We cannot stop the memories from flowing. Continuing from where we left last week, here is the second part of our conversation with Anusha Yadav. Today, we speak about photography, her career, her take on advertising industry in India and plenty more. You can loosen your seatbelts for this interview ladies and gentleman. Let us get it rolling.
Q: Your photographs are explained as narrative photography, where the character and setting tell a tale. What interests you to practice this kind of photography? Have you tried any other kind of photography?
A: The universe is not made of atoms. It is made of stories said the American Poet – Muriel Rukeyser and I agree. I am convinced of that. We talk to friends and people sometimes not so much about the future, but of the past. We narrate stories, gossip, problems, anecdotes about everything that affected us in some way emotionally every day, however trivial it might be. It is nice to explore the same in a visual medium. A beautifully designed book tells a story about the story. A song tells a story about a feeling an emotion. A bad experience is also a story in retrospect. Everything IS a story and stories leave an impact. Each one.
It doesn’t matter what kind of photography I might try. I think that a story even if it plays out in my own mind, imaginary or pieced together from factual bits, will always be the backbone of what I want to express. I am also very interested in the spiritual side of life and have wondered about what it means to live, work, create, experience and just die. Perhaps we live in many lives in many different parallel universes. Either way, It is not always pleasant and life never turns out the way we want it to, or like it to. But life is both joyful and torture. I think the idea that the universe is always expanding could be because when we die, we release our experience into the universe and hence it expands. It is something I do think about. Interestingly that is what we do, when we tell stories to another, we expand their mind and heart to new information with varying consequences.
Q: Being a photographer, what photography style or techniques from these pictures appeal to you the most? What cue can newbie photographers take from this and what personal suggestions would you like to give to people who want to get into this profession?
A: One, is if you decide to do it. Do it whole-heartedly. There is no way around it. I was told at a very young age, to do something well or don’t do it all. It doesn’t matter how it turns out. Most likely, if done with very good intentions, and right timing, it will. Thus I never did academics well and ran behind the arts, which was more satisfying and complimentary to my nature.
If you doubt it, put the camera down and pick it up again the moment you are back in the escrow of curiosity that must be satisfied.
Photography does not pay well in the beginning for sure. Sometimes, not for years. But if you stick with it and process thought and good articulation, it will.
And know that every piece of work created needn’t be your best, I learn from failures till today, because even I know that not all of my work or its articulation has been good enough. But it offers space for improvement.
To photograph people, I think you have to trust them, even if they are complex beings, fearful, strange, rude, defensive or disguised. As a photographer you have to trust that they have a side they want to reveal. And if you stick around longer, they will reveal even more.
The backbone for any artistic profession is curiosity. A healthy belief in your own point of view, the belief that you too have something to say, show and express. Learn from other photographers not about their composition techniques, but their motivations, method and eye. All of which are unique are suit personal styles and identities. Some will apply to you some won’t. We all have our unique ways of expressing. It is only a matter of realizing it and then using it to further your skill.
When I look at other photographer’s works, the first thing I look out for is the heart. Heart or an emotional connection is very difficult to miss in a good piece of work. It’s almost as if it leaps out first and it doesn’t matter how strange or bizarre or scandalous or dark it may be. Motivation comes next, what was it about the subject that motivated someone to create it.
I love work that is documentative in nature, portraiture work included, work that emotionally stimulates the artist. I also love work which emits from a dark side of a human being, because it exists and but it is hidden for fear of being found out as a ‘bad’ person. It is horrible to live in that fear, and it is certainly a person’s downfall. Undeniably, Multiple sides exist to a person, and you can pick and choose which facet you want to express. Nonetheless, it all must show heart, involvement. And when it does, I can never forget those images and the stories they told me.
I cannot bear work that is only cerebral and it’s context explained with words and jargon, no one can understand but the curator who wrote about it, again for the privileged by the privileged. Many artists hide behind words to make their creations seem greater than it is. Many pretend to be intellectuals they aren’t in real life. And it doesn’t work.
A context is great, important too. But a simplified context can get you a bigger audience, because art needs an audience to be acknowledged at all. Art or photography is never quite always about the subject as much as it is about the feeling the artist had while creating it.
Q: What is your take on the advertising industry of India and where it is headed? Do you feel advertisements in India are getting more manipulative? What are your views on advertisements being accused of portraying women as sex objects?
A: I think people no longer know whom to sell what to. So they try anything and everything, hoping something will click. India is evolving into a far more difficult country to advertise in. As it always has been, but it is more so now.
Earlier we were only diverse, so yes advertising would have to be designed for a specific audience or culture in mind. Sensitivities, religion, all were taken into account. Languages as well as cultural insights for communities. Ideas were given time to research and process. Clients were abandoned if they were unethical.
Now we are not only still diverse, we are becoming individualistic, and corporate are more unethical than ever, and no one really knows what one will like or work because it changes everyday.
Indian Advertising also has gotten left behind because they got used to a formula of working. Not many caught up the digital or retail revolution fast enough. Because they were too scared to. They still attempt the same old boring formats of TV and RADIO and OUTDOOR or PRINT. And sell the same boring formats to clients over and over again. Who are also as unsure about how to sell their products. Clients are not accountable, because personally they are all looking out for better job and more money. Neither is the agency, because as long as they get to keep the client (specifically a pleased brand manager) in someway or another, including pandering to their fancies. These days there is not one agency with talent, everyone has talent, everyone is the same, but it’s the ones who will cater to whatever the client wants, however unethical or ridiculous it may be, who will have the billing. These days it is not hard to hear of big advertising agencies working with the most unethical and corrupt of clients, to just keep their accounts.
There are people who are now experts on certain subjects like human behaviour, but Indian agencies hardly use that expertise, because they don’t trust anything new. For the fear that they might lose a client, or the arrogance that they understand human behaviour, the client who is equally unaware and not very open to new ideas, will shove an expertise aside lest his promotion gets in the way of a visionary new idea.
I am incredibly cynical about advertising, compared to what it was and what it has become. Lack of vision, stealing images, incorrect language, half sleepy overnight creatives, Bombarding people with ugly looking messages instead of smart placements has made it worse in presentation and ruined our sense of aesthetics.
These days thanks to the internet one would discover that all products are almost the same. Technology is monopolized by a few companies, so are cars, and food and cosmetics, and so are all other things. They all contain the same ingredients. So a customer is only buying into a brand, not a product. And these days it’s the after sales services that should matter. Not the product.
As far as women are concerned, that is human nature. Women have always been and will continue to be the objectification; She is the best thing that has happened to the universe anyway. Who wants to look at the men, when you have beauty. And beauty is attractive. One of the first advertisements in History was about a Prostitute selling her services.
I am all for sexual representation if it is important, relevant and aesthetic. When it comes to sex and its tease, less is always more. Celebration is better than stimulation. And aesthetic is God. I believe it is an arena that is beautiful and fun to explore. Men and Women are both sexual beings, you can’t deny that.
The good news is now we can objectify men. Having said that there is always a line of respect for women, which cannot be crossed. There is a difference between appreciating beauty and raping her with your eye. Especially in a country like India that still needs education on respecting all women and not just their mothers. And it is the mothers themselves who need to embed that belief into their children. You can’t jump to showcasing a woman’s body before at least letting them know she is also human and not just a vagina. And for no reason whatsoever is just tacky.
Any brand that thinks it is okay for it to show a nude woman, or as the flying machine campaign a woman bent over with the type “SPANK MY ASS” is saying that it is okay to spank a woman’s ass, because that is all she is made for. And here, this pair of jeans will help. But there are children walking into malls thinking ‘ah its okay to get my ass spanked’ or if someone spanks it, ‘it is cool’.
I do think sexual objectification is the lowest hanging fruit when it comes to advertising. When you have no ideas, show a nude woman. Because it is certain to get suppressed India’s attention. But is also when clients or advertising agencies are not interested in spending an extra minute on thought. Campaigns like that are a reflection on the client, or the brand manager’s mind and the agency, who couldn’t be bothered with spending a little more time on a more impactful campaign, instead opt for boys club chat with locker room humor.
One has to take a closer look at the MEN who create these campaigns. They themselves are suppressed, and their own knowledge and opinion about women is low. They live a life that has told them that unless she is their mother, women are good enough only to be a wife, and a woman is a secondary citizen. Not even to be indulged in their very own work environments. That is when strong women seems aggressive to them, and yes even become so, because men don’t understand any other language and have very fragile egos. I think educating men on women within corporations who are responsible for social communication should be made mandatory. Education them to know what is right and wrong when communicating socially, can only stem from that.
And as I have seen so many many times, decisions to use women are made to attend film and photo shoots, so they the client themselves can spend time with beautiful woman on the pretext of work. And thinking about a sale done smartly, or a brand’s image is too much work for a mind like that.
It’s immature,it makes them look stupid, momentarily increase sales, and then they spend crores starting all over again. It is ridiculous and shortsighted it will only make a company ready as bait for a smarter competitor to take them over.
Q: It is no longer about just capturing the moment – You said this in 2011. How has the purpose of capturing a moment changed from pre-1991 days to the current scenario? Share the mindset of people in those days and also that of recent generations.
A: Once the hot shot cameras came in life changed for everyone. Everyone could own a camera. Digital prints were ready to be consumed within hours. But with the mobile revolution everyone HAS a camera. And that is instant gratification. When bored, people take photographs of themselves. Or they photograph images, just because they can. Or simply they have the money to buy a new expensive toy. It is not longer an act to create images, but more so a sense of participation in something that makes them feel good. Like a drug.
Before 1991 I think people prepared for images, to photograph and be photographed. So every image was thought through. Photography was a very very expensive hobby to have and with 36 frames one had to be deliberate about every image that was photographed.
Looking good has also become so much more important, and I agree one must look good. But as that the only facet to photograph something or yourself is never quite satisfying, because we always perceive ourselves differently, all the time. And so a lot of people photograph themselves all the time, to find some consistent validation, which never arrives.
Fact is not everyone is a photographer, or can be. It is the however the most accessible tool now, so people imagine themselves to be for those few seconds. If one could create a song at the touch of a button, everyone would be a music composer. They feel they have done something of value when they click. And that now they finally matter. In the end, a human being basic need is to be relevant. Be it image of themselves or another, for those few minutes Photography makes them feel, they exist. For certain.
Q: When you are not archiving this awesome history, how do you spend time with your family? What are your hobbies and interests?
A: Satisfying curiosities with people, playing android games, watching TV shows and Movies. With family and friends, my mercurial mind and I am lucky to have found a lot of emotional and joyful support. With my family and friends I have learnt the art of a sense of humor and integrity. There is nothing like a good honest laugh at the end of the day. I feel true love at the moment.
Studying body language, human behaviour, Astrology and Ayurveda are three of my pet subjects I like to explore and understand.
Q: You have mentioned about two noted Hindi writers within your family. Can you introduce us more to this part of your family? We would also like to know about your association with the Indian Film Industry. Apart from photography, does your interest also lie in writing?
A: My uncle and aunt. Rajendra Yadav and Mannu Bhandari are two the most notable Hindi writers of the country. Along with two other noted writers Kamleshwar and Mohan Rakesh they revived the language of Hindi literature in the 1960s. Hari Vansh Rai and Teji Bachchan were close friends too. Though my uncle disagrees completely with their son’s personal politics, persona and beliefs.
The subjects on which they all wrote too would be considered scandalous for the time, Homosexuality, extra Marital affairs, Parent Child Problems and How men and women think. If they thought about something, they wrote about it and published it. They wrote for Hindi films as well and for many many directors such Basu Chatterji, Govind Nihalani, Shyam Benegal. His book Saara Aakash, was the first Experimental Art house film of the country. Rajni Gandha (original story) and Swami both of which were scripted by my Aunt, including the very successful TV series Rajni. My uncle now runs Premchand’s magazine Hans. It is the only magazine on Good Hindi Literature around.
My association with the film industry began with them I think. Lurking behind curtains, I used to watch many many famous people in their living room but I always saw them as their “friends” and not people to look up to star stuck.
Star Struckness annoys me. I think it lowers your own esteem to put people on a pedestal because they are famous only for being famous. Yet I am intrigued by their personalities off screen. Which can show them in greater or lesser light, depending on who they are as people. And what phase of their life they are in. Successful or failing or struggling. I will make no bones about the fact, that I adore talented people, not just in the film industry but every industry. I feel I have something to learn from people who use their skills so beautifully. It shows a recognition of a self. And that is not easy to find by most.
Most of people in the industry whom I consider friends, are incredibly talented and other than constantly struggling with media nonsense, are confident about their skills and intelligence. I like them for the humor they retain about their lives. I like them for knowing that there is life outside of the Bollywood circuit. And I like them for who they are off screen. I like it that not all are conscious about their looks and talents all the time. I like them for their securities and insecurities. It makes them human. It is exceptionally important to have a sense of Humor about yourself when you are famous. There are enough people who also have them as friends because they feel validated being with famous people, and they love that ride along in a famous car. Catering to their insecurities and making them feel special all the time, which as a celebrity can become a basic requirement from a friend. But it doesn’t apply to everyone.
Yes I like writing. But when in the mood and When I find some clarity around me. So even with photographs if I can’t find myself to be articulative, I wait until I am.
Q: The general opinion and information in the west is that India is still only exotic – This is what you said in 2009. In what continuous efforts, do you wish to bring about a change (big or small) in this thinking? Can you share some other myths?
A: It hasn’t changed much if you ask me. My own work has been about breaking that opinion. I see life as continuously evolving as in India. So I photograph what I see and what is around me or what I sought for with active current and retainable thought.
I see no pleasure in watching the exotic. They are just colorful blobs of a past idea. But to a foreign photographer it is something new and again the lowest hanging fruit. But there are foreign photographers, albeit few, who look for an angle and a context to show a different point of view. Revealing a more processed mind.
Q: How important is it for the blogger to interact with their readers? Do you respond to all the comments that you receive?
A: Yes I do. I respond to everything that it posed as a question. If it just a comment I leave it be for other people to read and comment, including the contributor. If it is derogatory or insulting, it is sent to the trash folder.
Q: What do you find to be the most gratifying aspect of blogging?
A: Visitors and the map going off showing several visitors from different countries. 🙂 It’s like a standing ovation for your efforts and a channel for surprises to come.
Q: How, in general, would you rate the quality of Indian blogs? Share your favourite five blogs.
A: Very few. Indian People often get deviated or seem tired of keeping it alive.
- Mumbai Boss
- Paro devi
- Deepanjana Pal
- Masala Chai
- Swiss Miss
- Curiosity Counts
- Foto 8
Q: According to you, what is the future of Blogging?
A: I actually have no idea. Whenever something new comes up. I try it out, if it works for me and has potential to spread more word. I will use it.
Q: Let’s conclude off with a few favorites.
Color: it changes every now and then. Currently – Red
Movie: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Before Sunset
TV Show: CSI (Vegas), Friends (yes Still), Game of thrones, The Killing
Book: My Uncle Oswald – Roald Dahl. India, a history: by John Keay, Private Pictures- Daniel Angeli
Time of Day: Twilight
Your Zodiac Sign: Capricorn
Anusha, thank you for taking us along in this journey. It was mesmerizing to say the least. Friends, what do you say? Share your views/thoughts with Anusha here. We will be back next week with another amazing interview. Till then Sayonara.