Aniruddha J Sharma is a professional travel, fashion and equestrian photographer from India. He has studied photography and film-making in Mumbai, Singapore and Dubai.
He is a great advocate of humanitarian and environmental efforts.
Tell us a little about yourself and your photography.
I’m a freelance photographer from Pondicherry India. I have travel and landscape images all over SE Asia and have been featured by many travel magazines and websites. When I’m not travelling, I shoot fashion and editorial work as well as experiment in different photographic genres like equestrian, aerial, sport and abstract/mixed media. As of mid 2014, I took a hiatus from commercial work to concentrate on fine art gallery work and personal projects.
Why do you love photography?
I’ve always been most influenced by visuals. Books, movies and images were my way to glimpse the innumerable facets of our wonderful world and into the worlds of creative minds. I guess it was a logical progression for me as a creative individual to choose to express through images.
As a lover of the variety of life and the world we live in, being a photographer allows you to live many lives in one. Every time I shoot a subject – be it equestrian or ikebana or martial arts – I find myself invited into that world. I learn the language, the nuances and experience it most in depth way in such a short period of time. It truly lends to polymathic existence and enables an impassioned attitude towards life.
You do some amazingly colorful and very serene travel photography. What is your secret when photographing people and things?
Well my travel photography centers around landscapes and experiences more than street photography. Being a lover of the outdoors, nature panoramas and cityscapes appeal to me from the point of view of setting the stage. It also unifies us at this scale, with the fact that we are all on the same Earth and yet we are as diverse in our architectural expressions as nature herself has been. In this grand setting, if I’m able to capture the human element in a relatable yet characteristically unique way, I feel I have managed to express my vision.
The secret to good landscapes and cityscapes is to be at the spot you want to be at the time you want to be. Then pray for nature to be in a dramatic mood. It’s crucial to plan your shots well in advance and do thorough research in terms of vantage points and best time to shoot but it is as important to get a feel of the place for yourself and to react instinctively.
How do you bring forward the character of a country?
It as much in the similarities as it is in the diversities. Rather than go for the larger, louder elements, I try to concentrate on the more relatable smaller ones that give us a peek into the way of life. For example in a festival setting, it would be as interesting to see what the artists use to apply their makeup, the mood in their green room etc, as it would be to see the actual performance itself.
You are a strong advocate of humanitarian and environmental issues. Tell me about your work in Indonesia?
I shot inside the active volcano that is Mt. Ijen in east java. This volcano at it’s heart, apart from having an acidic lake that glows with blue flames at night, is a source of elemental sulphur. The lake is the site of a labor-intensive sulphur mining operation, in which sulphur-laden baskets are carried by hand from the crater floor. The work is low-paid and very onerous: after carrying a sulphur load of 100 kilos up the crater and down to the nearby refinery, a worker gets paid about $13. The miners can’t afford protective gear for the most part and don’t even wear masks. Many of them suffer from respiratory diseases and chemical burns as a result of the toxic fumes.
At one point, upon noticing an older photo of a miner wearing a proper gas mask, I inquired as to why he didn’t wear one now. He replied that the gas mask had gotten corroded after repeated use and he couldn’t buy another.
My images of the Sulphur Miners of the Ijen volcano is an ongoing project aimed at creating awareness and bringing about the much needed change in safety and the mining methods.
What kind of a camera and lenses do you primarily use and how do you select your equipment?
Truly the best camera is the one that you have with you. And there is no use for expensive tools if you don’t know your craft. But good tools do help, specially when you do a large volume of work, to make the creative process a bit more convenient. I use a Canon 5D Mark3 full frame dSLR with L-series lenses. I have an old Canon 550D as backup and a light-weight scouting alternative as well as a second angle video shooter. My Vanguard Alta Pro tripod and array of ND and polarising filters are a boon for those long exposures and panoramas.
As I’m sometimes trekking for days on end, I tend to keep my gear limited to the essentials without compromising on quality. I am now slowly looking into medium format for studio work and possibly for landscapes as well.
Can you name some tips for those who want to start taking better photos?
The most important requirement for a photographer is to have a good eye. Once you train your eye to see the way a good photographer does, it will not matter what camera you use, your images will just be better. To this end, I suggest regularly looking at a lot of photography. There are great tumblr and flickr pages filled with stuff of pure genius. Good fundamental knowledge of art, composition and lighting along with a smattering of art history sets the base for the knowledge you build by shooting more and more. And of course, in art and in life, there is no greater teacher than experience.
So get out there and create!
Thanks AJ for your sharing your views and please check out AJ’s work at his flickr site: