Through considered natural light and delicate colours, Farhan Hussain tells his subjects’ authentic stories
The Indian photographer got his start documenting his sister’s wedding and has since built up a practice concerned with “understanding and respecting” those he photographs.
- Ruby Boddington
- 28 July 2021
Despite working primarily in editorial and commercial photography, Farhan Hussain approaches his subjects with a journalistic mindset. Not content with simply snapping a pretty picture, he’s invested in each person’s story and aims to portray it truthfully in an image. “I believe that my subjects are always an important and authentic part of the stories I tell,” he tells It’s Nice That. “I’ve become invested in understanding and respecting my subjects and am always driven to work on projects where the team aligns with the above beliefs.”
Farhan is originally from Assam, “a beautiful state nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas,” but now resides in Goa. His output is thoroughly international though, and he’s had work published in Another, GQ, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Verve and more, as well as having exhibited across the globe. Over the years, through working with some of the fashion and editorial world’s biggest clients, he’s developed a practice that looks beyond aesthetics and visuals, one he implements across his portfolio and which gives his imagery a distinct look and feel.
Interestingly, Farhan believes it’s not just industry experience that has informed his visual language but also his lack of formal training. He first picked up a camera when his elder sister got married and the family purchased their first digital camera – Farhan was elected as the designated photographer for the event and took on the role with enthusiasm, he recalls. “Later, when we all sat down to view the photos, it turned out that my sister wasn’t too pleased. Instead of photos of the bride and groom, all she found were images of lurking cats or portraits of fingers and other bits and bobs.” Although disappointed with the documentation of her big day, Farhan’s sister recognised a natural talent and fervour for photography in him, and so encouraged him to pursue the medium further. “I wasn’t academically keen and the rigid education system didn’t allow me much room to play,” he adds. “[Photography] sounded like a great escape and I took up a basic visual communication course in college.”
While he completed that course, Farhan never went onto a specific photography school or undertook any internships with other photographers. Instead, he went it alone, developing instincts and an idiosyncratic vocabulary along the way. In turn, he explains, “I don’t have formulaic or cerebral ideas that I rely on. My work is always in progress; an ongoing conversation.” It means he finds it difficult to articulate his choices as his process is grounded in intuition, not systems. “I admire contemporaries who can express their processes in words,” he says, “but I’m always stumped when put on the spot.” However Farhan feels about his ability to put it into words, it’s clear whatever he’s doing is working. His photographs sing with serenity and a quiet joy; subjects are posed among beautiful urban and natural landscapes where light is used to draw focus and pull the eye around an image. In turn, he centres his subjects in the narrative of each portrait, opening a window to their lives in a subtle and considered manner. That’s not to say his imagery is subdued though. In fact, Farhan’s subjects exude strength through a combination of empowering styling and composition.
The past year or so has been difficult for Farhan as he explains he lives for food and travel. “I want to explore the culinary arts. I’m extremely inspired by chef Samim Nosrat and obsessed with her scientific approach to food,” he says when questioned on what’s next for him. He’s therefore keen to return to travelling the world “with a belly full of food and adventures, and loved ones by my side”.
Farhan Hussian: Children of the Grave (Copyright © Farhan Hussain, 2016)
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.