“Take a challenge of producing good results with whatever gear you buy & concentrate in making good art”

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Tell us about your journey from the day you started as a photographer to winning an award at the Sony World Photography Awards and also working as a Film Director today.

After my engineering I purchased a DSLR camera to make short films as I had already decided to become a film director. Photography was not in my mind during that period. Later, I started my career working as an Assistant Director at Anticlock Films. I wanted to learn and experience all the aspects of filmmaking closely & I was fortunate that I got nurtured under National Award – winning filmmakers, Sanjay Suri and Onir.

It’s when I was in Delhi the magic happened. We were shooting for the film “Shab” in Paharganj. After the shooting day ended I went to click some pictures of the surroundings using my cell phone as there was something about the setting that hit me. I randomly captured people, narrow lanes, vehicles etc. My curiosity for street photography also grew from that day and since then I’ve never looked back. I started experimenting with various facets of photography side by side. It’s been two years now and I believe my work has transformed a lot. When I came to know that my photograph has won a National Award at world’s biggest photography competition I was just overwhelmed. The award has not only motivated me to do more but has given a global exposure to my work.

Pic Courtesy : Nikunj Rathod

Pic Courtesy : Nikunj Rathod

Have you undertaken any formal training and what role did it play in your growth as a photographer?

No. I am a self taught photographer. I have learned from all the mistakes that I have made. In photography I consider there is no big teacher than our life experiences. That’s how I unite with the subjects on the streets and its purely instinctive. For me street photography works more on a personal level. My attempt is always to capture a decisive moment which has an emotional content. A moment or expression that touches me first. A photograph that can engage, bring smile or move people who sees it.

In anything you do, growth can only be seen in your work if you maintain the rhythm. I do street photography around four days a week. It’s always a great feeling for me to wake up and think that I will learn and explore something new today.

Pic Courtesy : Nikunj Rathod

Pic Courtesy : Nikunj Rathod

How do you define your personal style? And how is your approach towards any assignment?

Well it’s always difficult to define our own style. For me it keeps changing with time. Sometimes my attempt is to be true to the nature of subject and its demand; sometimes I experiment. I love black and white medium over colour as I believe it helps in focusing the emotion and soul of the subject which I think is significant in my photographs.

My approach varies according to the assignments. If its subjective, for example : documentary or conceptual, then I do research about its past records and characteristics and when I’m just doing street photography, I just follow my instincts.

Pic Courtesy : Nikunj Rathod

Pic Courtesy : Nikunj Rathod

Which has been the most memorable or challenging project that you have worked on? 

I recently did a conceptual photography series with actor Ashish Bisht. The series are called “Life Of A Garage Mechanic” and “The Street Fighter”. It was quite challenging as I had to use real locations, convince & direct people from the streets to be part of each photograph to make the atmosphere look full of life. For this, I had to do research which included visiting garages, talking to people and understanding their body language and life manner. My film-making experience helped me a lot over here.

Garage Mechanic / Pic Courtesy : Nikunj Rathod

Garage Mechanic / Pic Courtesy : Nikunj Rathod

Typically, what does your camera kit contain?

I use Canon 550D and Sony RX100 Mark 4 camera. I use lenses such as 50mm, 55-250mm, 18-55mm according to the situations. Normally I carry just one lens when I’m on a street photography mission to be flexible. I don’t use tripod unless there is special requirement like landscape photography or clicking a photograph in a low shutter speed.

Street Fighter / Pic Courtesy : Nikunj Rathod

Street Fighter / Pic Courtesy : Nikunj Rathod

What do you enjoy more – Photography or Film Direction? Why?

Both. Most importantly its story telling that matters to me more.

Pic Courtesy : Nikunj Rathod

Pic Courtesy : Nikunj Rathod

Which photographer inspires you and what keeps you motivated to create such great imagery?

I have always got moved by the work of photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Raghu Rai, Robert Doisneau, Garry Winogr, Raghubir Singh etc.
Self analyzing plays a big role in motivating myself and with that I get to identify my weakness and strength. Also remarks by people, good or bad, helps much.

Pic Courtesy : Nikunj Rathod

Pic Courtesy : Nikunj Rathod

How do you keep yourself updated about happenings in the photography world?

For me Internet is the best place to stay connected. There are plenty of photography pages on Facebook and Instagram. Apart from that I buy photography magazines and photo books.

Pic Courtesy : Nikunj Rathod

Pic Courtesy : Nikunj Rathod

Do you take interns or mentor students so that they learn the nuances of this field?

I do take interns for film projects. In photography not much. But I would be glad to share my knowledge and experience that I have gained so far.

Pic Courtesy : Nikunj Rathod

Pic Courtesy : Nikunj Rathod

What advice would you want to give to the aspiring street photographers?

1. I have seen people who are starting out are more worried about buying the latest gear in which most of the things are automatic. I believe even the entry level DSLR camera these days are far more superior than the cameras photographers were using 40-50 years back. So take a challenge of producing good results with whatever gear you buy & concentrate in making good art.

2. Getting inspired from other photographers is good thing but it shouldn’t affect your work. Discover yourself through photography and find your own taste.

3. During my beginning days, I missed many fine moments on the streets just because I had fear – the fear of approaching interesting people or moments, fear of coming out of my comfort zone. In street photography it’s really important to conquer your fear.

4. Keep exploring. Don’t get stuck in one place.

5. Keep participating in photography competitions. Doesn’t matter big or small.

Pic Courtesy : Nikunj Rathod

Pic Courtesy : Nikunj Rathod

Tell us about your film projects.

As an Assistant Director, I have finished two Bollywood film projects. “Shab” directed by Onir and “My birthday Song” directed by Samir Soni. Both the films are in post production and will release this year. I also shot behind the scene of an award winning feature film Chauranga.
Recently I have completed a Hollywood feature film project “Headlock” directed by Mark Polish in which I did filming of Indian scenes for the movie.
Apart from that I have just finished directing & shooting a seven part- video poem series “Diary Of A Cigarette Butt” written by filmmaker Onir. Currently we are working on the music. The poems will be available online very soon.
I’m working towards my first feature film as a director. Its an Indo – French film called “Puchki Das” written by Utsav Banerjee. The project is in funding stage.

Pic Courtesy : Nikunj Rathod

Pic Courtesy : Nikunj Rathod

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