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Manjari Sharma

The Shower Series

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For the last few months I have been inviting people to visit my apartment and allow me to photograph them in a very intimate space; my bathroom. I have also been inviting them to take a shower as I continue to shoot them. I soon came to the observation that warm water running over my subjects bodies often relieved them of any unnerving awkwardness the camera brought about. Once they were relaxed, the bathroom, formerly a beauty parlour, now became a confessional and I the hair dresser. Many of my subjects shared intimate details of their life with me and every new person in the shower became a brand new allegory. With every new visit I had a new protagonist; A new plot and a new parable of hurt and heroic that came undone under that shower – My Shower. I felt a personal mythology was being shared in that shower. An independent study that I have gotten addicted to.

Secretly I have been told by my subjects that it is thrilling and adventuresome to be in my shower; Secretly cheating my traditional and tame Indian upbringing I live through all of my subjects. Fighting their wars and braving their fears for those few hours where we are connected through this pious space.I continue to investigate this enthralling photo project which has thus far given rise to some of the fastest, most disarming relationships I have formed. I look forward to these images leading the way as the project continues.

As I have found time and again what I set out to consume, consumes me. Based on the root structure of my cultural upbringing, ardent seeking is an act of submission. A project, whether photographic or not, begins with placing good faith in the unknown. When I suspend the illusion of a plausible predestined fiasco, I start to make my pictures with two most elemental givens, myself and the person in the frame. As the project progresses, A sentience of the self dissolves, leaving behind a distilled remainder… the subject and the story.

This Essay solely began as a labor of love, I was driven by a mad passion and desire to document the sensory overload i personally experienced. The texture, the drama, the undeniable sexuality, the relief, it was all there. But when I photographed the first person in that shower, it was nothing but a response to the visual. So when it started out, it was very tangible and measurable; But as it progressed it gathered the moss only a rolling stone can round up. It became a lot more than light and water. it became about what I shared with this person for that finite length of time and what we were willing to give up to be in that bath tub together as we willing broke social norms. I want this project to communicate that the drive it took to make these images is the drive I aim to sustain as an artist. If this project is any measure, then I want to be recognized and known for my ability to connect, collaborate and create.



I was born and raised in Mumbai, India, A terrific country, but I guess you have to go away to love it again. Chasing photography is what brought Manjari to the US in 2001; She graduated in 2004 but moved back to India to reconnect with her roots. Manjari moved to New York City in late 2007 and some of her recent achievements include 8 honorable mentions at the Lucie awards. Manjari was recognized as a winner for the NYC Strand Photo contest in 2009. Manjari’s work has been included in Centre for Fine Art photography, NYC Slideluck Potshow 2009 and her image was selected for the PDN photo of the day blog in Nov ’09. Manjari was one of six people selected for an exclusive workshop with Jörg Colberg and Robert Lyons in fall 2009 and her work is scheduled to be featured on NYMphoto blog early 2010. Manjari’s ongoing shower series will be spotlighted as a feature for PDN.EDU for their spring 2010 issue and her current selected clients include AOL, American Baby, Penguin Books and AARP. Manjari currently lives and freelances in NYC.


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Manjari Sharma


54 thoughts on “manjari sharma – the shower series”

  1. this is beautiful, one of the best portait series I have ever seen. i’m inspired beyond description.

  2. Wow! absolutely stunning, I love this. Wonderful work Manjari. Going to look at it for 3rd time now, full screen… hypnotic.

  3. What a brilliant idea, Manjari. And so well executed – each and every photo.

    You are going far.

    It must have been a challenge, sometimes, to keep your lens from steaming up.

  4. These are really beautiful images. My first reaction is their resemblance to some of the great European portrait painters. Perhaps it’s the soft combination of the water and the light coming in from the side window.

  5. A good idea is all you need, things will happen. It feels like this was bound to be good, because of the idea. But there is indeed a really beautiful light in your shower! 11 was the only picture I felt was unnecessary, I think you already had another (and better) picture of the same guy as well? You could easily remove “series” from the title.

    I’m curious: How many said no when you asked them?

  6. Absolutely fantastic!!! Some of the most luscious, most tender, most dramatic portraits I have ever seen. So much more than just a great idea; this essay shows what happens when an original concept is executed by a remarkable arist and open-hearted human being. One of my all-time favorite Burn essays. And the artist’s statement is PERFECT. Brava, Manjari…


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  8. Thank you to all of you. Really lovely messages to wake up to. Glad to feel the love. In response to Frostfrog, yes the lens would fog up and had to be de-steamed but of course well worth it. I intentionally had a shower curtain that was all white, made fill light easier for me when I wanted it. I would just stick the lens out of that curtain for a few split second to release that steam off my lens.

    David_Bacher thank you for that comparison, definitely an inspiration for me and an honor that you recognized that and drew a parallel.

    For Bjarte, I definitely had people turn me down but a lot more agreed than I though would. It was also gathering steam after October…. funnily a lot more people said yes to it after the image was chosen for PDN photo of the day blog, I guess sometimes people are waiting to see if the project gets some some external endorsement.

    Fewer people jumped on at first but certainly all in all a lot more people vibed back. Moral of the story for me is that people are sometimes are just waiting to be asked. You need to have questions to get answers. And to never stop questioning is certainly the key.

  9. The first picture is drop dead gorgeous…..

    in this series i prefer the portraits (where the face is the focus of our attention) than the more ‘bodily’ pics, but as a series it’s fun and intimate and gorgeously photographed….actually, i can imagine this series continue to gallop off into all kinds of wild directions: with dual-portraits, with people sitting in close, with all kinds of interesting mis-en-scenes shot beneath the shower (if your shower is big enough ;) )….until you move from the portraits to entire series of interesting tableaux beneath the cascading light and water :)))…

    and ddamn, does that shower yield great light :))))…..

    thinking of films (especially some indian films) and also of course Dutch painting (vermeer’s girl with earring) and of course the brilliant photographer Kendrik Kersten’s ‘dutch portrait’ photographs…

    but, oddly, i kept thinking of tarkovsky’s use of water, in all his films….but a blessing and a washing away, the intimacy of water, our births and our refreshing….

    totally fell for the idea and congrats on both the work being published but on it’s acceptance…


    the http://digital-photography-school.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/05/vermeer-girl-with-a-pearl-earring.jpg

  10. Gorgeous. Love the subtle variations you achieve within a set framework. I’m glad you didn’t go for a clinical study (ie camera set in same place, etc) but give each photo a life of it’s own.


    Love Tarkovsky. Haven’t thought of him in a while. Thanks for reminding me.


  11. Bob truly appreciate the detailed critique and many possible future paths the series can take as it grows. Shot number 25 just to share with all of you is a self portrait which was taken in January 2010 in the same week that the project began in January 2009. I decided to sort of put a pause on it by shooting myself before I left for India for some new work. It just felt right to do that.. to appropriately return to who the shower series started with.

  12. I really enjoyed this essay! Light is gorgeous, the idea is clever in its simplicity and there is enough variety in the realization to keep interest high throughout the essay (I agree with Charles Peterson: a more aseptical approach would have been quite boring in the end, imo). Your shower is used as a trigger for the photographer-subject relationship in a way that reminds me the famous Irving Penn’s corner. It’s a pity that most of the times I take shower in a hurry: being naked and surrounded by water is the typical condition in which it would be easier to reconnect with our bodies and their inherent fragility. And this consciousness is what I mostly feel from your images. Congratulations!

    PS: Manjari you wrote a great truth: “Moral of the story for me is that people are sometimes are just waiting to be asked. You need to have questions to get answers.”

  13. Manjari. I hope that one day you consider all the people in the world who are neither young nor beautiful. Not to detract from what you have accomplished here, for it is surely stunning, but where are the others? To become a universal voice–and I hope that might be what you desire–you need to move away from the reality of advertising. Then, you will have something. I think you could be amazing.

  14. Manjari, Breathtaking. Love the idea, execution, capture. My favorites: 6, 7, 16, 17, 24 (this is my favorite of the favorites).

  15. As I re-read some of this from the top Colin, CT, Patricia and Max, your comments humble me greatly, thank you! Bob thank you for mentioning Tarkovsky’s use of water, I am looking to rent some movies now if I can. But mostly I did not know of Hendrick Kerstens work, I was speechless when I visited the website. Quite Stunning. Here is the link for those that haven’t seen it. http://www.hendrikkerstens.com/index.html

    Bjarte the image number 11 was a challenging call for me, I tried to remove it from my finals but couldn’t. There is something about his expression that communicates to me, even with such few of his features barely seen through the water. DAH, what are your thoughts on that?

    Lee, thank you for that tight selection, I just looked at a 20×30 print of number 24 which is hands down one of my favorites from the series and I practically levitated off my high for a few seconds.

    Abele, I agree, when we are surrounded by water i would think somewhere in sub conscious it’s the closest we must feel to our memories and sensations of being in the womb.

  16. Stunningly beautiful images. Thank you for sharing here on Burn. Truly inspirational. I can’t help wonder about the synchronicity of the publishing of this piece and the current issue of National Geographic. Reveals much about our fundamental relationship with water, our most precious resource, and the reality of the daily struggle for fresh drinking water for some. Water is life, it heals us spiritually and physically, and without it we are just as much dust. Water is the archetypal representation of the subconscious, the hidden depths that are the foundation and wellspring of life and which connect us all.

  17. a really unique and interesting concept carried out super well!!
    the light in some of these some is absolutely gorgeous!!
    i thought though that the shots where we see the window kind of detracted from the ‘etherealness’ a little- broke the trance you put me in!! ;)
    otherwise spectacular.

  18. Why do I like Manjari’s series so much? Besides the composition, texture and lighting there is
    another element: the shower. No, no, not there. It’s such a, such a personal space.

    With such wonderful imagery, it’s more about what goes on in the viewers mind. Thank you Manjari.

    I wish I had as beautiful lighting in my shower, I’d run the water heater until it screamed!

  19. Manjari :))

    that’s wonderful. As i said, that first image is just jaw-droppingly gorgeous and absolutely sets the tone for the series :))….and i love the movement from ‘ecstatic’ images in the beginning of the sequence to more silent ones (the portraits of the women with their eyes open, the ones that reminded me of Vermeer….but what’s cool will be to see where you run with this….just for clarification, i think the ‘bodily’ images are also strong and interesting and necessary here especially as you broaden the project, only that i was really captured by the protraits and their expressions/dreams/thoughts….

    again, terrific idea and execution…looking forward to seeing it’s development :))


  20. Manjari

    I can only join in with praise for this series. Absolutely stunning, beautiful, sensuous.

    Like Bob, I like the tight portraits the best. 1 and 24 are just spectacular. Love love love ’em.

    That must be one big shower. How did you protect your camera?

  21. Jonathan, yes the window was a tough one for me and my favorite ones don’t have the window in it personally, but as a series I think it works in the story. Pomara yes the lighting in the bathroom is beautiful, additionally I am using a strobe helps me freeze the water drops and adds a very minor fill for my subjects. Frank, I will take a look at the Nat Geo on your recommendation! Thanks.

    Bob, I have particularly been thinking about you comment about the Mis-en-scenes under the shower, great direction for this theme! Some thoughts I have are that this show will be in gallery space with a live shower, where viewers or passer by’s are welcome to become a part of the show. They can take a shower and the drops of water hitting the floor could be heard echoing through the space. My experience of this shoot as I know it, extends beyond the images. When I’m photographing my toes are getting wet… I can hear the subjects hum to themselves, I can see this project working as an installation.

    Gordon, to answer you protecting the camera became easier the more practice I got with putting it in danger :)

    Michael this was a self assigned project and purely led by the fascination and love for image making. One of the biggest reasons for me to be satisfied with the work is the believability and comfort of the people in the images. Advertising usually lends itself to a certain amount of plasticity that I don’t believe any of my subjects possess.

  22. Hi Manjari.

    Nice idea. I like the 1st and last of these images the most. Love the way the drops of water represent a veil, to my minds eye, and the expression on here face somehow sympathizes with that image to me. The last image I found dramatic in form and composition. I liked the image of the hand as well. To be honest, many of the others I found plain, not all, but many. But these few images give your idea great potential. WEll done for putting it in to action and hope you try for many more as I’m sure you can end up with a lot of spectacular images.

    Nice work Manjari.

  23. MANJARI,

    Everything has been said above already but I just wanted to let you know that I have also found your photographs truly inspiring… The sheer beauty of some of these shots is incredible…sensual, sexy… the intimacy of the shower… I have seen your photographs while away for the week-end and I could only comment this morning but your images stayed with me… such a great example that you can do an incredible essay just staying home, without traveling very far… God, the light you have used there is fantastic… Simply loved your work!!!!

    Well done!


  24. Gorgeously ghostly. Beautiful creatures all. Absolutely arresting.

    Who needs painting when you can have photography like this? I’m awe struck.

  25. Thanks so much for the responses and criticism. Just wanted to include a couple other links on the work. Aline Smithson is the brainchild for Lensscratch which is one of the premier photo blogs of our times and also has excellent readership. I thought it would be good to share the link and also the possibility for you all to submit some works to Aline for consideration if you’d like. Here is the link


    Also Mannuel Linnenschmidt runs an online magazine called KameraKunstMagazin. Mannuel so kindly included some of my work in Isssue 3 (you’ll have to flip a few e-pages though). It has about 90.517 readers!


    Wanted to share my links and of course two more intriguing portals to share and show your work.

  26. I like the pictures, a very good job under a technical point of view. Though I must say I do not fully appreciate the concept: beyond the fact that the photographer convinced a number of people to pose in his shower, I do not see anything but a series of very good portraits in which intimacy emerges only under a formal point of view, not an empathic one. But, well, that’s probably good enough in the end… ;-)

  27. Just an amazing set of portraits. the intimacy is phenomenal. The portraits are a witness to people at their most vulnerable. Portraiture doesn’t really aspire to be anything but. I couldn’t even begin to imagine asking people to photograph them in my shower. Wonderful work.

  28. Hey you all, tuning in to thank your generous comments again. Just wanted to share another incoming link Also another great spot for submission. UK based magazine called Deep Sleep Magazine. Their issue 4 just came out and the Theme is Memory. The shower series was selected as a body of work for this issue. Its an incredibly well designed magazine, they have a great selection from my series and other work. And the opener statement before the photo stories begin is beautiful. Here are a couple lines that hot home with me instantly. It’s a great read and like I said incredible pictures follow the thoughts. So enjoy!

    Memory has a spottiness”, wrote John Updike, “as if the film was sprinkled with developer instead of immersed in it”. Geoff Dyer said: “A photograph from the war is also a photograph of the way the war will come to be remembered. it is a photograph of the future, of the future’s view of the past”. The same can be said of any picture: in capturing a scene or moment for posterity, we influence forever the way in which that scene or moment will be remembered.


  29. Manjari,
    This is absolutely fabulous terrific wonderful inspiring powerful beautiful……
    Really really fresh and magic!!!
    You know? a friend of mine did something similar but still very different some years ago. He’s a director and made this little video. I hope you enjoy it:


    All the best and congratulations once again.

  30. Great fun! … I really enjoyed the video, Thanks for sharing and of course the kind words!

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  32. I’ve been on hiatus from BuRN for a minute, but what a beautiful welcome back. This are stunning portraits. So intimate, and the light…the light is wonderful. There’s such a tenderness and calmness and a respect and a trust that comes through. I feel calm and refreshed simply from witnessing these moments. Simply beautiful portraits.

  33. ~ As the water falls down, so too, do the walls of inhibition. Lovely, unique approach and beautiful collection of portraits. Congratulations Manjari.

  34. This is a great series! My favorite is the first one! I really like the colours, the red lips and the greenish background! Very interesting idea!

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