My photography journey started way before I grew up. My grandfather used to be a photographer in his time and had taken even taken photos of the Royal family of Bhutan.
Even though he had passed away before I was born, his stories are always told on how he used to capture things and the work he had done. My growing up years went through admiring his gears.
My father used to take out the camera at every festival and special occasion. He was the one who taught me all the basics of photography. It was in Class 7 when I got my first phone and my interest in photography developed further.
After class 10th, I started shooting with my friends. I used to call them up and click their pictures. I started reading about photography more seriously. After 12th, I was determined to not waste my 3 years in graduation and instead pursue photography. So, I convinced my parents to send me to Delhi for an 11 months photography course that was super expensive and boasted 90%+ placements. I was very excited to go to college but it was not what I expected it to be. I just couldn’t gel with the people, most of them were from posh Delhi and their lifestyle was very different. Most of them already had exposure in the industry so it was a bummer for me. I only had one friend in the entire college and even though I was keen on learning photography, I prayed for the course to end as quickly as possible.
In Delhi, I used to live in a PG with 2 other roommates. There wasn’t much space since it was a small room, but one day I got an idea to click a self-portrait. That time, I did not have a tripod so I had to shoot it myself. I placed my phone on my roommate’s painting easel and clicked a few pictures. Out of the many pictures, I got some beautiful results. I posted the pictures on social media and asked people for their opinion if I should continue doing something similar. I was overwhelmed by the response and decided no matter what genre of photography I was going to be into, I will keep clicking self-portraits.
The real struggle started after finishing college. Placements did not happen as promised. I was clueless and didn't know how to proceed ahead. I started sending emails (about 200+ emails) to companies of almost all genres. For 3 months, I didn’t get a single response and I did not know what to do. I was living in a metro city, with a very high cost of living but not earning a single penny, even after devoting so much time to learn the craft. I was so much depressed then, but couldn't even express myself. However, I didn't give up and kept pushing myself to send more emails every day. It was too much, so one day, I decided to take a break for a few days, and return home. Just 2 days before the flight date, I decided to pack everything and leave Delhi. I was so annoyed at that point that I didn’t know what else to do.
Siliguri is 3 hours away from my hometown and I got in touch with the photographers there but couldn’t get an internship. I stayed home for 2 months. That's when I happened to get in touch with a photographer from Delhi who was setting up his own photography company and he needed others to join.
I was afraid to talk to my dad to spend again on a trip to Delhi. But when I spoke to him, he was very supportive and that’s the best thing that happened to me. Having a family that supports your choice adds up a lot of strength to your struggle.
I went back to Delhi for that company and started working. Since the company was in its most initial stage, the process kept delaying due to many hurdles and it was hard to keep in touch with the photographer, eventually, after many attempts, I had to give up. Again the struggle for basic survival started.
A few months later, I went home for an occasion and the same guy called me again. He said that this time everything was in place and I just had to go and join. Though very skeptical, I decided to give it a second chance and started working with the team. During the job I had this feeling that I was not using my creativity to the optimum potential so I kept clicking self-portraits, on the side. I started making stories in it and enjoyed the whole process.
During covid, I went back home and clicked self-portraits with some individual concepts. It gave me a chance to present a single person in different characters, telling a story. Self-portraits gave me a chance to explore my creativity at much higher levels, even I didn’t know that side of me before that. I started getting a good response on the self-portraits. Soon enough, people started knowing me for this approach.
I have a good portfolio of weddings now, so I work as a freelancer here in Delhi. It gives me my creative freedom and I don’t have to work under someone else. As an artist, you need your own creative space.
Even though it has been a long struggle, I will never disappoint my 7th-grade own Self, who saw a dream of becoming a photographer. Every day I keep on working on that same dream with the hope to achieve it soon enough.
- Sejal Gupta
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Written by: Harshita Sharma