• Vaishnavi Pandey

in conversation with: dolly devi | interview



First of all, how are you doing? How’s lockdown treating you?


It has been overwhelming, disorderly and eye opening. Having had too much time to contemplate, it has taken me to think about past and reconnect with myself in a way I cannot express in simple words. But in hindsight I am grateful I have a roof over my head. 

Can you describe the first moment when you realised your love for photography, the moment you thought ‘this is what I want to do’?


Even though it started as a hobby during my teenage years, it stayed sidelined for a decade. After deciding to leave my full time design job, I took a risk to get back at it. Until then I wasn’t confident enough because I didn’t have a photography degree and I thought nobody would take me seriously. 



Your photography encompasses loads of different elements, do you aim to portray a specific style? 


My style keeps changing and I am still in the process of trying to find one but in my heart I want to remain versatile and fluid and be able to switch between different online personas. I guess I don’t like to feel rigid. 

Being a creative is liberating but also weighs heavily in order to sustain a stable career. What have been the biggest struggles you have experienced so far? And how have you overcome them?


Many! I wished I had started freelancing right after college but it’s not something that I regret either. It kept a roof over my head for years and I learned how to navigate the harsh reality of the fashion industry. Some of the biggest struggles have been client intimidation when I wouldn’t agree to all the terms. Certain individuals trying to tell me how they were gonna destroy my career. Being a sensitive person, I had been taken advantage of by my niceness but since I didn’t have a lot to lose, I fought with everything I had. Over time, I realised that threats are often powerless and it's important to keep distance from the toxicity of this industry. 



What are your views on the current state of the creative industry in India?


It’s changing and evolving with the rise in Instagram popularity but there’s still a lack of authenticity or something revolutionary or disruptive. It can only happen when there's a combined effort, or a collective that is driven and willing to overlook unhealthy peer competition. There’s also an underlying judgment towards what's considered commercial or how fine art photography should look like. I think it's about time that every genre needs to be deconstructed to bring some real change. 


What has been your favourite shoot so far and why?


One of my first ever shoots, Everyday by Lovebirds. It was the longest shoot where I didn’t feel tired because I was really enjoying the creative freedom that was bestowed to me.



Is there anyone you’ve always wanted to collaborate with?


I would say John Yuyi. High hopes!

What are your plans for the future? What are you looking forward to after we get out of this crazy time?


I am waiting for the courier service to resume because I have tons of 35mm films I want to develop. But I am giving myself time during this pandemic to learn new AR skills, watch a lot of movies and get back to garment construction because I have a sewing machine that’s been untouched for years. 



Cheers, Dolly. It was a pleasure to speak with you. We can't wait to see what you get up to in the future.


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