Founder of Byredo, Ben Gorham, created the scent Mumbai Noise in honour of his childhood memories of visiting his mother’s family in Chembur, Mumbai. As part of the campaign, Ben approached Ashish Shah to create an album of photographs. The combination of Ben’s vivid personal memories and what Ashish describes as his own “understanding and love for Byredo” gave rise to a powerful creative alliance.
Alongside his work with Byredo, Ashish has worked with an impressive roster of brands and publications in his time, a list that includes Alexander McQueen, Vogue, i-D and The New York Times, among many others. Considering all his achievements, it’s surprising to discover that the photographer has had no formal training. In fact, his interest in photography was sparked during a “constant state of indifference” in his 20s. After leaving his childhood town of Dehradun, he made a group of friends who were in the habit of playing around with cameras. So, picking one up himself, he began taking photographs.
Since then he has developed a strong sense of purpose through his practice. “As a country, we constantly struggle with how the Western world packages India to make it palatable to their tastes and attitudes,” he says. So, through photography, Ashish works to shine a light upon and celebrate everyday life and the “common man” of India.
The Byredo campaign was therefore the perfect match for Ashish, allowing him to platform young Indian talent from a wide range of disciplines. With his fashion stylist Samar Rajput, he curated the work of young Indian fashion designers, as well as a broad range of set and prop designers and artists to paint the big Mumbai Noise bottles for the campaign.
One of these up-and-coming talents was the artist and designer Manthan Yadav who designed the masks worn by models Furquan and Brijesh in one of Ashish’s favourite photographs. The pair pose in front of a building in South Mumbai. The “contrast” in the architecture is something that stands out for Ashish: “I like to call it the beautiful Indian chaos – spaces are often not perfectly symmetrical or of similar tones but it all works out together.”
Despite the enormous range of creative minds which came together on the project, Ashish did not lose hold of the personal memories which were central in the creation of Ben’s scent. In fact, one photograph is interpreted directly from a conversation he had with Ashish. It was shot at Ben’s grandmother’s house in Chembur and tells the story of his mother and her childhood sweetheart. When his mother moved away from home, the couple broke up. Years later they were reunited and got married. Ashish’s models pose as the young bride and groom, enacting “a marriage that never happened” when the couple were younger.
Weaving a thread between the personal stories of the creatives he photographed through his own experiences of Mumbai and Ben’s childhood memories, Mumbai Noise reaches far beyond the usual parameters of a scent campaign. “I think this is what Noise means to me”, says the photographer. “A collective, people coming together and turning into a force.”
Ashish Shah: Mumbai Noise (Copyright © Byredo, 2021)
About the Author
Elfie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in November 2021 after finishing an art history degree at Sussex University. She is particularly interested in creative projects which shed light on histories that have been traditionally overlooked or misrepresented.