How many times have you as a photographer craved to see photographs that are so good that they blow your mind? Do fine corners and discrete designs appeal to you? Do you believe that it is in your soul to learn and learn to the point where you want to say you have to learn more? If yes, then in our third edition of the Behind The Lens series we bring to you the pallbearer of architectural photography, the maestro of structured composition and a true artist at heart - Purnesh Dev Nikhanj!
Ques: Which is the most eventful day in your life as a photographer?
It happened during my early days in photography. I loved chasing light and creating illusions. Like any other person, I enjoyed clicking beautiful things without realizing that it is a completely futile task. Once I was attending a two-day workshop by an amazing Indian photographer, Raghu Rai. During the workshop, he asked people to bring in photographs to him and he would critique them. And most of us showed him really beautiful photographs and then he pointed out something that changed my life. He said that “When it is something beautiful that is happening around you, say a beautiful sunset! And if I give my camera to anybody in the street, he/she will capture it beautifully just because it is beautiful. Where is your input? Photography is not about capturing beauty but the beauty of the moment.”
In that workshop, on one of the days, he was showing us some of his works and was telling us about a new insight into photography. It is then when he showed us a picture that he had clicked in which you can see the Taj Mahal in the background. And there are four people who are carrying the corpse of a dear one on their shoulders for cremation. What most people would do is to go and click the Taj beautifully. Whereas he clicked it in a way that the Taj Mahal was framed between these four people and the corpse on their shoulders! (Said he in a completely awestruck manner!) It was framed in such a different perspective that death (symbolic of gloom) is covering love (symbolic of happiness). That shook everybody and we realized Oh we are so dumb (with a heartfelt laughter) and that out of the box thinking changed my life forever.
Ques: How do you think photography has changed your life and what does it mean to you?
Photography for me is divided into two things: one that I pursue professionally and the other that I do for myself. My inclination towards it goes back to my school days where I used to carry a point and shoot camera. I always had a great passion for pursuing light, so whenever I used to find anything that was illuminated by the sun in a different way, I used to capture it. Photography to me was always about understanding light and its interaction with various physical structures around and their interrelations.
As I mentioned in the previous question, the lesson I had learned that day is what completely changed my perspective about the way I used to visualize things and that created a big difference.
You should not go out with an intention of getting a great photograph because when you think like that you won’t get any. The moment will only happen when you are in the feel of photography. It will happen when you are behind the lens and are devoid of creating great photographs. You must know how to balance instincts with intentions. It taught me how to perceive the space around me and also be patient!
Ques: Could you name some photographers on Instagram/Facebook that you regularly follow or take inspiration from?
Instagram and Facebook are quite new. Even before these existed, I have followed many artists. Like any other landscape and architectural photographer, I follow Ansel Adams and there is no denying the fact that he is way ahead of his time. When it comes to artists who are more contemporary I follow an architectural photographer who has a big name in the industry, Iwan Baan. I had a lot of interest in landscapes, skyscapes, and astrophotography. I follow Michael Shainblum and since a very long time! He is somebody I follow religiously. There is another artist who does a mix of photography and photo manipulation, Joel Robinson. He adds a dreamy effect to the photos he clicks.
Ques: What are the new genres and areas of photography that you would love to and are experimenting with?
I always was fond of illusions. So, I have started incorporating optics and digital manipulation to make it look more abstract and dreamy. And eventually, it has started to take shape.
Also, I am working on something which is very innovative. I am trying to incorporate portraiture and architecture together. Generally, portraiture happens in a closed environment with artificial lights and architecture uses both, artificial and natural lights together. What I am trying to capture is Architects with their natural environment, their creations. This will create a memory of the space that they have created and their relationships with that.
Ques: How do you see architectural photography has evolved in the past decade?
Architectural Photography at the world level has witnessed a lot of changes with the advancements in technology and most of which can be attributed to the coming of the age of the internet. And now people have access to a lot of designs than earlier when it could only be accessed through books and magazines that cost a lot and were difficult to access as well.
So, personally, I have taken techniques from landscape photography to architectural photography by joining the dots.
Ques: Talking about India where do you see architectural photography going?
As a field in India, it is in its nascent stage. When I had started, there was nothing to it and I had to struggle with it. It is not like people don’t try it. What matters is that it should be interpreted correctly. People will try different things and get something out of it but only a couple of them will succeed. There are very few rules to it currently and there are plenty that have to be added!
People are very confused about what exactly architectural photography is and whether I get paid for it or not. But eventually, people have started traveling and have started to realize that this is something that can be pursued.
Ques: Do you think it is viable in the future?
The truth is that nobody knows what is viable in the future and what is not. With the technology processing, eventually, machines are going to substitute man. And with that happening, sooner or later it is difficult to assert the viability of art of any kind. Whatever can be automated will eventually go out of the market for you. If you can see that line and choose the wrong side, you will be thrown out of it.
Even when you choose to involve yourself and do not create anything fresh, some other person will throw you out of the market. The best you can do is to keep yourself fresh by adopting new techniques and creating new work.
He suggests that patience is the key!
All the photos for this blog are clicked by Purnesh Dev Nikhanjh himself!
This blog is written by Shivam Tiwari for Worlds Photography Club
For more information about Purnesh you can visit him on his website.