I’ve been doing photography since I was 12 years old and it's been 12 years since I have been in practice. My father was a tourist photographer too. He died when I was 3 years old and later, my elder brother taught me how to take photographs. I was always inspired by our father and grew up playing with his camera. I studied till 12th while working part-time as a tourist photographer until 3 years ago when I would balance studying and working both simultaneously. Later, I started working here full-time.
We are four brothers and we have our home in Badarpur, an area in Delhi and they live there with the rest of our family. Two of them have regular jobs, and two of us take photographs. My brother only sticks to tourist photography at India Gate, but I am an event photographer as well. I sometimes shoot videos, take a couple's pictures followed by delivering the footage, and get paid accordingly.
The lockdown had a major impact on us and our industry. It is also due to covid that the tourist crowd that comes to visit these places does not stay for long. They take a quick look at the monument or the quirkiness of a tourist spot, click a few photographs on their phone, and afterward leave. The lack of tourists visiting was a serious hurdle, and we had to work incredibly hard. We had some savings to survive on throughout the lockdown, but it wasn't enough. With mobile phones, taking and preserving a picture has become very easy and the value of hard copy photos feels lost somewhere. People do take pictures and want hard copies, but the prices have come down dramatically due to a lack of demand, almost as if hard copies are no longer desirable.
People negotiate unfairly and we also have to pay commission for our cameras, as we rent them from elsewhere. We rarely ever get to make a reasonable business out of that. Earlier it was better, pre-pandemic was a much better time for us.
Sometimes I wish I had done a small course in photography so that I would have a certification and a stable job that could pay well. I wouldn't have to depend on tourists and other factors that influence our wages. The only thing I feel like I missed out on, was my childhood and the innocent years of early youth when most kids have the privilege of just roaming around and not worrying about feeding their family. My time of youth mostly went into taking beautiful photographs of all the strangers that visited these locations and wanted to take memories of these photographs with them.
I was recently told about Instagram as a platform and I am thinking I will also start a photography account and make it into something. My photographs also deserve recognition and hopefully, when I start showing my work, it will turn into something beautiful. I hope that the practice of all these years will turn into something. I look forward to the future of my photography eagerly.
- Neeraj Verma
Tourist photographer at India Gate
Written by: Sayoni Walujkar
Interview by: Team FO2