If there is something that I consider myself lucky for, it is for that decision I took one day to pick up a camera and face life. It’s been one hell of a ride ever since I started looking at the world through the viewfinder and I am more than grateful for the incredible opportunities and life experiences I’ve gained ever since.
It all started while I was pursuing my graduation in Math Honors, and as any other youngster at that age, I began to search for the meaning of my existence in this world. The free spirit that I was, which longed to ride the wind, could not picture myself behind desk jobs that paid handsomely but which would clip my wings, which I was afraid was what my degree had to offer. I would have continued on this aimless path had I not met a friend who turned my life full circle by encouraging me to pick up a camera, which was till now an alien device but which would over time grow to be an extension of my own self, He took me on a ‘photo walk’ one day where I got a chance to click pictures for the very first time using his camera and also got a chance to interact with many well experienced professional photographers. He would let me borrow his camera on many occasions and I realized that I had found what I was searching for- I had found joy and a sense of freedom in this intriguing new hobby. Seeing my growing interest, my parents gifted me a basic DSLR and soon my camera would zoom in on the beauty of each human face that I find in my college, and over time my popularity increased as I was able to capture the ephemeral nature of the human self. I had made up my mind. I wanted to be a professional photographer and after graduation, to my excitement, I found out that Jamia Millia Islamia University was offering a PG Diploma in Still Photography. Since it had only 20 seats, I was not confident of getting through but my father pushed me to attempt it without thinking of the result. Fortunately, I got selected for it and this course provided me with much more satisfaction than any other in all my years of education and was taught by well-trained teachers who encouraged me and changed my perception of photography ever since.
It's been years since I started working in different genres of this industry but travel, street, and portraiture remain my favorite. I love to travel and I like to travel solo. It gives me my own space to think and ponder. And since this is something I love; I don’t travel for just 2-3 days. I like to travel for at least two weeks or more, to completely immerse myself in the vibe of that place and to enjoy nature and the surroundings. Travel helps me to interact with nature and observe and capture different frames and stories and the more time you spend with the subject the more you will observe something different even if it is a landscape. A photographer needs to spend time with the frame. When I went to Benaras, I spent hours just sitting at a Ghat, without taking out my camera and clicking anything. Instead, I let the vibe of the place sink into me, taking into myself its sounds and sights and varied hues. I would freely interact with the locals, making friendly conversations with them and tearing down their guard and the portrait thus taken, gains immense meaning. They no longer remain anonymous subjects to be forgotten, captured randomly by a photographer’s lens but their identity as a named human, living and breathing becomes more evident when relationships are formed. I truly believe photography is not about clicking pictures, but it is about capturing a relationship or bond that has been forged, whether it be human or landscape.
As a photographer and even as a person, I believe that photography is about working for society and towards a better cause than just about earning money. So, I’ve been trying to get more work from organizations, especially NGOs. Whenever I get a chance to shoot something that is benefiting others, like an animal shelter project that came to me recently I don’t ask for money. For me, it’s my responsibility, and photography is a medium through which I can support them.
For aspiring young photographers, I have this to say. Photo walks are good at the initial stage of photography. I went to several photo walks and made many contacts, but as you grow, you realize that you cannot click the same frame as everyone and that creative hunger inside you will tell you to do something different.
I have recently started entering into the field of filmmaking and shooting creative videos. I have plans to pursue this line. Videos are comparatively better if you see in terms of financial security but it completely depends on your interest, as you can make money in both aspects as per your interest.
That's it, in a nutshell, what my life's work is all about.
As an avid traveler, I truly believe the quote by Dalai Lama
“Once a year, go somewhere you have never been before.”
- Kushagra Wadhwa (@taabeer)
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Written by: Harshita Sharma