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“There is freedom in Photography” An in-depth interview with IT Professional turned Travel Photographer - Mithun Prabhu

Mithun Prabhu1) How did you come to love photography, were there any early influences?

My dad was always interested in photography and whenever he used to get time, he took his Yashica & Minolta Camera and clicked pictures. As a child, I used to pick it up and start clicking whenever I got the permission to. When, in 2003, I visited the US for the first time, I picked up my first Samsung 1.2 Megapixel point and shoot camera. And, I was amazed to see how digital technology worked, the size SD card size was small but we used to enjoy clicking and transferring pictures. Then sometime in 2005, I got my first DSLR Nikon D40 and started using Auto mode. Later in 2010 I got, Nikon D3200. I have traveled to so many countries around the world on business trips with that camera and used Auto mode until one day in 2016 when I met Shankar Subramanian at Venkatappa Art Gallery for 2016 Thank God Its Saturday (TGIS) Exhibition and he showed me that riot of colors taken by renowned friends from TGIS.

He introduced me to Anand Sharan sir, who later became my mentor and I got myself, Crop Nikon D7200 and since then, there’s been no looking back. Basically, a self-made Photographer and interest plus passion with a heart of a Sea and Length of a Mountain. Now, there is no looking back and want to impart my learning to the younger generation to inspire and especially my kids and I am just waiting for them to grow up to really accompany me in travel and shoots and that is my dream.

2) Would you call yourself a Travel Photographer only, or are there any other genres you like to practice?

I, as a photographer, have always been keen to involve myself in various genres of photography varying from Street, Travel, Macro, Astro, Nature, Landscapes, Portraits and Wildlife.

For me, the most important thing is being true to the “being human” factor which sets the ethics for treatment of animals, human being,

nature. I personally hate when these ethics are not followed just for some award-winning shots. I also take up assignments related to product photography, event photography like birthdays and pre-wedding shoots, which, I have done for a few close friends only to gain experience and be a part of their fun, wonderful moments. 3) What inspires you to keep pursuing Photography? The fact that photography allows me to bring my creative side to life, and to become a visual storyteller motivates me to go off bounds – sometimes without sleep and without breaks to capture an exciting moment, and the moment doesn’t always happen in your comfort boundaries. My current IT profession is monotonous so the Photography allows me to have creative freedom to document things, to see from my camera lens those that a human eye finds monotonous (e.g. Sunset, every day in Bangalore Sunset is different sometimes dramatic and vivid), macro life where we walk by as morning walkers most of the times and miss them as example. I also get inspired by all my fellow Indian photographers from TGIS, YPS & international photographers when I look at their out of world work and would want to do the same one day and continue to do the same every day till I live. 4) How do you feel when your work is viewed and appreciated by a large audience? Whenever I hear words of appreciation, I feel happy as if I were in the 7th heaven. For any artist from any field, words of appreciation always are motivating and it inspires them, brings exuberance in them. It pushes them to a different level, where they put in more efforts and do more than what is expected – the extraordinary. For me, personally, I welcome creative criticism more than the words of appreciation as it helps to work on a different level, do the impossible and only improves you. The Indian audience has come to see Photography as an Art form and I am sure in the next few years we shall produce the best in the world from this country at an International Stage. 5) Tell us about photography and its inception? Photography has evolved from the ancient era of pinhole cameras to black white and then to colors, to digital ones with smartphones which are outsmarting some of the best DSLRs today and not to forget Drones. Every year, technology is evolving so rapidly that it has become difficult to catch up with it. But that doesn’t stop me, Photography is an absolute stress buster that allows us to come out of normal mundane life, document and tell stories, use our creative self and show the normal people in the world what they miss in daily life. I can’t imagine how centuries back they used to be accurate to the drop to take pictures and had no flexibility for anything. Nowadays, we are spoilt for choice in brands, in options, mirrored ones and mirrorless ones, lenses tons of them, SD cards, ever-increasing Mega Pixels, Sensors etc. But whatever it is, I consider myself a Nikon brand loyalist, hence in all my photos, there are 2 common hashtags in all my social media posts - #ILoveMyNikon & #ThroughMyLens. I am waiting for the day when Mobile phones shall completely outsmart DSLR and they shall replace DSLRs. I foresee the way they are going, but I still won’t abandon my Nikon and would soon wish to graduate to Full Frame or Mirrorless by this year.

So basically, Photography gets me High, there is no need to take any other supplements to be HIGH.

6) What does Photography mean to you? As famous Photographer Ansel Adams once said "A Good Photograph is knowing where to Stand", is I think this is a very powerful statement, as anyone who has a Camera equipment would know how to click pictures irrespective of modes, can make loads of GBs of photograph, but as a Photographer if you aren’t telling a story, I don’t think you are doing justice to yourself and the subject or story you are trying to weave. In this fast-paced world where all people want to do is swipe right or left, so if your photograph or story doesn’t appeal to you then I think you have lost a chance. You are just another mediocre person who knows how to click with a Camera but doesn’t know how to touch the heart and generate interest in humans who are viewing. You need to have an excellent vision as to what is happening in a scene, how it shall play, what story you want to weave in a few seconds that you may have sometimes. You should be able to draw viewers’ attention to it, and no two photographers standing at the same point looking at same scene would be able to replicate each other’s art and that’s the power that Photographs have leaving the same viewer to think differently based on what you show them. 7) Please share some of your achievements in the photography profession My biggest achievement is my 6-year-old daughter Avantika who likes all my photographs and keeps commenting offline all the time on how best they are (aww so cute isn’t it how daughters are your biggest motivation factors). On a professional note, 2018 has been great for me as I have won a total of FIVE Acceptances in YPS Bangalore conducted National & International Salons which is my opening account in Salons. TGIS Bangalore internal competitions have won an Honorable mention in monsoon contest. My picture a Long Exposure captured of my South City Apartment from Puttenhalli Lake won Second prize in my Inter Apartment Bangalore Photography competition. I am a relatively newbie in these competitions so the idea is to target produce some world-class photographs to win in Salons or International competitions in 2019 and future, a lot of well-wishers have spoken about my pictures having the potential to win something big, am blessed to hear that. I now have a website of my own, an Instagram page with nearly 700+ followers and growing, a Facebook page where I also share my pictures. My biggest achievements also have been in the entire year 2017, every day for 365 days I did pick up a Daily Theme and used to write-up and associate my taken multiple photographs to tell a story around it which was widely appreciated and loved by loads of people and well-wishers.

8) Tell us something about the photography community you belong to. Well, I am a hardcore lifetime member of Thank God Its Saturday (TGIS) wherein I contribute my work, attend workshops, and participate in exhibitions. I am also a Member of Youth Photography Society of Bengaluru (YPS) and participate in talk shows, have received acceptances in its conducted National and International Salons. I am a member of the Photography Society of America (PSA) as well and plan to participate in International competitions as well. Besides that, I am a part of various photography-based groups in Bengaluru and attend their walks regularly. I would also like to take time to mention Sreesha Belakwadi, who has taught me Astro photography which was my childhood dream. It is something that I am very indebted to him and attends the Winter Star Trails workshop regularly. Most importantly, I believe I belong to the Human community, identify myself part of Nature's child, someone who feels for Mother Nature and would like to spend my life amongst them being natural and happy, want younger generations to be drawn to this very critical part which shall make them respect life, nature and understand the coexistence. 9) We see your art is much appreciated, so, is this the general response you receive? India has recently formed a market for Photography, most of the people have become used to going to exhibitions which are art related (especially in Metro cities). But people are still reserved towards the idea of Photography as an art form, as a piece to be sold or to be put at your homes. The urban markets are changing, nowadays, from the past few years, we have been getting great responses in these exhibitions. I myself, have been participating in TGIS & YPS exhibitions for two years in a row, now. TGIS exhibitions we have seen an upsurge in demand and there is more engagement on weekends when some people come to buy, some come to appreciate the art and some with the sole intention to be potential buyers in the future. But with our upcoming Print Experts, there is no doubt that these exhibitions shall see growth and success. I take pride in displaying my pictures in any exhibitions be it in India or outside. 10) Since the digital world is blooming, what do you think is the scope of Photography? In the last two decades, with the increasing use of Digital Photography and more people with access to cameras, the scope of Photography is ever increasing and people have come to embrace it. Nowadays, kids younger than 10 years of age are clicking better pictures than us as they are always on-the-go, flexible and are open-minded. And since the emergence of Digital Technologies and AI, and with brands trying to outsmart each other, I am of the opinion that, the consumers and photographers shall end up benefited.  Just that you as photographer have to exercise caution never to cross the line in wanting to outsmart others, disturb wildlife, people on streets, misuse the kindness of poor or become ruthless in the running to be the best photographer or even worse over do-over post-processing in becoming expert manipulators, pitfalls I guess of making it large. The human race is a winner when people are more competitive in the right spirit.

12) What are your future plans and dreams? Similar to what a famous photographer once said, “God creates the Beauty, My Camera and I are just a mere Witness.” My future plan is to Capture the beauty of nature, the mother earth, her creations across the world, narrate stories and pass them onto next generations and inspire them to acknowledge and appreciate what a normal person forgets to see instead of considering Photography as a mere business. I also wish to go on for a long Photo Expedition not only in India but all over the world capturing people, street, cultures, value systems, festivals, history & architecture to furthermore be able to showcase them in a massive book, one day. I am working as an IT professional as of now and am swamped with work but someday, when I have more time and work takes a back seat, I wish to travel with my kids who have started to show interest in Photography.
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