Kalpesh Lathigra on storytelling and provoking the audience

Kalpesh Lathigra on storytelling and provoking the audience

In his new book, Memoire Temporelle, Kalpesh Lathigra grapples with the notion of belonging. The project, shot over three years in Mumbai, where his family lived before they emigrated to the UK, is a nuanced exploration of the tension between memory and identity. The book is a defining moment for the artist, signalling a new phase of life and work in which he understands who he is and the work he wants to do with greater acuity. Here, he tells Capture about creative evolution, the importance of different modes of storytelling and why it's critical for him to engage the audience.

On the Creative Process

"I got into journalism because that was my first calling - I wanted to make a difference. As soon as I realised that my pictures weren't going to make the kind of difference I wanted - I made a change. I still care desperately for humanity, but what drives my work is engaging with the audience. I want to get close to them and provoke them to ask questions. I want my work to drive them to see differently or question the world around them. Over the years, I've discovered you can do this by using different techniques and ways of storytelling - often the most simple things we can all relate to are the most powerful. Whether it's documentary storytelling, my cameraless work, or my passport project, it's always about pushing against what's expected. I'm tired of beautiful photographs and excited about pushing the boundaries. 

With NFTs, I’m thinking about the possibilities for new audiences.


NFTs initially caught me off-guard. In general terms, I don't see any difference between work presented in a digital space, on a gallery wall or inside a book. It's all part of the ecosystem. Right now, I'm not thinking about the financial side of NFTs - I'm thinking about the possibilities for new audiences and how this could become a new facet of my practice. I'm interested in how the Capture App can offer some immediacy to the ideas an artist is exploring and it’s accessibility.

Couple, Dakota Homes / Kalpesh Lathigra

On Portraiture and Freedom

I worked in Jordan for the UN at the Zaatari, a camp where Syrians sought shelter from the civil war unfolding in their homeland. As part of my wider series, Discarded Fruit, I made a photographic collage of the refugees using UK passport requirements. It got me thinking about the idea of an identity photograph. It's the one photograph we all have - a democratic portrait - but one that gives different types of access to different groups of people.

On my second visit to Jordan, I took a passport camera and made a series of portraits. That was the germination of the Passport Photo idea. As time went along, I started thinking more about the concept, Instagram was growing, and it had shifted the dynamics of celebrity portraiture. Before Instagram, the paparazzi had control and financial clout over celebrity pictures. Instagram flipped that the other way, giving the provenance and monetisation back to the celebrity. I started thinking about what happens if you take all the control of an image away in a sense and you have this one direct portrait.

Spiritual Ties / Kalpesh Lathigra

Badlands, South Dakota / Kalpesh Lathigra

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I’m tired of beautiful photographs - I’m excited about pushing the boundaries.

On Fame and Humanity

I often shoot people of prominence for magazines and newspapers, and I started taking my passport camera with me. I would shoot the main portrait and then finish with a passport photograph. On one occasion, I was sent to photograph Joan Collins for The Independent Magazine. I asked Joan if we could make a passport image after the shoot - she was a consummate professional. She said, "darling, we can do it at the end." She changed her dress, fixed her hair, and made this amazing portrait for me. Joan got it! I had no idea at the time that she had been photographed by Andy Warhol the same way.

The project started to constellate all these different ideas. I felt like I began to occupy the meeting point between Luc Delahaye's 'Portrait #1' and Andy Warhol's 'Polaroids'. I wondered what these passport pictures I was making would mean in five years. They are metaphors for what it means to us as human beings and how we look at ourselves.

On Memoire Temporelle

The book Memoire Temporelle is about my internal battle of belonging. I think it's the same battle many of us children of immigrants face. My grandparents left Mumbai in the 40s. My parents also lived in East Africa and then came to the UK and married in the 60s. Growing up in the UK in the 80s, the racism made me feel like I didn't belong here. I spent my youth wanting to escape, and on the other hand, you are yearning for something you feel like you have lost. You build up all these romantic notions of a place like India, but then you discover you don't belong there either.

The book contemplates how memories are put into you, whether through popular culture, your parents, music, food or stories you are told that you take on as your own. Some are real, and some are perceived. Memoire Temporelle was about exploring these places which hold emotional resonance for me with the camera. I think the book represents this kind of journey through Mumbai. I'll never truly be Indian. I wasn't born there, and even though I have lineage, I'd be a fool to think I have any claim. That was a very small part of my life. I grew up mainly in the UK, and the nuances of this country are embedded into my system.

The book is about coming to peace with being a son of three different places. Making it has given me peace, and it's given me a sense of belonging on my terms, which has been so freeing.”

Paris, Red shirt / Kalpesh Lathigra

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