When visiting a foreign land, it is customary to try on traditional attire as a way of experiencing the culture. Chennai-based Sangeetha Karthik Ramaswamy and her husband also did this on foreign visits, but realised that a similar set-up does not exist in Chennai. “I haven’t found a place where a foreigner can do a makeover, or dress up like a South Indian. I wanted to help tourists experience the Tamil tradition. I loved dressing up as a ‘Maiko’ in Japan, and thought of bringing a similar experience to India. This is how ‘Ethnic Photography’ was born,” starts Sangeetha. She helps foreigners get a makeover and records it in a snapshot that is definitely for keeps.
Started in 2015, Ethnic Photography Studio has garnered much attention from those visiting India. “In India, traditions are of prime importance. Bindis, toe-rings, and the draping of a saree is a part of who we are. Foreigners like everything about our culture — from the traditional madisar, jasmine flowers to temple jewellery. I wanted to give the tourists the same rich cultural experience that we enjoy,” muses Sangeetha, adding, “Exploring traditions and dressing in ethnic attire is an experience by itself. And getting to record that moment — even better.”
She says that they promote themselves mainly on social media and on other travel websites. “Visitors do can a background check before coming to the city, and if interested, they can reserve a sitting via an e-mail or phone call.”
The team have identified various styles, and have set up the studio for the perfect South Indian experience. “Right now, we are focusing on Tamil Nadu and Kerala customs, and the wardrobe is prepared accordingly. There is also traditional jewellery with us,” she muses.
“The whole process takes two hours or so. All the props are ready in the studio. We have certain poses that we suggest to the clients. Sometime they want a particular pose,” sums up Sangeetha.