About herself: I am 34 years up the life ladder. Professionally speaking, I am a narrative & editorial photographer and a book designer.
Why are you a photographer?
I am a photographer, because currently, I feel I am better at expressing a point of view through pictures. Also because I can’t be a CIA agent.
Do you remember any decisive moment when you felt ‘I want to be a photographer’?
The first time at the age of 12 (for only a day), after discovering my father’s Pentax camera, with no film in it, I shot everyone passing by the balcony, including the guy who flashed me. (yes, it was traumatic)
the second time After seeing Anita Khemka’s photo essay on the Aravan Festival in Tamil Nadu in 2001.
and finally after a Max Vadukul Talk. But it was more of what he said than his superb work, in 2005.
Were there any particular role models for you when you grew up?
I’d like to clarify two factors. One. I am still growing up. Two. There are no role models there is only inspiration and that can be found with anyone and anywhere, even in terrible work.
There are however people whom I have seen at work and they have subliminally led me to a way of thought and have certainly shown what is possible.
I have found them amongst family, friends, collegues and peers, bosses and people leading ordinary lives which are extraordinary to me.
Filtered down, to me it meant, Never stop learning and if you can do something, do it well, else don’t do it.
To name a few -
People such as, Dinesh Khanna, a well known photographer from Delhi. He is like my father. I also treat him like my compass.
Radhika Singh a feisty and wise woman who started the first photo agency in India and is a foreboding curator of Photography.
Rajendra Yadav, Hindi literateur, whose creativity is an example of excellence and truth at work.
Rachana Yadav, Kathak Dancer – she is the epitome of focus, focus and focus.
Vani Subramanium an excellent english language writer, documentary film maker
Gopika Chowlfa, Graphic Designer- without whose wry and precise sense of critic I would have never been very good at design.
Dayanita Singh – Her 2 week course on photography at NID, I remember every bit of it.
R.Balki - He is not very good at understanding art but I don’t think I have met anyone else who understands the pulse of his clients and their TG as well as he does.
Devika Daulet-Singh, again, a brilliant curator/editor in the field of Photography and because of whom I know a lot more about photography than I ever did.
Who was the most influential personality on your career in photography?
A friend who said – “your photography fever will last only a week”. ha ha
But on a serious note, again, to name a few -Annie Liebowitz (in spirit), Life Magazine, A book called Private Pictures by Daniel Angeli, Nacho Lopez- a mexcian photographer, Van Leo – Egyptian Photographer, Raghubir Singh, Miss Aniela – British Photographer and finally Dinesh Khanna, Radhika Singh, Anita Khemka are the people continue to display learning, inspiration and knowledge. And There are a million more but, How can I not thank the biggest personality – The Internet.
How has photography changed over the course of the last couple of decades? Is execution/art direction more important than it used to be?
Yes to both. But it must!. Everything will and must evolve in sync as a reflection or a banner of our current times. Which also means that people are now looking for instant gratification everywhere, so who cares about an idea as long as it looks good. But I am okay with it now, because I can already sense despair with just “great execution”. Nothing can exist for long if it doesn’t serve a function/ purpose/or mere common sense. Its like marrying a best looking person in the world but who can’t hold a conversation for longer than half a sentence.
Your work can be defined as narrative photography. You also continue to design books and indulge in creating stories and drama with typography. Do you see any of your graphic design influences in your photography?
Yes I do. I have never anticipated a design/photograph beforehand, The end product is always a surprise to me as well. I look at graphic design as a visual language of the best composition and precise communication. All elements have to fall into place perfectly. Its the same with framing a photograph or editing a photo story. Editing is harder
Photography wise, I pretend old school, and look at my images only three days after they were shot.
Was there any time when you wanted to quit photography?
There was a time when I never wanted to pick it up. The quitting thing, nope. nothing yet. Unless CIA comes calling.
What do you think of the current state of Print Advertising photography in India? Is it at par with the work done worldwide?
I am not a commercial photographer but I have dealt with many over 14 years of a design/advertising career. To answer your question, No, most commercial photographers are churning out the best they can, which unfortunately for all of us, isn’t much. Everyone should be wary because there are a lot of very talented foreign photographers moving from other countries to India BECAUSE they see opportunity in our lack of imagination. We live in a well, compared to what is going on in the ocean of great work out of India. And it gets better by the day.
What works in our favor is that India is a tough country to do advertising for. It has too many economic layers, languages, connotations, and sensibilities and all are in conflict, and therefore there are so many more more opportunities and ways to present an idea. We as Indians get that and can still be innovative (and less in awe) in our point of view.
Having said that, advertising and clients i sense are struggling to trying to find an easy and inexpensive way in and have forgotten that there is a ‘brand’ and for it to be called a BRAND it needs a CONSISTENT visual language, just putting the logo in the same place is does not make it a brand. More so, if a picture is not powerful enough to make me stop, and make a point, you have just wasted your and my time, money and brand placement opportunity. Prasad Naik in my opinion redefined Indian Fashion Photography, there were other contemporaries too but he has been the only one consistent. Now, in advertising photography there is nothing called a good photograph, its either called great photoshop or its called Getty images. I have nothing against photoshop, I am a pro at it myself, but by depending so much on post processing, photographers may have become lazy. But everyone has made their choices and these days all is fair in love, war and art.
I do feel that Indian creative people must consider that everything about a shoot doesn’t necessarily require lights and a studio. All of bank advertising is the biggest proof to that. Currently, all have candid shots yet they have big production budgets assigned to their campaign and terrible wooden photography. Sometimes what works best for an brand/idea is a image shot in available light, in natural circumstances which will in all probability be better than a artificially lit one. Especially in a country like ours where everything mass IS about the family, spontaneity and emotion. With less structure and planning most will find better intuitive images and therefore more retentive power.
Any current work in Indian Advertising photography that you find exciting?
Currently? Nothing at all. Print is dead, television is boring. Commercially everyone is doing the same work really. One photograph is as good or bad as the other. So to me its all a blind spot. When its a great idea then I see it expressed mostly as typo or graphic in nature rather than photographic (refer to your own blog). Some of the good stuff never sees the light of day or goes to Luezhers Archive.
We don’t even have models anymore, no one knows HOW to model. but thats another issue altogether. We do have bollywood and only bollywood. And they look the same in everything including their films.
To date however, Tanishq AARKA by Suresh Natrajan, Art directed by Sharon Nayak, Lowe has been one of the most beautiful Indian campaigns I have ever seen. Bharat Sikka’s work too is commendable.
I have also found that a lot of commercial photographers are either copying the masters’ works or replicating the art directors diktat which also only stems from surfing corbis and getty.
Since most photographers are as good as the other its not much about the talent In the selection process of commercial photographers selection, its who charges less OR whose name sounds better to the client (therefore better PR) and/or who will feed me better production lunch and beer, sometimes its even about who can handle a celebrity better on set, all very valid reasons, and about the picture, well there’s always photoshop. I have spent 6 years in advertising, I hear things haven’t changed much. In any case, with Print advertising is at its last leg, thats not going to help the cause.
The fun part will be to see how indian photographers fare online, because a tacky picture means you have lost a customer to your competition in exactly 1.5 seconds.
Clients and creatives abroad, and a few here, have already begun to recognise that fact.
Documentary/Editorial work is what I see is becoming very exciting, and people are doing great work within that genre. And a lot of it is socially relevant. There are also a few creative people in agencies who recognize the power in its simplicity and realism “Balbir Pasha ko AIDS hoga kya?” was such a campaign, the ICICI campaign shot by Swapan Parekh was another, and though commercial, I am of the opinion that the genre can be immensely helpful and refreshing to Agencies in other commercial projects and aspects too.
Whats your dream project?
You mean PROJECTS. Plural.
But one would be to show at the National Portrait Gallery and Guggenheim.
Who would you want to spend a dinner with?
Whats on your iPod?
I don’t have one.
Mac or PC?
MAC. There is no ‘OR’
Anusha Yadav can be contacted via her website here.