FO2 Stage | 006 | Sonali Devnani

My journey into photography started when my daughters were born. I wanted to click perfect pictures of them and soon I started developing interest in photography. I started getting projects for baby shoots, family portraits and other genres but travelling always attracted me.

I still remember my first trip as a photographer to Cambodia. It was 5 AM, and I was there alone, holding my camera. I was so young and nervous that I wanted to run back home but then I held myself together, went on a walk, and never looked back since. I really enjoyed that trip.

Travelling might look adventurous and glamorous. But in reality, we chase for sunrise and sunsets through miles and miles of walking, to get that one beautiful picture. It is hectic and tiring, of course, but if you are passionate enough, all this doesn’t matter. What matters is that one picture you want to capture, forever.

My family has always been my ultimate support. Sometimes it’s hard being a mother, to travel often. Sometimes I need to postpone my trips and it gets frustrating but then my family always stays by my side and gives wings to all my dreams.

During my travels, I started connecting with the locals and their stories that have driven me into portrait photography and raising social issues. While travelling, I’ve realized how drugs have become such a common problem in India which is ruining the lives of people and the ones around them. It was really frustrating and I decided to use my art as a medium to raise this issue and started working on this documentary. It was a big struggle to convince people, to capture them or to talk to me. Many of them didn’t take me seriously as they couldn’t believe that a woman can be a Director as well as a DOP for a documentary!
It's very malicious how women of our field are treated lightly in this society.

It is also disgusting that we need to stay alert rather than relaxed whenever we travel. I still remember once I went to Barsana to be a part of their world-famous Holi celebration. I went there with a friend and after the amazing hours of wild and beautiful Holi, we were drowned in color and our eyes were burning so we decided to get back and get some rest. We started walking out and my friend was holding my wrist so that we don't lose each other in the crowd. It might have been 10 minutes and I looked back. It was not my friend but someone else who was pulling me away from the crowd. It was so haunting! It took all my strength to push him away and run back. As a woman, we keep facing such issues on a daily basis, so we have to be very careful every time we step out.
Fortunately, times are changing. We can see more females out there. On Trips, on Photo walks, in Workshops - the numbers are less but steadily and encouragingly increasing. Social Media is really revolutionary to create a platform for all the hidden talents out there. It also provides instant appreciation for us which is so motivating!

I just want to tell all the women travelers out there "Just keep following your passion! There will be pressure. There will be hurdles. Be confident. Dress up comfortably. Be safe and double-check all the information about your destination. Always keep in touch with the locals. Stay in good and safe places and most importantly -

Always follow whatever your heart says. Not all who wander are lost! Some find their life's purpose. Lots of love and more power to you girls"

If you too want to share your journey into Photography, drop us an email at stories@fo2.in

Blog by- Harshita Sharma