Dilip Bhatia, winner of the Photographer of the Year Award at the 2011 PX3 Prix De La Photographie Paris, on why he dabbles in different genres.
“We live in a world that prides itself on grief and misery; I, on the other hand, like my pictures to be happy and optimistic,” says ace photographer, Dilip Bhatia of the approach that landed him the Photographer of the Year Award at the PX3 Prix De La Photographie Paris (2011), along with five gold and one bronze medals. He is the first Indian to have won this prestigious award. An alumnus of Brooks Institute of Photography, Dilip Bhatia runs the ‘D Studio n Gallery' in South Mumbai. As well known for his celeb stills as for his landscape shots, he also works with many NGOs. Excerpts from an interview:
Tell us about the project for Happy Home and School for the Blind, which was the overall winner of the competition.
This series started off as a project for their catalogue. Knowing I was going to shoot with visually impaired children, I had gone with a heavy heart. But the children did not behave as if they were any less fortunate than others. It was hard to believe that they were visually impaired. I reacted to that energy and tried to capture their positivity and happiness in the pictures.
You were selected as a finalist for Hasselblad's Master of Photography 2010 for your work on Leh/Ladakh...
That is one project I am quite proud of. Pictures depicting India are very rarely of beautiful landscapes. Leh/Ladakh is mind-blowing. I shot these pictures in black and white; they are kind of abstract and surreal.
You have worked with some of the biggest names in Bollywood today. How has the experience been?
The first celebrity I shot with was Hrithik Roshan for “Koi Mil Gaya”. Since then I have done publicity posters for almost 60-65 films like “Krish”, “Main Hoon Na”, “Salam-E-Ishq” and “Double Dhamal”. The posters for “Yuva” are my personal favourite. It's fun and exciting working with them. I have never had any problem. All are professional. They know that they need to look good in front of the camera, so they put in all their efforts to get it right.
Of all the celebrities you have worked with, who is the one you really love to work with?
Without doubt Mr. Bachchan! I can never have enough of him. I photographed him for the first time for “Waqt”. Back then, we were shooting with Polaroid. I still remember my hands were shaking when I was setting the Polaroid because I was so excited and nervous. Since then we have done many shoots together. By now, we are very comfortable; the tingling in the stomach is more controlled, though the excitement never dies!
From publicity posters for films to landscapes to NGOs, you seem to be working on different genres. How did that happen?
After passing out from photography school, my first job was with the magazine Playboy, for reasons other than the obvious! It was a great exposure for me. When I came back to India, I didn't want to sell myself as a Playboy photographer, and started doing whatever came my way. I started with ad campaigns and moved on to other things. That was probably the best thing, as I didn't get ‘branded'.
If you were to do only one genre, which would it be?
Part-NGO, and part-nature. Advertising shoots are more structured and predictable; while landscapes and working with NGOs is more spontaneous. I let the images come to me, and it's a lot more fun!
Does your job as a photographer influence your life? Do you tend to see things differently around you?
Totally! I am getting so much more out of life. Seeing through a camera has made my life so much richer. So many times when something captures my eye, I look at it from different angles, and think “I wish I had my camera!”
How did your relationship with the camera start?
I started learning photography at the age of 27. I was running a textile business. My brother had done a portfolio for a TV serial. Seeing these professional shots, I realised that photography is an art. I bought my own camera and eventually I assisted the photographer who did my brother's portfolio. I realised that this was what I wanted to do. I put my company on lease, and went to the U.S to study photography.
What do you think is the most important factor in making a good picture?
Light because I think that makes the soul of the picture. Especially with today's digital photography, everyone can be a photographer. Other than the composition and matter, light makes a huge difference to the picture.