Q1. What does Art mean to you?
I believe art is the truest reflection of who you are. It is an escape; Escape from the rules and constraints of this world. I realise how limitless and boundless I am when it comes to my art. I express myself through it, through the faces of other people. It’s not just me creating the photos, the person in the photo is just as important, I believe. It is a wonderful collaboration of both.
Q2. What inspires you?
People inspire me. I want to express the stories of people all around. In my pictures, I want the connection of a face and his/her environment or surroundings to show. I want to exhibit where those two converge and create pictures that narrate that.
Q3. When and why did you start Photography?
When I was in 8th Standard, my cousin had this huge camera which I found very amusing, so I used that initially just out of curiosity. Later on, I had a friend who loved getting pictures of himself clicked and he had a camera too, we both used to go on weekends and I would click pictures of him and he would upload them with really lame captions like – “Desi Photography” (laughs)
But that helped me learn how to handle the camera, framing etc. I used to do my research on the same as well.
In 2014, I bought my first camera – a Canon Rebel T3i (600D). Fashion and those typically posed portraits have never been my thing, I never enjoyed them. I wanted to show true emotions through my pictures and I enjoyed doing that as well. Through people’s emotions, I want to show where they belong to/where they come from.
Q4. Do technicalities matter as much as creativity to you?
No. Technicalities have a limit and only matter to some extent but creativity is beyond that. I used to shoot pictures from my phone camera as well, I still do sometimes.
Q5. Do you think people around you understand and value your work?
Most of them don’t. If we talk about one of my photographs titled “Lone Wolf”, many people who look at it don’t understand what’s special in this, it’s just a picture of a dog. But intrigued me in that frame was this a sense of loneliness and that is what I wanted to exhibit. But then again, I don’t create my art for everyone.
Firstly, I create it for myself because if I’m not satisfied with the work I create, how can I expect someone else to be? And, secondly, I create it for people who want to dwell into the intricacies behind my pictures and understand them.
And those people, they appreciate and value my work as well.
Q6. Among your own artworks which is your favorite?
There is a picture of an Apatani tribe woman that I clicked; I couldn’t speak their language, they couldn’t speak mine. I communicated with her using hand gestures only. She was a very sweet lady, and I wanted to send her the picture that I clicked. So, I spoke to a boy in her tribe, who luckily understood Hindi to some extent, took his number and sent him the picture on Whatsapp and asked him to show it to her. The boy told me that she was really happy to see the picture and that made me feel really good.
“The camera is just a medium, what matters is the connection between the photographer and the subject.”
Similar instances have happened many other times as well. These little joys attached to these photographs are what makes them something to remember and hold onto for life. The camera is just a medium, what matters is the connection between the photographer and the subject. Like I said earlier, it is a collaboration.
I wish to establish this connection among different people and cultures, so that when in future some other photographer tries to click their pictures, they happily allow them to do so, instead of shooing them away. I don’t want to win praises by clicking pictures of such people, I want to click them because they are beautiful and they are important too. Everyone individual is.
Q7. Is there any artwork by some other artist that you would like to recreate?
There is a select project of Joey L. where he covered the guerrilla fighters of Kurdistan – a province, where people are fighting alone against ISIS. The majority of their force is full of women. Joey clicked portraits of those people. I want to do something similar, to document the struggle and hardship of people fighting and thriving.
Q8. People often say that “nothing beats the classics”, do you agree with that?
Not really. People are making classics today as well; a work of art made today can be a classic for the generation that will follow us. Recently, I watched a film which I think will go on to become a classic – Mandy, and that is because of its magnificent cinematography.
Q9. Have you ever encountered someone who wanted you to work for free?
Yes, there have been many such encounters. There are many companies and organisations out there who do not want to pay for the work they ask for, and that is a pity and plain disrespectful. They say things like “it’s your learning time right now” etc.
Q10. What kind of resistance have you faced for pursuing art professionally?
The resistance I’ve faced has mostly been in terms of money. I tried wedding photography for a brief time because of the same reason, to earn some extra bucks. But I realized it was not really the thing for me.
Apart from that initially no one around me was completely supportive of me pursuing photography as a career. But I had my camera with me when everything else fell apart and so I chose to stick with it. In the times of dark, I put my focus solely into my photography; used to edit one photograph 10-11 times, just to experiment and learn.
Q.11 Any event or experience that made you feel good about being an artist?
I went to Kargil with two of my friends. We reached Zoji La pass at around 12 and had to leave at 3. When we went outside after having our meal, there was no electricity there, I looked up and saw a sky filled with millions of stars. The Milky Way was clearly visible. So, I took my tripod, we set it up far from the road. We switched off our torches and any light, it was a 15-second exposure. We started hearing noises of animals and all of us were scared but I desperately wanted to take that shot. The moment the camera shutter closed, I switched on the torch and there were 4 dogs roaring at us. We picked our equipment and ran off to reach our car only to find out that our car wasn’t there.
About 45 mins later our car was brought to the main gate. This is one of the many little adventures I have had, because of my art. Had I not picked up my camera that day, I wouldn’t have had these stories to tell. I believe, these are the stories to live for.
Q12. What is the purpose of art and why do you think we need it?
I’ve been bad at academics all my life, I failed 11th class as I had no interest in commerce. I’ve never been able to learn through reading and writing, it has always been through visual learning that I know whatever I know now. I also used to Rap in 8th and 9th, and once even wrote a rap song in my exam and nearly got suspended from school.
My camera had been the only constant in my life. It is a way of expressing for me, and it is the only thing I think I am good at. If I am having a downfall in this thing too? Then I’m good for the nothing, I’m as better as dead. This is my only virtue and my only salvation, which at the end of the day, gives me a sort of satisfaction. It’s like a necessity for me.
Q13. Who according to you is an artist?
A person who stands out, he/she must have a diverse style of their own. A person imitating photos of Brandon Woelfel is not an artist for me. Artists create things, mostly those that are here to stay. You must be able to express yourselves, that is what makes you an artist.
“Artists create things, mostly those that are here to stay.”
I also believe that ‘artist’ is a label that people give you. Me alone calling myself an artist has no value unless other people recognise me as one too.
Q14. Do you think it is okay to be vulnerable and has art helped you in overcoming any vulnerabilities?
One person cannot be strong in everything, and everyone is vulnerable in one way or the other. It is completely okay to be vulnerable and I think, a person can derive strength from their art to overcome these vulnerabilities and things that make us prone.
Q15. What aspects of life would you like to touch with your art?
Life itself, the way it is. I want to exhibit both aspects of it – the positive and the negative, because they both can harbor change. I would like to take a picture that I shot, of an 11-year-old boy’s feet – his name was Ravi, as an example. I would like you all to read the picture’s caption; here, I tried to showcase both the positive and negative aspects together.
Q16. Any message that you would like to give to the world through Prone?
Don’t be a jack of all trades, be a master of one. If you call yourself an artist, it is necessary that you understand the gravity of it too. Be good at what you do, and be yourself. Being yourself is probably the most artistic thing you can do, and it will make you stand out from the crowd.
Don’t compel yourself to do things just because others are doing it. It is not an engineering course. It is important to embrace your individuality.
Follow Kanhav on Instagram: @kanhav4