Decoded Paradox

It was in 2011 that I realised that alongside a successful career in fashion, I had romanced, and if I may add, enjoyed myself tremendously in a parallel, secret existence in the company of a camera.

Photography for me started as a hobby, one that I have cherished and pursued with great enthusiasm for over two decades. To me, taking pictures was akin to a karmic connect, as it bestowed me with a celestial ability to show the world just as I wanted it to be seen; it quite effectively pampered the artist in me, allowing me to deconstruct and recompose the world in my own manner.

In my chosen wonderful world of fashion (one that i love dearly) and specially as a couturier for 25 years, I have always considered myself fortunate to be surrounded by great artists… inspired creative souls who constantly contributed to the fertility of this parallel voyage I was undertaking. No surprise then, that my subsequent resolve to venture into the world of Art was based largely on costume and royalty, the two things that i cherish deeply, via a fine art photography show (and book) aptly titled DECODED PARADOX*.

 INSPIRATION. Delhi. I came here 27 years ago with a solitary college friend from Chandigarh as my only known contact in the city. I was overawed by the sense of scale and the crowds that Delhi is synonymous with but was prepared to embrace this bustling giant in my quest to find the true path to follow my dreams. Would this city return my embrace? After all I was just another mortal being added to this vast expanse of teeming human presence. The only way to find the answers was to plunge into the unknown and let destiny takes its course. I did exactly that – and what a ride its been! Not only did this city welcome me with open arms but it also gave me the very foundation to build the edifice of my dreams. Experiences, people, moments…good and not so good have all been a part of the awakening and integration of my spirit into this city.

DELHI. The Indian capital city of Delhi has always been a seat of power and has a long history as the pivot of several empires. The earliest architectural relics date back to the Mauryan Period (c. 300 BC); since then, the city has seen continuous settlement and has been the perennial seat of power for several dynasties: the Rajputs, Turks, Afghans, Mughals, and then the English. Now our politicians consider Delhi an important city for control and rule.

Today’s Delhi, however, in the throes of modernization and remodelling, revelling (sometimes quite immodestly) in the euphoria of an economically charged environment, continues to also show that its magic lives on its streets. It is an evolving avatar of a future city that few notice as they drive across it everyday. It boasts of a parallel existence for millions of people as well as offers dramatic views of the old and the new. It often amazes me that the same roads that were once reserved for kings and queens to ride on are now common to the average man. In some way, we embrace the past by simply walking on the same soil as some of the greatest in history have; a thought that perhaps most don’t even realise. The show was my attempt to infuse two separate periods of time into a single frame, creating an absorbing paradox, interpreted by combining a staged setting (based upon the city’s feudal legacy) with the reality of the Delhi that lives on and off the roads today. The resulting visuals communicate two rather different scenarios…the almost frozen form of the fictitious historical personages from a nostalgia evoking past, surrounded by a very alive and vivid present…juxtaposition and contradiction, both of which I have tried to seamlessly integrate into the final work; an attempt to blur the conflict, if any, into an interestingly congruous composition.

 INVOLVEMENT. I suspect that my years of being in the wonder world of fashion and my modest understanding of costumes and textile history has added vastly to the staging part (as it involved recreating imagery from centuries back in all its purity and authenticity), whereas the very character of the present city, its people and architecture (old and new) as seen from the road, have generously contributed to creating the perfect backdrop to the final image. As I continued to capture my subjects in their unplanned settings, I also noticed that a varied set of my personal emotions ranging from awe, angst, joy and despair, amongst others, were increasingly becoming pivotal catalysts in visually piecing the images together. The casting process i.e. the selection of my nobility was perhaps one of the most critical aspects of this show; irrespective of which strata of society they belonged to, my selection was based purely on one criterion: a presence distinguished enough that its resultant aura had absolute relevance to the final image.

Finally, one of the key fascinations I’ve always had with the visual world is the fact that the unseen lies within the seen, longingly waiting to be discovered. Delhi resides somewhere between the seen and the unseen, and if you have the eye and the patience, i assure you that you will discover the diverse realities of this chaotic yet intense city.

*Decoded Paradox is a series of fine art photographic prints which have been exhibited in several art galleries and have also been privately published as a coffee table book. All costumes and clothes used in the pictures are from JJ VALAYA Couture.

(PS* If you wish to add this book to your personal collection, please reach me at and i’ll give you the details on how to take it forward)

Copyright: JJ Valaya/ All rights reserved. All images are the sole property of JJ Valaya. No part of this post/publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval systems, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of JJ Valaya. This applies to all acts of use, in particular such as the reproduction of pictures and text, their performance and demonstration, translation, filming, microfilming, broadcasting, storage and processing in electronic media.


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