IN CONVERSATION WITH RAJ LAXMI SINGH
An ex-journalist turned full-time photographer, what started as a hobby soon led Raj Laxmi Singh to learn and master the craft of photography, while working on the ground level covering a few major art, cultural and heritage events across Delhi and India. She has a knack for capturing portraits and live performances. Rather than just pointing the camera and clicking away, Raj Laxmi takes a picture according to the way the subject makes her feel or the connection of the emotion she makes between herself and the subjects, creating images that combine a strong sense of story and expression of people.
Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you become interested in photography?
I was born in a small village called Deoria Meer in Uttar Pradesh, where I completed my primary and secondary education. Currently I live in New Delhi. I am the mother of one child.
I became interested in photography while working as a journalist covering a few major art, cultural and heritage events across India.
What was the turning point for you to turn from photojournalism to photographing the arts and culture? What do you love about photographing dance?
First time in 2017 I went to the theatre with my husband. I saw an Indian classical dance live performance. What I felt at the time I cannot explain in words. Classical dance is a performing art where the dancers act out a story almost exclusively through gestures. That time my eyes captured all the dancers expressions, emotions and dance drama, but this time I feel that I could freeze the expressions and emotions. Dance is the movement of the body in a rhythmic way, usually to music and within a given space, for the purpose of expressing an idea or emotion, releasing energy or simply taking delight in the movement itself... that’s why I love dance photography.
Do you have any favourite artists/photographers?
My favourite photographer is Shree Avinash Pasricha.
What do you want to express through your photography? What are some of the elements you always try to include in your photographs?
The performing arts are most temporal - the moment you have performed it is over. So I capture the artist’s expression, feeling and emotion in my camera. I think that photographs are the universal language that everyone easily understands. Each picture has its own narrative and story. What I like about Indian classical dance is its beauty and majesty that comes forth when the dancers use their eyes, hands, limbs and expressions to relate stories to the audience without words.
I want to explore more Indian classical dance, folk and traditional dances. I do not have any picture of Kathak Kali dancers and their supporting artists yet. And I also want to cover backstage life. Because every artist looks the same on stage, but backstage life is different and the situations are also different. So I am exploring Indian culture and artist backstage life.
Where is your most favorite place to photograph?
Live classical dance performances at any theater and cultural heritage at temples/tombs. These place provide beautiful frames for photographs and attract my heart.
When you take pictures, do you usually have a concept in mind of what you want to shoot, or do you let the images just "come to you", or is it both?
Nothing in mind, but when the performance starts then I get many concepts in my mind. I pick up my camera and follow my heart and capture the drama story.
Does the equipment you use help you in achieving your vision in your photography? (What camera do you use? Do you have a preferred lens/focal length?)
I want to buy a Nikon X6II with 300mm lens. Currently I use a Nikon D7000 and 105mm lens.
What are some of your goals as an artist or photographer? Where do you hope to see yourself in five years?
I want to explore more of my Indian culture and also more about the artist's backstage life. This is my goal and I want to achieve my goal within five years.
Are there any special projects you are currently working on that you would like to let everyone know about?
All my special projects are based on our culture. This is work in progress, and what I have shared with you is part of it.
Thank you Raj!
All photos © Raj Laxmi Singh
The Pictorial-List is featuring this interview in partnership with our friend platform, Spectaculum Magazine, where you can see a feature article about Indian classical dance with photos by Raj Laxmi in colour.