Join Subodh Shetty on his immersive journey through India.
WHO AMONG US HASN’T thought of packing our kit bag, waving a cheery goodbye to our co-workers and setting off on a grand adventure? For most of us, this remains a fond daydream, but Subodh Shetty transformed his wanderlust into reality by stealing pockets of time away from his full-time job in Dubai to traverse his homeland of India. Not content with just shooting ordinary landscapes, Subodh made it his mission to capture the essence of the country through stunning portraiture and candid street photography. By combining an open mind with a keen eye for light and colour, Subodh was able to create a wonderfully vibrant portfolio filled with powerful travel portraits.
How did you first become interested in photography?
The urge to explore the world of photography was sparked by my experiences in Dubai, my current city of residence. To cut a long story short, the beautiful city continually tempted me with its stunning cityscapes and arid deserts. While long-exposure photography was my initial fascination, I soon began to feel emotionally unconnected from my subjects. I realised that the missing link was having a human element within every image I take. I soon started to focus on travel and portrait photography instead. All of my journeys are about people, not just the location or landscape.
Why did you decide to travel around India?
When I first started to look for photographic inspiration, I came across two contrasting perspectives of my home country India. The first unfairly glorified the misery and poverty of a few and extrapolated it as the character of the country as a whole. Meanwhile, the other captured the beauty of the country and its citizens. My personal quest was to add my own perspective to the latter
ALL OF MY JOURNEYS ARE ABOUT PEOPLE, NOT JUST THE LOCATION OR LANDSCAPE…
view. I wanted to show the diversity of India’s amazing people and beautiful landscapes.
How did people react when you took their portraits?
Creating a powerful portrait is all about how you approach your subject. The most important aspect of taking a compelling photo is connecting with the subject. In my case, I always take portraits with the explicit consent of the individual. I ask them to look into the camera, as eye contact is everything to me. I think it’s important to initiate a conversation, crack some jokes and lighten the mood before actually pressing the shutter. Don’t try to push the subject for a particular image that you have in mind, but instead allow them to become comfortable in front of the camera. When it comes to shooting, I try to wrap everything up within a minute or two. I find that the genuineness of the moment and emotions start to dissipate with every extra minute.
What kit did you use?
I work very closely with Nikon and have been a brand mentor for the last few years, so it’s no surprise that my kit bag is dominated by Nikon. I use the D5 and D4S as my main bodies and my preferred lenses are the Nikkor 24-70mm and 70-200mm, which both work very well for me.
What was the most difficult part of the project?
Definitely allocating time! For the first eight years of my project I had a full-time job in Dubai. Having to work while trying to dedicate time to travel was a roller-coaster ride. Thankfully, I managed to establish myself as a photographer over the years with my relentless efforts. This meant that I was confident enough to quit my day job and transition into being a full-time nomad.
Whose story impacted you the most when travelling?
I have a close bond with many of the subjects I shoot. I believe in visiting places over and over again in order to absorb the full potential of a location. This meant that those who were strangers on my first trip ended up being friends on later visits. I’ve seen them evolve as people, and learned about the changes that occurred in their lives while I was
away. Each story had an impact, large or small, and each left a happy dent on my soul. It’s hard to pick one that impacted me the most, as I genuinely see each story being as powerful as the next.
What’s your number one tip for travel photographers?
Pack your kit and get going. That’s all it takes to get better. Not having top-of-the-line gear should never be a limiting factor, as good images can be created no matter what kind of kit you’ve got. All you need is an unflinching, burning passion. It’s also really important not to over-plan your trip. When you’re visiting new and strange places, plans tend to fall apart. It’s best to travel to that distant land of your dreams and allow yourself to simply go with the flow. Let the location surprise you, as that’s when the best images happen.
What’s your best story from your time travelling?
Having visited the Holi festival four years in a row, it’s a little challenging to try to create something new and interesting each time. However, striving to take unique photos is what drives me. Away from the centre of the action, I took to the streets, hoping to witness something I hadn’t seen before. About 30 minutes into my stroll, I passed a colourful corner leading to an alleyway. All of a sudden, a little kid burst from the entrance with a water gun filled with coloured water. He showered me with the water, clearly not having seen that I was carrying an expensive camera. As the stream of water rushed towards me, my photographer’s instincts kicked in and, rather than dodging the attack, I went for the shot. In a split-second, I composed, focused and grabbed three photos in continuous mode. What’s even funnier is that when the kid realised he’d soaked my camera, he was so concerned that he ran back to his house to get me a dry cloth to wipe it off. While his face was filled with guilt and worry, my own was lit up with delight. I knew that I’d got that one elusive shot that we photographers are always on the lookout for.
I KNEW I’D GOT THAT ONE ELUSIVE SHOT WE PHOTOGRAPHERS ARE ALWAYS ON THE LOOK OUT FOR…
Left A German photographer covered in the colours of Holi on the streets of Barsana.
Middle Holi means risking your gear, but being right at the heart of the action has its perks.
Right A wrestler pats mud onto his oil-soaked skin, adding grip and friction.
Above This vivid selection includes a shot of a girl from the Brokpas, a small community of Indo-European heritage based in the Himalayas who trace their ancestry to invaders from the West thousands of years ago.