I have known Krishna Shah all my life. We were together in school and have been entrenched in each other’s memories as classmates. I had the highest regard for her and thought she’d turn out to be a successful businesswoman someday. A master in engineering from the University of Sheffield and a research associate with Cept University, Ahmedabad; what else you’d expect her to be?
Today, I sit in Chocolate Room interviewing her as a photographer. Yeah, you heard it right! She’s the same soft spoken girl I always remembered her to be. My partner knows loads about cameras and I don’t know squat about it. Neither am I good at taking pictures nor posing for one and yet, here I am interviewing this beautiful girl who listened to her heart, gave up everything and pursued photography.
“How did a camera fit into all of this?” I ask her surprised. In the background my brain is knocking one question really hard at my skull. Why the hell didn’t you girls ever talk this way in school? I have no freaking idea why we were so occupied with our own set of friends!
“I did a basic course in photography back in college. I used to travel a lot when I was studying abroad and my camera became my best friend. I kind of started loving capturing all those moments. Then there was a local music festival back there and I volunteered as a photographer. Things started looking really great. Once I got back to India and started working at Cept; I couldn’t really find time for my passion. I asked them to give me an off during weekends and I would secretly pursue my love for photography.” She giggles.
“When did you get your big break?” My partner asks her. They have already had their talk on cameras by this time which is quite similar to Latin for me.
“A friend of mine was looking for a photographer for a boutique called Noya. I was brought into the picture somehow. I was ridiculously nervous, but my fiancé (boyfriend back then) really pushed me and asked me to grab this opportunity. We managed to get a studio shoot and that was my first lifestyle shoot. It’s been a year since then and I have done about 15 professional shoots by now.” She smiles.
My partner and I stare at her wide eyed! Fifteen shoots in a year is brilliant for somebody who just started off! She tells us she left her work at Cept last December and is only a photographer since then.
“What do you think really boosted your career as a photographer?”
“I was very happy with my first shoot and I realized the potential I had as a photographer. I think Instagram really helped me explore the depths of good photography and draw people’s attention towards my work in a good way. My pictures started getting featured and it dispensed that much needed boost. You know when you are venturing into a new arena these things matter a lot and help you to keep at it.” She explains.
She’s just so soft spoken and modest, it’s very difficult to gauge how much she has achieved already.
“Were your parents okay with you quitting a promising job and romancing a camera full time?” I ask her.
“Absolutely! My parents and my sister always stood by my decision. A few hiccups are a part and parcel, but they were always there. I guess that’s what helps the most.”
I wasn’t in touch with Krishna for the longest. It was just some time back that I saw her talk about her beautiful website on Facebook. I was intrigued, as usual, and approached her for the interview.
“Talk about your website.”
“Things started looking good with the photography point of view. But you know word of mouth dies its death someday and then everything comes to a halt. A website on the other hand gives you a better reach and that much needed professional touch that clients look for these days. If I see a website I am usually drawn to check it out. Several people asked me if I had a website and plus I didn’t want the clients to feel it’s just another page on a networking site you know.”
Such a brilliant professional this girl is turning out to be; I think.
“Which one’s your favourite shoot by far?” I ask her.
“All of them to be honest. I did a maternity shoot for a couple and they were very sweet. But, there was this one thing that happened while I was returning from work which has been unforgettable. I was driving back from work a few months ago and when I stopped at the crossroads near my house, I saw a group of street kids begging as usual. But that day they came up to my car as well. I hadn’t got any food to give them (I don’t usually prefer giving money to kids) but I had my camera. I asked them if they wanted their picture taken, and the next 5 minutes (fortunately the line at the signal was too long) were amazing! We chatted, they posed for pictures and I promised to print and give them the images. It took me 4-5 days to go give them the prints but when I did; the smiles on their faces were huge! To this day, they remember me as ‘the didi who took our pictures’. A picture brought happiness to those kids who probably don’t have anything that we do. This is something that’s even more memorable than a shoot.”
I am stumped and so proud to know somebody like her!
“What do you have to say to those people who hold a camera and think they are photographers? You know those pictures of people taking a picture kind of a thing? My partner asks and we burst out laughing. Anyone thinks he/she is a photographer today, isn’t it?
Well, I’d like to say that let your work talk. If you are going to post pictures of you with a camera; it doesn’t make you a photographer. Start posting pictures of the stuff you capture in a frame. Expensive cameras don’t give you the right pictures. It requires learning how to use it well. If you can capture emotions and tell stories through your image; that’s the day you become a real photographer.
“What camera do you use?” My partner asks her and I start staring at my cell where I am taking notes. This one’s not going to make any sense to me now!
“I have been using a Nikon D7000 for six years now. I love it and I don’t have or want another camera. I didn’t invest in lenses as well. I used to borrow it from people for the shoots. I used my sir’s camera before I bought my own. I started investing later. I invest a lot more in lights since my work requires that much more than expensive lenses.” She shares and surprisingly I manage to understand most of it.
“Who’s your inspiration in the world of photography?”
“I love Bella Kotak’s work. It’s magical. You know exotic forests and locations with women in long gowns. That’s the kind of work I want to do someday and that would also probably be my dream location. But I am not ready for it yet. I also love a lot of colours and rarely do a black and white. You know minimalist colourful pictures, symmetry; that’s a classic combination and it’s my thing.” Her eyes spark when she describes the kind of pictures she wants to take. She is breathtakingly creative!
“So what’s your agenda for the near future?” I ask her and the dreams start flooding in her eyes.
“I work from home so I’d definitely like my own vintage, lightly coloured studio. I want to establish myself as a lifestyle photographer and intern with a good magazine. I have an assistant now and that helps to some extent. I want to start blogging about the places I have travelled to. I do see myself in the branding area as well; handling creative bits of photography for branding. Off late I am doing a trial for a firm in the same on freelance basis. But most of all I want to inspire people. If my picture can help someone, or make a difference in their lives; that would be the greatest achievement I think. There is a lot in the pipeline at the moment.” She smiles.
“What’s the best compliment someone’s given you by far?”
We’d like to work with you again.
She signs off.
And just like that I watch Krishna Shah walk away in a perfect frame illuminating the bright light of her purpose and I notice I am smiling without saying cheese.