“The White T Series Captures Stars In Real, Raw Ways”: Rohan Shrestha, Celebrity Lensman

The celebrity photographer speaks about his iconic projject.

Actor Alia Bhatt, photographed by Rohan Shrestha for his ‘The White T Series’.

What started out as a simple a headshot for actor Abhay Deol turned into lensman Rohan Shrestha’s most iconic, and endearing, projects—The White T Series. “It was 2012, and [actor] Abhay Deol needed pictures for his trip to Los Angeles. At that time, I was inexperienced and unfamiliar with the term ‘headshot’, so I searched on Google and found pictures of Hollywood actors such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert Downey Jr. who had taken simple, black-and-white portraits with a white T-shirts on,” Rohan shares with The Word. in an exclusive conversation.

And the rest is history, as Abhay Deol’s captivating portraits lay the groundwork for the signature White T Series…

Over time, Rohan began clicking every celebrity he shot with in this same style, as a warm-up shot, which also helped him get better acquainted with his subjects. “I continued doing this on a regular basis for anyone I was shooting. Eventually, a journalist noticed and suggested that I create a book on this series,” Rohan recounts. “That was the moment I realised it had become a series and that I could develop it further.”

Actor Janhvi Kapoor looking fresh in her portrait.
Actor Priyanka Chopra Jonas, for the White T Series.

For the photographer, it’s all about getting to know the actor and the subject. “Before the shoot even starts, they usually come without make-up. I want them to be themselves and do what comes naturally to them,” Rohan explains. “Sometimes, they have just had a smoke or a drink, and do whatever they feel like doing. I’m not interested in photographing the actor as a character, but rather, as a real person. That’s why I chose a simple white T-shirt as the wardrobe for the warm-up shot. It’s a basic garment that doesn’t distract from the individual.” The final results are striking portraits that captures the sitter’s true emotions and essence, rather than their outfit or appearance.

“Of all the subjects I’ve photographed, the most memorable for me is, undoubtedly, [footballer] Lionel Messi,” Rohan exclaims. “As a fan of football, Messi has always been a hero of mine. To have had the chance to include him in my White T Series was a dream come true, and one of the greatest moments of my life, both as a photographer and a person,” he adds.

Rohan considers clicking footballer Lionel Messi the most memorable moment
for him, personally and professionally.
Actor Ananya Panday, clicked by Rohan.

Another “fanboy moment” for him was shooting actor Shah Rukh Khan, whom he grew up watching. In fact, Rohan’s father, the celebrated photographer Rakesh Shrestha,  had also worked with the actor. “To get the opportunity to work with Shah Rukh Khan years later was a truly romantic experience,” Rohan shares.

Among the other celebrities whose portraits Rohan considers memorable are actor Ranveer Singh, whom Rohan has “grown up with”… “We roughly started working around the same time, and it was both was organic and fulfilling photographing Ranveer.”

Photographing actor Shah Rukh Khan was a "fanboy moment" for the lensman.
Sportsman Virat Kohli, captured for the series.

“Then, there’s Kareena [Kapoor Khan], whom I first photographed for the White T Series when she was pregnant. That shoot went viral and was an extremely iconic moment in the series,” Rohan reveals.

But think about it: what a simple concept it is—a white t-shirt, a black and white portrait. “Black and white, for me, are eternal,” Rohan states, adding, “the series has become a phenomenon that I never anticipated. I’m just happy that it did.”

The portrait of actor Kareena Kapoor Khan, while being pregnant, went viral on social media.
A portrait of sportsman Sachin Tendulkar.

So how would he like for the series to evolve in the future? “I don’t want to change the standardisation of the series,” Rohan is clear. “However, as I continue shooting these individuals repeatedly over time, the evolution will come from the subject themselves. It would be wonderful to see how the series develops over time. It’s all about shooting their portraits over many years…I don’t want to deviate from this focus. The images are not about me or my photographic skills. They’re just simple headshots.”

Celebrity photographer Rohan Shrestha, who created the White T Series.