Life on the streets

Young photographer and filmmaker Nikunj Rathod talks about the finer nuances of street photography

Young photographer and filmmaker Nikunj Rathod talks about the finer nuances of street photography

Award-winning photographer and filmmaker Nikunj Rathod likes to zoom in on life on the streets. One of his pictures, Bird Hunter that shows a teenager using his slingshot, was recently shortlisted for the world’s biggest photography contest. Talking about what first drew him to street photography, and how he discovered it, the 28-year-old photographer says, “In 2014, I was in New Delhi (Paharganj) working as an assistant director for Onir’s film Shab. Whenever possible I used to randomly click pictures of streets, people, buildings, etc. with my mobile phone. A friend insisted I install Instagram on my mobile. That was it! People started appreciating my photos and it inspired me to do more. I was happy that I was still telling stories. It is good to see how filmmaking and photography work hand in hand.”

It is the timing of a particular shot that makes it memorable, believes Nikunj. He adds, “The energy in the photograph and the background is something that makes it memorable too. If all this blends well, it makes the photograph quite special.”

While for some photographers, black and white and colour mediums act as totally separate beasts, there are others for whom the two are complementary. For Nikunj, it is a mix of both. “Most of my photographs are black and white, as I think it gives an air of realism and adds an artistic layer to them. But not all photographs fit this kind, as it simply depends on various factors and composition aspects. Colour sometimes distracts your eyes due to which the soul in the photograph gets unnoticed. However, at times colours end up playing a significant role in highlighting certain elements in a frame. This can be only understood once your eyes start getting older.”

When Nikunj steps out for shooting, it is mostly instinctual and hardly planned. He shares, “The whole thing for me is instinctive, be it choosing a place or a subject. Street photography is photographing at the pace of life. It’s mainly about dealing with time, which needs the photographer to rapidly observe the diverse elements that are present in a possible subject.”

To avoid taking clichéd street photos, Nikunj is always searching to capture fleeting moments. “That entails always staying alert and ready with my camera settings. Slowness is one of the biggest enemies in street photography and makes your work clichéd,” he asserts.

In this day and age, social media is a great tool for photographers to reach out to masses through their works. “Be it taking part in international photography competitions or getting inspired by the work of other great photographers, social media widens the prospects of any artist. Also, it’s incredible how your work can go global in a few seconds and get appreciation or criticism at the same time,” he adds.

To master his art of clicking, Nikunj keeps abreast of the latest trends and styles of shooting. He says, “Photography books, other photographers’ works, their failures and their success stories also help in getting inspired till some point, but practical implementation is must. It’s exactly like sports — the more you practice, the better you get at it. So, I go out and click more and more photos. I make mistakes; I feel angry, then I learn from it and then something better happens next time. I simply follow this rhythm.”

What are some of the challenges that one encounters in street photography Nikunj says, “For me, the biggest challenge is people itself. People these days are more alert due to the fear of social media and terrorism. They often look at you with doubt and suspicion. But this doesn’t stop me, and the only solution is to look self-assured and confident. It is your energy that gets transformed into them and they open up.”

Talking to the world through his photographs is what makes this young photographer a happy man. “My attempt is to depict those moments in my photographs, which can emotionally move, educate or amuse the viewers,” he concludes.

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