A Cup of Chai
Tea is not just a drink, but a way of life in India. Archana Srinivas uses photography to pay a tribute to this humble beverage, and celebrates her love for the eternal cup of chai.
- Description: To shoot a series and visually experience the joys of having chai.
- Duration: An ongoing series, which is updated almost everyday when I sit for my daily dose of tea.
- Notes: If you use light and composition creatively, you can shoot great pictures in your daily routine at home!
Tea is my favourite drink. I am almost fanatical when it comes to chai. The sheer experience of enveloping a cup of hot tea in my hands, watching it gently lose steam to the atmosphere, and emanate various aromas, is a joy that has become a daily ritual. The hints of ginger, cardamom, and cinnamon are soothing to my senses— a cup of chai is all I need to begin my day.
Whether it is a favourite pastime, person or beverage, one cannot describe their love for them in words—they would want to experience it. Photography is the closest I can get to this experience and so, I started capturing the daily cups of tea through my camera. This series is a celebration of the many precious and rejuvenating cups of tea that brighten my days.
I wanted to capture the moments of having tea in the most spontaneous manner possible. I believe that spontaneity is the key to personal projects. So while a daily ritual of a cup of tea may seem monotonous, with spontaneity and creativity you can break the monotony. For me, creative compositions are important as they can bring the mundane to life.
Photographs are all around us— patterns, shapes, lines… there are no limits to what one can shoot. This is why I have constantly tried to ‘see’ compositions around me. The subject being just tea gives me the freedom to experiment with various angles. I have never followed any strict rules. But, I am partial to certain kinds of compositions; for instance, top-angle shots are my favourite.
There have been occasions when friends have walked into my house, and found me precariously standing on a chair, trying to shoot a top-angle view of chai. While exploring such shots of chai, I realised how different the same subject can look from different perspectives. I also love side shots of the cups where I can capture the steam and the details of colours, reflections and the translucency of the beverage.
Being a graphic designer, I am instinctively drawn to unique and creative patterns, frames and compositions in whatever I come across in everyday life—even when I shoot my everyday cups of tea. So whenever there is an occasion for a cup of chai, I ensure that my camera is always nearby. You never know when an interesting composition may come up.
While I continue to shoot my daily vignettes of chai everyday, I also upload them online on a blog specially dedicated to tea. This has resulted in a beautiful confluence of photography and tea, two things that I am so passionate about.
My Equipment: Equipment does not matter as much as willingness to experiment, especially when it comes to photography at home. I have shot these pictures using a Canon EOS 350D and a basic 18–55mm kit lens. At times, I also used a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II lens to control depth.
Simple Tips to Shooting Your Cups of Chai
- Use Natural Light: I mostly shoot in the morning, when sunlight streams into my home. This helps capture the beauty of steam against the light. This time of day also captures the imagery of tea as a rejuvenating and mood-elevating experience.
- Play with Light and Shadow: Experiment with light, shadow, glow and reflections that are formed due to early morning light. Look for patterns, shapes, frames and compositions around you.
- Keep it Simple: With a subject as basic as a cup of tea, you should keep it simple. Add elements like snacks or napkins, trays and plates to enhance the composition.
- Work with Simple, Personal Projects: You can shoot excellent images within the four walls of your home. Take on personal projects that have a definite focus and are simple to execute.