Dheeraj Paul learnt the art and finer nuances of his craft from his father.
Dheeraj Paul learnt the art and finer nuances of his craft from his father, ace photographer S. Paul. though he is famous for his travel and food shots, it is street photography that truly calls to his soul.
For someone with a sharp eye and a way with strangers, the street is an amazingly vibrant universe to explore through the camera. “But as a street photographer you need to build a relationship of trust and make people believe that they are not being taken advantage of,” says Dheeraj Paul, who calls himself “a street photographer who likes to capture life. For me a story comes to life after I capture a moment”.
Paul learnt photography at home, while observing his father, ace photographer S. Paul. “My father was a self-taught photographer. I was born into a family of still photographers. In 1992, I started my career as a full-time photographer, and began with food photography. Then I started shooting streets and people, doing photo-stories.”
Since childhood he had been seeing his father teach and guide students. “I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth, but there were certainly a lot of cameras around me. So understanding technology and using new equipment was never a problem as these were easily available to me. My father also taught photographers like Raghu Rai,” he recalls.
Paul’s father passed away in 2017. “He was a very versatile photographer and inspired me a lot. I try to remember him in every frame I compose now,” he says. Like his father, Paul is also known for his versatile style as he is much in demand by hotels for his food photographs and by travel magazines for his travel shots. “It was while shooting at Parliament that I realised the importance of being a photojournalist with a creative eye. We didn’t have much time and yet we needed that beautiful shot. So that gave me an edge over the advertising photographers. After 25 years of freelance photography, now I teach the art in universities as well,” he explains. Paul has been teaching photography in Jamia Millia Islamia University for the past 11 years.
Talking about the digital age, he shares that photography has changed a lot. “The style back then was so different because the parameters were different. Now, there are great pictures even with a phone camera. Now it is all about a good composition. That is the key for future photography. I feel a person who is very good at aesthetics and is also attuned to marketing can now survive as a photographer. My generation can still call themselves experts in still photography but the new generation cannot. You have to get your technology right, as well as aesthetics and remain very patient. Also, it is not good to stick to one style, there is always room for change and improvement.”