From being born in Indore to travelling and working in all the big cities of India, then in the US was not even a dream of mine. Still, it all happened like a puzzle getting solved, and with each piece fitting to its position, the picture keeps getting clearer & better.
Like any PCM student, who would be a topper till class 10th, I too dreamt of IITs and IIMs. It was the perfect plan. But 11th standard came as a major setback. My grades kept getting lower, my confidence kept shooting down. All I was left with was a blurry future with a lost purpose.
Photography came to me like God’s own blessing pulling me out of this depressing valley that I was stuck in. Now those were the Facebook days. Like any teenager,I kept scrolling through different profiles until I found one. It had beautiful photographs of flora and fauna, of people, of random subjects. But Pictures that I never came across until now.
I messaged this stranger and he looked all eager to teach me to click over the internet! It was a guru and student relationship, he acted as a catalyst in my life, I would forever be grateful for. A 19 something guy living in a metro city, pursuing what he loves to make a career in it, and earning through part time projects while still in college. This entire idea pulled me like a magnet! Also years down, me and my entire team was called to Hyderabad to shoot his brother’s wedding. That’s when I felt, life does come full circle!
Post school, still unclear about a career, joining an engineering college was the only stable thing me and my parents could think of. Meanwhile I had also started clicking with the available camera at home because my father refused to invest in a dslr. Not to blame him, because we kids were like that, with expensive dreams but no commitment.
I made new friends who had the same passion for photography; we would go on photo walks on random streets,we would explore new places with our lenses or assist the photographers present in the city; we would even take our friends and let them be our models for the day. Now when these friends of ours upload their display picture on FB, worked as marketing and the word spreads. I started getting enquiries for the shoot. Having no idea about the business aspect of photography, I would charge them almost nothing. I was just too excited about what all of this made me feel though!
My first paid shoot was from a friend who wanted me to document her nephew turning one. It was after this shoot that I realised I might be inclined towards Child Photography. But I needed some experienced person to guide me.
I searched for Child Photographers in India and found one in Delhi. As my sister was married and living in Delhi too, it became easy for a first year student like myself to convince my parents. Naive me, refused for a stipend that the photographer had offered as I was just too thankful that he accepted my request to assist him.
Delhi was more than just a photography experience. It allowed me to understand the business side of the art. How to be with clients, how to charge, how to go about the shoot etc. Now I belong to a service class background, this learning was very very crucial.
I somehow even bagged a few wedding projects after people saw what I did with my brother’s wedding pictures.I love social media apps for they have always acted as a marketing platform for me. But being a girl in her early 20s, going to strangers whether in same city or outside was a little frightening. To be on a safer side, I would take references of who suggested my name and would ask my cousins and friends to tag along.
Both Child Photography and Weddings are filled with a plethora of emotions and expressions and bonds between families. The things I love to document. The things that made photography more than just a fling for me.
My four years of photography went by clicking, travelling, bunking college for shoots and also thankfully with good grades and a TCS job offer. What a dilemma though. At one side I was tempted by a secured job and on the other, Photography pulled me with all its force. Toughest decision of my life, even tougher than marriage. Haha!
My parents suggested, "ek saal to job karke dekhlo. Just for experience sake.” I was told, whatever I choose, I must give my 100%. I must not turn back. So I shut myself in the room, disconnected from everyone and I knew what I wanted to do.
The Solo Journey begun!
From losing a partner to forming a team, From managing social media to taking care of marketing. From shooting to post processing. From investing time and money in this passion that was becoming a profession to making a lot of mistakes. I did it all.
Right now we have our firm under the name The Camerawalaa. It’s like my baby with my inhouse team. Sometimes I feel like we should make our tagline: “Your one stop Photography Solution, Studio providing a full family package.” Haha!
Because we literally document prewedding to wedding to maternity to newborn to family shoots and all the major milestones. We do it all!
People often ask, how do the parents, the husband, the in-laws take your bold decisions? Because after all it's the Indian Society.
But I am fortunate to have been born in a very modern family set up. In our family there were no orders but more discussions about pros and cons. In the end the decision is solely yours and I find this very healthy. To be your own boss, shapes you to be a more responsible individual. The freedom I got as a child, I somehow never misused it, not even was tempted to. It was their wonderful parenting!
And both my sister and I are running our own successful business and making our name in our respective fields.
Coming to my husband, I met him while I was chilling with my childhood best friend in Mumbai and a friend of mine asked me to join them in Alibaug. Manas and I have since then been in a long distance relationship and now marriage, him following his dreams while I am trying to run after mine. I didn't fall for his looks but in him I saw a human being who respected my lifestyle. And not out of flattery but it was his nature. And the way he met me, in Alibaug out of nowhere, I guess he already knew what he was signing up for.
As for my in-laws are concerned, I am sure, they were not so used to this. It’s not easy to accept or even understand it. But the best part is I never pretended to be something I am not. And they were ready to try for this not so normal setup. We talked. I talked. I voiced out my opinions in the most polite way ever. I changed a bit for them. They changed a bit for me.
I think good communication is half the battle won!
Indeed, My Father in Law built me up a studio space and Mother in law joined me for a decoration venture I was so keen on trying.
You might call me lucky, But I am a strong believer of energy. You attract what you emit!
I wanted people to trust my team as much as they trusted me for their special occasions. And getting my team to cover my own wedding not only was an emotional decision but also helped me gain confidence over my baby The Camerawalaa that they can perform without me. And It helped me to convince my clients accordingly.
So even though I shifted to the United States post marriage for a year, my team was still working in India. We were still able to bag projects in our country while I was busy tasting a bit of the USA and its photography scenes.
Being a woman in this still very male dominated field acted both as a challenge and an opportunity. Girls are naturally gifted with good colour sense, an emotional heart to understand feelings, a good aesthetic sense to set a frame and that helps you a lot in photography. What others need to learn, God has already gifted us. I have no idea why girls shy away from pursuing photography full time.
Yes travelling alone, with strangers, to unknown places poses a challenge. Covering events with eyes upon you is not easy.
Even when you are with your team, which might be full of men, the society as it is may question your character. When you are having your chums it’s not easy to be stuck on a mountain at 5 am doing someone's pre wedding shoot. But if you love it you love it, no matter what.
Indeed being a girl has helped me to gain trust of parents especially with their newborns. We women come with a motherly touch and there is no denying. So girls if you are reading this, c’mon break that bubble of doubt, and just do it!
In my journey till now, I understood that "Taking a chance is important." If your heart says to take that train, just take it!
- Paridhi Jain
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Written by: Vinay Matre & Harshita Sharma
Interview by : Harshita Sharma