Outcry continues after Canon ’non-apology’ for all-male brand ambassadors
Alora Guerrero, co-founder of tech site Revu.com.ph, in a tweet, said Canon’s selection also reminded her of the casual sexism she sometimes experiences in her work as a tech blogger. “It’s like when someone likes your photo or video, but he or she always assumes it’s taken by [my partner] Monch. When you have your name already included in the content, but people still call you ‘sir.’”
Sea through the lens
MUSBA HASHMI speaks with SUMER VERMA, India’s first professional underwater photographer and cinematographer, about what made him explore the underwater world
Imagine capturing a marine iguana walking like a creature out of the Godzilla, or the ones on the top of the food chain Hammerhead Sharks. The moment one comes face to face with such beauties in a serene environment surrounded by ocean water on all sides makes the setting idyllic. A nice click of the button and you will have the memories that you can share with the world that will rejoice seeing these animals through your lens.
One way is to appreciate others for their skills and the other way is to dive in to capture it yourself, Sumer Verma chose the latter to become India’s first photographer and cinematographer.
It is no mean feat to become the first one in the country, but it comes with a lot of pressure. The path towards the achievement is as dramatic as witnessing the creatures create ripples in the ocean. A chance encounter with the underwater world while scuba diving made Verma think of exploring the water world further. Like the Mariner of 1995 post-apocalyptic Hollywood film Waterworld who decided that dryland is not for him, Verma embraced the calling of the seas around two decades back. The first shot still gives him goosebumps.
“I finished college and went diving in Lakshwadeep in 1997. Just visiting the island was an eye-opening experience. Crystal clear water, so much so that you can see it till 10 metres and all the shades of turquoise, made it look a like a scene of paradise. By merely looking at such a scene, I was inspired to spend much more time in such areas. This encouraged me to start training as a diving instructor. And wanting to share the experience that I was having made me take to underwater photography,” Verma explains. From the creatures underwater to the way how light changes in there, Verma was fascinated by it all.
While, as easy as it may sound to click pictures underwater, it is surely a matter of expertise and practice.
“We need to keep in mind the lighting underwater and the distance between the lens and the object. A slight error can result in a washed out or a blurred image. But, once you are aware of your surroundings, it becomes easy to get that perfect shot,” Verma, who has dived in 50 metres deep into the water chasing those perfect shots, tells you.
If you are wondering, what it takes to become a underwater photographer, first and foremost, it is the ability to know your responsibility when you are in the water. “Some species are shy and will stay away so you have to be able to get close to them which is a challenge. But, of course, you have to be careful not to damage the coral reef with your fins,” Verma advises.
Being a scuba diver gives Verma an advantage that he can pull off almost any kind of shots and whatever the director wants, within the realm of possibility, underwater.
“There’s nothing that cannot be done underwater. Of course, there are certain challenges, but that’s where my professional training comes to my rescue,” Verma, who have shot one extended scene with SS Rajamouli for RRR, tells you.
This is not all. With all these years of experience, Verma has managed to work with many other celebrities including Katrina Kaif and fashion stylists such as Anaita Shroff Adajania. Recently, he shot the Vogue Anniversary Issue underwater with Alia Bhatt.
“Working with Anaita was a bit challenging. She is good friend of mine and a huge task master. Sometimes she was not happy with my pictures. If the picture was good, she wasn’t happy because the clothes can’t be seen, if the clothes were visible she had a problem with the way the foot was looking. So, there’s a lot of pressure to do these fashion editorials with someone like Anaita, but it is because of her eye for perfection that has made a better photographer. I really go all out with aesthetics underwater to get that perfect click,” he says.
It’s a no-brainer that apart from expertise, what one needs to get that perfect click is a camera. While, having a high-end camera is no thumb rule to take to photography, but Verma believes, there’s no harm in having the best one.
“I am fortunate that I own the Dream kit — Canon EOS -1D X Mark II. It’s super high speed helps capture fast moving subjects underwater. Also, it offers quick focus plus fast shutter speed and 4k video recording abilities. I use Seacam housing for this camera,” Verma, who is a part of the Canon EOS Ambassador Program, tells you.
Class of ‘21 students unearth creativity for social and environmental causes
The events of 2020 reignited a spark in advertising, putting a greater focus on social and environmental issues as brands strive to deliver more purpose-driven narratives. These very issues are also being unearthed among the next generation of student talent, as discovered through The Drum’s ‘Class of 2021’ virtual exhibition, in partnership with Canon, to connect creatives with up-and-coming talent.
From body positivity to islamophobia and hypervisibility, Scotland’s whitewashed history to the devastating impact of single-use plastics, The Drum caught up with just a few of the Class of 2021 students, who are featured in the exhibition, to find out more about their passions driving this work and their views on how the advertising industry should be doing more to tackle human-interest stories.
“BOPO” - Body Positivity campaign
Evelina Barzdaite knew at the beginning of her final major project that she wanted to do a campaign related to body positivity, having experienced body image issues herself. After digging deeper into social media’s negative impact on young adults’ body image issues, exploring topics like Snapchat Dysmorphia, the cultural obsession with retouching pictures, likes and social media filters, she created three outcomes: Body Positivity campaign, Body Discussion app and Body Positivity festival (conference), in which people would talk to each other, have various talks from experts and get to know each other.
“Graphic design is becoming more and more related to social media, and sometimes I feel like certain graphic designers/influencers/companies forget that they might be having a negative impact on people by showing something ideal and unrealistic,” said Barzdaite. “I found myself being particularly passionate about this topic as I got to know about things such as Muscle/Snapchat dysmorphia. It made me think ‘bigger’ about the issue, and I felt really inspired once I figured out what my outcomes will be. It felt really empowering and something that could come true one day.”
“I definitely think the advertising industry should be doing more in tackling important human-interest stories,” she said. “Such stories have a purpose and a message which makes people think or relate to them. I think we, creatives, have such a big platform to spread positivity and awareness about various issues; it is a shame to waste this possibility as it could actually make a change in society.”
For Halima Hussain, the work ‘M-power (2021)’ started with the idea to create a utopian, futuristic view of fashion, which developed into creating an ideal representation of Muslim women and its modest fashion. Taking interest in concepts such as dystopia and utopia, while making connections between fashion and social issues such as Islamophobia and belonging, Hussain used patterns to communicate and represent her identity visually, inspired by Islamic art and popular western motifs (purposely combined to signify unity and a sense of belonging to western society).
“As a British-Asian Muslim, I enjoy exploring my hybrid identity and utilizing it through art and design,” said Hussain. “I believe it is important to raise awareness on issues such as Islamophobia and hypervisibility - this sense of being overly seen only because of the individual’s identity, while sometimes there’s a point of overshadowing their skills and personality. I feel there needs to be more diversity in the arts and more spotlight on the Muslim community to raise such topics as I believe that art can help tackle these issues. I hope for a positive social change on the negative perceptions and misrepresentations of the Muslim community.”
Reweaving Scotland’s History
In response to a brief set by the Marketing Society Scotland, Conrad Jones and Grace Cheah were tasked with tackling the issue of Scotland’s whitewashed history – with a particular focus on highlighting the stories of influential black, Asian and ethnic minority families. The campaign focused on the connection between tartan and Scottish family history to open up a conversation and increase the representation of ethnic minority families in Scottish culture by inspiring non-white Scottish families to create their own tartan, while encouraging them to share their stories and history with the world.
“In particular, this topic really resonated with Grace as she comes from a mixed Scottish background, being both white Scottish and Malaysian Chinese,” the creative duo told The Drum. “Ultimately, we wanted to make our project as inclusive as possible to Scottish people from all backgrounds, and make them feel proud to celebrate their Scottish heritage. While we were creating the campaign, we felt that our passion for the issue as a whole helped make our ideas better, and pushed us to develop our work significantly. This piece of work in particular now has a special place in our portfolio.”
“By applying our skills to more social issues, all of us in the industry can help change lives for the better,” they added. “But it’s rare that this change is made into a reality. We’ve seen a wealth of work on social issues from many different junior creatives, but we worry that many of these will remain only as ideas. Regarding diversity, there’s still a lot to be done both within the industry and in greater society. Thanks to conversations among people with different backgrounds and experiences, campaigns become more interesting, effective and creative, so it’s in the interest of the industry to see that representation happens across all groups.”
The idea for Nikhita Alex’s ‘#2023 Plastic-Free’ poster derived from the insight that “we humans tend to think that our actions don’t have grave consequences reverberating in the depths of our environment,” explained Alex. “All of us are ignorant vis-à-vis with being more efficient when it comes to the usage of plastic, take-outs, etc.”
So, she overlayed a plastic layer on aquatic and terrestrial animals to create a simple, hard-hitting visual poster to communicate that we need to be more considerate and conscious about disposing of plastic bottles and purchasing single-use plastics.
“My posters intend to voice out that with every plastic bottle we throw, we pose a threat to aquatic and terrestrial animals that share the ground we walk on and the seas we swim in,” said Alex. “Social and environmental causes are more appealing as briefs as it is indispensable to notify and constantly remind our community of those things that need immediate attention.
“Companies and institutions should be doing more than just associating themselves with environmental or social causes. They ought to make use of their resources to promote an ethical and altruistic way of living to encourage their customers and even competitors to adopt such a lifestyle. There can never be a surplus amount of representation of social and environmental issues as it is ongoing. Until these issues prevail, it is of utmost importance for the advertising industry to act as an ambassador to these causes.”
From Graphic Design to Advertising, Art Direction to Branding and Digital Design, more than 60 pieces of student artwork already feature as part of The Drum’s ‘Class of 2021’ virtual exhibition, in partnership with Canon. To explore the work and learn more about the students behind each project, register here for exclusive access: /project/class-of-2021/registration/creative.