At just 21, Kiran Gidda has already proven an impressive diversity in her photography. She seems to have a way of catching each subject in their most organic light, whether that be on stage, in a studio or out in the open. Regardless of the context, her photographs retain a sense of comfortable vulnerability. Her portraits are adaptive; tailored to the individual with a style that always feels attuned to each personality. Her live photography is expressive and colourful, telling a story of the big and little moments of a show, the off-guard smile and the high powered performances. You can see people like to be shot by Kiran because Kiran is extremely likeable. She’s making big moves in the industry and for our first Bossy LDN Spotlight, I sat down with Kiran to discuss her creative journey thus far.
How did your career begin in photography?
I felt like I always was pulled toward photography. I never had a camera till I was older and knew I wanted one. You know some people have one from young like ‘my grandad’s old camera?’ It wasn’t really like that for me. Being from a South Asian background my family weren’t very supportive of it. It was always “go to school, go to uni, study something academic.” I studied photography at A-level and realised “I actually want to do this”. During that time, I began reaching out to loads of people and started just doing it. I failed my biology and psychology A-levels and that was my academic route, so I said “Mum, I want to do photography”- at that point I didn’t really have a choice anyway (laughs). I applied to London College of Fashion and I didn’t get in. I didn’t want to go anywhere else in the UK because I felt London is the place to be if you want to do something creative. I got into Southampton Solent and deferred a year. I said to myself “if I have a good year I won’t go and if I have a bad year I will.” Well, I had a good year, so I never ended up going!
What was the first job you took where you knew this was the real deal for you? The job that changed it?
Do you remember Confetti Crowd? They were doing a Nike campaign, I got a message asking me to do the behind-the-scenes and for me that was like “oh my god, this is amazing, this is so cool!” It felt like my first ‘official’ job. It wasn’t paid but at that point it didn’t even matter.
How old were you when you started going down this path? What would you say are the biggest differences between you then and you now?
I was 17. I’m 21 now so it’s been 4 years but I never really count the first year as that was just my A-levels, really cringe stuff. Photoshopping a word onto a photo of hands, stuff like that.
I’ve definitely adjusted. I would never fan-girl but I used to always get home and freak out about who I shot. But now, being around bigger personalities and celebrities has become normal for me. Being at these big parties is normal, because it’s my job. So that’s all changed.
Personality-wise, I used to be really, really shy. I mean I still am now, I’m the quiet one. I was so awkward. I didn’t grow up in London, so it’s totally different coming into this world where everyone kind of knows each other. I had to become a bigger personality, especially in terms of approaching people. You have to grab those opportunities whilst you can and take advantage of them. I used to see opportunities to introduce myself to the right people and never do it, then afterwards I’d kick myself about it. But now I do it and I know when to do it and when it would be useless. Now I don’t need to approach everyone I see all of the time.
And now you have people approaching you, right?
Yes, it’s really, really great.
Do you find being such a young woman of colour in this industry has affected you in any way?
I feel like people when they first look at me think ‘who is this girl and what is she doing here?’ But then they see my work. I often get judged straightaway and people assume I’m just starting out. When I’ve tried to approach bigger names I’ve definitely felt that I’m not taken seriously. Everyone’s kind of on the hype of photography and they think I’m just another young girl with a hobby – until they see my work. I’m glad that that can prove it. I haven’t had too much of a difficult time, I’ve been lucky.
Do you think that’s because the London creative scene is becoming more diverse and inclusive?
Yes definitely, but also because I get to choose who I work with. I work with women most of the time and I don’t feel like they’re as judgemental as a lot of men.
What do you think has been your biggest challenge personally?
I’m always scared before I do a shoot. Even today’s shoot! I always panic the night before thinking “what if I can’t direct it properly?”. But I’m always happy afterwards. I think the biggest challenge is being freelance, money-wise it can be difficult. It’s scary! Some months it’ll be so good, and others will be much harder. I still have a part-time job because I need to, but I hope I can quit soon. That’s the goal. Sometimes I think I’m too comfortable in what I’m doing, and if I quit I would push myself and my photography so much more, but then I’d just be completely broke! I have to do it at the right time.
I have a few. Renell Medrano – she’s amazing. Tyler Mitchell, who recently shot Beyonce’s Vogue edition. His work’s incredible. Petra Collins. Obviously. And @charlie_chops on instagram – Charlotte Rutherford, she is really really good.
All of these photographers inspire me because they do editorials and campaigns and that’s what my end goal is. Working with brands at that level – with everyone putting their ideas in and something amazing coming out of it. Rather than one idea that everyone has to stick to. There should be compromise.
A word to any young girls starting out in this industry?
Send as many emails as you can to everyone you want to work with and even those you don’t want to work with! I used to send out loads and get a lot of rejections but more than anything people just don’t reply. But you also get some back saying ‘yes’ and you just have to use those opportunities. Keep working with as many people as possible and stay persistent.