Looking at the visuals produced by this group of regular collaborators consisting of Gagandeep Singh Sidhu, Akashdeep Bal and Elsa Wong, one gets the impression that fashion is but one component of their work.
Take the short film In Pursuit of Temples in the Sky, Sidhu’s submission for his final-year project as a fashion media and industries degree student at Lasalle College of the Arts last year. (Bal – his cousin – and Wong had graduated with a diploma in fashion from the same school in 2019, but played key assistants on the production.)
As image-makers, the trio (from left: Akashdeep Bal, Gagandeep Singh Sidhu and Elsa Wong) are more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it and thus created this playful surrealist portrait of themselves for FEMALE. Says Sidhu: “It showcases how our minds work and how we approach each project that we embark on: by blending our three ‘souls’ into a singular idea.”.
The evocative short was singled out by SHOWstudio – the fashion film platform founded by legendary lensman Nick Knight – during an open call for works, with Knight describing it as “brave (and showing) something tender, but at the same time brutal”.
Heavy on surrealism, it merged two disparate themes – Sikhism and homosexuality – and incorporated not only fashion, but also literature, art and film in equal doses. Even the way the models had moved and posed took inspiration from the world of theatre.
The results of this rojak of references are richly textured, detailed images that offer new perspectives on interpreting fashion. To quote Knight: “The person who made this obviously knows the history of filmmaking and imagery very well, and pushed things a bit further. I enjoyed it very much and saw it as, ‘Oh okay, this is somebody’s vision of the world that I haven’t seen before’.”
Of late, Sidhu says he’s grown to prefer approaching image creation through text. For example, he dissected the writings of the poets Avtaar Singh Paash, Richard Siken and psychologist Daniel Lawrence Schacter to form the visual narrative for his film In Pursuit of Temples in the Sky (pictured).
A narrative-driven approach to storytelling is a common thread across most of the trio’s work, which extends to editorials and independent projects across mediums, says Wong. It explains one of their most distinctive signatures: elaborate, labour-intensive sets all self-designed and built to help create an immersive world. With them, forget standard studio portraits and representations of beauty.
Story-telling through elaborate sets tends to be a signature with these image makers, as exemplified here in Elsa Wong’s fantastical editorial spread for FEMALE’s Sept 2020 edition.
“A lot of image-making today goes beyond creating something beautiful or stunning. Often young image-makers want to convey a message and stand for something through their work,” says Wong.
Adds Sidhu: “When we create an image, we always make sure that it evokes emotions… It’s not just about technical excellence. People are looking to feel something when they see an image now.”
A version of this article first appeared in the April 2022 Humans Of Fashion edition of FEMALE