Photography: Pictures that speak
Pick your favourite celebrity wedding pictures from the last five years and chances are that all have been clicked by Joseph Radhik and his team: Nick Jonas’s reaction on finding his name in Priyanka Chopra’s mehendi, Vicky Kaushal and Katrina Kaif sharing a quiet moment against the backdrop of a sunset, or Virat Kohli lovingly kissing Anushka Sharma’s forehead. Radhik’s unblinking lens has made sure we were privy to some of the most intimate and unfiltered moments of these big fat Indian weddings.
“My photos are not fine art. The first reaction I am expecting from you is ‘awww!’, and for you to smile. I see weddings as manifestations of love, and nothing else. And my only requirement is that you have a great time,” says Radhik.
Radhik’s photographs are not the laboriously posed and carefully orchestrated ‘candid shots’ weddings these days have become notorious for. These look like they’ve been clicked by a friend who is part of the gang.
Friend with benefits
“That is precisely the idea behind our endeavours: How would your wedding look if it was photographed by your friend? We are paid to be that friend!” smiles Radhik, continuing, “When you are dancing in your baraat, I need to be a baraati, not an outsider. I need to be part of the emotion to capture the emotion.”
What makes all his images so perfect? “That’s the skill and the nerd in me,” chuckles the 38-year-old photographer.
Radhik helms Stories, a 23-member team of 11 photographers and filmmakers he has handpicked and trained. And their USP is those split-second precious moments. “We don’t retouch our photos. They look perfect because of the emotions they capture. If you check, you will find a lot of imperfections,” he reveals.
“Getting the perfect moment is more important than creating a technically perfect picture. Photography is five per cent skill, five per cent your gear and 90 per cent being there. And for wedding photography, it is not enough to just be there physically, you need to completely be there emotionally,” Radhik explains.
Becoming a professional photographer had never been part of Radhik’s career plan. He grew up as a typical Hyderabad boy who, after finishing engineering, went to a business school, and post an IIM degree joined a corporate job.
“Photography was always a hobby. I had got my first digital camera when I was still doing my engineering. It was a gift from my dad. I would only photograph sunsets and insects!” he laughs.
But when his parents made him responsible for finding a wedding photographer for his sister’s wedding, a universe opened to him.
“It was December 2008. I had been in love with photography for eight years, but I had not even heard of a genre called wedding photography!” Radhik shakes his head.
He clicked a few shots at his sister’s wedding, but being the brother of the bride was the full-time job. However, this piqued his interest in the genre. “Between 2008 and 2009, I would go to my day job and spend the first two hours sitting in my cubicle looking up wedding photography. I was addicted!” says the nerd.
Then, in December 2009, Radhik shot an image at a friend’s wedding and put it on his Flickr page. This single shot landed him his first wedding shoot. And this was to become his turning point.
The shooting star!
Radhik quit his day job in October 2010 to become a professional photographer. Fifteen days later, his story was on CNN IBN. The press coverage led to him sharing his story and vision at various seminars, and during one such conference, he met a friend of Allu Arjun’s, who invited him to shoot the Telugu heartthrob’s wedding.
“It was in March 2011. Even being a Telugu boy, I had no idea how big Bunny was; I had not watched any of his movies!” laughs Radhik, who then went on to shoot another wedding in the extended family, that of actor Ram Charan Teja, Allu Arjun’s first cousin and son of Telugu superstar, Chiranjeevi.
Radhik convinced his brother, two years his senior and with business school qualifications, to join him. Together, they formed Stories. It was December 2012. By then Radhik had shot four of the biggest weddings of the year. But Joseph Radhik images became a household name only five years later.
“In December 2017, we shot Virat and Anushka’s wedding, and we became a mainstream brand of sorts. Everyone in India had seen those Virat-Anushka images, there was no escaping them!” he laughs.
It takes a village
Brand Joseph Radhik today is not a one-man show; it is a 23-member strong army! “I have a team shooting, it is not just me. But there is standardisation,” he explains. In fact, the weddings of Jasprit Bumrah, Varun Dhawan and Rajkummar Rao were helmed by Shivali Chopra, the creative director at Stories.
Till a few years back, ‘wedding photographers’ were not taken seriously in India. In fact, the ‘wedding photographer’ label was almost frowned upon. “A lot of people, seeing my work, suggested that I should not call it wedding photography, but coin a term for it. But I don’t see anything to be ashamed of. It is my identity,” he says.
It is not all fun and games, however. “The misconception people have about my profession is that it is a glamorous job. It’s not! From being in the line of fire of haldi, to splashes of water, to sitting down on a muddy patch for that low angle shot, to jostling through a crowd during the baraat, it is all part of our job,” he says. “It’s 30 per cent of the rigour of a sports job and 20 per cent that of a photojournalist’s job. But at least, we work in beautiful destinations and air conditioned halls!” he chuckles.
From HT Brunch, January 16, 2022
Follow us on twitter.com/HTBrunch
Connect with us on facebook.com/hindustantimesbrunch