When Sangeetha Karthik travelled to Japan, she decided to try their traditional attire, Maiko, to experience the culture and she loved the idea of dressing up according to various cultures. She realised that a similar set-up doesn’t exist in the city. This led her to start the Ethnic Photography studio, a makeover studio that helps tourists and expats experience the Tamil tradition in a different way by dressing up in a south Indian attire.
“There is no place in the city where a foreigner get a makeover by dressing up like a south Indian in a silk saree/mundu. Exploring traditions and dressing in our ethnic attire is an experience by itself. And getting to record that moment is an even better experience,” says Sangeetha.
Sangeetha and her team of stylists dress up foreigners and expats in traditional south Indian attire. For this, they have identified various styles and set up a studio for the perfect south Indian experience. “In India, traditions are of prime importance. Why we wear a bindi or a toe ring and how we drape a saree is a part of who we are. Moreover, a saree is draped in various styles across the country — madisaar (Tamil Nadu), namboothiri style (Kerala), bootheyara (Karnataka), kasta (Maharashtra), seedha pallu (Gujarat), etc. Though we focus on south Indian style of draping, we are open to various cultures according to the customers’ preference,” she explains.
Foreigners adore everything about our culture — traditional costumes, rituals, flowers, food, jewellery, etc “We are lucky enough to experience the rich culture and tradition and I wanted to give the tourists the same. Every visitor before coming to the city does a thorough research about our culture and lifestyle. So it makes things easier for me while explaining the process. It takes around two hours for the makeup, hairstyling, draping the saree, wearing the ornaments and flowers (all according to the person’s requirements). Once it is done, we do a nice photoshoot that goes with the theme,” says the photographer-cum-stylist.
Apart from this, Sangeetha also provides personalised ethnic experiences to the foreigners. “I give them hands-on experiences on certain practices that are followed in any south Indian household. Again, it depends on what the guest would like to do — some prefer to learn cooking, visit a temple, learn to draw kolam/rangoli and so on. When it comes to cooking, they can select the menu and we provide the ingredients and recipe. During the process, I also get to learn about their lifestyle and culture. A few have asked me to take them to the nearby goshaala to understand why we worship cow and why the animal is considered sacred in certain communities,” she says.