A conversation with Chennai based acclaimed Street Photographer Gurunathan Ramakrishnan
Gurunathan opens up about what drives him to street photography, his feelings just before he clicks that shutter and much more, in this exclusive interview by India SPC co-founders Bhabani Sankar Mishra & Gaurav Patharkar.
Gaurav Patharkar: Your work is amongst the finest in India. We would like to know what drives you to do street photography?
Gurunathan Ramakrishnan: Everybody needs some kind of art form to express their ideas - to nurture their creative side. I guess mine is street photography. It helps me to create new ideas, composition and to feel/understand the social fabric. Besides, my job as an architect is a bit more structured, driven by lot of parameters, the art of creating photos has no boundaries, whatsoever.
Bhabani Sankar Mishra: Once you are out on the streets what's your approach? What goes in your mind before you click the shutter?
Gurunathan Ramakrishnan: I normally roam around for a while, get myself used to the space/place. Also while approaching a subject, I establish that my objective is to click photos (not on a particular subject). Even after practicing street photography for a long time, this approach helps a person like me. For the second part, I normally look for some kind of graphical formation. Some kind of play between characters, fore ground and back ground connections, contrast in everyday life.
Do you have any favorite places to shoot and why?
I like places with lot of activities, also places with a bit of architectural significance in terms of form, color, shadows. The main reason is my photos are conglomeration of people and the background. Generally, I prefer sunny evenings to get a better shadow play. Among the places I have visited, I like to shoot in Varanasi and Bengaluru streets.
Do you face any challenges while shooting in India? How do you overcome or avoid them?
I feel we are still a bit conservative people, so we need to respect each other's privacy. To me, avoiding an embarrassing situation is better than getting good frames. So the challenges are mainly to approach a subject, what is the distance to keep, scale to have. Like I said earlier, once you are used to the place and the people surrounding you are bit casual it's easier for me to click. A simple chat and smile will help a lot.
We have seen quite a few pictures clicked by mobile lately by you, what made you pick a mobile phone instead of a regular camera ?
I normally find my regular camera bit bulky and creates unwanted attention. Mobile phones make it a bit easy to carry around and click some candid shots much easier. But there is a definite quality difference between the two. So if its a festival and I need not to be worried about being invisible, I prefer regular camera.
Tell me something about the way you like to shoot. Are you inclined towards shooting a series of pictures to tell a story or single images? What is a better expression for you?
Photo stories may not suit me, as I prefer singles, but maybe I can work on some collections. I don't have plans to explore any technical aspect in street photography, but like to travel whenever possible and explore more streets, cities.
It is said that sometimes artists get a creative block. Do you also get a creative block? How do you deal with it?
Yes, Its true. It's worse in my case. I tell myself to take things easy and move forward, you will get your frames when the time is right. All we need to do is to plan a bit and try to shoot as much we can.
What would be your advice or recommendations to aspiring street photographers? Any recommended reads?
Though few people feel street photography has hit a dead-end, I feel there are still lot of ways and modes we can explore. Have an open mind, study paintings, observe good movies, work with light are the things I tell myself.
Would you like to recommend some painters and movies that could stimulate creativity for our readers?
Among painters, I would suggest Hans Hoffman and Charles Mayton, for movies, do watch The tree of life, Assassination of Jessie James by Coward Robert Ford, Kannathil Muthamittal (Tamil), Aranya Kandam (Tamil), Babel, Samsara (Documentary movie).
To know more about Gurunathan, visit his page at India SPC