Fashion photography is a relatively new thing for Kaveh Kardan of Kaimuki. It’s probably not a career path anyone would have imagined for him when he was a math major at M.I.T.
Kaveh only recently discovered his passion for fashion photography and it was quite by accident.
Let’s begin at the beginning, as his is an interesting life and his career is anything but ordinary. Kaveh is Iranian by birth and lived in Belgium and France through middle and high school. He speaks French, English, Farsi and a little Spanish and Japanese. At M.I.T. he chose math as a major because “You can do anything with a math major.” Computer graphics became a passion and in his senior year he developed an interest in still photography. He bought a camera and joined the yearbook staff, where he was given free rolls of black and white film to shoot whatever caught his eye. Always the perfectionist, he even rolled his own cannisters of film.
After college Kaveh joined his family in Toronto where he worked at a computer graphics start-up firm. In 1988, he moved to Montreal and continued working in computer graphics until 1997, when he was hired by Square to do “Final Fantasy.” That film, and a short film called “Animatrix,” were what brought him to Honolulu. It took five years to complete the films, after which he was hired by Chris Lee and his Creative Media department at U.H.- Manoa. His classes included computer game design, visual effects and computer animation.
Three years ago, Kaveh’s house burned down and he lost everything, including his cameras. “I decided to replace them with a still photography camera,” he explained, and within a matter of months “Portraits and fashion photography became a passion.” A deeply thoughtful and pensive person himself, Kaveh tries to get inside the head of the model and the designer when engaged in shooting them.
Last June, after seven years at U.H., Kaveh decided to leave teaching and strike out on his own as a photographer. “It was a leap of faith leaving U.H. but I just decided ‘I don’t want to be here in 20 years,'” he said.
When he first started shooting fashion photographs, Kaveh’s emphasis was “On technique and lighting, but now I’m much less rigid and I’m trying new things and having fun.”
Kaveh has worked with models on their portfolios and designers on their collections. He shot Amber Chesebro’s Salty Girl Jewelry (www.saltygirljewelry.com) in the ocean. To highlight the elegant, sensual simplicity of the designs, he shot the model nude in the waves.
Amber loved working with Kaveh and plans to do more with him the future. “He’s amazingly talented,” she said. “He’s got what it takes – an eye for composition and lighting. He’s really professional and great to work with. I love the shots and I got so many great comments from people. It’s only a matter of time before everyone knows who he is.”
Akemi Ueda, co-designer (with her mother, Linda Ueda) of Paradisus Jewelry, workedwith Kaveh on her recent catalogue “It was really comfortable (working with him) and he made it easy for me. His relationship with the model was comfortable too.” Akemi added that Kaveh “Has a good eye for unique settings. He took us out to the railroad ride at Ewa and it was so awesome! It was an edgy, outdoors scene with stacks of lumber and rails and a train. Even though the shots were close-ups of jewelry the locale plays a big role.” She loved Kaveh’s approach to unusual angles, shadows and original lighting. “You can tell he’s passionate about it. He puts a lot of energy and effort into it,” she enthused.
Kaveh says he “Hasn’t found a voice of my own yet” but he’s working intensely toward that goal. Everything he does is infused with passion and creativity. This week he’s in New York meeting with agents and galleries and soaking up everything the city has to offer.
It’s a challenge, especially during this economy, to make a living as a portrait and fashion photographer, but it’s what Kaveh feels he must do. “It’s a compulsion for me. If there’s a free half-day I have to do a shoot,” he said with a cheshire cat grin. To see more of his work, go to kardanphotography.com.
– Paula Rath