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World Photography Day: India through an artist’s lens

On World Photography Day, actor and stand-up comedian Raviraj Kande gets candid about his passion to tell stories through pictures.

art and culture Updated: Aug 19, 2017 12:04 IST
Etti Bali
Etti Bali
Hindustan Times
Raviraj Kande,World Photography Day,Mumbai Street Photography
Raviraj Kande’s street portraits have a quaint, compelling quality about them.

In photography, there is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality,” said legendary photographer Alfred Stieglitz. And this very subtlety makes actor and stand-up comedian Raviraj Kande’s captures unique. His portraits may seem simple at the first glance, but they slowly unravel a quaint, compelling quality about them, and grow on you. On the occasion of World Photography Day, Kande talks about what goes behind making a great photograph. What started off as a hobby turned into a passion, and soon became a way of life for Kande. “My work involves a lot of travelling. I wanted to have a hobby, so I started clicking pictures on my phone,” he says. As he got more engrossed into photography, he bought a simple mirrorless camera, which was easy to carry along during his travels.

Working out of Mumbai, he felt that there was a lack of landscapes and sceneries to capture, which led him to click portraits of people. “Whatever there is, one has to make the best of it. So, the thought of clicking ordinary people came into my mind. I just take my camera and go on walks. I don’t go to special locations to find subjects. It happens naturally,” he says. His experience of acting and stand-up comedy comes in handy in photography. “You can’t go on the stage without a sense of boldness. It adds a little edge to your personality and it helps connecting with people. You don’t fear approaching people,” he says.

Kande’s street portraits showcase an India with faces that tell a tale of thriving and hope, despite poverty and suffering. “This contrast is a part of our identity and reality. This is a part of who we are as Indians, a part of our existence. This is not something that we should be ashamed of, nor do we have to publicise it unduly. There is never a sense of shame in these pictures. People live their lives with a lot of grace despite hardships. They have self-respect and dignity. This is the India I wanted to showcase,” he says. Kande says that 98 per cent of people across the world enjoy getting clicked. “It gives them a sense of importance. They feel that there’s something special about them, and that’s why someone wants to click them,” says Kande, who makes it a point to show the picture to his subjects once he has clicked them.

Kande has also made a video under his series ‘Photo Diaries with Raviraj Kande’, which shows how he goes about clicking street portraits in Mumbai.

The key to being a good street photographer, according to Kande, is not to make too many deliberate efforts to make your subject comfortable. “The more you try to put them at ease, the more rigid your subject might become. If you try to make friends with them, they will let down their guards, and the pictures might end up looking contrived. You won’t get natural, spontaneous shots,” he says. When Kande comes across those who have a distinctive face and personality, he simply compliments them, and tells them that he wants to click a picture. While most people may readily agree, there could be some who may not like to get clicked. He says that it’s important for a street photographer to take refusal gracefully. “People could be shy, they could be busy or there could be problems going on in their lives. If they don’t want to get clicked, it’s not your fault. It’s best not to pester them,” he says.

Kande says that patience is yet another quality that all street photographers must have. “There are days when I go for a walk and I don’t click a single picture, while there are days when I click about 15 pictures that get me applause. So, as a street photographer, you must realise that certain days are not going to work for you,” he says.

Kande believes that a great camera is not a prerequisite for expressing your creativity. (Photos: Raviraj Kande)

Talking about taking compelling pictures, he says that technique is something that anybody can learn; one doesn’t really need to go deep into the technical aspect. “Unless you want to open a camera repairing shop, you don’t really have to delve too deeply into the technical aspect. Ultimately, what makes a great picture is your understanding of the subject. It’s about how you perceive the subject. Two photographers may have exactly the same setting in their cameras but they would look at the subject differently, and that’s what makes the difference,” he explains. “The framing of the shot, the angle, all these come under aesthetics. A person who has a great sense of aesthetics will always have a one up when it comes to photography. This sense is cultivated through observation, trial and error,” says Kande, who has acted in famous television serials such as Sailaab and Teacher.

Kande also believes that a great camera doesn’t have much to do with taking great pictures. “You don’t need fancy equipment to take pictures. A great camera is not a prerequisite when it comes to expressing your creativity,” he says. Kande himself uses a simple mirrorless camera and basic lenses such as a wide angle lens and a portrait lens for clicking his pictures.

The advice Kande has for aspiring photographers is to practice as much as they can. “For a year, every day, I used to click about 300-400 photographs, even if it was raining or it was too cold. With practice, what you do becomes your second nature. You see the light and you know what sort of settings you require. You start understanding myriad aspects of photography. It’s like driving the car. You don’t have to think which gear to use. Once you are at ease with the technical aspect , you can start concentrating on the aesthetics,” he says. “It’s similar to an artist choosing the canvas and paints based on his experience. And then he focuses on creating something amazing,” he explains. Another important factor is to have really high standards. It doesn’t matter if you are shooting with your phone or a medium format camera. “Your benchmark should be somebody like (photographer) Steve McCurry,. He is an amazing story teller. His pictures have both context and aesthetics,” he says. Kande is also a fan of photographer Damien Lovegrove, based in Bristol, UK. “His pictures are full of technical marvels. Every picture seems like a painting,” he says.

Actor and stand-up comedian Raviraj Kande

Style wise

The actor-comedian cum photographer prefers casual, laidback style, but likes to experiment with his looks. “I prefer comfort over fashion. It is important to dress according to your body type. Since I am muscular, I wouldn’t go for tight denims. I would rather go for straight fit. Not everything that is fashionable will look good on you, so it is important to find out what suits your personality the best,” he says.

Compiled by: Akshay Kaushal

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First Published: Aug 19, 2017 11:49 IST