Photographer Rohan Shrestha shares his experience of photographing Lionel Messi

Rohan was the first Indian photographer to shoot Lionel Messi.

Dharitri Ganguly Published :  06th January 2023 12:00 AM   |   Published :   |  06th January 2023 12:00 AM
Lionel Messi shot by Rohan Shrestha

Lionel Messi shot by Rohan Shrestha

I bet you have spotted a few black-and-white pictures of Lionel Messi that have been doing the social media rounds recently. Ace Bollywood photographer Rohan Shrestha, who has completed almost 16 years in the industry, released this series of pictures with G.O.A.T. football player Lionel Messi after
Argentina lifted the much-awaited FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar. We got chatty with the 37-year-old photographer, for whom shooting Messi was a dream come true.

Congratulations on being the first Indian photographer to shoot Lionel Messi. How did it all happen?

So, it all started with a WhatsApp message. One fine day, a producer friend of mine who stays in the Middle-East asked me if I would like to do a shoot. And since then, there was no looking back. And I am not just a fan of Messi, I literally worship him. So, you know how I must be feeling.

So, it’s true that everything is just a WhatsApp away?

Oh yes! The whole world is literally in front of you if you have a smartphone.

Tell us about the shoot?
After a month of sleepless nights, when the D-Day arrived, I was so damn nervous and shaky, that I had to set up my camera on a tripod. And thank God I did, else all the shots would have been out of focus.
The shoot went very well. He was very professional, but we didn’t speak much directly. Messi doesn’t speak English, so his translator was helping me communicate. Once the shoot was done, I very shyly passed on to his translator that I am a huge fan, and he said, “Oh, then you must take a picture with him.” Being an introvert, I find it very awkward to ask celebrities to click selfies, but thanks to the translator, I had the picture of my life. But the best part was, once Messi came to know that I am a
great fan, he came up and hugged me. Can you imagine, it was Messi who hugged me and not the other way around! The time almost stood still at that very moment. And after this, when everybody left, I sat
alone on a bench and wept for a couple of minutes — you know how it feels when somthing that you have dreamt for the past 16-18 years, finally comes true. When I started, my friends used to ask me,
“who is that one person you would like to shoot”, and my answer was always: Messi.

Rohan Shrestha & Lionel Messi

Argentina won the World Cup, with Messi scoring goals, everything happened this year.

Yes, and I was there at the stadium, watching him play the finals. I was convinced that he will win the cup this year, so, I released the photos just after the win. The shoot was done two months ago.

Today, everyone talks about body positivity. You have been shooting models for years. What’s your point of view on this?

We have seen models needing to fit into a particular size, but today it’s going the opposite way. Some brands are shooting with models of all shapes and sizes. We don’t know if they are doing it for the right
reason, the wrong reason, or just piling on to some trend, but there are campaigns on inclusivity. And not just body positivity, I very strongly advocate the skin-tone issue that we have in our country. For me, that’s a bigger problem. How can we distinguish people based on skin colour in our own country? These are conversations that we need to have.

Why did you choose photography as a profession?
I was always playing with my father’s (Rakesh Shrestha) cameras while growing up. But the point was I needed to navigate myself and I realised that it’s not just about gaining fame or earning money. I needed to create a balance. And most people don’t know that I have also worked with tribes and cancer patients.
I have done a book on basketball stories in collaboration with the NBA.