Chandrashekhar Singh, winner of the NatGeo Moment Award shares a tale about his tryst with the lens. Vishnupriya Bhandaram listens in

On a regular day, Chandrashekhar Singh sets off from home without a camera bag or a camera around his neck. He is just another guy rushing to work, battling the peak hour traffic. On many other days, he becomes the lens man with a penchant for faces and emotions. Winner of the NatGeo Moment Award 2012 (India), Chandrashekhar Singh, between packing for the forthcoming South Africa trip and getting used to his new touch phone (both prizes) is on cloud nine. This is the fourth running year of the awards and is one of the most coveted prizes in photography. Chandrashekhar’s winning picture titled, ‘Getting Ready’ was selected from nearly 2 lakh entries. The picture was judged by well known photographer Mike Pandey, film-maker and conservationist. “When I got to know that my picture was short-listed in the 112, I felt like that in itself was a big honour. To date I have never taken part in competitions. My 18-year-old son insisted I do and look where it has got me,” he beams.

Chandrashekhar got bitten by the shutterbug at the age of 16. He claims to have exhausted an entire film roll without even getting one picture worth preserving. He decided to learn the art of taking pictures. The hobby soon became a passion. Completely self-taught, Chandrashekhar is a part of many photography clubs in the city. He has come a long way from owning a Yashica FX3 to a Nikon D700. But as most photographers would have us know, the equipment hardly matters. “You give me any camera, I can give you the best shots. It’s a sad state of affairs, people think that the more expensive your camera, the better photos you can click. Practising in SLR and film gives you the control and discipline. With digital camera, people click 100 pictures and pick one,” he laughs.

Along with other photo enthusiasts, Chandrashekhar has covered almost everything in the city; in fact, the winning picture was taken on one of his many photo-walks. The winning picture shows a still of a street artist, putting his make-up on. Chandrashekhar excitedly says that it’s good to know that there are certain nuances of your environment that you manage to capture. “It’s about studying and understanding the subject and waiting for the right moment,” he says. Behind the lens, Chandrashekhar confesses to losing sight of his surroundings and concentrating on people and faces. In the 22 years that mark his photographic career, Chandrashekhar has taken more than five lakh pictures, but the choosing to submit this particular picture he says was easy, “There are some pictures that change you. This was one of those.”

Chandrashekhar Singh works for NABARD and manages his career and his love for photography very well.

He doesn’t want to give either one up and feels blessed to be juggling between a government job and serious hobby.

The after-story

After winning the prize, Chandrashekhar got curious about meeting his subject again. Chandrashekhar managed to find Narsimha Murthy, a 79-year-old street performer who was sitting under a thatched roof selling things near his village. “I don’t know what came over me, but the moment I saw him. I went and hugged him. After all, he has given me a new identity,” says Chandrashekhar.

Spending a day with him again has changed Chandrashekhar in more ways than one. “Even with his daily earnings of Rs.35, he is happy and proud. There is a lot to take away from that,” says Chandrashekhar.