THE KIDS PHOTOGRAPHER
Interview with Ankit Chawla
Delhi based photographer Ankit Chawla specializes in newborn, kids and family portraits. We speak to the 28-year-old about how he turned his passion into profession and why he loves his job. A strong believer in preserving precious family memories, Ankit shares his insights into capturing emotions and what it takes to be a good ‘Kids Photographer’.
Tell us a bit about your background and growing up.
I grew up watching the telegram turn into PCO booths, to smart-phones. In my early childhood years, I eagerly waited for Sundays to watch my most favourite television programs. Today, that wait is over and I can watch anything I want on demand! In a sense, that summarizes where I have come from and now reached.
With all the technological advancements and innovations, I still feel there is no greater miracle than watching a child being born, there is no mightier win than to teach a three year old the magic of speaking. There is no greater force on Earth than the warm breath of old grandmother. And no amount of exposure or access to the internet can ever replicate the feeling of being greeted by your dog every time you get back home after a long day.
I am just a light painter, story teller and dream chaser, trying to frame the simplest joys of life into an indelible memory.
Tell us about your initiation into photography?
My first picture was taken from a Sony Cyber-shot that my dad bought for me from his business trip to Singapore many years ago. Nobody could ever stop me from taking pictures from that little magical device. I would spend sleepless nights reading the manual that came with the camera or just keep experimenting with light and shade. I am a self taught photographer. My love for photography grew stronger to ultimately became my profession.
How did you become a ‘kids photographer’?
After seeing the kind of attention that I was getting on something that I thought was just a hobby, I decided to pursue this seriously. There were hardly any baby photographers around. I sensed a potential and decided to take the plunge.
What about kids photography do you enjoy the most ?
Children help me connect with my own childhood. Being with them brightens up some of my most cherished memories of the time when I was a kid (in some ways, I still am). With the pictures I make, I try and relive my own life as the characters keep changing.
Photographing children and families, has been a very humbling experience. I am overjoyed when I get to welcome the little ones to this world. A lot of my clients opt for periodic shoots and it is all the more heart-warming to see them growing up. I love how I get to capture unscripted moments that people have as a family. It’s hard to pick up any particular memorable experience since I’ve had so many.
It’s not uncommon for kids to want to give me a big hug at the end of our time together, or when they give their favorite toys to me (knowing how possessive they are).
What are the challenges?
Timing is one big factor for successful images. To avoid harsh shadows and other lighting problems I have to photograph early in the morning or late afternoon, outcast days work great for an outdoor shoot but managing all of that with a child’s schedule is a challenge.
Most of your portraits are ‘staged’. How do you draw the line between projecting fake cuteness and capturing the real personality of your subjects?
In infant photography, it is important to make the child feel comfortable. Spending enough time while playing with them and keeping photography as a natural process allows me to bring out their natural self, even if we are shooting in a set.
Do you have any observations on the transformation in the kids photography scene?
When I started my work about five years back, people really appreciated capturing unscripted moments. Whereas, currently, people have been enjoying taking pictures of their children in studios with different backdrops, setups, props etc. Only a very small segment from my clientele enjoy ‘capturing moments the way they are’.
What do you learn about people through your work? You must be meeting many young parents. What do you think of parenthood etc?
As much as I enjoy spending time in my apartment admiring the warm natural light it gets in abundance, I equally enjoy meeting people, be it for work or otherwise. Meeting mothers have always taught me to be more giving. Parenthood has taught me to be a little more loving, accepting and patient. And being with children has always taught me to derive pleasure out of littlest things.
You have been printing some of your work at Photojaanic. What are your thoughts on printing photos?
In this era, digital photography has made it very easy to take pictures but deprived us from pleasure of holding a real image in our hands. However, I feel memories should be stored beyond digital devices and clouds and should be available for ‘touch’.
I love to print imagery of all kinds and I keep experimenting with the mediums. Apart from printing coffee table books, printing images on canvas is something I really enjoy. I also love to use alternative techniques like Cyanotypes and even making images on Polaroids.
I’m trying to work on a different language of the medium, that enables me to preserve something even as special as a child’s scribble or their first DIY craft etc. Something they can look back upon and reminisce about. Recently I got a chance to work with a six year old who left me stunned with her imagination and her ability to draw. So I came up with an idea of making a comic strip with the child as a character and the drawings as the story. I would love to do more work like this.
Follow Ankit’s work on his Website