Mahaneela is a multi-disciplinary artist working predominantly in film and photography to provide a different perspective of representation. Creating content for some of the most influential brands in the world from Converse to Eurostar, Mahaneela has also photographed artists from the likes of FKA Twigs and Sampha in her distinctively intimate style. The artist’s most recent triumph is co-directing a 30-minute documentary about the Mercury Prize nominated album Everything is Recorded. Mahaneela and directing duo Child (Tayo Rapoport and Josh Renaut) seamlessly edit personal interviews with photography and improvisational recording sessions to document the raw musical energy that makes up the acclaimed album.
The album Everything is Recorded is produced by XL Recordings and features collaborations across a rich list of artists, genres and ideas, resulting in a highly original and deeply textured sound. Mahaneela’s intentions as co-director of the documentary involve connecting with the idea of a global diaspora that influences the music. Speaking to It’s Nice That, Mahaneela explains: “It’s extremely important for me that my work represents people that look like me. I’ve always grown up wanting to see myself reflected in the art I consume, so in a lot of ways, my work is a response to the lack of black and brown people I see in the mainstream media.”
The documentary has been a long process which is still continuing today. Mahaneela first met with the head of XL Recordings, Richard Russell, over two years ago to discuss the album and the recording of this first meeting ends up as the opening of the film. “At that point Everything is Recorded was a series of songs made up of sessions Richard recorded from his studio the previous summer – it was just beginning to form something”, says Mahaneela. After a year of working at XL, Mahaneela was given a huge hard drive with hundreds of images and videos documenting the album’s recording sessions. “I went through everything and it just made sense to make a film”, she explains.
The film’s visuals accompany the melodic sounds of the album, catchy beats and quick tempos rise and fall throughout the soundtrack, neatly edited around interview footage describing the album’s intuitive recording process. Mahaneela adds, “I wanted to create something multi-formatted and collaborative because that was what the album’s production involved.” The visuals enhance the visceral spirit of the album, the aesthetic variation weaves together film stills, low-tech recordings with highly produced interviews to “create a patchwork of a film that captures the essence of a collaborative album”.
This month on 30 October, Mahaneela is talking at our monthly event Nicer Tuesdays about her creative practice.Undoubtedly, she will enliven us with ideas to better “represent and celebrate people from the diaspora”. The music industry is constantly changing and at the moment “a lot of artists are being empowered through the relationship between visuals and sound. The veil is being pulled back from the industry machine and fans can engage with artists on a more direct level. People are becoming more interested in authenticity in artists, artists should be able to tell their own stories and not have them told for them by a label.”