Junkyard groove: An award winning photo from Mumbai
A fortuitous run-in at a Mumbai junkyard led to this award-winning photograph
Nikunj Rathod, 29, a photographer in Mumbai, is the winner of the India National Award at the 2017 Sony World Photography Awards. Currently working on two directorial projects, Chalne Do, a short film and Puchki Das, an Indo-French feature film, Nikunj tells us about his award-winning pictures.
There’s an old TS Satyan image of a bunch of boys jumping into a pool that we were reminded of with the series, “Reckless Kids”.
To be honest, it makes me nervous when compared with a person of that stature. I have always loved TS Satyan’s work and it’s very inspiring. There are plenty of photographers who have inspired me, but Raghu Rai comes first in my mind. He has captured epochal moments in Indian history and has painted portraits of traditional and modern India brilliantly. You can see the changes India has gone through over the decades documented in his work. Apart from that, I have always felt inspired by the works of Robert Doisneau, Stanley Kubrick and Raghu-bir Singh.
How did you find these kids, what prompted you to shoot them?
Well, their noise pulled me towards them. I saw from far that a group of kids were playing in a junkyard of cars. They were throwing empty water bottles at each other, screaming and jumping off the cars. I couldn’t stop myself from going and seeing what’s happening. Only when I went close, I realised that their behaviour was reckless. When I asked them, they told me they were playing a game of ‘chor-police’ (cops & robbers), but not sticking to any rules. It was a random game and I started clicking their pictures. They were too busy enjoying and did not pay attention to me. I love to see childhood that is unplugged, as it reminds me of my own.
There are few places like Mumbai for honing one’s street photography skills. Any other Indian cities you wish to explore?
Every place has a different aura. It’s always interesting to find these differences in cities. My recent assignments took me to remote villages in Barmer, Rajasthan. Life is slow here when compared to a city like Mumbai. I want to spend more time in remote places now, and come back to city life later. It will be interesting to see how village life collides with city life.
Do you prefer shooting in black and white over colour? Is there any particular reason why?
There are many reasons to why I like to shoot in black and white. I believe it gives an air of realism and adds an artistic layer to the photograph. If I was living in the 1970s or ’80s, then colour photography would’ve been fun. These days, the clothes people wear are random, and very distracting. Mono-chrome photos make me nostalgic and take me back in time.
How are digital spaces and social networking changing things for up-and-coming photographers?
It definitely gives great exposure to artists, and motivates them to do more. At the same time, the
internet makes people aware of various art forms across the globe. One can learn anything without enrolling themselves in a course or going to an institute, which I feel is a great and positive change.
Before all of this, it must have been tough for photographers to find platforms where they could showcase their work. Today, people are more aware about various competitions and festivals. Apps like Instagram played a huge role in promoting artists and giving them exposure. In 2016, I was shortlisted in the Open category for the Sony World Photography Awards (SWPA), and also won 2nd place in the India National Award category. This year, I got the 1st place, and every award is like a pat on the shoulder, which helps a lot in finding your own voice.For me, winning another India National Award at SWPA has not only motivated me to do more in photography, but has also given me tremendous exposure and put me on the map of the photographic world. It’s a magical moment for me that my work is going to exhibited at the prestigious Somerset House, London once again.
View the winning entries of the Sony World Photography Awards online at worldphoto.org