A century. That's how much longer it took for us to understand photography, the art of expressing through visuals, than our counterparts in the West. But once this art was accepted by us, somewhere around 1901, the flower of photography blossomed like a lotus in India's sombre colonial milieu. And after that, it's a tale told a million times. Eventually the novices began to compete with those they had learnt it from. By 2011, it is no news to say India produces exponents of photographic talent on par with any in the world. “Rightly so, it's an exciting time to be a photographer, and in India where there is a dearth of good photographers, the prospects are even better,” feels Varun Gupta, who is amongst India's second-generation photographers.
Varun started photography at the age of eight. What was that juvenile spur that made him hold the camera for the first time? “Well, I used to travel a lot. Sometimes to the hills, other times to forests, and all kinds of places. So, I thought why not freeze the beauty of the place and make it eternal. And there is nothing better than a camera to do this,” explains Varun. Varun has been to almost every nook of India, and enjoys his work regardless of the location. But he feels Ladakh stands out for its ethereal beauty.
“I have been there at least 10 times and still want to be there for my next trip. There's something intriguing in the faces of people you see there, and you can't find that anywhere else,” says Varun. And Ladakh and Zanskar region is exactly where Varun is heading for his next trip.
This expedition, he explains, will provide amateur photographers an opportunity to capture the beauty of these areas, with professional experience. Organised by his troupe Travelling Lens, this tour will also include wayfarers, who will be there just for leisure. This makes one wonder what Travelling Lens, really is, a lensmen's association or a tour company?
“Well, unlike a tour company, we don't give our expenders a strict schedule, which other companies in the market do. Rather, we believe in customising every minute of their journey, with respect to one's age, preferences or agility,” he clarifies. “And one more thing, capturing pictures is our driving force behind these expeditions, so we wait for the right time to capture them.”
But with so many members, with disparate backgrounds and inhibitions, how does he manage to knit them into a group? “Actually, we have specialists in every field from trekking to camping and photography, of course. They all keep their respective groups busy and, of course happy,” explains Varun.
It has not always been a smooth path though. Varun was stranded in Ladakh, during last year's flash floods. But to his amazement, his group did not lose hope, and was not scared at all. “We, indeed, did some relief work for the victims.”
Like teacher, like pupils!