I asked Shikha and Harry, “if there is anywhere in the world that you could have a pre-wedding shoot where would it be?” They responded “Jaipur India.” My response was “OK when shall we go?”
For me when a couple commit to flying myself and an assistant halfway across the world, there comes a certain pressure. I knew I wanted this to be on a different level to what the general market expected. I always want to feel proud of my shoots on a commercial level and not just work with the expectation of my wedding clients. I needed to aim higher.
Both the couple and I produced a mood board. I actually put my clients to work. We came up with the theme of ‘contrast / clash of cultures’. I wanted Harry and Shikha to look out of place, not in their behavior but in their appearance. Ideal locations were selected and outfits purchased, created and altered to match our brief.
I decided to fly out Ashley Lewis as my main assistant, but I knew that what I had in mind with lighting and locations required more help. I always avoid compromising on the result I am looking for. My team always hear me mutter “Go big or go home. Go big or go home!” A fews days before I reached out for help using Facebook to followers based in India. I was pleased to find a large number of responders. My phone rang and Anand from Mumbai pitched me. His experience seemed perfect. I decided to fly Anand and his wife across to spend the week with us. With Bhavik Haria filming behind the scenes and the couple, there would be 7 of us.
I had just come back from telling a wedding story in India weeks before. Getting into India within a 3 month period isn’t generally allowed with certain permits. In step, Shiv Travel who look after me by organising my travel. We decided to go with a business visa and declare myself a photographer. This is not always wise with the Indian authorities as they take extra time to vet you. However, I didn’t want to get stopped with all my gear with a tourist visa. Shiv Travel spoke to some large travel corporations in India and got me the documentation I needed. My passport came back with ‘Photography in Jaipur’. I thought this should have made traveling through the airport in Delhi a doddle. I got my visa a working day before travel at 17:55. I pushed into the embassy just before it closed at 17:00 and refused to leave. If I left getting my visa to the normal administrative process it would arrive the day after I flew out. I was sweating under my shirt as the High Commission locked up and the staff left. Fortunately it paid off and the rules were bent and broken and I left with my passport in my hand.
When we landed in India we expected it to be easy as I have done this lots of times before. However, when the Customs Officer saw my gear they saw £ signs. They accused me of importing new equipment into the country and asked me to pay £5000 tax even though it was clearly used! The other option was to leave the gear in the airport and pick it up on the way back! Neither option would work for me. After a few hours I seriously thought the shoot was going to be off. They had confiscated all of our gear. I showed them all of my approvals and documentation and it was making no difference. They were just trying to get me to give them an envelope under the table. During the night shift, the Customs Officers ruled Airport Arrivals. Embassy & High Commission offices were closed and the top ranking officials were in bed. They knew I was isolated and helpless. With moral and technical support from Shiv Travel Ashley and I left the airport 20hrs later with all of my gear and not having spent a penny. I had been a victim of corruption.
Now the pressure was on. We needed to travel though the night to Jaipur. After all the difficulties, I knew that I had to produce something I could be truly proud of.
Enjoy this behind the scenes video.