Photo Story: All the charm in Charminar.

In our first lookbook photoshoot we wanted to make sure that we captured all the charm, chaos, and color of our home city of Hyderabad. It is a look into our world, and the world of the families who’s lives we get to help transform!

Our story, geography, and ethos are all wrapped up in the design aesthetic of our products. It is important to us that what we sell is completely unique and unlike anything you’ve seen or felt before, just like the stories we tell of lives of individuals and families transformed through our work. 

Our products, and our cases are equally affected by our geography. There are cultural nuances, traditions and methods that determine how we approach them. India is a vibrant, beautiful, and complex country. Our products reflect this in their unmatched range of colour, texture and variety of silks, and patterns. Our cases reflect this in the unique way that each woman and each family, works to establish peace in their home. Just as each story and fight for peace is unique and based on the choices of empowered woman, so too is our apparel. 

Charminar is the Old City of Hyderabad. It was the hub of the Deccan, ruled by the Nizam who was the richest man in the world. The markets in Charminar, although land-locked for miles, were famous the world over for trade in spices, textiles, pearls, jewels, and other luxuries. 

What was once the Nizam’s quarters for luxury markets, a stately hospital, South India’s largest mosque, the Chowmahalla Palace and of course the landmark Charminar monument, has now been flooded with a bustling local marketplace for commerce for the common man and of course tourists. Charminar is a hotspot for the best priced bangles, local beauty products, traditional clothing and shoes, specialty Hyderabadi foods and almost anything else you can think of. 

Being a predominantly Muslim and traditional area, the Old City architecture, fashion, food and etiquette is its own wonderful variety. Two of our Counseling Centres are in nearby or similar areas. 

We did this photoshoot on the move. We wouldn’t be able to maneuver the chaos of Charminar weighed down by  extra lights and excess gear, so we carried as many lenses as our shoulders could manage, a few reflectors under our arms, and had our car trunk full of products meet us at various points.

This photo was an outtake because it doesn't highlight the beautiful Priyanka Scarf Mary is wearing, but we love that it shows some of the beautiful character of the doors of Charminar. 

This photo was an outtake because it doesn't highlight the beautiful Priyanka Scarf Mary is wearing, but we love that it shows some of the beautiful character of the doors of Charminar. 

More than our model, the subject of this photoshoot was really the city. The charm of Charminar is what you will see in every photo. Look for glimpses of historic royal buildings and monuments, traditional camel leather shoes, extremely vintage doorways, insides of bangle shops, flower and fruit bundies (stalls), and more. What you won’t see in these photos is the bleak hope that women and girls have in this area of getting help to end violence in their lives. Let these images transport you to the place that has created your beautiful, one-of-a-kind product and that is home to the work to end violence against women and girls that your purchase supports.

Traditional shoes, called jutti, made of camel leather and embellished with embroidery and our Jaan (meaning life and/or love)  Mini Sling Bag.  

We used local shops, stalls and buildings in a lot of our shots. Every shop or stall owner was extremely welcoming, accommodating our requests to open packets of bangles to use as a backdrop or tie our Aalingan Sling Bags from the front of their stalls. While shooting the beautiful photos of our Aalingan Sling Bags hanging from the front of a flower stall, a man walking by asked the stall owner why he wasn’t charging us for this. The stall owner simply said “mohabbat”, meaning “love”. 

When asked why he wasn't charging us, the flower stall owner simply replied “mohabbat”, meaning “love”. 

Our model is Mary Paul, a photographer, model and artist who has helped My Choices on a number of creative projects. We chose her not only because of her incredible mastery of posing even the most distracting bustle of Charminar, but for her dark-skinned beauty. India has its own unique form of racism whereby darker hues of the Indian skin tone are looked at as being unlucky, ugly, and unfavorable. This unfortunate base even informs job hiring, marriage proposals, and basic etiquette. Mary is ethnically tribal, belonging to a tribal group in her home state of Orissa. Her features and skin tone are quintessential of that tribe and we think there are few people more stunning. 

Our model Mary Paul wears the Priyanka Scarf as a head wrap. 

Our model Mary Paul wears the Priyanka Scarf as a head wrap.