INTERVIEW

October 19, 2020

EXPLORING OLD DELHI

IN CONVERSATION WITH ABHISHEK SINGH

Photography by Abhishek Singh
Interview by Karin Svadlenak Gomez

Abhishek Singh has a big passion for photography. He was born and raised in India, in the small town of Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, and now lives in Delhi. Trained as an electronics and communication engineer, he became interested in digital cameras during his university years. His drive towards photography became so urgent that he even sold his scooter to get himself a digital camera, and he joined a professional photography group to pursue his passion. The streets of Old Delhi provide countless motifs for his photographic exploration. Abhishek's goal is to show people's working lives and daily routines, finding unique situations in everyday life. Their livelihood, how they survive, and their emotion and based on their daily life, Abhishek's want to include some unique elements which we can get on the spot. He shared with us his vibrant images of life in his home country.

"I will not leave until you break" (जबतक तोडेंगे नहीं तबतक छोडेगें नही )
Majhi - the Mountain Man

TPL: Abhishek please tell us about yourself.

AS: I was born in a small town of Gorakhpur Uttar Pradesh in a farmer family. My strings are directly attached with the mud of my village. I did not have a silver spoon when I came to this life on earth, but I have the immense will to soar on the highest of the peaks in the field of photography.

I am highly grateful to my parents for bringing me up and providing me with good moral and formal education against all the extreme conditions in the family. I have done my graduation in B.Tech (Electronics & Communication), and technical knowledge pushed me towards the world of digital cameras. The spark towards digital photography was ignited then, but I was not able to fully justify my passion because of family liabilities. As my family is not very well off financially, I had to earn my bread and butter, but the spark of photography which was kindling in my heart kept me pushing towards this wonderful world of my interest and passion. Due to a shortage of funds I was shooting with an analogue camera, and it was killing me from inside. I knew I had to buy a good DSLR camera to fulfil my dreams. This left me sleepless for several nights. I had to sell my scooter to buy a digital camera. From January 2016 onward I joined a professional group to pursue my dreams. After immense endeavours and by the grace of God and blessings of my parents I was able to climb towards my goal.

I was married to Raj Laxmi in 2017, my beloved wife who has supported me in every step and every bit, through thick and thin to achieve my goal in photography. She is playing a very significant and concrete solid role to pursue my dreams in photojournalism. We both are trying really hard to take my dreams to touch the success sky.

TPL: Tell us a bit more about photographing on the streets of Delhi: What are some of your most influential moments that you have captured? How has COVID-19 affected your city, the people and your photography?

AS: Old Delhi (Chandani Chowk) is my favourite place, where I see people doing their work. They are early birds here. On the street of Old Delhi we can get photographs related to our daily life. There are so many vegetable, spice, flower vendors there. That area is very unique for photography because their buildings are two hundred years old, it has a heritage status.

For me one of the most important images I captured there was the relationship between a dog and a man. He was feeding his ill dog as if he were feeding his son. It shows that still there is humanity in our India among people.

Covid-19 has affected many things. People were laid off from their jobs due to this, it started financial problems in their lives. So many people have left here because they didn't have anything to survive on, so they had to move from here. It has also affected photography, we are not able to go outside, and everything is online here. Now we are not able to focus on practice, we are putting the focus on theory, but practice is more important than theory. But one thing is also good in this pandemic situation: It has impacted positively on our environment becoming cleaner.

TPL: Where do you find your inspiration?

AS: I find my inspiration in my family, they believe in me. I get inspiration from their happiness.

TPL: Is there anything you want to express through your photography? And what are some of the elements you always try to include in your photographs?

AS: I want to show their livelihood, how they survive, and their emotion and based on their daily life, I want to include some unique elements.

TPL: Do you prefer to shoot alone or with friends?

AS: Most of the time I prefer to shoot alone.

TPL: Who are your favourite artists and photographers?

AS: My technical field ignited the spark in me towards the world of digital photography, but it would be a crime if I do not mention the name of Sir Sudharak Olwe, a Mumbai based documentary photographer, who turned my world upside down and kindled the real fire inside my heart to excel in the field of photojournalism.

Sir Olwe was awarded Padma Shri, one of India’s highest civilian honours for his social work in 2016. It gives me massive motivation to use my knowledge and talent towards the social benefits of society, my village, my town, my state and my country through photojournalism.

Raising and eradicating society's evil issues through my photojournalism gives me the thrust to continue towards my goal. If I am able to do my best in this regard, it will be my greatest happiness. Self-respect and internal satisfaction are the golden keys for my internal happiness.

TPL: Has your style of shooting changed since you first started?

AS: When I was a neophyte I would click anything, like birds, flowers, toys, light trails, long exposures, but now I have started working on a series . I want to work on objective photography.

TPL: How does the equipment you use help you in achieving your vision in your photography? Do you have a preferred lens/focal length?

AS: In photography the subject is the most important, you have to think about your subject from the core of your heart. I also feel in the same way. The deep bonding of a photographer towards the subject is the key to success. If I take up a subject, first I feel it in my heart and mind then I start to act on it.

I am the happiest man when I am out photographing. Becoming known for social work in my society with the help of photography and photojournalism is my ultimate goal.

50mm and 18mm focal length are the most suitable for me.

TPL: Have you ever been involved in the artistic world before photography?

AS: Yes I have been involved in the artistic world before photography. Most of my friends are artists. I have visited exhibitions with them. With one of my friends, Mr. Shashikant, who is a printmaker, I have visited so many exhibitions. Another friend, Mr. Kaushal, is a painter. I am fond of theatre. In theatre artists play live. I love the theatre world, including plays and musical theatre, for example "Charan Das Chor" (चरण दास चोर) , "Tender of Taj Mahal" (ताज महल का टेण्डर).

TPL: Are there any special projects you are currently working on that you would like to let everyone know about?

AS: Currently I am working on a series about river rejuvenation, recycling of waste, life in the biggest garbage dumping yard of India, but I also spare some time to take a few good shots here and there. I have an assignment from the government, but I can’t share those photographs yet before it is finished.

TPL: What are some of your goals as an artist? Where do you see yourself or hope to see yourself in five years?

AS: Being an artist is never a rational choice, no one can decide to be an artist, every real artistic action doesn’t employ awareness or will. All those who continuously need to remind their audience that they are artists by using their art to compensate for a lack of social skills or to boost their ego are just exhibitionists, shopkeepers of their narcissism and myth maniacs. It is not only about the work of the artist, but to live your trade, not only make a living from it. But to succeed and to live well as a paid artist.

I see myself as successful and learning new skills that will benefit and help me achieve my career goal. I am eager to experience new challenges and excited to invest 5 years’ time specialising in a career , I find it extremely interesting and motivating.

TPL: “When I am not out photographing, I (like to)…

AS: When I don’t spend time on photography I like to spend time with my family, and I visit theatres to see plays."