Create an Unforgettable Memory of Your Time in Chennai

Create an Unforgettable Memory of Your Time in Chennai

- in Things To Do
cane and coffee in a dhoti

One of the problems with expat life is that you often don’t get to fully immerse yourself in the culture in which you are living. We can exist in a kind of insulated bubble while life goes on around us and it’s only when you return home from your time abroad that you realize you may have missed out on something unique.

Sangeetha, pictured below, a young entrepreneur from Chennai is looking to help break through that bubble by offering a cultural experience like no other in the city. Sangeetha is an avid traveler, having visited some far out places like Russia, Japan and China, along with a host of South East Asian countries.

sangeetha ethnic photography
Image Credit: Ethnic Photography

It was in Japan that she first got to experience ethnic photography where she was transformed into a Maiko, similar to a Geisha. In Thailand, she got the makeover experience as she was transformed into a traditional Thai lady.

To bring a similar experience here, she started Ethnic Photography in Kotturpuram, Chennai. It allows expats and visiting tourists the opportunity to undergo a complete transformation. You can go from Sarah from Coventry to Selvi from Kanchipuram in just one hour and have your photo taken with a traditional Indian backdrop and props. Women can choose from five varieties of draping styles from the simple half-sari to the nine yard sari.

Before photo

before makeover
Image Credit: Ethnic Photography

After photo

after makeover
Image Credit: Ethnic Photography

Getting made up is all part of the experience and Sangeetha spends plenty of time working on your hair and makeup to make sure every little detail is just right. Jewellery is provided for you to wear during the shoot as well. A small word of warning from Sangeetha though: you are going to be photographed under studio lights which bounces light off your face in all kinds of weird and wonderful ways. The makeup is applied to look good under the bright studio lights so don’t freak out if you think it’s too overdone!

Now to my wife’s eternal embarrassment, I’m not exactly a complete stranger to the art of sari draping. On several occasions during company outings there have been “how fast can you drape a sari” contests in which I’ve been selected as the elegant model to drape the sari around. There are photos, but they will never see the light of day. However, for the Ethnic Photography Experience, we (read: my wife) decided that we wouldn’t be dressing me up in a sari.

Actually, I’ll be honest with you, when Sangeetha invited us to come and see her studio and explain Ethnic Photography to us, I didn’t plan on doing a photoshoot at all. However, once we got talking and she showed me the traditional south Indian clothing she had for men, I decided I couldn’t resist. Sangeetha gets plenty of families (some with kids) to do a makeover and photoshoot, but all the men draw the line at any make-up!

family makeover
Image Credit: Ethnic Photography

My Makeover

The first outfit that I tried on turned out to be bit of a disaster, but my misfortune can be your warning.

Traditional south Indian clothing for men usually means a white piece of cloth called a veshti that’s wrapped around from your waist down to your feet. It’s light weight, breezey and, as I found out, can be quite transparent.

Deciding to wear black underwear that day was a huge mistake and my wife was mortified when I walked out of the green room with my chuddies on full display to everyone. Needless to say, I was quickly escorted back into the green room with a much thicker veshti.

Top Tip: For men, make sure you’re wearing white underwear if you go for this photo shoot! Commando is a definite no-no!

Now since I hadn’t planned to do a photo shoot, the professional photographer wasn’t in the studio, so keep in mind that the photos that follow were taken on a cheap compact camera by my wife 🙂 Customers get high quality photos like the ones above and are taken by a proper photographer.

adjusting the angavastram

sorting out the dhoti

Sangeetha is an expert at direction and in no time she had me “looking here”, “hands here”, “legs here”, “fingers like this”, “drop the left shoulder” and so on. I could have done with her help and direction when we were doing our studio wedding album!

angavastram slipping off

The material over my left shoulder is called an angavastram. I was convinced it was going to slide off at any moment and I had to keep being reminded to drop my shoulder. Even though it was just me in front of the lights, it was a whole lot of fun. It would make a wonderful memento of your time here, or even an awesome photo to put in your Christmas cards!

cane and coffee

looking thoughtful

Booking Your Experience

The Ethnic Photography packages start at Rs 7,000 for one sari and five photos. It includes the hair and make-up costs and you’ll be provided with jewellery to wear for the shoot. Generally the sessions take around 90 minutes for one or two people and that can go up to two hours for families with children. Slots are available Monday to Saturday and you definitely need to book in advance because Sangeetha needs to arrange to have the professional photographer come to the studio.

1 Comment

  1. David Hassler

    Looks like a great time! Look forward to giving it a try.

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