Anu Amarakoon

Why are you interviewing me?

The interview starts with a question instead of an answer. Anu Amarakoon is a bit of an enigma. She’s chatty, but also lapses into comfortable silences. She clearly has a great connection with her clients, evident from all the affectionate comments on Amarante’s Instagram pics. She is always flanked by just one person- the other half of Amarante, her husband Adrian. And her sense of style is understated- jeans, t-shirt and blazer, a dash of lipstick, no accessories. However, one thing has remained unchanged in the years I’ve known her since she was just starting out- and that is how truly humble she is. Why else would one of Sri Lanka’s best wedding photographers be genuinely incredulous as to why I think she is worth interviewing?

By Thushanthi Ponweera

Why do you ask me that?

Interviews should be with people who could inspire someone. So often we read about a person who is considered successful, but then five years down the line, the business or whatever they were famous for, is non-existent. If you really want to interview someone inspiring, it should be someone who has stuck it out; someone who has survived the industry.

You’ve been in this for more than five years, and judging by your high-profile clients, I think I can safely say you’re a success…

My idea of success is staying in control of the businesses I own with the support of a foolproof system and reliable team (currently I’m like a ninja, micro-managing and multi-tasking everything!), and still have time to relax and brainstorm, and take breaks when needed to do the things I enjoy, like travel and read. I think there’s a long way to go for that. The hustle is real!

Photography is our passion project- but there’s no room to scale up in this industry. So, my dream is to build something new that can really grow, while keeping Amarante intimate and niche, the way we like it.

Amarante comprises of both you and Adrian (the name is a wordplay on their surnames). Is the workload shared, or do you do most of it?

Definitely shared- I would say 50-50. Adrian is the quiet one, and I’m the one who handles all the clients, so it’s assumed I’m the ‘face’ of Amarante. But this is something we do as a couple. You’ll never see just one of us cover a wedding. It’s always the both of us.

That’s perfect, isn’t it? A happily married couple, photographing other couples on one of the most important days in their lives. In Sinhalese we call it ‘siriyawanthai’. What do you think makes you ‘click’ together so well?

Adrian is extremely relaxed. I’m not. I always feel a surge of adrenaline before each shoot- that buzzing energy mixed with some fear. Having him alongside me balances it out. He doesn’t think too far ahead, just on the task at hand. I have so many ideas and plans, but his focus helps me reel it back in and do what needs to be done. The shoots themselves are seamless, as by now we just fall into sync.

That’s called expertise! How did Amarante come into being? Did you always want to be a photographer?

Portrait photography always fascinated me, and I wanted to try it out for myself. I remember buying my first camera. I was at the start of my career in IT; obviously not earning enough to buy a DSLR. So I went and got myself a credit card, with the sole purpose of buying the camera. It was a Nikon D3000 and cost around eighty thousand rupees.

How much does your camera cost now?

(smiles) Around four hundred and fifty thousand.

You’ve obviously grown so much. When did you decide to take the plunge and turn this into a business?

It happened organically. I don’t think there was ever a point where I had to sit down and decide whether or not to do something. That’s the beauty of the industry. But as I said before, we keep it personal. It’s basically just a matter of how much we want to do.

The toughest parts about handling a business?

Finding a good team and then keeping them. You can have someone really talented, but then they’re not punctual, or they don’t turn up to work without informing you. If you want to get anywhere in life, a strong work ethic is a must.

Don’t you ever get sick of it, photographing wedding after wedding?

I never get sick of it! I take a personalized approach to each wedding, getting to know them as friends and not just clients. No couple is the same, and their personalities are what keep the job exciting.

You must have a lot of insight into weddings and how they unfold. What advice would you give a couple preparing for their big day?

Be present! Enjoy the moment! Most couples spend months, years even, planning their wedding, which is an event usually spanning just about five hours. It should be such a special experience. But afterwards, they can barely remember what happened, (laughs) or what they ate. Sometimes it’s hard to capture candids of the couple, because most often they are at two ends of the crowd talking to guests. So I would advise them to try and enjoy the festivities that they put so much energy into bringing to life. I know it’s easier said than done…I wasn’t the most relaxed at my own wedding. But this is advice I’d give myself too.

Oh, and dance! Have fun.

You have recently started up a new business. Can you tell me a bit more about that?

It’s called Muse, and it’s a graphic designing and production company. I love working with colours, paper, and people; there’s so much you can do! And no, we are not limited to wedding stationery, although that is a specialty. This is part of the long-term plan- something that can grow. I’m hoping this will bring me closer to my goal of being ‘successful’! Will you check on me in ten years?

Appeared in Pulse Magazine, Sept/Oct 2019 issue

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(Featured image courtesy Pulse magazine)