A runaway befriended a camera and shot to fame
LUCKNOW: He was a runaway, but unlike others who end up ragpicking, begging and picking pockets on railway platforms, he always wanted to carve a separate identity for himself. And this desire helped him transform his life, turning him into a famed photographer who has featured in ‘Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia’ list, authored many books on photography and bagged several national and international awards in the field of photography.
Ace lens man Vicky Roy, who was here on a project to film the slum dwellers getting their Adhaar cards, strongly believes that his past has played a crucial role in his success.
“I believe that it’s purely my past that helped me shape my future. As you see, most of my work is on street children, desti- tute and slum dwellers because I could relate with them more than any other professional lens man,” Roy told HT.
But his journey from a rag picker to a famed visual artist was tough.
Born in a poor family in Purulia, West Bengal, he was raised among six siblings. Since his father, who was a tailor, couldn’t afford the family expenses, he was sent to his maternal grandparents’ house for a better future.
“But conditions there were equally bad. I was beaten for every small mistake. Fed up of the atrocities, I finally ran away at the age of 11 and arrived at the New Delhi Railway station where I began rag picking,” he recollected.
He also worked as a dishwasher at a roadside eatery. But the turning point came when he was picked by NGO ‘Salaam Balak Trust’, which is run with the mission to rehabilitate street children.
He had a chance encounter with a camera during a photography workshop organized by the trust for street children. “I began assisting a photographer, who was a mentor and helped me learn camera tricks and photog- raphy techniques. I then decided to pursue a professional photography course under the guidance of renowned Indian photographer OP Sharma,” he added.
‘Home Street Home’—his first monograph that became a big hit, was published by Nazar Foundation and released at the second edition of the Delhi Photo Festival (Sept-Oct, 2013). He was awarded the MIT Media Fellowship in 2014. “But shooting my subjects (those living on the streets) was not easy. I had to spend hours with them to understand them and win their confidence and then came a day when they allowed me to shoot,” he added.
He said he was really thankful to the NGO that helped him pursue his goal as a photographer, which in turn gave him an opportunity to do something for the less unfortunate.
Roy has bagged many awards and recognitions, including Neel Dongre Grant for Excellence in Photography, National Geographic Mission Cover Shot TV Show, INK Fellowship and International Award for Young People, India. Some of his publications are, ‘The World Atlas of Street Photography’ published by Yale University Press, ‘Where Three Dreams Cross: 150 Years of Photography from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh’, published by Steidi Verlag, bilingual edition, ‘Click I Contemporary Photography in India’ and others.
In Lucknow, Roy will film slum dwellers getting their Aadhar card made.
It is part of a project under which an NGO, Save Children, in collaboration with the state government will provide identity proof to slum dwellers. Under the project, Roy will cover five states and 10 cities, including Lucknow, Agra, Mugalsarai, Allahabad and Kanpur in UP.
A shot captured by Vicky Roy and (right) the ace photographer.