The photo frame grows bigger for professional shutterbugs in the city. A scene largely dominated by men suddenly finds itself with a sprinkling of women as colleagues.
Though not new elsewhere in the country it is certainly fresh and feminine for Kochi. Side-stepping established genres, women are foraying into new ones such as portfolios of newborns, maternity pictures, portraiture and macro photography. From not being taken seriously, to matching up to the competition, the challenges for these women are many.
Bindaas Thankam, 31, has been into the field for the last one year. She is related to renowned photographer Dayanita Singh, from her Punjabi mother’s side. Thankam began as a point and shoot photographer. She was encouraged to hone her skills by her husband who presented her a Canon 5D Mark 3. She taught herself the intricacies of the art.
Thankam does candid photography focussing on portraits, food and new born babies. “I take pictures of babies as young as 10 days old. It is a delicate task. I take the assistance of a nurse.” To be abreast in this emerging field she has sourced props like dress wraps, cots and cradles. One of her photos, the first in her shoot of newborns, was chosen by MOZI an international photography magazine for newborns and maternity.
“There are gender limitations,” she says about being a woman in the field. Competition is intense and women photographers are often dismissed lightly. Her other loves are travel photography and Western classical music. ‘Bindaas’ is a moniker she adopted as an RJ. Thankam charges Rs. 30,000 upwards for a shoot.
Neethu Eipe, 27, specialises in portraits and product photography. She ventured into this inspired by a colleague who had a very expensive camera. Her husband encouraged her talent and gifted her a professional SLR camera. She began self-tutoring via YouTube and later joined a professional course in photography. Neethu enjoys portrait photography. Her main clients are teenagers, young and middle-aged couples.
She believes in outdoor shoots and natural lighting and works at relaxing her subjects to get a natural real life shot.
“It is still difficult for people in Kerala to perceive women as a photographer, for her to make it a career,” she says adding that women prefer a woman to shoot them.
Anu Abin Alex
Kottayam-based Anu Alex, 29, is a macro photographer and teaches photography at Creative Hut Gurukulam of Photography run by her and her husband Abin. The couple had this school in Ahmedabad before relocating to Kottayam. She learnt photography from her husband.
“Women pursuing photography as a career need strong family support. We are only a handful because families are still unsure of this field for women,” says Anu. She finds Kerala to be the best place for macro photography as it has lush nature that nurtures the wild. Women she believes are good in this field as they have more patience than men.
At 24 Pooja Joseph from Kottayam has carved a name for herself in the genre of wedding photography, even in North India. She did a two-year course at Shari Academy in Mumbai and began work while studying. Her clientele is large and work heavy so Pooja inducts freelancers in her team to cover weddings. She has done shoots for many destination weddings, her latest a Gujarati wedding at Amby Valley. “The wedding photography scene in Kerala is still very traditional but changing,” says Pooja who works between Bangalore and other cities. She uses a 5D Canon and charges Rs.40, 000 upwards for a wedding assignment. “Professional photography is still a guy thing but I am happy that it is changing,” she says.