It was 1984, if I remember correctly, when I first picked up a camera. It was my cousin sister’s marriage and Achan (my Dad), a professional photographer himself, had given me an Electro 35 film camera loaded with B/W film to shoot. I was too shy to actually go around with the camera during the ceremony but I did take some shots. Curiously enough, I remember I was anxious about the results. I don’t remember the pictures but some of them must have come out OK, for he used a few in the wedding album we gifted the couple. after that i hardly got to use any camera, as I got caught up with my school studies.
In 1989, my dad allowed me to use his second camera that NIkon FG SLR. I often taken that camera to college and outdoor sketching trails.This was when I joined College of Fine Arts in Trivandrum for BFA courses. Till then i never had a camera to practice.
From there An empty camera become my companion without film rolls. Buying film rolls were very expensive. But I found a way, I start taking photos for my college seniors as part of there portfolio presentations. The Documenting the sculptures, paintings and drawings of my friends were became part of my self taught photography course. At home, I had started helping Achan (Dad) in his dark room on black and white film processing and printing.
This helped me to study of lighting and how to capture right colours of paintings in natural light. The tips from the library books, styles of world renowned photographers portfolios helped me to learn further. Slowly I was getting into the spin of reportage photography. To work on stories, features….
But I was more into the thrill of motion cinematography, a throwback from my childhood days and toy cameras (self-made with cardboard box and glasses ). We used to make short skits with a friend and his sister acting in front of the camera, mostly stunt scenes though. I knew that is for another time, never had a camera to record.
In college I realized I need to shape up the basics of my visual knowledge. Along with my regular photography exercises, the real teachers and inspiration came from the Trivandrum CFA and Public Library reference room. Some of the books there like the Black Book for Advertising thrilled me no end, the still life, nudes, portraits. But I never could achieve the same results and was slowly becoming frustrated. A reality check came from Achan who told me you needed high-end equipment like good flash guns and premium quality lenses to achieve the kind of results you saw in the books. Which we couldn’t afford then, so he advised me , to concentrate on painting studies rather than photography.
I was disappointed the least, wasn’t one to give up. I start making my own light stands and used it with high voltage tungsten bulbs to experiment. I even shot for a couple of print commercial, a bakery and a restaurant–all mainly table-top photography. Achan was a silent observer in all this but was always sharing useful tips. So, in a sense, he is my guru in photography. Seeing my efforts, he started letting me to use his ‘prime‘ cameras like a Yashica G124 (medium format) and Nikon (35 mm film camera).
I unconsciously start realizing that travel, people, real life stories made more sense than tabletop advertising photography. The inspiration always was the library books on photography at my Collage, photographs of giants like Raghu Rai, Raghubir Singh, Steve McCurry, S Paul and many more. Their works inspired me and had started photographing life around Trivandrum, mainly children, fishermen, tribal…. I was growing up in an age where newspapers–like The Pioneer, The Telegraph, New York Times , National Geography, Life magazine, –too had realised the importance of the good picture, which diverted my interest to people photography ( later understood that this is Photojournalism). Even went to cover a few news events, like landslides and floods in Kallar (near Ponmudi ) in Trivandrum. Then Occasionally to the fisher folk settlements in Valiyathura and Vizhinjam, the coastal areas in Trivandrum. I even took a couple of trips to towns like Thrissur, Kollam, Alleppey to explore photo ops. Still, I was never completely happy with the results. There I decided to leave Trivandrum to work with magazines. Join any leading news magazine to fulfill my dream.
After leaving my job from TKM College dept of architecture, my decision to join any news magazine in Delhi is finalized. I boarded the train to New Delhi, as Delhi is the hub for photojournalism. After a few months of my arrival in Delhi, I think in 1997-98, one of my friends arranged a meeting with Indian Express.
He introduced me to Praveen Jain, the then Photo- editor with the Indian Express, what a coincidence. He is the one among the many photojournalists who I want to meet.
N Tyagarajan, Prashant Panjiar, Pablo, Sipra Das, Reghubir Singh and of course Raghu Rai.
I never made an attempt to meet Raghu Raiji,as he is already a celebrity. I was too shy to introduce myself.
But over the period I had to go to his studio cum store room to collect some of his black & white prints for the Outlook anniversary edition in 2000 or 2001. After that many occasions we met including the two year WP photo workshop series.
Then the Thyagarajan sir had interviewed me once at a newspaper office in DElhi.
After reviewing my portfolio. He said “Now we can stop the interview, don’t have to meet more candidates. He is the right choice”. I got selected. He appreciated my self taught photography skills.
My passion towards photo-travel and photojournalism will continue.