When you notice a foreign tourist who sports a kurti and bindi with a string of jasmine flowers walking around the city, you can’t help but look in wonder at how these foreigners embrace our culture with ease. But can you imagine a Spanish woman in a madisar? Or an Irish girl in a traditional kasavu sari? Well, that’s what ‘Ethnic Photography’ does for our foreign tourists. “Most of these international tourists find our South Indian culture extremely fascinating. Our rich tradition is what attracts them. So, why not help them experience being a South Indian for a day?” smiles 30-year-old Sangeetha Ramaswamy, who started Ethnic Photography in 2015 to help tourists take back a souvenir from their trip.
It all started when she was on vacation in Japan and got a chance to dress like a maiko. “Exploring their traditions and dressing up in their attire was a lovely experience that I will never forget. And it was evident how much they love their culture when they did my hair and made me wear their traditional ornaments. Every time I look at that picture it brings a smile on my face. That’s when I felt that we should have something like this in Chennai. We are a cultural hub and the number of tourists who visits us just keeps increasing,” explains Sangeetha, who has a Master’s degree in Media Management.
She adds, “To set it up, I just had to pick up a few skills on makeup techniques and different sari draping styles. My husband, who runs a branding agency in the city, helped me with marketing and promotion. It’s been a little over a year since I started and now we are listed on TripAdvisor as a ‘must-try’ experience in Chennai.”
She says it’s been an amazing learning journey so far. “Once I had a Moroccon tourist who came in to dress up in a traditional kanjeevaram silk sari and she told me that henna is also a part of their tradition and they use it for festivals just like us. And you won’t believe how observant these tourists are. They ask a lot of questions. This entire experience is just a fun way for them to learn about our culture,” smiles Sangeetha. She hopes to expand her studio in other cities that usually sees many tourists, like Puducherry.
Reach Out: www.ethnicphotography.in