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Interview: Youth Photographer of the Year

3 years ago

Firstly, a huge congratulations on being awarded the Sony World Photography Awards 2021 Youth Photographer of the Year title. What does this acknowledgement mean to you?

Winning the Youth Photographer of the Year 2021 title has been nothing less than a dream come true. I am truly humbled by this recognition, to say the least. I have always been inspired by the works of the legendary photographers that have been awarded previously in this esteemed competition, and it fills me with immense pleasure to see my picture as a part of that incredible lineage.

Can you tell us how the creation of your winning image 'No Escape from Reality' came about?

I was at home in quarantine due to the ongoing lockdown at that time when I got to know about the theme of the July Youth competition. What struck me after reading the brief was the concept of "unfamiliarity in familiar spaces". In the days that followed, I tried to break away from my usual point of view to explore the previously unexplored perspectives. But the picture that I finally captured was playing in my mind for a long time. Everytime I passed my parents' bedroom, I would stop to look at the curtains on their windowpane, decorated with the parallel shadow lines cast on them. So one fine afternoon, I requested my mum to stand behind those curtains and place her hands on the fabric, as if trying to portray a sense of entrapment. All the other elements in the frame (including the lighting) were left untouched, just for them to speak on their own. While processing this image, I realised how reflective it was of the situation that we were all facing due to the pandemic. The title, of course, was inspired by the lyrics of the ever-famous by Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody.

After the Awards announcement on the 15th April you and Student Photographer of the Year Coenraad Heinz Torlage had an impromptu chat over FaceTime / Skype. Tell us, how was that?

It was an amazing experience talking to Coenraad and I'm really glad that we got connected through this competition. I loved his project on the Young Farmers and had many questions about his work. As the conversation went on, I started to realise that even though we are divided by cultures, I was able to feel the strong sense of connection and empathy he had towards his subjects. I spent a fair share of my childhood days visiting my grandparents in the rural areas, and I could find so many cross-cultural similarities between these two regions. We spoke about our aspirations and he had some great pieces of advice for me. We have kept in touch ever since and hope to meet in person whenever we get the chance.

It’s been brilliant to see how much press coverage your winning image has received, has there been any articles that are a particular highlight for you?

The press coverage that my winning image has received has been unbelievable. I would've never imagined my photograph to appear on Forbes, The Guardian, CNN, and all the other big names. I've also had the utmost privilege of getting my story published on some of the best Indian news media agencies such as National Geographic Traveller India, The Hindu, The Telegraph and many more. It made me extremely happy to see so many articles on the internet about my work, and I might've been guilty of searching myself on Google every now and then. Each one of these articles have been equally important to me.

Why did you decide to enter the Youth competition?

The Youth Competition of the Sony World Photography Awards is undoubtedly the best youth competition in the world. I have never come across another youth competition so diverse in its approach. The six different themes allow the youth to choose his/her own preference, but at the same time challenge himself/herself outside his/her comfort zone. This is what motivated me to participate in this competition.

What have you learned about your photography since you entered?

Winning the first youth monthly competition in July 2020 didn't stop me from participating in the following months as well. I kept on working on the new themes, but with limited resources in hand due to the pandemic. I learnt a lot from this process, especially the practice of employing one's available resources prudently to achieve the best outcome. I spent a lot more time in post-production rather than outside, clicking images. All in all, my days have been filled with productivity ever since I seriously started focusing on my work.

What advice do you have for those thinking about entering the 2022 Youth competition, which opens 1st June?

My advice to the young people entering this competition is pretty simple - be original. Take some time to ponder upon the theme that you'll be working on. Don't hesitate to showcase your own perspective, even though you think it's too abstract. Creativity is always appreciated.

Do you hope to develop a career in photography? To be awarded Youth Photographer of the Year at 19 years-old is a very positive start!

I aspire to tell stories from all around the globe. I love documenting people and their culture. Being a classical musician as well, I am deeply intrigued by indigenous music from the various corners of the world. I am currently pursuing my Bachelor's in Arts degree in English literature and plan on enrolling myself to a Master's in Fine Arts degree in photography or film-making hereafter.

Has anything exciting happened for your photography since being affiliated with the competition?

Ever since winning the competition, my days have been full of joy and excitement. Receiving such global exposure is something every young artists can only dream of, and I've been lucky enough to live in that dream. Everyday, I receive so much love and appreciation for my work from people all over the globe, and it warms my heart. I am glad that my photograph has had an impact on people's minds even in these trying times.