Thank you Indrajit Khambe for being the honorable Guest Mentor of In-Street Monthly Thematic Contest, June 2019.
We are very happy to publish an exclusive interview with Indrajit Khambe to know his view and approach to Photography.
– Please tell us a bit about yourself and How did you start in photography?
[Indrajit] Hello, my name is Indrajit Khambe and I am from Kankavli, a small town situated in south Maharasthra, India. I was born and brought up here. When I was a kid, I used to do a lot of painting. I wanted to be a painter but it didn’t happen because of various reasons. Other than that I was fascinated by farming. My home backyard was having a lot of empty space and I used to do a lot of farming (of course in a small scale) in my childhood days. Observing the growth of various crops was just mesmerizing experience for me in that age. In my college days, I developed interest in computers and after completing my graduation, I started my small computer repairing business from my home in 2001. I was doing well in my business but at the same time, I didn’t want to give up my dream of perusing an art form. So along with business, I joined one theatre group in my town. After doing theatre for almost 10 years, in 2012 I decided to take photography as my medium of expression.
– What makes photography so special for you and what according to you makes a good street shot?
[Indrajit] I think the kind of freedom photography provides us as a form, makes it special. You can pick up a camera and just do your work. And the ability to capture reality through camera makes photography so powerful. I think there are many ways of approaching street photography. Most of the time we think that street photography is all about aesthetics, layers, and composition. It is about these things but in addition, it is about your socio-political expression too. Nowadays majority of the street photography is hugely influenced by the western style and it lacks socio-political content. I think as Indians, we should try to bring more Indian perspective into street photography rather than blindly following western style. Our perspective of shooting Indian streets should be different, unique and contextual.
– These days we are seeing so many great works of current photographers and masters available on the Internet and otherwise. As such, how can we try to be original in our approach?
[Indrajit] Yes, it’s true that we see a lot of images online and it’s very hard to get out of the influence of a variety of works that we see online. I don’t think that influences are always bad for anybody. What we consider as original work could also have an influence of someone/something. I think we have to find the combination of the influence of masters and our own way of looking at the world. In the initial stage of learning it’s very hard to get out of influences. Then your ability to unlearn things comes in to play. We often don’t speak about the unlearning process and it’s the most important ability an artist should/can have. Otherwise, you can’t bring your own perspective to your work. We have to unlearn things on a regular basis and start from the basics. In the initial stage of 3-4 years, I also made a lot of stereotype images. But in the last few years, I decided to go with content only. While roaming around, if I see any composition similar to any photograph I have seen before, I prefer not to make an image. But when I see something connecting to my socio-political understanding of a place, I go for it. This is the approach I have developed for me in the last few years. And especially street photography creates a lot of stereotype images and reason for that is we are not exploring new places and ordinary looking places. We are not looking for images in our backyard. And that’s the reason why most of the times I prefer to work around my village only.
– Tell us about your approach in photography these days and since you are more focused on documentary projects, please share your approach on both documentary and street as well.
[Indrajit] I do work on documentary projects but at the same time, I love landscape and street photography too. I think every photographer should try all these styles and it helps to improve you as a photographer. I never did landscape until I went to Hampi last year. And what I photographed in Hampi was different altogether. I am not claiming that it’s the best work made at Hampi but the kind of Hampi landscapes we usually see, my work was different from that. I don’t have any influence of any previous images made at Hampi. What I think is when you make a photograph it’s important to feel the situation and the place. Shoot what you feel and not just what you see. Your image making should be greatly influenced by what you are feeling inside your mind. So try to connect your images with your inner voice.
– Projects or single images?
[Indrajit] I would say Both. The project allows you to explore many layers of the story. It allows you to understand the subject in every possible way. And why not a single image? At the end of the day what matters is telling a story. A strong single image reaches to a larger mass of people compared to a project. But working on a story/project is important to develop us as a photographer. I think both are equally important.
– The important lesson you’ve learned being a photographer.
[Indrajit] I think any art form gives you hope and dreams. I was going through a tough time in recent years and photography, cycling, spending time in nature with my family helped me a lot to come out from the difficulties. I can’t think my life without these things. Photography is just a natural extension of my life. Lot of things we enjoy in our daily life and photography should/can be a small part of everything. The most important thing I have learned from photography is to live in the present. If you are going through any difficult situation in life, just think about the present and work hard to get out of it. Photography successfully helped me to do that in my life.
– What advice would you offer any aspiring street photographers?
[Indrajit] Just don’t take photography too seriously. There are lots of things in life to explore and experience. Watch good movies and theatre plays, read books and poems, look after your mental and physical fitness and get connected with nature. Get connected with other people who work in different art forms. Spend a lot of time with your family and loved once. These are the things which will develop you as an artist. Photography should be just a small part of your life. Make your own ordinary work rather than copying the master’s work.
– Your favourite photographers and any reference books?
[Indrajit] I love Masters like Josef Koudelka, Larry Towel, Raghu Rai, Raghubeer Singh, Prashant Panjiar, Antonie D’Agata, Trent Park. The list is endless. From current generation Indian photographers, I like Sohrab Hura, Ronny Sen. I have many favorite books. For this interview, I would say ‘Exile’ of Josef Koudelka.