Picture This, Karishma Pranjivan


photography by Karishma Pranjivan


Photography: Karishma Pranjivan

Interview: Isis Nicole

Karishma Pranjivan is happiest when creating. She recalls an early interest in the arts with childhood memories of taking her dad’s camcorder to make short films, create photo albums, and even painting – establishing a continued appetite to experiment with different mediums. 

“I’m a multidisciplinary visual artist originally from Toronto,” says Pranjivan. “I moved around a lot growing up – spending my formative years between Toronto and Sydney, then later moving to London for university where I’ve spent the last six years living and working.” 

Now, 25, and recently moved back home (Toronto) to regroup, travel, and freelance full-time, Pranjivan shares with us a colour-coded vignette from her trip to India at the beginning of the year, what it was like working for Bernard Jacobson Gallery, and the road to success becoming clearer. 

Faiyaz Kolia

Faiyaz Kolia

Isis Nicole: What do you hope people take away from your photography? 

Karishma Pranjivan: There will always be subjectivity in art, and that’s what I love most about it. Ultimately, I think as long as my art creates a feeling in the viewer (good or bad) I’ve succeeded.

IN: Did you imagine that you'd be where you are today? 

KP: I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunities I’ve had, the people I’ve been able to meet and work with, and the places I’ve been able to see. I think I’ve experienced a substantial amount of growth (personally and professionally) especially in the past year. In regards to my career – I’m not exactly where I’d like to be just yet, but the road to achieving it has become a lot clearer, and each day I feel as though I continue to pave it.

IN: Can you share a little bit of your professional background? 

KP:  After completing high school in Toronto, I moved in 2012 to study Creative Direction at the University of the Arts London. Because I’ve always been interested in different mediums, I wanted to make sure I was able to experience working in different fields during my time in London. After working for different brands, agencies, magazines, and digital channels in the fashion/garment industry, I realized my passion and interests lie primarily in fine art. I began working for Bernard Jacobson Gallery and had the opportunity to help curate works from some of the most important modern artists to date.

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IN: Over the years in your travels, is there anything that has changed or made an impact on your worldview? 

KP: It's a bit of an oxymoron but through traveling I’ve realized just how big and small our world can be. Big in a physical sense – there are so many places to see and they’re all so unique. Small in a social sense [because] we are separated by large bodies of water, borders, and cultural differences, I’ve [still] realized how similar we are as people. We all aspire to live in contentment, have a fulfilling life, and strive to be the best versions of ourselves everyday.

IN: Where is your favorite place to visit and favorite way to spend your time out there? 

KP: It’s hard to pinpoint only one place in world, but for the last few years I’ve been travelling around Asia, a lot. Not to lump all of Asia together, but I’d say it’s a continent I’m perpetually mesmerized by regardless of which country I’m visiting. I do feel somewhat connected to it as a whole, perhaps because I’m of South Asian descent.

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IN: For someone who hasn't been, how would you best describe India and its diversity? 

KP: India for me is synonymous with life. No matter how many times I visit I will always be in awe of the way the country functions and diversity is a huge part of why that is. I haven’t visited any other country where social and economic disparity is so outwardly visible, especially in a city like Bombay. It’s incredibly humbling and inspiring to see and experience this.

IN: So what's the story behind the images submitted? 

KP: Most of these images were taken during a trip to India at the beginning of the year. As much as I love creating well thought out conceptual images, there’s something really special about street photography, which forces you to exercise a completely different creative muscle. Instead of you “happening" to your subjects, you’re allowing your subjects to “happen" to you. You're attempting to create a vignette of moments that tell a part of their story through your lens. The other images are of a very good friend and truly awe-inspiring human, Salwa Rahman. We met during my time in London and became fast friends and artistic partners. The images of her are about the physical embodiment of cultural heritage through colour. As she is a Bengali woman, we wanted to use the national Bangladeshi colours as the primary physical statement. These are some of my favourite images created with some of my favourite people, Salwa and Faiyaz Kolia.

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IN: Can you describe a time when you felt invincible? 

KP: The first instance that comes to mind is being alone in the ocean. I’m aware that invincibility and the ocean are almost paradoxical, considering any number of things could happen to you in open water, but swimming in the ocean forces me to be present. I feel most in touch with myself here.

IN: I always like to learn of people’s favorite scent. Do you have any?

KP: Rose and Jasmine (separately). 

IN: Favorite book, podcast(s), and/or TV show?

KP: I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately, and I think one of my favourites right now is the A24 podcast. My first passion was and has always been the study of film and moving images. I’ve been studying it and it's principles since elementary school and it's informed everything I create, even if it’s subconscious. I love hearing filmmakers, writers and actors discuss their journeys and processes so candidly. I think they do a great job at pairing individuals for each episode. Some of them have never even met or worked with one another but they end up having so many things in common, as well as complimentary visions for their individual bodies of work. 


IN: How much of a role does social media play in your life?

KP: Because of what I do social media has been a big part of my professional life. I think my relationship with social media isn’t as organic as it might be for most millennials. I’ve been recording my creative process for as long as I can remember, but sharing too much of my life and what I’m doing actually gives me more anxiety than a cathartic release. And for my work specifically, involving the guise and opinions of others all the time affects the way I produce. I like keeping certain parts of my process or day to myself, but I also understand why people choose not to. In my personal opinion, social media platforms have become less about sharing and more about validation. I try not to derive too much acceptance or self-value from these digital spaces – which is why I don’t want to rely solely on making a living by constantly presenting myself to people. Social media in it’s present state has become an aggregator of taste; creating a kind of monoculture. Everything starts to look the same after a while because we’re constantly bombarded with what the algorithms feed us. Instagram particularly has just become a breeding ground for conspicuous consumption; every time I go on the app I feel like I’m unknowingly buying into something. And it's not necessarily something tangible; it’s a lifestyle, or mind-state. I feel really conflicted about it because I’ve always looked at Instagram as a space to connect and share authentically. I credit Instagram for a lot – I’ve had so many close friendships, amazing collaborations, and job opportunities manifest from it, but my inner-Marxist cringes at the thought of creating a digital character or version of myself for others to buy into. The bottom line is we all do it [since] it's become completely normalized. This is especially true if your livelihood depends on it. I often wonder about how keeping up with this way of life will affect our psyche in the long run. 

IN: Is there anything you regret not doing?

KP: I’m slowly learning that feelings of “regret” are really just lessons and opportunities to do things differently in the future. Regret has always been synonymous with failure for me, but as I’ve experienced more of it I realize how necessary it is. You have to be okay with the possibility of failure. I’ve started approaching my creative endeavours/projects with the mentality of “I need this to work, but even if it doesn’t I’m not going to let it discourage me and create it regardless.” I think what I 'regret' most was letting past failures get in the way of trying again. I tend to over-intellectualize things, even though I know it’s not productive.


IN: What do you daydream about now? 

KP: I think my daydreams actually turn into concepts for things I create. A train of thought will often turn into a narrative for either still or moving images; a colour combination I see might turn into a painting. I try to write things down as soon as I can and keep them to revisit later. I keep notebooks filled with ideas, thoughts, quotes, drawings, storyboards, and lists that I’m constantly returning to. Every now and again I like to go through them, not only to ignite my creative spark but to also observe how my thoughts change and evolve over time. This is actually my favourite part of the creative process.

IN: And lastly, how do you take yourself out of your comfort zone? 

KP: I honestly just push myself to try everything. It seems simple enough but it’s very effective. My mom instilled this in me at a young age and she's always encouraged me to test my limits in regards to what feels “comfortable”. You’ll never know until you try, and you’ll never get it if you don’t ask.


Originally published in IN #8, FW 2019/20