Bangalore Filmmaker and Photographer
Bangalore Filmmaker and Photographer
There seems to be very little money in India for good storytelling. Most publications pay nothing or close to nothing and the quality of the work often shows. I would be ecstatic if someone from within India paid well to send me to take photographs but that does not happen often. It would be nice if more publications in India developed aesthetics and standards of their own and actually paid editorial photographers decently.
I have been involved in the making of documentary films for various clients around the world, for the last 10 years for clients like national geographic television and discovery channel. I have traveled to more than 20 countries and been a part of the making of more than 60 documentary films to date on subjects ranging from Japanese yakuza tattoo to Papua New Guinean initiation rites. During these trips I found myself taking photographs, often much to the annoyance of the cameraman. I found my photography almost compulsive and at the end of a shoot I felt my photographs often told a better story, than a slickly edited, sometimes-sensational documentary. With my photographs, I felt that I was holding onto something true.
In a strange way, the power of storytelling had come full circle and has possibly saved me and other people from violence.
In Liberia, I saw a woman whose brother had been murdered ostensibly forgive a man (the general) who had killed him and photographed the moment. I recall feeling and thinking that I had witnessed something immense and larger than the context, both cultural and historical, that we found ourselves within at that time and I was moved by it. It seemed strange to me, that in my experiences, that people who have suffered terribly find it easier to forgive, find personal healing in that act, and be more open to peaceful resolutions than those have ostensibly not suffered. Then again it could be just a terrible fatigue.
My father inspires me. He has nothing to do with the creative arts and is an agricultural businessman. What inspires me is that he works independent of the good or bad ideas anyone might have about his work or him, he works from an inspired place and his faith in what is larger is immense.
My photography is as much about my own perceptions and their evolution regarding these experiences as it is about the subjects I photographed. I think working anywhere presents challenges and more than ostensible dangers one has to be aware of one?s own way of looking, independent of what happens outside oneself. This awareness of what has to be done constantly is one of the driving forces if you will.
Nowadays we often hear the following, Follow your passion, march to the beat of your own drum, realize your dreams and find yourself. These quotes lie on almost every note. The self is not the center of life and happiness is not an objective in its own self but a byproduct of how people engage the tasks of life. It cannot be pursued directly. The purpose is not to find oneself through ones work, but to lose oneself in it, eyes wide open. It?s an ongoing process and doubt, suffering, study and drudgery are all a part of that journey. When we read a biography what we admire the most is not what people did to court happiness. It?s what they did to court hardship in their pursuit of excellence that we admire. Its excellence independent of anyone?s opinion, not happiness, that we admire the most.
Photography for me is a tool to express certain intangibles I hope I can share. I try to tell with my photographs, sometimes stories which we cannot have words for. I also trust that I am in the right place, that I have some purpose in being in these places though at times I am sometimes conflicted about these things.
Self-awareness, introspection and integrity are very important I believe. One should look after the vessel through which one hopes creativity and inspiration will flow through. Nowadays owning a camera is like owning a pen. Everyone has one. However everyone might own one but very few people can write meaningfully or create something enduring and of value to the world.
Shooting anywhere is the same if one knows what one wants to say and the process for saying it. Conditions vary but humanity remains the same, more or less. Story is most important, not location.
Sometimes focusing on what?s heroic, beautiful and dignified regardless of context can magnify these intangibles in a stories audience, in the protagonists of the story itselfÿ andÿ in the storyteller and that?s the power of storytelling.
I enjoy taking photographs of people and events, which tell larger stories than just what?s beautiful or on the outside. Sometimes I feel I am not in control of the image and mystical forces come together to help create the image. I often feel that I have been chosen to be a part of an experience, though I don?t really know.
I find that surrendering to what is larger, which entails being honest and true to oneself despite the good or bad opinions of the world, can bring great power to ones work, power enough to give it a life of its own and my father stands for these ideals. Photography has become like language. You have vernacular, slang and educated forms. All can be honest? or dishonest. How do we transcend the needs of the present in order to create meaningful work? By needs of the present I mean the demands of clients, the aesthetics of the moment, our own egos and the good or bad opinions of world. It?s not about having the best equipment that makes good work but equipping oneself internally, morally and aesthetically, which makes a difference.
Any story that needs a voice, and any element of lived experience that I can give a voice, through my photography or films.
Being a photographer gives me the freedom to express myself, see the results of my work in other peoples lives.
For me it?s not the destination but the story that?s important.
Happiness is not an objective but a byproduct of how one engages the tasks of one?s life. It comes on its own without you trying to get it for yourself.