Updated: Aug 24, 2019
- By Anshul Raj Khurana
In last couple of years Suresh has made a strong mark in the street photographers community. He is also a part of Indian street photography collective- In-street. His style of composition has been quite inspired by legendary Alex Webb, and I have taken a leap in mentioning him to be “An Alex Webb in Making”. Decide for yourself and enjoy the read…
Anshul- Great to have you on BOYC Suresh, tell us something about yourself.
Suresh- Thanks for having me here, BOYC!
I'm a Swiss guy of Indian origin who did the opposite of ordinary Indian people and moved "back" to India in 2008. Moving to India changed my life in more ways than one, but I can safely say that without the move, I would have probably never discovered street photography 5 years ago.
If you see an Indian guy with long hair, a small camera, looking like a tourist, who is roaming the streets of Mumbai over the weekend, there is a big chance it is me.
Anshul- How would you define street photography? Do you also feel, it's losing its shine?
Suresh- My definition of street photography is straightforward: candid photography of the human presence in a public setting. It is about giving a sense of place and time of the area you shoot. The only rule that I follow is not to make people pose. Everything else is fair play!
I don't feel that street photography is losing its shine. On the contrary, I think that we are currently living in a new golden age of street photography. I believe that with the advent of cheaper cameras and more disposable income, more people have hit the streets in the last 5 years than ever before. This is especially true in countries traditionally not associated with this genre like Thailand or India. Social media has played a considerable role and opened new horizons to people who didn't get exposed to such work 10-15 years ago. Obviously, with more people joining the ranks of street photographers, more mediocre pictures will be posted (especially, if you don't have an understanding of the history of the genre.) But I feel that I discover a new artist every day and the community is a massive source of inspiration for my own work. These are exciting times!
Anshul- I wouldn’t be wrong if I call you Alex Webb in Making, as you play beautifully with colors and light. How would you define your style?
Suresh- You're too kind! Alex Webb is definitely a significant source of inspiration, and his visual language has always appealed to me. Being mentioned in the same sentence as him is a great honor! Coming to my style, I am still trying to figure it out. I try to be versatile and love trying new things, but I would say that I usually tend to gravitate towards crowded areas where there is a lot of activities and great light and try to make sense of the chaos there. Thanks to this interest, I ended up integrating layers in my shooting style. My logic is that the more there is to see in my photos, the more people will spend time looking at it hopefully.
Anshul- When you are on the street, how do you approach a scene, is it fluid or you have a pre-visualized approach? Do describe.
Suresh- I'd say that my approach is 99% fluid. I usually decide on the spot which area in my city I will go shoot that day and let the streets offer me shots. Luck has it that I live in a crowded city, so there is always something happening. That being said, I also have a dozen series in progress, and those are in the back of my brain. I may not actively shoot to add to them, but unconsciously I end up shooting some shots with say a couple or an eye contact that could maybe be added to my series.
Photography is mostly a meditative endeavor. It is a time where I disconnect my brain from mundane day-to-day activities and try to be present at the moment
Anshul- You have made some good noise in the past couple of years in the street photography community and have recently joined the In-street collective. Tell us about your journey till now and where would we see you in the next two years.
Suresh- The day I finally discovered street photography, my life changed for the better. It felt like I found a missing puzzle piece. Once I found out that you could use the camera to create such images, after my first workshop, there was no turning back. I had to explore the art form as much as and for as long as I could. The journey has been rewarding, especially at a humane level. Thanks to photography, I have made close friends in different parts of the world. I know that I can probably go to any major city in the world, and I would be able to meet at least one photographer for a coffee.
Joining the In-Street collective was one of the best things that happened in my journey. I'm now part of a beautiful group of people who share the same approach and vision. All-in-all, it has been a journey of passion, and I believe that those who know me, know how honest and passionate I am to this art form.
The next 2 years are going to be exciting: I would like to deepen my relationship with Mumbai and create a substantial body of work that showcases its diversity and culture. If that can culminate in a small exhibition, I'd be happy! I'd also like to contribute to creating a tighter-knit community of street photographers. Unlike, for example, a Delhi or a Kolkata, I feel that Mumbai's community is disjointed. We should come together and help each other grow! I also hope to start hosting some workshops and photo walks in Mumbai. I'm building it up, but the idea would be to not only shoot the streets but make people interested in its history to reviewing photo books. And finally, a seed of an idea is slowly forming in my head for a long-term project. I would like to start this project in the next 2 years and see if this is something I can carry on in the long run.
As you can see, the next 2 years are going to be busy!
Anshul- Would you mind telling us about one of your projects, how you got it to reality from inception?
Suresh- It took me a long time to start working on projects or series. Since the beginning, I have been mostly capturing images of things that appeal to me without necessarily thinking about a bigger picture. However, during a period of recovery from surgery, I looked back at my past work and started seeing connections between images. Subconsciously, I was gravitating towards subject matters that connected with me, be it visual (for example the color blue) or contextual (couples in public settings).
This felt like a revelation, and after I spent a few weeks going through my past pictures, I ended up creating 15-20 different projects & series. None of them are complete, and I know I can keep adding to them. The difference is that now when I go out and shoot, I keep those series in the back of my mind and I am always on the lookout of new additions to these projects.
Most of these series have been growing organically like wild plants that have received the right dose of water. I somehow prefer that approach compared to a more forced one where I would be actively looking at working on a project. It suits my flaneur demeanor.
Anshul- You have good use of flash in your portfolio. What are the top three best ways to use it while on the street?
Suresh- Flash is something that I have picked up recently, and I am still exploring all the possibilities it offers. It is super exciting and daunting! My approach tends to be more "fly-on-the-wall" than "in-your-face," and unfortunately, a fly with a light cannon won't be as discreet. I've had to battle fear to go close and fire the flash, but I am slowly getting the hang of it.
As a beginner, I found that the best way to use flash was to shoot in the day time. I use it mostly to complement the natural light to emphasize a detail or a face.
Anshul- Tell us about your gear, (your favorite camera, favorite lens, preferred focal length, etc.)
Suresh- I have been shooting exclusively with a Fuji X100 series camera for the last 5 years. First with an X100S and now with an X100F. The camera comes with a fixed 23mm (35mm equivalent). That's been my favorite focal length.
Anshul- Inspiration is an essential aspect of any creative outcome, where & how do you derive yours from? Suresh- The beauty with the internet is that you now have access to hundreds of fantastic artists from around the world. They are a huge source of inspiration (especially on sites like Flickr). On top of that, I am also an avid photobook collector. I find that looking at pictures in a book is probably the best way to study them. The tactile feeling adds to the experience, and books make you slow down.
Other than that, I get inspired by movies, TV Series, and books (mostly sci-fi). Anything that can feed your imagination has the potential to alter your art.
Anshul- Tell us about the top three photographers you are inspired by and why? \
Suresh- Bringing the number down to 3 is complicated. The inspirations keep changing depending on my mood. Having already mentioned Alex Webb in a previous response, let me mix things up. Currently, my 3 top 3 inspirations are:
Lars Tunbjork, for his beautiful use of color with flash and the surreal world he creates in his images. I feel that I am in a strange world, almost like earth but slightly different.
Larry Towell: his book "The Mennonites" is one of the best books I have ever laid eyes on for his compelling compositions and the emotional connect he has established with his subject matters.
Tiago Santana: one of my latest "discoveries," Tiago is a tremendous artist. His black and white work is out of this world. I love how close he goes to his subjects and still keeps intense compositions.
You can see more of Suresh's work here.