Photography: Pictures that speak

Marriages might or might not be made in heaven but weddings are best viewed through the lens of Joseph Radhik
This was shot at their (Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma) reception. It is not a posed photo and it is unfiltered emotions, and a moment captured at just the right time. It is not one of the more popular photos but it is easily one of the favourite photos of my career so far (Joseph Radhik)
This was shot at their (Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma) reception. It is not a posed photo and it is unfiltered emotions, and a moment captured at just the right time. It is not one of the more popular photos but it is easily one of the favourite photos of my career so far (Joseph Radhik)
Published on Jan 15, 2022 10:57 PM IST
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ByAnanya GhoshAnanya Ghosh

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.

It is a picture shot during Priyanka’s mehendi where all the aunts are there and Nick has found his name on her hand. It is shot with the camera right in there. I love how this image breaks the boundaries. Every celebrity photo till then was shot from a certain distance. But here the camera is right in the middle of the action. And that is extraordinary (Joseph Radhik)
It is a picture shot during Priyanka’s mehendi where all the aunts are there and Nick has found his name on her hand. It is shot with the camera right in there. I love how this image breaks the boundaries. Every celebrity photo till then was shot from a certain distance. But here the camera is right in the middle of the action. And that is extraordinary (Joseph Radhik)

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.

Joseph describes this photograph as “so simple and yet so captivating”. It’s the kind of photo that he says he has always wanted to make, the kind that doesn’t have any gimmicks or effects, just beauty in the purest sense (Joseph Radhik)
Joseph describes this photograph as “so simple and yet so captivating”. It’s the kind of photo that he says he has always wanted to make, the kind that doesn’t have any gimmicks or effects, just beauty in the purest sense (Joseph Radhik)

Origin story

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.

Tips by Joseph Radhik
Tips by Joseph Radhik

“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.

Josephy says, “Our images look perfect because of the emotions they capture. We don’t retouch our photos. The image might not be perfect from a photography point of view, but people are blown away by this because of the sheer joy that it captures; it is their unadulterated happiness that makes the Rajkummar-Patralekha images so glorious!” (Shivali Chopra)
Josephy says, “Our images look perfect because of the emotions they capture. We don’t retouch our photos. The image might not be perfect from a photography point of view, but people are blown away by this because of the sheer joy that it captures; it is their unadulterated happiness that makes the Rajkummar-Patralekha images so glorious!” (Shivali Chopra)

“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.

Joseph Radhik
Joseph Radhik

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

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Monday, May 23, 2022