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When photography meets illustration: an editorial celebrating South Asian Women

12 May 2018

Both Manjit Thapp’s art and my own photography bring awareness to the topics of race and femininity. Earlier in the year I approached Manjit with the idea to bring both of our mediums together, being from the same community we feel like it’s important to represent South Asian women through our work.

Pairing Manjits use of colour and her fun aesthetic of illustrating with my minimalist, clean photography. The aim of this project was to give the images more substance and depth, while at the same time creating a visually pleasing editorial. It was also important to show a positive example of two female artists working together to create something magical.

This editorial consists of 9 images, 4 illustrated on by Manjit. The simple, earthy tones represent the colour palette associated with earth and fire.

Dejah Naya McCombe: What made you excited to collaborate with a photographer?

Manjit Thapp: I love when two different mediums come together, it brings an exciting energy. I’ve admired your work for a while now and was so pleased when you got in touch!

DNM: What influenced your illustrations for the Editorial?

MT: I was really interested in mixing both of our styles and wanted to bring some key reoccurring themes in my work to your beautiful photos. I was also inspired by old Mughal paintings, I love the detail and texture in them and how they illustrate power. I wanted to recreate this in a more simplified and modern way.

DNM: What does the tiger represent to you?

MT: I use a lot of symbolism in my work as a way of communicating a certain feeling, the tiger to me represents strength.

DNM: How do you feel about women artists collaborating?

MT: I love it! I think it’s important for women in general to stick together and support one another as we’re so often pitted against each other. The art scene can feel very male dominated at times, so it’s important that we carve out our own space, and by collaborating I think we do that and help change the narrative.

MT: Can you tell me about your creative process when planning shoots like this one?

DNM: When Im planning a project I either start with the muse or the idea. In relation to this project the initial idea came from being a fan of your work and the women you illustrate. I wanted to create a project that celebrated young brown creatives from different mediums working together.

MT: What is your favourite part of working on collaborations?

DNM: I feel like every time I collaborate with a new creative I learn something new from them and I grow a an artist.

MT: What stories do you usually like to tell through your photography?

DNM: My preferred narratives to explore using my photography are those surrounding femininity and intimacy. I like to tell stories that I have a personally connection to, stories that I can usher my own experience into. We live in a society were we ingest images daily and most of the time they lack substance, I want to tell stories that have depth and can thoroughly relate to an audience.

MT: In this editorial and in your other projects you explore and represent South Asian culture, why is this important to you?

DNM: Growing up I was very confused about my identity and being mixed race, never seeing representation for myself. When I moved to London I connected with a beautiful community of South Asian women that really made me feel welcomed and safe. Last year I attended a SASS (South Asian Sisters Speak) talk and it really awakened me to the power South Asian women have when we stand side by side. I want to create that same solidarity through my work.


Photography: Dejah Naya McCombe

Illustrations: Manjit Thapp

Model: Linasha Kotalawala

Styling: Grace Osude

Beauty: Amrita Mudan

Assisted by: Aisha Seriki