Join Su­bodh Shetty on his im­mer­sive jour­ney through In­dia.

Practical Photography (UK) - - October -

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


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.


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.

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