I completed my graduation from Allahabad. Some of my friends were in the field of journalism and I got onto it as well. I might have been more inclined towards the writing part but my friend told me to do both. The basic reason was that even if I didn’t have a proper job, I could manage an earning through my photography. As middle class, we always have to manage our finances whenever we plan a career option.
So I went to Delhi and bought a Fuji camera, it was the Kumbh season and I decided to stay in Allahabad to cover it. As time passed, I realized that I was not able to learn new things due to lack of opportunities. So, I decided to move to Delhi. I got a job in a local newspaper which paid me only Rs.1000/- to cover my petrol but since I wanted to learn I took up the job. But I also continued my freelance work on the side. When I moved to Delhi, everyone had DSLRs and I used to miss most of the moments because of my camera. In 2007, I sold my Fuji and bought a Canon 350D. I did an internship at a high profile newspaper for 3 months and when I finished my internship, I got a job at another newspaper.
It is more than 13 years since I have been in this field. I was just going with the flow and had to learn it on my own. I didn’t know a single thing about photography. I even had to learn how to focus from fellow photographers. It took me more time to learn and I suggest that you should give yourself time for studies because it will give you exposure to the field in a shorter time duration. Experience is a good teacher but so is gaining knowledge.
Let me share a few tips for budding and aspiring photojournalists. You must have a backup plan to manage your finances. This field might satisfy your quest for knowledge, but you need to have a backup to survive in life. Even I do corporate shoots as a back-up. There were times when I thought of leaving photojournalism but the kind of experience you get in this field you might not get it anywhere else.
If you are someone who wants a career in this field, you have to do the hard work. It is not like traditional times when you just clicked one picture and moved on from it. The field has evolved a lot since then. You have to actually work on the whole story through different angles. I also recommend improving your writing skills. It will make your stories better. As you finish the story, pitch it to media houses. You can find their contact details on their website and you will get a better response from international media houses but you have to keep pitching as much as you can. Go for photo stories rather than just pictures. At present it is the best way to sustain yourself in this field.
In journalism, It is very important to keep in touch with other members of your community because a single person cannot hold all the information through the city. It is very important to have regular discussions with the community members and build your contacts, it will help you get the hold of more and more stories. It will also help you to learn from other journalists.
There are no working hours for a journalist. You never know what can happen in the next minute, any event is just one call away. You can never expect what an event can bring you. The most shattering experience for me was when I was covering a protest, and I saw this man who came to the middle of the road and burned himself. I did not realize what I was seeing but as I sat at the editing table I was broken and I don’t know if that person is still alive but it was too much for me.
As you enter this field, you have to be prepared for something unexpected both mentally and physically. I have reached a stage where I don’t feel anything when I am in the field as I keep myself focused on clicking pictures. Everything hits me, after I see those pictures later. You have to be mentally strong to witness horrible incidents that happen in society.
It is not necessary to shift to Delhi or any other metro cities to become a photojournalist. Even the smallest towns can have better stories. You might find more opportunities here but the stories are still hidden in the smallest regions of our country. There are a lot of opportunities as the technology is growing. You just have to build new skills. Every media is shifting to digital medium. Every newspaper has its own website now. Things are not just limited to photographs. Videos are also a strong medium to share a story as it is more engaging with the people. We all have started as photographers but we have evolved ourselves with the technology. We are also capturing videos of events. It might seem like a tough task but it’s actually not. You can even use your mobile phone to shoot.
Journalism might not provide you a month to month salary but the satisfaction it provides, when something positive happens to a person because of your story, is overwhelming. Even during Covid, if photojournalists wouldn't have captured the sufferings of migrants, the government might not have felt the pressure of doing something. We work with a social responsibility and whenever there is a positive outcome, all the struggle and hard work gets paid off. That is exactly what motivates me to wake up everyday and cover the stories.
- Amarjeet Kumar Singh
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Written by: Harshita Sharma