April Issue 2008
After the completion of their Masters in Fine Arts from Lahore’s distinguished Punjab University in 2004, graphic designers Guddu and Shani set up 360 Degrees, with the sole aim of “transforming diversified products into visual forms of advertising,” as Shani puts it. And alongside their company, Guddu and Shani also run their very own ethnic fashion label known as ‘Resham Ghar,’ which focuses on good quality fabrics and unusual, often uniquely so, artistic patterns.
As ruthless and cut-throat as fashion industries are the world over, the husband and wife duo’s journey towards building a name for themselves in Pakistan’s competitive fashion scene was not without its set of predicaments. “Establishing ourselves over the past three years has been a daily struggle.” Shani concurs: “Starting out with very limited resources, gathering the right people and then training them, buying and keeping up to date with the latest equipment, were all daily challenges that we had to face.”
Currently comprising 10 employees along with a few freelancers, 360 Degrees’ client base features some extremely well-known names, such as Levis, Sana & Safinaz, Sadia Mirza, Mobilink, Telenor, Maria B, Samyrah Rashid and Lajwanti. In addition, Guddu and Shani were also nominated twice for the Lux Style Awards (in 2005 and 2006) in the categories of ‘Best Emerging Talent’ and ‘Best Fashion Photographers,’ respectively.
What sets the work churned out by 360 Degrees apart from that of other local commercial photographers is the meticulous digital enhancement and painstaking manipulation that goes into each portfolio — be it fashion shoots, bridal shoots and/or print advertisement shoots. This results in work which appears inherently artistic, almost like little miniature paintings — as attention is given to the minutest detail.
But given that digitally manipulated commercial photography is a relatively new phenomenon in Pakistan, did Guddu and Shani face criticism from their peers? “Yes, initially we did face disapproval but, at the same time, we knew that what we were doing is being done pretty much all over the globe — save for Pakistan — so we kept at it to establish standards locally and to be recognised as professionals,” states Shani. “Those who criticised us are now adopting heavy digital enhancement work in their photography themselves! But what’s interesting is that effective digital enhancement involves a lot of areas that call for perfection, such as the study of the human anatomy (where highlights are needed), the study of texture, the skill of painting, the sense of colours and their compositions. I have seen very bad retouches that give a really distorted look to the visual, simply due to bad enhancements in all the wrong places. There is no rule of thumb in digital enhancement. Every image requires a different treatment that can come only with proper education.”
Currently in the process of executing a few summer campaigns this year, Guddu and Shani have already begun working on an exclusive lawn collection that goes by the name of ‘Arabesque’ for their fashion label, which is all set to be exhibited in April.
Going by the vibrancy of their work, their collective humility as a couple and the manifestation of beauty that 360 Degrees seems to effortlessly bring to light via its photographic art pieces, Guddu and Shani’s future looks just about as promising as their art.