FO2 STAGE | 122 | Ashwinii Prasaad

I was born & raised in Jamshedpur, a city in Jharkhand also known as Tatanagar. My father was a Tata employee who retired a year ago. My childhood was no different to any other middle-class family. We are two brothers, and our parents were always on our backs about studies for them to achieve anything in life, education was the only path. As a kid, I was interested in cricket and wanted to be a cricketer, but I had to leave cricket as it was affecting my studies, and my parents didn't want their kid to ignore his studies and play.

After Primary class, my parents changed my school. The new school was more prominent and had better facilities. And when everyone was expected to have a hobby, I chose photography as the camera was the big thing at that time. My parents were also happy that I had picked up a hobby. I liked to click landscapes and events. At that time, I never thought that photography could be pursued as a career or that I would do photography.

I was doing photography as a hobby by borrowing cameras from friends till 12th standard. However, in college, there wasn't any such opportunity, but I still used to click photos whenever I got the chance from others' mobile phones as I didn't have my phone then. I bought my first mobile phone with my salary after 12th standard when I joined Tata Steel under an apprenticeship for a few months.

In 12th standard, the pressure was there to choose a career. After thinking about 2-3 different options, I decided to do Electronics and Instrumentation Engineering. I got enrolled in a college in Jalandhar. In my last year of engineering, I got a chance to visit Mumbai for vocational training. I stayed there for three months, and while there, I experienced the journey of locals, the rush, narrow streets, and the calmness of the sea. And one day, while sitting at marine drive, I told my friend, "One day, I will have my home in this city"

Due to the recession, the job offer given to me was revoked as the company couldn’t manage to take on new entrants. So, I went back to my hometown Jamshedpur, where I decided to join the defence force and made five attempts in a year, and every time cleared the exams but unfortunately couldn't make it through the end. 

During one SSB, a colonel in the facility told us his story, and I still remember this because it inspired me. He said, "if you haven't figured out what to do in life in your initial years, you are not wrong; take your time & figure it out and the day you do, you will get successful". After hearing these words, I made this pact that I would go directly to Mumbai if I didn't get selected in this attempt because I remembered those words, which I had told my friend that I would have a home in Mumbai one day. And I wasn't selected, so I went to the railway station to catch a train to Mumbai. I wasn't thinking about going home or what I would do in Mumbai. I had a single thought: I had to go to Mumbai. I took a ticket for the sleeper and boarded the train, but as there wasn't any space to sit, I took a newspaper, laid it on the floor close to the door and sat on it. After reaching Mumbai, I went to my brother's place as he was staying in Thane then. Within 20 days, I got a corporate job, and the journey toward corporate life started. I did a corporate job for eight years in a field where I never wanted to work: sales & marketing, but it helped me learn many aspects of business and life.

In 2018, I attended Pepx and learned how big the photographers' community is. On the first day of the Pepx, I was there before the event started & saw a photographer, Amar Ramesh, surrounded by 20-30 people. I sat and listened and got inspired by his positive aura. Then as the event began, many celebrated photographers like Joseph Radhik, Auditya Venkatesh and Dheeraj Paul came and shared their insights. And my purpose for attending the event was fulfilled. I was motivated, inspired, and my passion for photography was ignited again.

On the second day, I went to listen to Rafique Sayed, the only fashion photographer invited to the event. As soon as he entered the room, the ambience totally changed and for me, his work was simply magical. His work influenced me so much that something clicked in me & I decided to do fashion photography, but I didn't have any guidance. So I took a vacation from my job, registered for a course by Amar Ramesh, and learned about photography & how to earn from it.

I had already bought a Camera but didn't know how to use the camera & art of photography to its full potential. But after Pepx, things changed. I didn't realize it, but I was getting sucked into this field. And after the course, when I returned, my job resumed, everything went back to the way it was, and dust was settling on my camera. Sometimes I used to pick up my camera, clean it and keep it back.

In 2019, I got married and was earning well but didn't have the satisfaction & happiness from my job. And as I become an absolute workaholic and didn’t care for my health, I got sick and lost nearly 7kgs in a week. I was admitted to the hospital, and the doctor advised me not to take stress as it affected my health. I was again at the crossroads where I had to choose health or a job. Then I decided to quit my job and discussed this with my father. He disagreed with this decision saying,"Bina job ke kya karega? Shaadi ho gyi hai, biwi ka aur ghar ka dhyaan kaise rakhega?”But I decided to resign and said I would take care of myself and my family, and I always wanted to pursue photography, but between family & earning money, I couldn't but won't let this chance slide that life had given me. 

My decision to quit my job and do photography was a shock for my wife too. And she knew our life would get difficult for some time, but she wanted me to stay healthy & happy and supported me wholeheartedly. She said, “Yeh kaha likha hai ki ghar ka khayaal rakhne ki zimmedaari husband ki hi hoti hai? Hum dono ki equal responsibility hai, to aap follow kariye photography, main hamesha apko support karungi bhale hi family karein ya na karein."

After quitting my job, we went to Jamshedpur for some time. After nearly ten days of leaving my job, I saw an ad post by Rafique Sayed that he needed interns. I applied as soon as I saw the ad. After a few days, I got a call, and the interview was scheduled. I left Jamshedpur and again went to Mumbai. In the interview, he was shocked to learn about my story & the fact that I left the job to follow photography, but he saw that I was passionate and hired me. 

It's been more than two years that I have been working there. At first, I didn't have any technical knowledge or experience, but now things have changed. I see the growth in what I used to do and what I am doing. My skills have evolved, my lifestyle has changed, and I feel satisfied and happy when I go home after work. I started working as an intern and am now assisting Mr Rafique Sayed and soon I would be able to make my own identity in the industry. 

From my experience, one thing that I can say with surety is, It helps to have support or influence from family or background to pursue a career in art, but even if you don't have it, nothing can stop you from making a change.

I did many jobs and worked for many years, but clicking a simple picture was the most challenging. And I want my journey, my way of life, to inspire others and to be known as someone who did something different, challenged his background and achieved his passion.

-Ashwinii Prasaad

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Written by : Vinay Matre 
Interview by : Aman

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