Photography has always been a part of my journey. Although, its meaning kept changing in my life. During school it was the capturing memories phase. I used to click the pictures of my friends and also self-portraits to keep with me as a memory.
Things changed when I moved to Delhi from Kanpur for my engineering. It was the Event capturing phase. During a college event, I borrowed a camera from a friend and covered it through the lens. It was the first time I clicked something from a DSLR and to my surprise, the results were quite good (I had clicked those pictures on auto-mode). I didn’t know anything about how a camera works. So I entered the learning phase.
I went searching on you tube on how the manual mode works and what the settings are. I spent hours practicing and improving my skills. I kept clicking basic photographs of sunsets & flowers, everything that came across, and through that process, I’ve learned a few things on how a camera functions.
I found a few photographers in Delhi and started going on photo walks.
Vineet Vohra sir has been my inspiration. He introduced me to street photography and I learned quite a few tips from him.
As time passed, the exploration phase began and I started going alone almost every weekend. I used to take the first metro to Jama Masjid to explore those streets.
My parents are chilled with the fact that I am doing something that interests me but they also want me to complete my degree, find a stable job, save some money, and then do whatever I want to. This seems quite fair as photography does need a certain amount to invest in the gears. My sister plays the biggest role in supporting my passion. She always motivates me whenever I am in my lows. She bought a DSLR so that I can explore digital cameras too.
I have seen people traveling the length and breadth of the country to capture the beauty of our festivals. So I decided to give it a shot and went to capture the famous Pushkar Fair. The professional phase began and I actually felt like I was going on a job. I was very serious about photography and it felt like I was on a stage where photography had transformed into a passion and I was wholeheartedly invested into it. That trip was so satisfying that I didn’t want to stop. I explored and found that there was a festival called Dev Deepawali in Banaras. I went to Banaras, and then to Mumbai. And then to wherever I found something exciting was on, I landed there to explore the streets.
I also captured the famous and foggy ‘Dilli Ki Sardi’ for a whole month last year. I was lucky to have met Navin Vatsa sir there, who has so much knowledge and experience in this field, that it is beyond words. I have learned so much from him.
The support phase started a few years ago when my friends & I started a photography group in Kanpur to promote the culture of street photography. In a few months, the community has grown into 100+ members and whenever I visit Kanpur, we make sure that we have a Photo Walk with the group. We never expected large numbers but were pleasantly surprised to get a good turnout every time.
During the last Diwali, I was capturing the streets in Kanpur, I hadn't even unpacked my camera and was captured with my phone. Suddenly, a policeman came and asked me if I had any permission to click photographs. I told him that street photography was allowed and we needed permissions only for commercial shoots. I think he was in a nasty mood or something so he became very rude, started abusing, and escorted me to the police station. At the station, I kept explaining to everyone and showed them my Instagram page but they were just not ready to listen to anything. So eventually, I had to call a friend who came and talked to them and finally got me out of there. I also remember an instance once when I took a shot that I really wanted for long, but as an artist, you never get satisfied, so I planned my camera to a man for another shot. He saw me and came shouting at me. He made me format my entire memory card and in the process lost that shot that I wanted for so long. These and some more were a part of the setback phase which always reminded me that none of the ups or downs in my life lasted for long.
Then there is the gratitude phase. When I was walking on the streets and saw a small madarsa where a girl was reading something. The light passing through her was so beautiful that I couldn’t resist myself. So, I went to the principal and asked him if I could click some photographs. He was very polite. He tried to convince me that the small madarsa was not worth the effort as they didn't even have any lights and fans installed. I persisted as I wanted to capture the reality and portray the dedication of the students and teachers there. I decided to capture a short documentary that was appreciated by many and it was also highlighted in an international e-magazine.
Last week, I went out for the first time post lockdown to click some pictures. I walked about 12kms but couldn’t find a single image worthy frame. It almost felt like I had lost my vision. It is then when I realized why people kept saying that consistency and practice are the most important in photography. Some people also call it the blank phase. I am working on being in that creative flow again and looking forward to capturing the Yamuna ghat this winter. I hope things get better by then.
Photography has taught me many things and the most important one is patience. I have been an impatient person my whole life but now, I can wait for a perfect shot for hours. I can stand at a position for several minutes to capture that perfect moment. It feels like a responsibility and I like that.
I am sure most of you would have experienced all or most of these phases in your journey. And I think that it is this connection that binds the photographer community together. We are all so much alike and yet so different. I was inspired by many photographers. Now, when I go to photo walks with them, it feels good to have conversations and listen to some creative criticism from them. It feels good to have your own originality.
So I always recommend budding photographers to find their own voice in their photographs and See their photographs as a medium of storytelling. Their story.