It was a hot summer in Delhi and we were covering the death of a human scavenger. The filth in the sewers, it was disgusting. The repulsive and nauseating feeling was just too overwhelming when we were capturing the poor conditions in which they had to work. The sorrow, the grief had included us all. One phone call and an hour later, we were covering an elite South Delhi celebrity's party. The champagne, the glory, the fame. The spirits were jubilant.
That's the story of a photojournalist. At one moment, you could be in despair and a few moments later, you could be at the top of the world. Both the features were equally important and had to be covered with full emotion and empathy. Unless you get into the subject's shoes, you will not be able to express through your photos. And unless you do that, the readers will not feel the sentiments involved.
As glamorous as it may seem for outsiders, photojournalism has its own woes. The working hours are unending, You might have worked late into the early hours of the morning covering one story and yet you may have to rush for the next story even before you can sit to pack your kit, as alert as you can be.
I belong to a small town, Kanpur in UP. In the initial days, I used to work as a back-up for one of my senior (who was into photography) and did get a few chances to explore the camera when he used to be unwell. That's how I got introduced to the field. Life changed only after I moved to Delhi. I enrolled in a journalism course and soon started working for the local newspaper "Kaumi Patrika". After I moved to " Amar Ujala", things changed drastically. I learned lots of aspects of photojournalism and never looked back again.
A stint at "Hindustan Times" helped me polish my skills further.
Photojournalism requires you to first get emotionally involved in every story and then switch off and on to the next one. Unless you are able to do that, you will not be able to get the audience involved in your feature.
In 2014, I was covering an article on Tara Balagopal (the first lady of Kathak dance in India). Apart from being a legend herself, she has been a tutor to celebrities like Hema Malini and Sushma Swaraj. In spite of such fame and glamour in her prime, she was now in severe distress. The huge mansion she lived in, was full of bugs. It had a foul smell and I had to keep stepping out to breathe fresh air every few minutes. We completed the story but the newspaper, I was working with, then, refused to print the story as it didn't have enough "Masala".
Being lucky to be an influencer on Instagram, I posted the story online and requested people to donate funds. The response was overwhelming and we collected over 8 lacs which changed the way she lived. The blessings that she showers me with, even today, are far more precious for me that her weight in gold.
Photojournalism does not pay you much in cash. But the love and respect that you earn from doing your job well charge you up every time. As an Instagram influencer, I realized that I could be the medium to bring about the change, that I often wanted in others. However, many see Insta as a numbers game and put themselves down on that account. I have been fortunate to be followed by Instagram's official account for 2 of my features. (And its not that they do that often) and even followed me for months. I sincerely believe that unless you focus hard and emote through your work, you will never really know what's in store for you.
Even in these crazy times, I am covering the pandemic closely. And my wife, who has been my biggest support, is the driving force that gets me ticking, every time my body gives up and wants to quit from the frustrations, stress, and fatigue of the job.
"Finally, you are responsible for all the things that you do, and even those you don't"
- Arun Sharma
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Written by: Harshita Sharma