Richa Maheshwari tells us how she beat the odds to become an award-winning photographer and fitness record holder
Richa Maheshwari is a Delhi-based award-winning photographer, who is a travel addict, TEDx speaker and entrepreneur, who wears many caps with equal ease. She has a penchant for fitness and also holds the Limca record in the fitness category for maximum burpees in one minute breaking the current world record. But her struggle has been real, very real when she began her artistic journey seven years ago while still in college.
The photographer has a degree in Fashion Communication from the prestigious National Institute of Fashion & Technology (NIFT) in New Delhi. While her classmates worked to pursue careers in graphic design and visual merchandising, she experimented with photography with her DSLR Nikon D60 and a professor noticed her strength in communicating art and design through this medium and encouraged her to hone the talent. Taking the social cause forward, Richa also volunteers at the SPCA Noida shelter and has been active in teaching photography to visually challenged at National Association for the Blind (NAB).
1. What about photography made you pick up the camera while still at NIFT over all other aspects? Did you own a camera prior to that?
The fact that a photograph translated my thoughts and imagination very well spurred me to take up photography as a hobby initially and eventually as a career. As a school student, I owned the Olympus point and shoot camera which got graduated to the Nikon D60 in college.
2. Has studying at NIFT helped in carrying your photography projects better? Can you share an experience about the same with us?
NIFT instilled the fashion aesthetics, the eye for detail, and the hunger for perfection. NIFT Delhi is famous for its rigorous syllabus and it makes you re-do till the time you actually get the best output. I think that practice made me ready for this industry really helped me work hard even after college. Secondly, when you are breathing, eating and sleeping fashion for four years, it definitely inculcates fashion discipline and love for art. This came in handy as I fixed my genre of photography in Fashion.
As far as the projects are concerned, the advantage of studying in a fashion college enables you to have an in-depth study of the market. I knew what was my target market and who were my audience.
3. You have done a lot of work in fashion photography? Are there any other areas we don't know about or are in your personal treasure, given that you also travel so much?
I have tons of travel pictures and I love doing phone photography. These days the phone cameras are monstrous and offer tons of features. While they are handy, they offer an instant share and access to the social world. All the pictures from the 42 countries I have travelled are clicked with my phone.
4. Has travel helped to change your perspective in photography? Have you worked with any person during one of your travels?
Travel has broadened my horizon: the knowledge about different countries and cultures, an appreciation of arts and architecture in different countries. An artist looks for inspiration everywhere and my work has surely improved because of my journeys. I have done shoots in many countries including Thailand, France, Netherlands, UAE, Hungary, Czech Republic and Italy to name a few. Working with an international team surely lends a global character to your work. You not only get exposed new techniques and ideas but you also add a flavour and variety to your portfolio.
5. Can you tell us a little about your first break and what you felt at the point in time?
I got my first assignment while I was in the third year of my college. A professor pointed out my inclination towards photography in one of the display assignments and she encouraged me to take it up seriously. She pushed the not-so-confident-me, to take up her friend's advertising assignment. The fact that she believed in my talent gave me the courage to take it up and with few glitches, it ultimately shaped out as per client's expectations.
6. You started with a Nikon D60, what camera are you currently using? What is the equipment you usually carry with you on your shoots?
I swear by Nikon. I am currently hooked on to the D850. Its a beast of a camera. My camera bag has a mix of different lenses, batteries, cards, filters and along with this it really depends upon the nature of the shoot which answers what lights, props etc I have to take along.
7. You are quite a fitness enthusiast, how did you first get interested in it? How do you start your day in a fitness routine?
I was 72 kgs right after college and it was all due to the careless sitting-munching-working. My profession requires me to be extremely fit at-least capable enough to carry a 13 kg camera around the next for 10 hours. This drove me to take up fitness with equal passion. I have been working out for 5 years 6 days a week and it's now a religious habit!
My day starts with 1 ltr of water and stretching. Throughout the day I try to indulge in the healthiest of food followed by 1.5-2 hrs of workout in the evening.
8. You have the Limca record for the most number of burpees in one minute, what is the kind of preparation you did for it and what made you decide to go for the particular routine than any other?
My trainer is the reason I pushed my limits. He knew that I have great energy for cardio and that I used to sail through all the cardio exercises especially the burpees unlike the other ones at the gym, he started giving me targets. Noticing that I have developed the stamina and was easily doing 30 burpees in a minute, he persuaded me to try for the records which were followed by 2 months of intense burpees every day.
On the day of the recording, we targeted 40 and I cracked 46.
9. Can you share your experience about teaching photography to the visually-challenged? What kind of approach do you have to use for it?
Being associated with NAB for a long time, it always spurred me to do something for the benefit of kids there. The kids at Nab have been a source of inspiration for me at various levels, the way they lead their lives without complaining, the zest to learn new things and negating the impossible, taking up their daily struggles with a smile. I wanted to be a part of their growth, even if could be of any use to them or extend any service which could empower them.
Since my specialisation lies in photography and it was something beyond imagination for anyone to accept that the visually impaired kids could take up photography as a serious subject, I decided to impart them with the basics of photography, to begin with. I got Nikon point and shoot cameras sponsored for them, which was handy and did not require many settings. Not to my surprise, the kids picked up the rules and basics really quick. It has been almost a year now and it is mind-boggling to watch their work, the finesse with which they follow the rules and the perfection of framing.
10. What is Richa Maheshwari doing when she is not working and travelling? What does her ideal day look like?
My little four-legged commands a major share of my free time. He is an adorable stress buster and love playing with him. Apart from this, I am a shopaholic, a voracious cook and a part-time party animal.