2023 Booooooom Photo Awards Winner: Riac Oseph

For our second annual Booooooom Photo Awards, supported by Format, we selected 5 winners, one for each of the following categories: Portrait, Street, Shadows, Colour, Nature. Now it is our pleasure to introduce the winner of the Street category, Riac Oseph.

Riac Oseph is a fashion designer and visual artist from India, born and raised in Kuwait. His practice serves as a dissection of his psyche, using clothing, movement and still image to dive into specific memories and understand their psychological truths.

We want to give a massive shoutout to Format for supporting the awards this year. Format is an online portfolio builder specializing in the needs of photographers, artists, and designers. With nearly 100 professionally designed website templates and thousands of design variables, you can showcase your work your way, with no coding required. To learn more about Format, check out their website here or start a 14-day free trial.

We had the chance to ask Riac some questions about his photography — check out the interview below along with some of his work.

What is the story behind your winning image?

The winning image was part of a photo essay called ‘lost in you’, which documents the reminiscence of a past love. It supports my collection ‘hugs (i miss you)’ which was a dissection of the longing for a hug. We shot it at that time when COVID and the lockdowns were distant enough that we could look at it with a sense of nostalgia, but you could still recognize what parts of ‘normal life’ you’d missed while locked down. For me personally, being stranded with no immediate family or friends around during the lockdown made me realize how special, and taken-for-granted, intimacy was in day-to-day life.

The shoot came from a need to document that feeling, so a couple of my friends and I got together with a camera and some clothes and started shooting around the Barbican Centre in London. When I shoot, I find it easier to give models a feeling or headspace to get into, and then capture their natural responses to that. There was something magical in the air that day that allowed us to capture this really special chemistry between the models. Looking at the images now, you’d never tell we were freezing in the London cold!

Can you share a little bit about finding your artistic voice and the different disciplines you’re exploring?

Fashion Design is my primary discipline, but I could never make the clothes I do without exploring the concepts I deal with through my visual practice. I’ve been a huge art and photography nerd since I was a teenager, and for a very long period, struggled to understand who I was as an artist and who I was as a designer. There was a eureka moment somewhere in 2021 where I stopped looking at these as separate practices and more as tools to unpack the same problems. It was then, for the first time, that I felt like a ‘real’ artist with a point of view of my own.

My practice is rooted in unpacking specific memories/emotions and understanding their psychological truths, and I’ve come to realize the only way to get to the root of the subject matter is to attack it through different angles and mediums. Unpacking the subject matter as a designer, and then going deeper into them as a photographer or filmmaker has helped me understand my life experiences and grow from them, while making art that’s honest & authentic. Sounds like a cheesy coming-of-age story, but I’m 24 and that’s where I’m at!

How would you describe your aesthetic? What are you drawn to?

It’s hard to describe my aesthetic in a word, especially as I work between so many varying mediums. I never really know what I want a project to ‘look’ like, but I’m always very sure of what I want it to ‘feel’ like. My creative process is essentially working things out until it resonates with me on that very specific emotional level, be it a jacket, a photo or a film. It annoys my collaborators sometimes as it’s something so intangible and often hard to communicate, but they always see the vision in the end! With any creative project, If it doesn’t make you feel something, there’s no reason for it to exist – that feeling is what I’m drawn to.

What specific things do you most enjoy looking at through your viewfinder?

It’s always the emotion. I work with models a lot, but instead of having them pose to work the garments, I try and get them in a specific headspace and capture their natural responses. It’s a very different way of working from what they’re usually used to on a fashion shoot, but you can always see when get comfortable enough to let loose and submit to the scenario. That transition is so beautiful to watch, and it’s a bit crazy how it translates into an image. It’s always a split second when everything comes together and the emotion shines through, but when you do manage to capture it, it’s the most rewarding feeling. It’s become a high a continue to chase!

Finish this sentence: “For me, photography is…”

– …a tool to see and understand the world.”

What’s the best piece of advice anyone ever gave you?

It wasn’t advice given to me specifically, but it was something that’s stuck with me since I’ve read it. Eugene Rabkin from StyleZeitgeist was critiquing a very well-known designer on his Instagram Stories and he said something along the lines of “Embed your references, Don’t superimpose them.” That statement somewhat altered my brain chemistry and has pretty much shaped the way I think, live and work.

What is the last thing you experienced that truly blew your mind?

Winning this award for sure! I still can’t comprehend that my little photo we did for fun was selected among all these submissions. I applied for this award while having a talk with myself about needing to take more chances, and I never would’ve imagined it being longlisted, never mind winning. It’s so validating to my artistry and perspective in a way I can’t express, and such a necessary push to keep pursuing my projects, even when they feel out of reach.

What’s one thing you’d like to accomplish in the next year or so?

I’m currently working on a print project that dissects my current point of fascination, death. I’m exploring the permanence of death and the feelings associated with losing a loved one as well as looking into how different cultures respond to it. It’s a bit more complex than any project I’ve done before but I hope I can get it together as I’m really excited by the work I’ve been making for it.

What about one thing you’d like to accomplish in your lifetime?

Being so early into my career, I just hope all this is leading to something stable and successful, and I’m able to give Indian kids around the world an example of a successful creative to show their parents when they worry about their kids choosing a creative career over being a doctor or engineer.

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