One of the greatest challenges for a working artist is finding a balance between their commercial projects and their personal creative projects. Photographer Nilangana Banerjee, who’s originally from Mumbai, India but is currently based in Los Angeles, CA, is one of the rare individuals who has managed to establish an inspiring career as a successful commercial photographer who continues to produce powerful personal projects as well.
As a commercial photographer Banerjee has shot for massive brands including Forever21, Nordstrom, GLAM LA, Walmart, Urban Outfitters, Beauty Influence, Hanhoo, Masqueology, Ross, Olivia Care, Dr. Skin Feed and more. In between shooting for international clients, she is also the in-house photographer for the fashion brand Jill Roberts, as well as the beauty and lifestyle company Beauty Architects. At the same time Banerjee maintains a relentless level of dedication to shooting her personal creative projects, for which she’s gained extensive international praise.
For Banerjee, balancing a demanding commercial photography schedule and maintaining the energy and creativity to continue shooting her personal vision is all about time management and keeping the inspiration flowing.
“I read, research and undertake creative writing of the topics I want to work on in the near future, in order to line up my projects. This allows me to stay engaged and motivated to retain my creative edge and keep productive,” explains Banerjee.
“I also make sure I shuffle my artistic medium to take the productive break from the photographic medium by parallelly engaging in creating art across different domains like painting, making mixed media projects, composing music, playing the guitar and singing.”
Over the years Banerjee has earned numerous awards for her work as a photographer, which includes being named ViewBug Photo Contest’s 2020 Community Choice Award winner in the Image of the Month, Inspiring Landscapes, The Wonder of the World and Change of Seasons categories, as well as the contest’s 2020 Choice Award winner in the Monochrome Masters Project category, and their 2019 Peer Choice Award winner in the Image of the Month and Emerging Talent categories. She also earned the 2018 Peer Award in the Fashion category and the Celebrity Award in the Image of the Month category from the ViewBug Photo Contest, in addition to being named the 2017 winner of the Monochrome Awards (conceptual category) at the International Black and White Photography Contest, the International Color Photography Contest’s Chromatic Award winner (conceptual category) and many more.
Banerjee is lauded for her creative eye and her ability to capture photos that lead viewers to think deeply about the subjects she tackles– such as social issues and those concerning mental health.
One photo series that has made Banerjee stand out in a big way is her open-ended narrative project “The Selves,” which focuses on the psychological craving people have to become an ideal individual and the utter dissatisfaction they experience when judging their existing self to be somehow less than ideal.
“The Selves,” which Banerjee is continually expanding, was featured in the 2017 Photo Ville global exhibition in Brooklyn, NY and the Dark Arts Exhibition at the Squid Ink gallery in Los Angeles, CA, as well as by the California Council of Arts and at the Black Box Gallery in Portland, Oregon.
“The series ‘The Selves’ is an artistic manifestation of the internal dialogue… a conflict an individual has with their inner selves in the process of choosing who they truly are or who they should be,” explains Banerjee.
“The message of this series is simple– it aims to provide a face to the abstract psychological headspace of an individual plagued with the necessity to fulfill the un-demanded and unwanted responsibility of being the ideal self.”
Through Banerjee’s lens and visionary art direction, “The Selves” captures the sense of exhaustion and self-loathing that ensues when a person is entangled in an endless effort to become something or someone different. The series is filled with dark, almost gothic elements, with the photos giving way to the overall feeling that the subjects are trying to submerge parts of themselves.
Growing up in India, Banerjee experienced first hand the way societal expectations lead people to ignore their true nature in pursuit of an ideal, oftentimes at the expense of their mental health.
“I drew my inspiration from being a part of a culture that stresses the need to be one’s ideal self at any cost,” Banerjee explains. “In most societies or generally in the world we don’t see these mental turmoil being acknowledged as real issues unless they present themselves in their aggravated forms.”
As an artist, Banerjee uses her craft as a way to shed light on many of these issues in a palpable and poignant way.
She adds, “Believing in the quote that a picture is worth a thousand words, I feel that it is important to create art that spreads awareness and initiates the conversation about these preliminary issues which is required for the social stir we need to un-plant these seeds giving rise to an unhealthy society.”
Some of Banerjee’s other successful personal series include “The Anomalous,” which was featured on the June 2020 cover of the fashion editorial magazine GMARO, and “The Lullaby,” which has been featured in Daily Style entertainment, Brooklyn PR Girl, Hollywood Patch, So Reckless and more.
“She works harder than anyone else and puts as much into her shoot preparation and execution as she does on her post-production. Her avocation and relaxation is by doing artwork,” says fashion model Daniel Kinske. “Her candid stills are also artistic in her approach to the finishing touches. Her care and attention to detail are the same for all subjects and her direction is very easy to follow and reassuring.”
When she’s not shooting personal projects that carry powerful messages, Banerjee is busy working as the inhouse photographer for Jill Roberts where she is in charge of shooting the fashion brands products, accessories and clothing line. Along with photographing all of the Jill Roberts products, as well as those for the company Beauty Architects, Banerjee’s role as an inhouse photographer includes handling all of the post-production and editing, as well as wardrobe styling and art direction for the shoots.
Banerjee says, “Since I work as an inhouse photographer at two companies while simultaneously dealing with numerous brands and freelance commercial clientele, which all run on present project timelines, balancing the time between the commercial photoshoots while still working on my personal creative fine art conceptual project is the main challenge,”
While the process of balancing commercial photography and personal projects is a tricky one, Banerjee has managed to accomplish just that by creating an efficient schedule, something that she believes, along with self-discipline, have been key to her success.
“Planning and effective time management is key… I am able to maintain this balance by having a very planned timetable for myself that enables me to achieve every single thing I want to accomplish on a daily basis and meet all my goals, without compromising the quality of my work,” she explains.
“I have a disciplined schedule which starts very early and I follow the habit of creating a detailed plan map which I draw out for the following day, the night before. I follow it, religiously every single day and utilize time efficiently. This is what allows me to achieve everything I set.”
While most of us have encountered the image of the artist who struggles to get by as they spend their time doing nothing but following their creative and often sporadic inspiration, it doesn’t have to be that way. More and more artists, like Nilangana Banerjee, are proving that it’s possible to successfully meet the demands of their clients in the commercial sphere while simultaneously maintaining a strong creative output of personal work.