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FO2 Stage | Sarthak Taneja

by Team FO2, 23 Jun 2023

It’s been over 13 years and yet the memory of how it all started is clear and vivid. I was in class 5th and we had been on a school trip to Goa. I was very excited because my mother gave me a camera to document my trip. It was a film camera and she gave me two film rolls for my trip. I felt very proud clicking all the pictures. While we were on the trip, the film got stuck in the camera and when I couldn’t do anything about it, I went to a photo studio to get it checked. When the studio guy removed the film and I saw it under the Sun, there was nothing! It was all blank. I asked him and he told me that nothing had been captured. I was shattered but I went back with a new roll of film and convinced all my seniors to revisit most locations so that I could recapture those moments. Even though I was very young to acknowledge that feeling, that was the spark that made me feel so close to photography.

I never wanted to give up the connection that I felt with photography and kept clicking pictures every time I got an opportunity. It would be anything from a small family function, to just some random clicks of my cousins or nature. This went on for years and by the time I reached class 9th I was sure that I wanted to do photography. I got a Nikon Coolpix digital camera and started experimenting with it.  When I was in class 10th, my sister saw an article about a photography competition in Hindustan Times and asked me to apply for it. I applied but told no one. I had just been to the one conducted by Delhi Photography Club and had clicked a picture of two kids playing in water. I submitted the same picture for the competition and to my surprise, it got selected in the top 100 and later in the top 5 and then I got the first prize of Rs. 11,000/- along with an internship with them. It was super exciting. I used to finish school and then go for the internship and then later for academic coaching. Even though it was overwhelming and a big stretch for me at that time, that experience gave me a clear vision that I wanted to pursue photography. I used to get paid Rs.500 per day and when I got my first salary I gave it all to my Nani. She was so proud, and that has been one of my proudest moments till now.

One day I was just sitting around and asked myself one question, ‘Why do I want to pursue photography?’ The only answer I could think of was ‘I want to make people happy and that’s why my Instagram page is called ‘myhappyplanet’. Whenever I used to click pictures of anyone, they used to wait eagerly for me to send them those pics. It used to make them very happy, which ultimately made me happy. Making a person happy is the toughest job and if I got to do it every single day, I was all up for it.

I used to click pics in every school event and was very active on Facebook groups. I also created my club in school which became the most active club with more than 250 members in it. The only motive of the club was to teach others about photography and to give them what I didn’t get, A mentor or a guide. My mother was all supportive of my photography but being a single parent, it was difficult for her to  manage all the expenses. It was financially stressing for her to enroll me into an institute. Youtube was not that developed at that time and I learnt with what I had around, and the internship also helped me a lot. I wanted everyone who joined the club to learn. It was just a little attempt to give something to people that would remain with them for a long time. Later, I moved to another school and did a similar thing there. I even organized a photography event in which renowned photographers like Aman Chotani came as a judge.

When I was in class 11th, I got to shoot my first solo wedding assignment. I just hired a camera and took a friend with me for the event. It went really well.

While I was in school, I had a dream to enrol into a photography school run by a renowned photographer. I somehow convinced my mom. She had to take loans as the fees was around 10 lacs. However, when I went to college, I somehow didn’t like it as I felt that I wasn't learning much, specially in comparison to the price I had paid. It was a 3 year course but I dropped out after the 1st year and started working on my own.

I started working with different brands and big influencers. It was a good experience but deep down, I was always more attracted towards weddings because I felt that every picture clicked in a wedding had a story and was filled with deep emotions. I started shooting candid photography because it was my way of storytelling.

After being in the industry for so long, I have now started my own wedding company ‘Rasmein’ and I still hire the same photographers who I taught in school. They give me a sense of accomplishment that yes! I have achieved something in life. I want to be one of the best wedding photographers in the industry.

Experience, of course, makes your understanding better but in a genre like wedding, you cannot anticipate what is coming your way. Every project is a new challenge. You just have to be a little patient and communicate your points and the situation can be handled in a much better way. Just believe in yourself and that every day is a new day that will provide you with better opportunities in life. Lots of love to all of you out there. Cheers.

- Sarthak Taneja

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