Photographer Prashant Panjiar says serious photographers have to concentrate on what they are saying in the picture

Photojournalist and independent photographer Prashant Panjiar, who is about to teach a Travelling Lens master class photography workshop with Palani Mohan in Ladakh, says serious photography is about more than technique.

“The master class is about helping people think about the process of making images. It’s about how one can immerse oneself in a place or subject and come up with one’s own experience of that event,” says Prashant, co-founder and managing trustee of Nazar Foundation, a non-profit trust for the promotion of the photographic arts. He is also the co-founder and one of the creative directors of the Delhi Photo Festival.

Prashant has decades of experience in many kinds of photography including photojournalism, India TodayOutlookdocumentary photography and gathering images for non-profit organizations. But instead of restricting himself, he prefers simply to be known as a photographer.

“It’s just a means of expression for me, like some people write and others make music.” The only distinction he makes between all these fields is that of time.

“I have worked on many projects as a photojournalist in a magazine and the only difference in approach is that with documentary projects, one has the time to watch the events unfold. Whereas photojournalism requires quick stories where one has to photograph as the events unfold,” explains Prashant.

“I have had both experiences and I continue to be a photojournalist, but I spend most of my time on longer projects because of the leisure of time and the creative process is different.”

The creative process though, he says, is never about technique. “It’s about what you understand and how much or what you see. To be a good photographer, it is important to keep in mind what is being said in the picture.”

Photography today, he observes, has been democratized to a large extent, by virtue of anybody being able to take a picture. “Unfortunately, with democratization there’s also a dumbing down happening all over the world and in India. Serious photographers, therefore have to distinguish themselves from people who capture memories or record events. They have to realize this and be critical of their works because getting likes on Facebook is not enough.”

This is even more true for self-taught photographers, like Prashant, who learnt by studying the works of photographers such as Raghu Rai.

“I learnt from my contemporaries and by studying photographers from all over the world, many of them greats from the 20 century.”

His biggest learnings were from his experiences witnessing conflicts across the country, from the Naxalite movement in 1977-78 to the communal riots in Bagalpur and Bombay and the Babri Masjid demolition.

“They not only informed my photography, but also the way I look at life and society. It’s because of what I witnessed that I think about society and social issues, which continue to be a part of all the work that I do. I got my education from there.”

He believes that the best way to learn photography is to go to a photography school and take up a professional course. “If people cant take up courses that span over a few years, then self-study and good workshops are a good way of refining the technique and the process of making pictures.”