For someone who has completed his education from one of the top colleges in India and worked 9-5 a few years ago, I never would’ve expected myself to take such a chance in my career and life to pursue photography as seriously as I have been doing for the past few years. I was destined to be a photographer, and photography was my fate, as I had never imagined something like photography would ground me so much. I started losing interest in my ongoing job, and one day I just decided to quit my job and take up photography.
One morning, an impulsive me woke straight from bed to type a resignation email and send it. Though it didn't sound good, eventually, it turned out to be a good decision for me. I took a flight to Bhopal and returned home after seven long years. My parents were a little worried about me, so I started preparing for my MBA to lessen their worries, which unfortunately wasn’t making me happy. I couldn’t focus on my MBA studies either and started bunking my classes, exploring Bhopal and taking random pictures with my phone. Though I hail from Bhopal, I had never explored much of its beautiful and serene landscape. But this time, Bhopal's natural beauty caught my attention, and I started liking how I captured it through my photographs.
Days passed, and the Universe gave me what I wished for. I received a DM from a studio’s account that wanted to hire me. They were offering me handsome pay, and without thinking much, I took it. This experience taught me much about photography and its techniques, including editing and taking better pictures. The person I was working with was paying me to learn from him, which shook me, but I am always so grateful to him for mentoring & teaching me to hone my photography skills. Soon I bought my first camera, and that's when my solo journey as an independent photographer began.
I started publishing my work on Instagram, and one fine day I received an offer from a well-known fashion photographer who wanted me to click photographs for him. Even though I wasn't getting paid, I saw this as an opportunity and grabbed it. After the shoot, when he published his pictures, I & my work started getting a lot of recognition.
People started knowing me, understanding my work, and approaching me for several new and exciting projects. I learned many things through YouTube and clicked pictures either for free or collaborations. I have always wanted my photographs to speak and tell a story through what I capture. One of my recent photoshoots is an absolute in house shoot called ‘Kalank’ and is about two lesbian prostitutes. The set-up for this shoot was created all under a very affordable amount of money and was shot inside one of my friends’ flats in Bhopal. This shoot was such a fantastic success and was beautiful. When I think about photography, I think about things that are not much spoken about easily in our society but need to be said. I use photography to tell stories and inspire or wake people up.
My parents weren’t very supportive in the beginning, but later, when they started witnessing how my work was escalating and the way I was making progress, they gradually accepted it. They used to share with friends and family my passion and projects, which made me happy. I truly am very grateful for their support and how they accepted my choices in life.
Eventually, I started shooting for tourism films with the MP Tourism team and celebrities on trips and vacations, which got me interested in tourism photography. I also started teaching online in lockdown about photography and the basics of photography. I mainly teach those with minimal access and arena to the world of photography, but there is talent and potential. I can proudly say that many of my students reflect what I teach them. I suggest they take calculated risks and make their choices based on instincts, and this is truly fulfilling for me to be a part of their journeys.
Meanwhile, I also took up some strategies to market my work and expand its base as I progressed. I started wearing a T-shirt on-site that had my name and my details so that people could easily approach me. It helped me promote my work broadly. One thing I know that I would want every other artist out there to know is that not all days are the same. Not every shoot and every experience are enriching and fulfilling; there are some bad days that you have to get yourself through. And believing in yourself these days is the most crucial part of it all, but once you learn how to deal with things, everything will fall in place for you in this journey. You need to tell yourself that you’re not a bad artist; maybe you just lacked
preparation and research into what you would work on. And all these days contribute to our growth a lot and are counted.
I still remember during the initial days of my journey, at my first ever shoot, I was paid a few hundred rupees, and here I am now, successful & satisfied, which astonishes me how life can take turns sometimes. So, keep believing in yourself and trust your instincts. “Do what you love, and love what you do.” is something I love to believe in.
- Ankur Naroliya
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Editor: Harshita Sharma
Written by : Sayoni Walujkar