The other day while walking down the street I saw a humongous statue of devi Mahakali. A man was sleeping at her feet. The crowd on the road seemed to ignore him and he was sleeping calmly, ignoring the crowd. Seeing the man, sleeping at her feet where usually we see a monster (Rakshasa), I had a great opportunity to click a photo. I waited for the crowd to pass and then got a very good frame in my camera. In fact, this is my style of photography. I carefully observe my surroundings and take mental notes of everything that’s happening. I may not have my camera with me every time, but this has become a habit. Many a times I get to witness unique or rare incidences. Many a times the judgment enables us to click exactly what we want. But sometime it fails and we end up clicking something entirely different, yet amazing, than what we have expected. We automatically compose a frame in our minds upon seeing an object or subject. I think this composition is a part of editing. Many of us confuse editing for post-processing. In my opinion, editing begins with the composition of a frame. Thinking about the frame, focus, space, direction of light, camera level etc. is editing. This skill can be acquired by training and practice.
I was a fine painter in my childhood and had passed the intermediate drawing exam. Because my father believed in my abilities, I was sent to art school. I had a lot of friends and I spent memorable and happy time painting with them. I stood first in the state (Maharashtra) in my finals and had many job offers. Of course I went for the best package! Ample opportunities to work with the veterans like Arun Kolhatkar and Kiran Nagarkar, were presented to me in my early days of career. I got to learn the required thought process for advertising industry from them, which proved to be really important in the days to come. Later, I began working with Rahul Dakunha; the mastermind behind the advertisements of Amul. For 10 years, both of us worked under the roofs of 3 different organizations, namely Falcrum, Lintas and Contract, on huge projects. Our ads were famous. “Hamara Bajaj”, “Park Avenue” and “Shopper’s Stop” are some of the sensational amongst them. I was presented the Art Directors Club Annual Award for the Shopper’s Stop’s advt. I began street photography when I was working for “Hamara Bajaj”. I earned a few awards and prizes. I worked with veteran photographers and art directors like Prabuddha Dasgupta, Ajit Patel, Farook Chothiya, Swapan Parekh, Raghu Rai and great personalities like Alyque Adamasee, Jersey Artrek, Muhammad Khan. Then I announced my ad agency “Ideas@Work” with Zarvan Patel.
Because I am an artist, I am familiar with painting, illustrations, water color and pen sketching, but I love conceptual sketching because it allows me to put my ideas on paper. My beginning with photography is a memorable incidence. I used to appoint expert photographers for shooting the ads. I used to observe them working and their methods and used to discuss technicalities. Once, Swapan Parekh was unavailable for the shoot of AirTel’s “Express Yourself”. Eventually I stepped up and took the responsibility on my shoulder. That ad went viral and became popular. It earned me a few awards. This unexpected appreciation yielded me motivation to pursue photography. Photography is a powerful medium. Unlike painting, it enables us to click a situation more than once. Also, we can capture an incidence when it is happening. For example, let’s talk about my picture of A horse and a man as seen through the legs of a dog. Actually, I was clicking the horse and the man sitting near him. Just then a dog approached. I thought of a new angle and let the dog come closer. Then I clicked the horse and the man as seen through the dog’s legs. Today I have 6-7 marvelous pictures of this incidence. This is what makes photography better than painting. An entirely different image can be captured just by changing the angles. Now, the camera is a kind of new vision for me.
The cats, dogs, pigeons or crows are abundant in my pictures. We usually see them everywhere in our cities. These animals are a part of city-life, so using them in the pictures gives the feeling of reality and life. Clicking a wall would give you a dead picture, but a pigeon perched on it makes the picture come alive. Symbolically, these animals add an entirely different dimension to the picture. If we symbolize the dog for a friend, pigeon for pure thoughts or an elephant for wealth; we add to the meaning of the photograph. While doing this, we automatically come back to the basics. Composition! Like I said, composition is editing. Free space or an intentionally left empty space is very important in a photograph. This empty space highlights the subject matter for the viewers. Surroundings are equally important to set up the background, but crowded backgrounds hamper the subject matter. In short, empty space and surroundings are a must; but we need to balance them. This balancing act is difficult.
Every photographer has a unique thought process and principles; thus unique styles and methods. I have learned from the famous photographer Raghu Rai, while working with him. His compositions are complicated. His specialty is the layers of empty spaces in a multi-layered image; whereas my style is simple. Since I am into advertizing, I like to put the subject matter directly in front of the viewers so that they stay focused on the appropriate things. Many a times I compare painting and photography with music. Music yields an image out of our imagination with its high-low notes. Same is the case with painting and photography. Just like the notes in music, the spaces in photograph make it meaningful! If we see “30km”, one of my clicks, there is a lot of empty space. If it wasn’t the crow in the frame, the picture would have become meaningless but had there been a person in the frame, the main focus would have changed. Visual arts indeed depend upon your observations. The clearer is your image; the better is your picture. You can click millions of pictures on the streets of our culturally diverse nation. You can click the people without letting them know or making them cautious. But keen observation is a must do!
You can surf through a lot of photos on the internet, study them. Study the portraits and learn from them; but don’t copy the others. Many people try to copy an award winning photograph and then a library of copies appears in front of you! Today, everybody has a camera and everybody is a wannabe. If you are at the right place at a right time, you get a marvelous click; but are you consistent? Consistence and experimentation hold prime importance, not just in photography but in any art form. study the works of veterans in the industry and learn to ask questions. Ask “why” instead of “how”. There are 350 million pictures uploaded on the internet, daily! You can stay ahead in the race if you are unique, creative and consistent in your work. Observation, It's a power within you, only if you observe!