Interview – Nina Manandhar: the London chronicles

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Born and raised in West London, Nina Manandhar is a photographer, artist and modern day pop-ethnographer. Her reportage encompasses a variety of mediums; photography, written word, and film. Inspired by the vibrancy of youth and the dynamism of city life, much of her photographic work has been developed as a result of self initiated projects working alongside and within a diverse range of communities. Her self-published photo book Money on my Oyster, a culmination of 5 years of photographs, was released last week with an accompanying exhibition. We caught up with Nina to talk about her approach to street photography and self-publishing, as well as her upcoming plans of a Prestel published photo book, based on the history of UK Youth Style.

Was it always your intention to turn your London travel chronicles into a book?

Not really, no. I wanted to put a book together of my work and realised the theme that tied most of it was the fact that they’re shot around London. Also, a lot of the photos focus on youth culture. The book is almost like a journey through London, from the high street you weave in and out of, into peoples homes and the places they hang out in, getting to know them a little more.

What’s been your experience of self-publishing?

I have always self published. I started 10 years ago co-editing a zine called Hardcore Is More Than Music with friend Nendie. My dad is a printer and he did the first one. I am ‘warrior printess’ (Ed. Nina’s online alias. Check our Instagram for Nina’s takeover this week) because I am a “printers daughter’. My experience of self publishing Money on my Oyster has been fun, I decided to design it myself as I enjoy the process of book making, it’s a big part of my work.

What was it that made you decide now is the time to put together a photo book? 

I decided I had a body of work that I wanted to have together in something tangible. I’ve also never a had ‘book’ or ‘portfolio’ to take out to show clients. I think it’s easier to get good quality digital results these days; I’m not a litho snob. A book is a book, it’s what inside that counts. I used a company called Ex Why Zed who were excellent.

Does it feel like a complete project, or is street photography something you will continue to pursue?

I love street photography, I don’t think I’ll ever stop. This is like a London chapter I guess. It doesn’t feel complete, but I do feel that having a finished book enables you to move onto a new chapter. I like the spontaneity of the photos and the engagement with the people; it’s in those moments that I most enjoy taking photos.

What is it about someone that first captures your attention and pushes you to ask for their portrait?

I’m interested in style and how it expresses identity and belonging. But I’m also drawn to slightly weird, eccentric characters who seem to want to draw attention to themselves. I probably see myself in them. A woman came into my show the other day and said they all looked ‘like they needed love’ which was a bit bizarre, but maybe it’s true. I think for the most part they look quite happy and dignified, really.

Do you have any favourite subjects that you’ve managed to photograph more than once? 

Jasmyn is great. She is a 21st century East End girl. She is Bow born and bred and has been known to wear 17 different types of mascara in one day. We shot her for ISYS as well as some stuff for Nike and I took the Champagne photo at her 16th Birthday party; she’s in the corner of the shot with the long brown hair.

 

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What are peoples general reaction to you asking for their photograph, are they usually up for it or do they need a little coaxing? 

Some people love it, others you have to charm into it and some people just tell me to F*** Off. I guess it’s about not being afraid of the latter which enables me to ask.

Aside from being a photographer, you also run ISYS as well as being involved in The Cut, can you tell us a little bit more about these 2 projects?

I love working on independent photography work but I really like collaborative projects too. The Cut, which I set up and run with Nendie Pinto-Duschinsky, is a youth authored mag, made together with a bunch of young people from all over London. We are relaunching a print issue next month.

ISYS ARCHIVE was set up by myself and Cieron Magat, we did an event called Paved With Gold at the Tate Tanks last year and we work on films and mixed media projects together.

What else are you working on at the moment?

At the moment I’m editing What We Wore, a peoples style history of UK Youth Style, which is being published by Prestel and is due out in 2014 alongside an exhibition. Lots more photo and film stuff to come.  I’m also trying to get some rest and today; I’ll be working on my sun tan at the lido.

 

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Buy Money on my Oyster  / exhibition is on show until 19 July at Eternal Youth, 378 Kingsland Road, EA 4AA

ninamanandhar.com

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Interview by Patricia Karallis / Published 11 July 2013