In continuation with our Behind The Lens series, here is our second personal interaction with one of the most versatile photographers in the photojournalism industry. The eccentric work done by Chandan has always inspired many young talents but what might inspire you even more is the extremely honest style adopted by the photographer in his communication. I hope that you enjoy reading through it as much as I did know about all this.
Chandan works for the AFP. He is a photographer based out of New Delhi. Famous for many of his works, he is mostly reknowned for his photo series Kids "OFF" Track. He is an active member of the instagram community and particularly uses his iPhone (Started clicking with iPhone 3 and he now uses an iPhone 7)for the same. "His Instagram feed is replete with photos that make you want to take a pause and appreciate the peculiarities of urban India.", as quoted by Better Photography magazine in one of its articles.
Ques: What is photography to you?
I started photography in 2013 and it happened by accident. I was a college drop out. I was pursuing Business Studies and I decided to drop it and do something else. Fortunately, this turned out to be my ‘Something else’. But, eventually, I realized this was not my ‘something else’ but it was ‘THE’ thing I should continue with in my life.
If you are wondering that, “how I decided upon it?” I will tell you. I am not a morning person. I am not particularly comfortable when it comes to leaving my bed early in the morning. However, I remember waking up at 4 a.m. without much effort to capture the perfect light and shoot a particular thing. Hence, it was just photography for which I really realized that I am passionate about and I really became obsessed with it (says he with a heartfelt laughter). So, I joined AFP in March 2014!
Ques: How has Instagram helped you as a professional photographer?
When I was shooting out in the streets for ‘Daily Life’, it was always a question about what should I shoot for- whether I should shoot for my wire, which was my real job or whether I should shoot for Instagram. At times, I used to get great frames on my phone which I can’t use for my wire and eventually my bosses used to mock me for that. So, I started shooting simultaneously (with my phone and camera) for both (Instagram and AFP).
Instagram is really special to me. As I told you earlier that Mahakumbh was the time when I started photography in 2013. There I saw a humongous number of photographers and I asked myself skeptically if I shall be recognized as a photographer amongst this sea of photographers. This is when Instagram came into the picture. I won’t exaggerate but Instagram is what kept my hopes alive. People started following me and liking my work. My peers and relatives started referring to me as a photographer. So, in a way, Instagram gave me a wonderful platform where I was tagged as a photographer.
Before joining the AFP, I got a blog in the New York Times and many other publications. So, to sum it all up, Instagram gave me a boost that I had always needed.
Ques: Could you tell us about some artists whom you regularly follow or take inspiration from?
Yes, yes of course! I follow Kevin Frayer, who is my mentor, my brother, my friend, I don’t know, he’s my everything! (Says he after a short pause) In 2013, he was the Associated Press Chief of Asia, but I didn’t meet him then. We met at an event and he was about to join Getty Images. He had come to India for his personal project. He asked me if I could assist him and that changed my life. He mailed me regarding this and that was the best E-mail I have read in my life (says he laughing humbly).
And the other photographer I particularly admire is Daniel Beruhulak. He is the first person to ever give me a personal review. I never show my pictures to anyone but he was the first person whom I showed my entire work to. He gave me really helpful inputs and that made me what I am today. And, I am really excited and enthralled to know that he won his second Pulitzer Prize last week only (10th April).
Ques: Is there something new that you are experimenting with right now?
Indeed there is something that I am doing these days. I am trying my hand at the twin lens reflection camera Mamiya C330. I have shot a lot of pictures with it and currently, I am doing a project in Puducherry on the contrast between the Tamilians and the French people. Finally, I have decided to get back to the medium format and this is the first time that I will ever shoot from a fixed camera in the medium format. I am a photographer from the digital era and hence this has really pulled me out of my comfort zone.
Ques: Could you share with us an eventful day in your life?
If you look at my wire and not my Instagram you will find a lot of stories. Every day is a story. Every day is different- one day you are shooting a pre wedding and the very day you end up shooting a silly product. At one time you are clicking a boring event and the very next moment I am in the middle of a mob where a farmer has committed a suicide. So there are such eventful contrasts all the time.
Ques: Is there any message that you would like to convey to the photography community?
There is one thing that I would definitely like to say is that in the most challenging thing today’s world as a photojournalist is to maintain your ethics! This is what I struggle with every day. We are not allowed to stage anything. In fact, I act like a dumb and deaf person. When people ask me anything while I am shooting, I don’t answer them because I don’t wish to change the scenario by my responses. I can’t change their expressions or their mood! I can’t change anything! Why should I ask a person to stand in good light? When you go out shooting something and there are other photographers as well. It can be anything in general. You will encounter many instances where in people try to arrange the photograph in a particular frame. That is something that I can’t shoot. I can’t shoot an arranged photograph.
There are many instances when I return to my office with no work at all to show them. But thankfully, I work in one of the world’s biggest regency which respects my decisions and supports my ideas! So, yes people should follow the ethics before calling themselves a photographer because it is really easy to differentiate between a staged and a natural moment. It really breaks my heart when the so called street photographers stage pictures that shouldn’t be done.
All the photos used here are clicked by Chandan Khanna.
Blog is written by Shivam Tiwari for World Photographers Club