Adaptation. That's one of the hallmarks of our species. This capacity that we have to take things in our stride is probably one of the reasons that made us survive this long in this planet.

Adapting to this pandemic has probably been the biggest challenge of my life: the way I go out, meet people, shop for groceries, exercise, everything is different now. This also applies to my photography.

If you know my style of shooting, you know that I am not one to shy away from going close to my subjects. As a matter of fact, that's one of my favorite things to do; bringing intimacy through physical closeness and composing around it.

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Obviously, this way of shooting has to be relegated to the past. I cannot imagine going this close to my subjects anymore. Not only is it not safe for both me and the protagonists of my pictures, but also Indians seem to be much more aware of personal space, something I never thought I would have to see in my lifetime! It just doesn't feel right to shoot like I used to anymore.

I really tried to stop shooting altogether but after a few months, it started driving me insane. I respect the people who are able to stay away from it for months on end. They have a strength of will that I just don't possess. Photography is almost as important to me as eating or sleeping. It calms me down especially in these stressful times, gives me joy and makes me feel like I am still connected to the outside word; we are still social animals after all!.

I had to find a way to bring photography back into my life.

So I started shooting from afar.

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For years, I took Robert Capa's quote (“If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”) literally. I equated physical closeness with intimacy, oftentimes focusing solely on a character without including the environment.

Some of the work I find the most compelling are artists that are able to merge both interesting moments as well as providing information about the era in which the picture was shot. Pictures from Raghubir Singh or Raghu Rai will inform you about the way India looked 30-40 years while still enticing you with their dazzling composition.

On the other hand, although I like a lot of my shots taken 3-4 years ago, they usually tended to focus on a person or a moment. They didn't give me much of a sense of the place and the time in which it was shot. Something seemed to be missing. 

The pandemic provided me an answer to this mystery: As I couldn't go close anymore, I had to start paying attention to the environment and make it as much a subject of my pictures as the human beings populating them. 

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The new direction I am taking is really exciting to me. It allows me both to get back into photography in a way that feels safe, at the same time giving me new creative avenues to explore. Obviously, these are still the early stages and the images are not yet there but anything that can make you improve is good! It also helps that Mumbai is probably one of the  most diverse cities in terms of urban landscapes but  more on that in a future post.

Adaptation is truly one of our most marvelous qualities.

If we put our minds to it, we will find a way.   

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Stay safe, stay healthy.

Suresh

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