Life in a Light Vein
Despite his photojournalism background, Sanjay Hadkar believes that the field is not always gruelling and tough. Raj Lalwani speaks to this photographer who seeks a lighter side to his daily shoots.
This story was originally published in March 2012.
Photojournalism has always been considered to be a harsh and demanding life. Whether it is the gruelling work hours, the challenging assignments or the dangers that can be associated with shooting daily hard news, a press photographer’s job is never easy. This is the reason why Sanjay Hadkar’s images are like a breath of fresh air. Here is a photographer who deals with news stories, but also looks at daily life, in a lighter vein.
Sanjay Hadkar is a name that has featured rather often on the pages of the Times of India, over the past ten years. Take a look at any photograph shot by this photojournalist, and you would know it is his. It is not just a unique eye we are talking about. There is an underlying sense of wit in a lot of Sanjay’s photographs.
A Sense of Humour
“I think it is very important to have a sense of humour while shooting photographs”, Sanjay says. “Besides daily news photographs, I enjoy shooting the irony that exist in the way people in Mumbai live.”
According to him, each place has its own quirks and characters, whether it is a metropolis, small town or village. He believes that his photographs serve as a character sketch of the city. Sanjay started really young. He was only eight when his father Arjun Hadkar, who is a commercial photographer himself, gave him a camera. “By the time I was nine, I was developing black and white film,” he says. “I think it is a great feeling to grow up with photography. You are talking about it all the time, and as a kid, one learns new things faster.”
A Constant, Undying Search
After graduation, Sanjay started work as a freelance photojournalist. He explains his preference for photojournalism as he always enjoyed street photography. “I have always been curious and inquisitive. I would rather go out there and search for the photograph, than have it come to me.”
He thinks that this is something that people in any genre of photography can apply. A great photograph is not just snapped in a tiny moment. It is the product of a lot of work, understanding and most of all, time. “That is where the phrase ‘making pictures’ comes from. The digital age has spoilt most of us. We believe that if we keep clicking away to glory, we will manage to shoot some good photographs.”
Effort for Effect
Sanjay talks about his constant effort to record the lighter side of life. Whether it is capturing people in candid poses, or shooting them against contrasting backgrounds, he enjoys such pictures since they bring a smile to the viewer’s face and also tell an interesting story.
He strongly believes that passion and dedication are the makings of a great photographer. To illustrate his point, he narrates a unique incident in which he was shooting a praying mantis, and he felt as if the mantis could almost read his thoughts. “It was almost as if I would want the mantis to look left and it would turn left. Then, for my next frame, I would want it to look to the right, and presto!” He surmises this strange incident by a simple explanation: “If you concentrate on your photography and take the right amount of effort, everything will work for you.”
Waiting For the Decisive Moment
To capture the right moment, one needs to be alert and patient. A number of images shot by Hadkar have caught the proverbial decisive moment, and he says that while viewing these images, we must understand that each picture needed a lot of patience and perseverance. According to him, the moment when you release that shutter is sacred. “That moment is not going to come back. Your subjects will not be in the same formation again. The light will not be the same again,” he shrugs. He pauses and then thinks aloud, “But wait a minute, isn’t that what makes photography so unique? Since everything is constantly changing, there is always something new to shoot!”
” If I am shooting film, I will subconsciously look for different subjects. A digital SLR gives a different kind of freedom.”
The Medium is King
I was personally curious to know about the functioning of photography departments in newspapers, and how it has changed in the digital age. In Sanjay’s opinion, the transition from film to digital has been smooth, and has ensured that photojournalists get the freedom to shoot a lot more, in any situation and light.
“Earlier, we would either use black and white film or colour transparencies. In 2002, there was a train blast at Mulund, Mumbai. It happened at night, and the difficulties we faced—trying to develop the images and file them in time—made us realise that we should embrace digital technology. I was asked to test the Nikon D1H to see if it can be used for daily newspaper use. I found digital a joy to work with and thereafter, the transition was smooth,” he says.
Hadkar believes that a good photographer does not need a great camera. That said, he strongly believes that the medium dictates the kind of photographs you shoot. “If I am shooting film, I will subconsciously look for different subjects. A digital SLR gives a different kind of freedom, as does a compact.” Sanjay mentions the various instances when he has used a compact camera to shoot pictures, especially when he does not want his subject to be aware of his presence. “It is nice to dream about owning a particular camera, but people must realise that every piece of equipment has its own advantages.”
Photography, Today and Tomorrow
Digital technology has changed the way we shoot, but it has also changed the way we look at our images after they are shot. More photographs are shot, and consequently, they either lie unattended in our hard disks, or are simply deleted at random. Sanjay believes that even if we shoot more number of photographs now, we must treat each image with respect. A seemingly worthless photograph today, may assume great significance tomorrow.
For instance, Sanjay shot a photograph of puppeteer Ramdas Padhye with a puppet of Barack Obama, at the beginning of Obama’s presidential campaign. “He was not so popular here and so, my picture was not published. Months later, when Obama was elected President of the United States, I realised the significance of that photograph.”
Photojournalism With a Difference
Sanjay Hadkar’s work is refreshing, both visually and in terms of the thought behind it. Despite the responsibility of tracking and photographing mundane news events, Sanjay believes in looking at the most basic occurrences in life with a fresh perspective. He believes that one must observe the manner in which others deal with a particular subject, and then strive to build your own identity that is strong and unique. It is this unique mix of street, everyday photography and the quest for news that define Hadkar’s photography. His understated humility and desire to constantly shoot better pictures are simply an icing on the cake.
Tips by Sanjay
- Modern-day cameras are intelligent. Use their technology to your advantage.
- Do not run after what others are shooting. Develop your own identity.
- Explore new places. Get out of your comfort zone if you want your photographs to stand out.
About Sanjay Hadkar
Sanjay Hadkar has over 13years of experience in photojournalism. He is now working for the Times of India. Early in his career, his photograph of a political protest was featured in acclaimed international magazine Time. He is deeply influenced by Sherwin Crasto and Hoshi Jal, the photo editors he has worked under. His father is a commercial photographer, while his wife shoots table tops.
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