Kerala photographer Mahadevan Thampi shoots street vendor to fame

Mahadevan's shot of Aasman, a Rajasthani street vendor in Kochi, is currently trending on social media
AasmanMahadaven Thampi

Not everyone can become a great model, but a great model can come from anywhere. Take Aasmaan, a nomadic roadside vendor, for instance. Little did the 21-year-old Rajasthani woman, who sells essentials at the Edappally traffic signal in Kochi, expect that images of her all done up like a model would go viral.

Says Mahadevan Thampi, the photographer who shot her to fame: “I often pass by the Edappally signal and have been observing Aasmaan and the rest of her nomadic family for some time now. I admire their grit towards creating a means to create a livelihood. In fact, my fascination for these nomads and their lifestyle began even while I was studying at Mar Ivanios College in Thiruvananthapuram. I had shot quite a few black and white images of them back then.”

Aasmaan before the make over
Aasmaan before the make over

The photographer, who currently resides in Kochi, says Aasmaan and a few of her friends captured his attention with their savvy marketing skills. “Also, with my 15 years of experience in the photography industry, I felt they had potential as models.”

However, it was Aasmaan who showed the most interest when Mahadevan approached them with the project. Convincing her family took time, however, as “they were skeptical.”

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A one-day shoot, Mahadevan has captured the entire process, right from picking her up from her place of residence at Ernakulam to taking her to the studio to the makeover… “like a documentary. In fact, I have shared the video on YouTube,” says Mahadevan, who adds that his works these days follow a theme and are no longer “mere shoot and aim”. He cities ‘Kali’, a photoshoot depicting actor Anarkali Marikar as the goddess, a photoshoot of Anikha Surendran in costumes designed from the banana leaf and a recent a shoot on the “purity of lesbian love”.

According to Mahadevan, ‘Street to Studio’ was a concept that had been on his mind for some time now. “And when I saw Aasmaan, I knew she would fit the bill, the perfect candidate for a makeover. I really wanted to see a smile on her weather-beaten face and was able to so during the photoshoot. This has to be one of my personally satisfying projects,” says the film photographer turned cinematographer.

The cameraman says that they have ensured to retain Aasmaan’s natural skin tone. “All we did was to enhance her features through minimal use of make-up. We did not use any hair extensions or wig; it’s her natural hair. As for the costume, she is modestly clad. This shoot, in a way, was also a means to demonstrate how a makeover should ideally be shot.”

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Although Aasmaan was nervous at the start of the shoot, she began gaining confidence as the shoot progressed. “She was a fast learner and a delight to work with,” says Mahadevan, adding that the smile that lit Aasmaan’s face when she saw herself in make-up and in costume, the photoshoot worth it.

Aasman did three costume changes for the shoot.

Mahadevan Thampi with Aasmaan
Mahadevan Thampi with Aasmaan

According to Mahadevan, the make-up artist was at first surprised at his choice of model and a tad skeptical. “But he too was smiling at the end when he saw her joy,” says Mahadevan, going on to add that Aasmaan, after the shoot requested that they drop her off at the Edappally signal with make-up on.

“And she sat there like a princess with a crowd gathered to listen to her tale,” says Mahadevan, who is waiting for his Beagle, a movie about a dog and Anoop Menon’s directorial debut King Fish, in which Mahadevan made his debut as a cinematographer to hit the theatre screens. The cinematographer who has completed the first schedule of another Anoop Menon movie says that ‘Street to Studio’ was produced by Clap Media. Aasmaan, who was styled by Babita, had costumes designed by Sherin Ayab. Make-up is by Prabin.

Mahadevan, who has 32.1 k followers on Instagram, says a picture he shared of Aasmaan has fetched lots of appreciation from his followers.

“I think Aasman does harbor dreams of becoming a model. Who knows? Maybe she will. After all, the sky is the limit.”

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