I think there is one moment in a photographer’s life which he or she would cherish forever. I got that one moment while I was just strolling around the city to take photos. I chanced upon a slum where a wedding was going on. The people at the function spotted me and requested me to take a few pictures of them. After clicking their pictures, I personally gave them the photos in a pen drive. The happiness I saw on their faces is unparalleled because those memories might have gone undocumented if I had not coincidentally appeared. I might have done it free of cost but the love I got from them is much more than any remuneration.
As a child, I was immensely influenced by art and music. Paintings would inspire me and I would always try to analyze them to understand the psychology and perception of the artist. I would say that the works done by Picasso were a major influence on me. I got my first camera in class 8 and I got attracted more to it because of my love for visual art. When I lost my grandfather, I got extremely depressed and photography was the only thing that helped me get through it. So, you could imagine how dear photography is to me. After finishing school, I decided to invest all my time in photography and joined a photography college. It was a three-year bachelor’s degree course in Symbiosis, Pune.
Even though I wanted to have fun in college, I had the ambition of taking my work overseas. Our college arranged several seminars with experienced photographers. I also did several workshops and in one of these workshops, I met Abhinav Sood, a photographer based in Poland. After seeing my work, he advised me to do conceptual and portrait photography rather than fashion. In my third year of college, I started building my portfolio. I used various equipment to make my photographs unique.
My father's advice stays with me every time I click pictures. He told me that I should work for myself and others should not influence the kind of photography I love doing. I got support from my parents since I decided to take photography as a full time job.
During Covid, I did not stop working. I adapted to the situation and started doing video call shoots. I asked the model to do a certain type of make-up and choose a certain portion of a room. Then I proceeded to click pictures through video call and later edited them. I believe that a photographer should not stop working no matter how hard the situation is.
While doing concept photography, I did many experiments. My favourite among them is the social experiment I did at a shopping mall. My concept was to get a person who would consent to use spray paint on her body and roam around a shopping mall. We all were hesitant at first as it might offend people if they got any hint. Luckily, I got a courageous model to pull it off and to my surprise none of the people in the mall noticed her being naked. It was one of my first achievements as a conceptual photographer.
While I was in college, I used to roam around the city to capture street photographs. I went to an old temple to capture some images and I met an 85-year-old lady. There was a charm to the way she looked. I clicked some pictures of her and even got appreciated by my college director after he saw the pictures. Later, at the same temple, I found another lady who was wearing sandals with iron nails hooked into them. I found out from her son who was standing near her that she made a vow to God that she’ll roam around the temple with those sandals if he would get an opportunity to study abroad. I realized that it is a sensitive religious issue, but I still couldn’t hold the urge to click pictures of her. The son quickly realized that I was clicking her pictures and chased after me. Luckily, I pulled out the SD card in time and was able to save the images from deletion.
I think taking inspiration from other people’s work is important for any artist. But, there is a fine line between getting inspired and copying someone else’s work. Photographers should note this, they improve upon and develop the work they get inspired by.
- Rytham Singla
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Interview by: Harshita Sharma
Written by: Sauvik Chatterjee