’re shooting or the location. They push the boundaries with a lot of models and actors, which is starting to happen in India too. Another photographer I love is Annie Liebovitz. The first photographer that ever inspired me was David LaChappelle.
How do you measure success?
It’s funny, I was just asking myself that this morning. Do you measure it by your own terms or by what other people think? I haven’t figured that one out yet.
How do you stay fit?
I work out with a personal trainer at this gym called Sumaya. I do a mix of pilates, circuit training and kickboxing.
Over the last year and a half, I’ve been doing aerial silks with the Natya Nectar Dance Company. Have you ever seen the Cirque du Soleil? The bits that involve the men and women performing by hanging on strips of cloth, that’s aerial silk. You climb up the cloth and you can have various positions and tricks. It’s almost like a dance, but there’s more of a – ta da! – at the end. It makes you use parts of your body you didn’t even know you could use – everything from your fingertips to muscles in your shoulders, abs and backbone. I was already fit when I started, but it took me about six months to get to a point where I could hold myself up for six minutes. It’s the best workout I’ve ever done.
What kind of music are you listening to at the moment?
I’m really liking this guy from Pune called Nicholson who’s making some really interesting music at the moment. I’m also really looking forward to seeing Monica Dogra perform some of her new solo stuff – I’m going to catch her at NH7 in Delhi. I’ve known her for years, and it’s been so inspiring to see her explode. I’m also a fan of my husband’s band, The Midival Punditz.
Internationally, I’ve been listening to a lot of London Grammar and FKA Twigs. I love everything about FKA – she’s beautiful, she’s sexy, she’s young, and I love her production.j.viewz is an incredible band from Israel that have settled in New York recently. Their lead singer Jonathan is just the geekiest, coolest, most incredibly creative musician I’ve ever come across. I’m also loving this French band called C2C – they’ve got some really cool stuff going on at the moment.
Have you been anywhere interesting lately?
I went to the Burning Man music festival this year, which was amazing. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. It was eye opening in many ways.
I have friends who work for the Cirque du Soleil, so I got to visit their office when I went to Montreal on the same trip.
They gave me a tour around the whole place, and I got to see everything; the practice rooms, the music rooms, the costume and accessory making – it was unbelievable. I walked into a rehearsal with these contortionists who were literally bouncing off the walls. As an aerial silk performer, it was so great to see all these people who inspire me up close.
Are you an animal person?
I love dogs. I have two, and I have a page on Facebook called Puppy Love Delhi – it’s just to raise awareness about adopting Indian dogs from the streets instead of buying pure breeds. I also do a couple of sales where I get a bunch of designers to give me some of their stuff, and all proceeds go to this shelter that I send the sick stray dogs I take care of in to called Paarijaat. I think it’s really important to have people be more aware of taking care of their local street dogs – feeding them, keeping them warm in the winter and hydrated in the summer, that kind of thing.
As told to Jossbox. Anushka Menon photographed by Santu Misra.