“I was in Delhi at that time, and I got a call from someone I know who lives in Paris. He is a photographer too, and he told me about an assignment that he was supposed to get but due to his unavailability he asked me if I can do it. I agreed. The magazine editor called me, and I told them that I will be in Banaras in few days and can be contacted. Once I was back, I received a call that there is a person who is a writer and you have to do his photoshoot. I didn’t know him at that time. I went, met him and showed my work which he loved. Then I asked him how much time he has and he said 2 hours. It was evening time, so there was no light and I couldn’t take good snaps of his. So I asked him when is his flight, he said morning. I requested if he can come at 5 am and he agreed. Next day, from the Assi till Dashshwamedh Ghat, I took a lot of good pictures of his. It was a good shoot. Once he left, I got to know who he was.”
He shares smilingly, “This was in 2012 for the book Immortals of Meluha, and my lens captured the writer with heart stuck in Banaras “Amish Tripathi”. We met twice after that. I am still in touch with him.”
Bringing midweek blog of mine and getting up and close with an ace photographer who speaks the language of pictures, frames and lights, Mr Vinay Tripathi.
Known for his Portraits and Concept Shoots, Vinay comes from a background of literature and journalism. His father was a leading journalist of his times and had a keen interest in Hindi literature. Along with that he also used to dabble with photography, something which made Vinay what he today is. His childhood was spent among the best of the Hindi laureates as well as journalists. Hearing them and absorbing their knowledge, Vinay grasped the sense of writing and language at a very tender age.
“ My subconscious mind picked up nuances of writing. While growing up, I inclined towards movies like mad, bunking classes for movies from 6th-10th. I use to read a lot, had all the magazines in my home, be it Mayapuri, Filmfare, Screen, Stardust etc. Anything and everything about Bollywood, I had the knack to know it.”
His writing was discovered accidentally by Sub-Editor of Swatantra Bharat – Mr Pradeep Tiwari who happened to be his dad’s friend and use to come to meet him. He was amazed to witness the young lad’s surreal knowledge about the industry.who was merely a class 10yh student!
As Vinay fondly remembers his childhood days he shares, “I remember, him telling my father that your son has superb knowledge about movies, he is the encyclopedia of Bollywood. I clearly remember that conversation till now, whatever he would start mentioning, I would tell him the entire story” he giggles. “So, in 1992, on the eve of Smita Patil Ji’s birth anniversary in October, he said that he needs an article about her. And instantly I asked him, should I write? I was in 10th at that time. I immediately took out a pen and paper, wrote the article and handed it over to him. then and there. He was speechless and said I never knew that a small kid of 16-17 can write this beautiful. The very next day it got published. Teachers in my school too appreciated it very much. Thus my writing started.”
And that lead to him writing a few articles more. Also in his father’s owned newspaper – Pratimaan, he started handling the cinema column. People started appreciating his art of writing and soon he became the talk of the town.
“I use to get tickets for 1st day 1st shows – Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, Bombay, Jurrasic Park, I saw all of these! And then, I use to write reviews! Few topics here and there as well, I use to write everything, I use to love writing.”
And then, then fate turned the tables. Just after he passed his 12th, due to some prodigious incidents, he got married and was soon blessed with a beautiful daughter and a cute son.
“I got married at 19, had my first child (daughter) at the age of 21” he smiles.
He used to work in a Cancer Research Centre that time and teach the specially able children in a small school. This went on for many years, his whole 20s actually. This age, meant to be more career-oriented, the golden years of your life wherein you put everything you got at the front, you work your ass off to grow up in your career, and here he was, putting more focus at home to raise his kids, doing more CSR kind of a job. “But then, in my late teens, I did all of it. I was earning well, I was doing great for myself, much ahead from all the people of my age, so that somehow settles the score, right?” and he bursts into a laugh.
The time when fate turned his life upside down, for good!
“At the age of 32, in 2010, my father gifted me a camera saying that the view is awesome. But I use to hate photography at that time, as it’s a very time-taking process.I too was missing my creativity satisfaction so started with it.”
Social Media was new entrant that time and Vinay too started there.
Remembering those days he says “I clicked few pictures and posted on Facebook and to my amazement, I got 3-4 calls from different cities. All stature of people appreciated it, they were like – you never showed this variant of your personality I did this without any support, without any tutorial, and it became a trend. I use to click pictures and post, and people use to appreciate and give positive remarks through which I learned too. Within a year, he started getting good assignments. Having not much exposure in his early days out of Banaras and never participated in any big photography competition as such.
He got all that he wanted just by excelling his knowledge and deep understanding of his work.
You specialize in Portrait and Concept Shoot, why did you choose this genre?
“I love being with human beings. This aspect of mine motivated me towards taking portraits, also gradually I started concept shoots. But this doesn’t stop me from doing street too, fashion, travel, landscape everything but people attract me. When a person comes in front of you, that person is clueless about the angle you will take. That’s my job as a cameraman, moreover, I feel like a director that time. I often meet people who say my photos don’t come good. I have clicked for 1000s of people like that and showed them that they are wrong.
Everyone loves to look good, feel good and show good about themselves and photography is just the medicine.”
Well, that was deep. But if let to describe his work, how will he do that?
“If you see a movie, there are shots in every scene, which people generally forget because it runs fast. But if you observe closely, there’s a still in it, like a photo, which has been shot in 1000th of a second time, or 100th of a second, now that is expression. There are so many photographs, which were shot in the frame of 10000th of a second but people remember it even now. For example, Steve McCurry’s famous photograph – The Afghan Girl, which was the cover pic of National Geographic magazine, or Raghu Rai’s photo, the one he took of a woman who holds a pooja ki thali in her hand and was coming out from the holy Ganges, this shot was in Manikarnika Ghat, then another of Raghuveer Singh’s, which he took from Scindia Ghat some 30 years ago when there was no internet, those photographs are still being praised.
So photography is liked because it gives you an impression in a second, and you remember it throughout your life. If you see the poster of Mughal-E-Azam, or Pakeezah, or Sholay, it just represents a moment but by seeing that moment, you get the flashback, the whole movie, each incident in it comes in front of you. That’s the power of photography.”
Wow! Wind gushing through my face while I am standing at the top of a mountain. Didn’t his answer make you feel the same way? Well, moving ahead I needed to ask him a priceless question – Photography as a profession is considered very cool to others but what about the pain/struggle behind it?
“If I post an early morning picture, people like, comment and appreciate it but they don’t realize that to take that 1 shot we have to stay awake all night or in rain, cold, humidity has to stay outside waiting for the perfect shot. After travelling on foot the whole day, after waiting for innumerable hours, you get one single shot which when posted, people like. It happened with me too, that while doing any concept shoot, when I asked people to come early morning at 5 am in winter’s, or at 12 noon in summer’s in the scorching heat when the sand beneath your feet starts burning you, then the pain arrives in the picture. Then they tell me, oh you do such hard work. That you can’t witness in the photograph. In the photograph you only witness the beauty, the battle fought behind that remains hidden. Another example which I can give is, after witnessing my success into photography, around 300-400 friend of mine tried their hands in photography out of which only 5-10 are active still.” he bursts out again.
Very important message out there, but when a newcomer shows up, he is concerned about the different genres in photography, basically confusing him about which genre to take forward.
“I don’t believe that photography in itself can be categorized. I was watching an interview of Raghu Rai and he stated that – Photography is Photography. Even if you stand in your balcony, or at the top of a mountain, doesn’t matter what you click, but whatever you click is photography.” But due to the business people, and to make things easy for everyone, categories were created. So, Wedding Photographer, Fashion Photographer, Street Photographer, Travel, Wildlife, Food but all this I believe is just for professional terms. It is to make easy the process of hiring someone accordingly. So for example, when I do concept shoots – it’s a mix of fashion and street. But that doesn’t stop me from taking pictures while am travelling or at a wedding. I simply don’t stop myself saying that oh, this is not my forte, I shouldn’t be doing this. People, these days have established themselves which is not required.
A photographer is a photographer wherever he goes, he can take a photograph of anything, anyone. Just he should have a sense of 3 things all together, lighting, timing, and framing (composition). Somebody having that, he/she can take a pic of anything/anyone.”
Banaras is known to be the Mecca of Street Photography! Your views on it?
“I believe this phrase came into existence recently due to the internet. Banaras is a mixed place. It’s known for its lanes, lifestyle, faces, temples, religions, education and many more. There can be 1000 things which can tangle you. And there are many people who are doing a great job in their particular subjects. I believe its good from the documentation part for the next generation. Yes, this is Mecca I believe, the city is beautiful and vibrant so you can take any picture from any angle and it becomes beautiful. Even an amateur can take a beautiful picture, such is the city. A student who was here earlier, use to take great pictures, but when he went to Goa for higher studies in photography, his teacher complained that he is having basic problems as it’s not easy to get good frames in every city. ‘Banaras bigaad deta hai bahut’ was his line.”
That was a feastful insight. But everyone seems to be a photographer now! Your views on it?
“Self -promotion is ok. The problem is that I know 1000s of people who have done photography for mere 1-2 years and I see that their pages have more than 100,000 followers. The bitter truth is, they start taking workshops of photography. That’s when I feel bad that after learning only the basics and that too from internet, folks simply go on teaching people. So they themselves have half knowledge and then the same is passed to others as well. Most of them don’t know the very basic stuff about photography, they just get followers and they do it only for money and fame.”
Right! Even I remember the famous quote of John Keats – “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing”. So moving forward then, what will be your message for the teens who want to pursue photography as a career?
“There is no shortcut. Learn a few basic things, like camera, its buttons, features, it is very important to have this information. Then learn 3 things – lighting, timing and composition and then start to follow those photographers in the genre you want to move ahead.
You start clicking! Keep clicking! Don’t copy anyone, just observe and learn, and practice, practice is most important.”
Correctly said it is – Practice makes a man perfect (err… no offence ladies).
Ever thought of moving out of Banaras…
This pakka Banarasi passionate photographer concludes in his own words,
“Probably till 30, I use to think that I will settle somewhere else, but now, I don’t think so. Everything is so nearby now, you can take a flight, do your work and come back home.”
The simplicity and warmth of being rooted in city of his love are evident and makes his accomplishments, even more, astonishing. He humbly accepts his achievements of being a part of National Geography magazine, Hello International Magazine, his stint with Cinematography of a Hollywood movie. He says in a parting note,
“the love and appreciation of people from all over the world for my work is very close to me and important as well.”
Vinay Tripathi – The man who sees the world through his lens and can make anything and everything beautiful has a Midas touch!
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