Till a few years ago, I led a simple and enjoyable life. I attended a few events, and went back home to my family. There was no paparazzi culture then, hardly anyone had heard of the concept. Shoots on locations used to be beautiful, as the stars personally gave us so much time. There were more mahurats than success bashes and wrap parties. No one dared shoot at funerals, and the Page 3 culture was alive and thriving. Today, in comparison, I live like a cop. I have to be ready to shoot at any hour and sleep in shifts, as parties don’t end before midnight. Also, funerals are paparazzi central, as you get to click celebrities who would never want to be photographed otherwise.
A lot has changed in the last decade. The industry has become so fast-paced that one has to cover everything, from birthday parties and funerals to regular film launches and on-the-sets shoots. Faces from the society circuit that were seen daily in the papers are as good as banned now, as pages are only meant for Bollywood celebs.
Party is over
Till a couple of years ago, standing outside a restaurant or waiting at the airport to click celebs was unheard of, but today it is a must if you want to compete in the market. Photographers have become puppets, and it is the PR machinery of the stars and films that takes advantage of this competition. Everyone is looking for that exclusive picture, and this has led to massive corruption — one has to bribe drivers and pay security guards for tip-offs on the whereabouts of celebrities. I, however, prefer to keep away from bribes and invest money in my people instead. But, yes, the respect that a photographer had has diminished.
Technology has brought forth challenges that we never faced earlier. Social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter have almost destroyed film photographers, as reporters and actors are posting pictures online. This makes our work obsolete. Earlier, everyone, from magazines to those writing on the Internet, depended on us. Today, they get some candid shots on their mobile phones that are, at times, better than the images we click in spite of waiting outside a celebrity’s house the whole night. Piracy has become a massive nuisance, and since there are way too many loopholes in the system, people are misusing our hard work. This wasn’t the case a few years ago.
But there still is hope. Financially, things are getting better. There is so much interest in Bollywood that financiers are now queuing up to work with good lensmen. Fashion has opened new avenues as well, and there is more demand for well-dressed celebrities and fashion weeks. An increase in the number of magazines and websites has led to a lot of creativity, and photographers have more work today as compared to a decade ago. In spite of all these challenges, I still love my job, and will be on my way to the airport again tonight to click photos of my favourite celebrities.
Viral Bhayani has been a Page 3 photographer for the last 15 years. (Photo: Fahad Samar)