Brown f*cking magic with Mathushaa Sagthidas

an exceptional photography student at Camberwell UAL, has taken London by storm with her South Asian fashion photography steeped in the concepts of body positivity, feminism, and anti-colorism. Although just starting out, Mathushaa has an already impressive resume. She has participated in various London Fashion week events and worked with Anisha Parmar and MESA Magazine. After reaching out to BOL a few weeks ago and telling us all about her story, we jumped at the chance to set up a meeting and talk about all things, fashion, photography, prejudice, and "Brown f*cking magic.'

Hi, Mathushaa. It is so great to put a voice to the name finally! Before we start, could you tell our audience a little about yourself! Anything and everything you think we should know.

Sure, I'm Mathushaa, known as @mathuxphotos on Instagram. I'm a British photographer of Tamil Sri Lankan ethnicity with a strong interest in fine art, contemporary fashion, and styling. Until around the age of 18, which feels like it was forever ago, I never really considered photography as a career; I was more of fine art - painting and sculpture woman.

fashion, beauty, south asian, jewelry
@mathuxphotos photography

Wow, from your work, I would have never been able to tell that you are so new to the field. You have a real talent! But tell us, how did you get into photography and why?

Funnily enough, it was actually only after doing a one week workshop with my school as a part of work experience. I just did it to fill the 2-week requirement; I did not think it would lead to this. But after that, I felt really confused about what I wanted to do. So after having a few conversations with my art teachers, I decided to do a foundation course where I got to really experiment with photography, specifically fashion photography, and I haven't looked back since.

That's so cool; it seems like it was meant to be! After seeing some of your work, I can tell you have a very distinct style. What would you describe your photography style as?

Brown f*cking magic (this is literally the first thing that came to my head when I read this question, but I like to think it is.) My style is, represents me as well the models I photograph in terms of the way in which we have grown up. We were surrounded by both western and South Asian culture, and I try to represent that through fashion, whilst still being innovative and 'homemade.'

After chatting over Instagram, you mentioned that you were not a fan of retouching in terms of removing blemishes and changing body shapes. Why do you think it's important to keep the photos as natural as possible in terms of editing/retouching?

With my editing, I don't really like to over-edit. I only edit little things like lighting. In general, I'm someone who doesn't like to retouch photos to get rid of 'imperfections' as people would call them because firstly, it isn't representative of reality. I don't know anyone with perfect clear glass skin. Secondly, I don't agree with the stereotypical beauty standards. I want my work to contribute to breaking down these b*llshit standards that we are expected to all fit into. Also with my shoots and my models and just in general, it's important that they walk away feeling beautiful and comfortable just the way they are. Embrace the real you!

Speaking of embracing the real you, how do you think society's beauty standards affect your decisions regarding photographing South Asian men and women?

I do everything that I can to rebel and break them; with any of the models, it's important to me that they not only feel comfortable working with me but they are able to showcase the beauty of their appearance and personality - I like to let them do their own thing especially when it comes to poses. I really care about their opinions and try and take their input on board. I do not focus on the beauty aspects in terms of beauty standards. I just want to make sure that they feel comfortable and beautiful during my shoots.

fashion, south asian, beauty, colourism
@mathuxphotos photography

That's so great! You mentioned making sure that everyone felt as comfortable as possible. How do you think being a South Asian photographer and photographing South Asians affects your connection with your photos or a sense of comfort in your photography?

I definitely have a very positive and proud connection to my photography. My photography hasn't always been about South Asian culture; there were points before I started working towards my degree, where I felt unable to embrace my South Asian roots due to certain educational systems. But now I'm so happy that I just had a f*CK it moment and went for it anyway because now I'm creating work that I can look back on and feel proud and happy about it.

Last but not least. Have you gotten any negative feedback on your choice of profession from the South Asian community? If so, how have you dealt with it?

When I chose to do something creative at university rather than maths, I got the stereotypical "How are you going to make money from this?" from my parents. Which yes is a genuine concern; however, I feel like I'm doing everything I can to prove them wrong. But still, when I tell certain uncles and aunties (some of which aren't even family, lol) that I'm doing photography, their first reaction is 'geography?' and then I say photography again, and you can see the confusion and the ever so slight look of disappointment show up on their face. It's hilarious.

I'm doing something that I love, and I've worked hard and managed to find so many opportunities within the creative industry despite the familial judgment. So I've reached a point of not caring about others' opinions and just focus on my work.

Make sure to check Mathushaa out on Instagram @mathuxphotos