It's April 1st but I think this is real....
I keep getting persistent yet fleeting thoughts of last evening including when I had a quick look at my heart rate on my Fitbit. I can pinch myself (I actually did) and say that it is real! In my almost 8 years as a professional Wedding Photographer, I've never thought I'd say these words but I'm waking up today as the Better Photography, Wedding Photographer of The Year 2016-17!
Right from submitting my entries to being nominated to being the Category Winner and then the faceoff in Mumbai followed by interviews and judging, the last few months have been a great ride. As I type this, my Facebook is buzzing while my mind is full of snippets from the week blazing through like a camera working on burst mode. I probably shouldn't try too hard to preserve them but instead use this time to pen down what's really important.
Respect, Quality and Diversity
Starting with the time I walked into the guest house till the last goodbyes, one of the most cherished things about this event was the respect and camaraderie that the contestants had for each other and with the Better Photography Team. Prakash, Nithin, Sombit, Kaustav and Anil; seeing your work in print and the exhibit of nominees made me realize that there was very little to separate us. I may not shoot like Prakash. Neither does Kaustav work like Anil but we all recognized great work for what it is; Great work! With over 24000 entries made by 7000 photographers from over 280 towns and cities, the magnitude of what this event has grown to become is larger than the sum of our work. And that's beautiful. I can't imagine a better way of coming together and building community. With the kind of quality that we experienced, I wonder if anyone would argue about any among the finalists not deserving the title prize. And I don't say this lightly. I for one, am humbled and extremely honoured to have been selected but I stand squarely with the support and inspiration from the thousands that were part of the event.. Oh and I would still like to try and process images masterfully like Nithin does :) I honestly believe that it's respect and mutual admiration that kept us together. And who can forget the faceoff made possible by our gorgeous and fun models Akash and Amar. Thanks guys :)
Madhavan, Conchita, Sakshi and Natasha; you guys and the rest of the team have worked through this period every day as if it were your last. Arranging things while also filming the event, inviting guests while being sick with barely enough strength to walk around and making sure the show goes on... You know, being in the office till 11pm is terrible but this event was possible only because you sacrificially did! You guys have demonstrated what a team committed to the love of photography can do. But most importantly, as I have said before, you guys made me feel that we were never strangers... But just good friends who happen to meet each other for the first time.
The Seventy Five
None of us would have made the cut if the 75 judges (who through 8 rounds of judging) had not valued our work and deemed it worthy for the next round. And that means a lot considering that the judges were everyone from photographers to couples to wedding planners and even parents of couples! We're talking about real life here folks. This is not just an abstract artistic experiment. And I would like to especially thank Sephi Bergerson and Prakash Tilokani for believing in my work in spite of our differences in approach and philosophy. Your intensity, commitment and love for the profession has reconfirmed the convictions in my practice. You truly honour the craft. Period.
The Cheerleaders, Teachers and Support Shoulders
My apologies to all my friends and family who have showered your wishes and celebrated with me in the real and virtual world. I couldn't thank you all personally but please know that I really appreciate your kindness. To Bappi, Mummy, Abhilash, Sammy, Asha, Stevie... And my wife Lincy who has always been with me irrespective of where I am in my art practice. A mere thank you to all of you will not do but my mind is insufficient for anything else now.
To my friends in the profession who have been with me since the time I've picked up a camera seriously or joined the journey later on to make it even more special; Sanjeet Chowdhury, Sanjay Ramchandran, Naren Dubey, Amal Roy, Aarya Thara, Chenthil Mohan, Nishal Lama, Raj Lalwani, Anand CJ, Sushma Rao, Anbu Jawahar, Amirthraj Stephen, Elvin Lonan, Manas Saran, Glen Cooper, Michael Hintlian, Anurag Bose, Mahesh Shantaram, Jimi Allen, Lisa Krantz... I'm blanking out again... Need sleep you see... You know who you are my dear friend... Is it ok if I can't recollect your name here?
To my friends who aren't photographers but supported me in times when our pockets were empty and our cameras had no more than 4 megapixels... Oh wait... And Tri-X, Ilford PAN 100 or even Fujifilm Neopan was terribly expensive for a broke college student. Some things ever change I guess. So here's a shoutout to Berenice Rarig, Sanish Samuel, Saifuddin Ahmed, Nehal Firdous and Tanmay Kumar, Ipsita Barat, Donald Thampy, Johns George, Dolly Bhattacharjee, Neena John, The International/India Arts Movement and Art For Change Foundation teams... Thanks for the love, encouragement, and push that you gave when it was needed the most.
Bread on the Table and a Book of Memories
Would I trust myself to capture and preserve the memories of my wedding? I can't answer that but hundreds of couples did. Brave and kind couples without whom I couldn't even have this conversation. A special mention and thanks here to Sarmishta and Venkatesh who were my very first wedding clients.
Photographers often pride in calling themselves self-taught. I earnestly believe no such person exists. From the legends of the practice like Sebastiao Salgado and Prabuddha Dasgupta whose work has captured my heart to the everyday non-photographers that I've mentioned above, people in our lives whether personally known or not, stick on to us like precious stardust. Or to put it better, the image we are today are made up of these stardust pixels.
And to the Shepherd of my soul, the artist Alpha, artist Omega and the artist now, thank you for considering us more beloved than stardust.
Thank you so making it so far into this longish letter and thank you still for your love and support in my life. It's been a long and memorable journey. To you my stardust pixels, my fondest greeting I leave with you... #GoMakePhotos
1st April, 2017