Weddings in India are truly extraordinary. They are magnificent, colorful—and usually very expensive. An entire industry has evolved around the most important social event in a person’s life, and for months everyone is eagerly awaiting the couple’s big day. Arjun Kartha captures these moments—the happiness, the tears, the surprises—in the form of a photo or video. He tells his customers’ story with great attention to detail. But now it’s time to tell his story.
Arjun’s current company “Twogether Studios” was borne out of a kind turn. A friend asked him in 2008 to bring his camera to their wedding and take some photos as a guest. A few weeks later, she surprised him with a call: “Wow. Your pictures are much better than the ones taken by our professional photographer.” Her call gave Arjun the confidence to venture into wedding photography. He did not find the change in career difficult. “If I learned one thing during my training as a computer specialist, it was that I really did not want to be a computer specialist.” Arjun’s bedroom became his office, where he organized his initial orders for friends who, in turn, recommended him to their friends. After a while, he was able to quit his office job, rent new premises, and concentrate on capturing his clients’ weddings on film together with his wife Prarena. “It was the right step at the right time,” he says. “I’m eternally grateful for that.”
“The reason I shoot weddings is actually quite simple,” explains Arjun: “I always get the material I want. I love colors, I love emotions. And weddings give me the opportunity to tell exciting stories. When I started, photographs were very different to today. Weddings were simply documented, there were always the same settings and arrangements.” Arjun, however, saw himself as a storyteller. To bring these stories to life, he needed colleagues with a similar mindset. There are now 14 employees at “Twogether” who are responsible for creating the story. The team is made up of photographers, cinematographers, video and sound designers and editors. The executive title “CCO” is a joint role, which is currently shared between Arjun’s two German shepherd dogs. It stands for: “Chief Cuddling Officers.”
According to Arjun, there is no perfect method for creating fairy-tale photographs. However, he is happy to explain how he gets to the heart of the story. “First, we try to understand how the two people interact with each other and what moves them. This gives us an initial indication of whether we should be creating a love story, a documentary or even a Hangover-style movie. We then interview the friends, particularly the bridesmaids, to find out their most precious memories of the couple.”
It is impossible to understand the importance of weddings in India unless you have been invited to one. Arranged marriages are a challenge when it comes to planning the pre-wedding stage. Arjun and his team are responsible for documenting “both sides,” i.e. filming in two locations with the bride’s family and the groom’s family, who will then come together during the ceremony. From November to April, the Indian wedding season is booming and Arjun works almost non-stop: Someone is always getting married somewhere. And since some weddings last for several days and vary from something intimate with 50 guests to the big party with more than 5,000 guests, Arjun comes back with a huge amount of material, which then goes into post-production. Since Arjun’s pictures and films are often elaborate productions, it can take up to 8 weeks to deliver a personalized photo album or 10 weeks to create a video. By this time, Arjun has often known the couple for more than nine months, because the exclusivity of many locations means his clients have to start planning their big day well in advance.
There are two weddings that hold a special place in Arjun’s heart. The first made him very proud because the bride had only two wishes—to wear a dress made by a famous designer and to have photographs taken by Arjun Kartha. The other wedding was special for a completely different reason: “Everything went well, until the moment a cup of coffee fell on the wedding dress. Disaster! But then magic happened. Instinct kicked in and everyone knew exactly what to do. We cleaned the dress with cloths, switched on the hairdryer and it was like nothing had ever happened. In that moment were we videographers, photographers or documentary creators? No, we were part of the story. To be part of that day was not something we ever envisaged. On that day, we were prouder than ever before. I will never forget that.”
So what is his secret? “I believe in the power of being nice. In moments like those, you are completely supporting the couple, offering help, reassuring, holding everything together. In the end, the magical moment happens as if by accident.” And that’s what magic is really all about—when unforeseen surprises suddenly create that unforgettable moment which Arjun set out to capture.