Entertainment

‘The perfect shot showcases pure, raw, unfiltered emotion and intensity,’ says Shitabh Pillai

A fan licks a guitar of one of the band members of Kryptos

A fan licks a guitar of one of the band members of Kryptos  

In the last year, gig photographer has taken over 45,000 pictures. So what’s his formula for capturing fervent beauty amidst musical havoc?

Walking into a gig, photographer Shitabh Pillai doesn’t know what to expect. But on recceing the site, he starts to read the atmosphere, the crowd, the performers and the venue’s employees — that alone sets the tone for the next few hours of frenzy.

In his early days in 2013, the Chennaiite tried to establish himself by being a one-man marketing machine, explaining, “I used to play drums so that pull towards the music scene was very natural. I went to my first gig where Retrospect were playing and I can recall the utter chaos. So whatever pictures were good to me, I’d send them directly to the bands on Facebook. Concert photography is oriented around social media; the way I click something, it’s to preserve and provide a memory. Initially, from people and bands, I’d gotten a lot more criticism.” The 24 year-old observes not much of a city-based community of this realm of photography, explaining there aren’t a lot of people who’d work gigs for a living.

Discovered a year ago by music events manager Mayur Jalan at a show in Fubar, Shitabh who’d long been working the gig scene was finally catapulted into a whole new calibre of photography. His parents have been his biggest supporters, for which he is grateful.

‘The perfect shot showcases pure, raw, unfiltered emotion and intensity,’ says Shitabh Pillai

The equipment

As expected, Shitabh’s gear is as adapted for the gig scene as he is. Tight spaces, moving subjects and very low lighting is part of the package. “I’m constantly switching lenses. In the beginning, it was a nightmare where I’d shoot from the front and the back of a venue, very typical shots. Over the years, I realised I can do that with one lens instead of two. Right now I’m using an ultra-wide lens where if I stand even an inch away from you, I can capture the walls around you, the crowds around you, everything. That’s really advantageous in a small space.” The self-proclaimed product junkie stays up-to-date with the latest in the tech realms, exploring his social media feeds for new information and new styles. “I particularly am a fan of Jared Polin, but I also keep in mind to explore other types of photography which inspires what I snap at gigs, mimicking intensity.”

Expect strong contrasts and pops of colour in Shitabh’s photos, creating an edgy blend of grit and glamour.

Captured Bands Godless and Krpytos in the throes of music

Captured Bands Godless and Krpytos in the throes of music  

All about environment

So, besides the right gadgets, what does it take to prosper in such a niche subculture? “Adaptability,” the 24 year-old says promptly, “You need to bloom where you’re planted: you have to consider the crowd’s attitude, the management’s strategies, and so on. There have been managers who have run up to me, held me and prevented me from taking photos at certain angles because of where I was standing. The Moonshine Project, though, is a great venue for my work because the management is encouraging. One time, I had to stand on a table and while I was clicking away, I saw the owner running up to me and then he held me by the legs and, to my surprise, said ‘take the photo!’ The perfect shot for me, which I have achieved a few times thankfully, is one that showcases pure, raw, unfiltered emotion and intensity. I’ve captured a man lick a band member’s guitar, lots of memorable head-banging, and kids watching their parents play too.”

Shitabh Pillai

Shitabh Pillai  

For the most part, there is a symbiotic relationship between concert photographers and the bands they shoot. Shitabh, through his photographs, never portrays an objective angle; his goal is to capture raw emotion — be it in multitudes or in the singular. “Skrat from Chennai are a band which can really get a crowd going, let me enjoy the show and let me capture great moments. That’s something that never happens to me.”

Crowd perception to concert photography has evolved too. Shitabh says when he would go on stage to snap a couple of shots, he would get heckled by the crowd, but now he is pushed to take pictures by the crowd itself. “I used to get really irritated when I first started, I’d reprimand them for being awful to me. I was young then and later I grew to understand they’re not in their senses.”

A year from now Shitabh hopes to take his shows on the road, and go on tour with a band, capturing the varying lifestyles on and off the stage. He’s got the world’s stages in his lens and is excited to contribute what he can to the music world he loves so unconditionally.

Check out Shitabh Pillai on Facebook as Shitabh Pillai Photography and on Instagram as @clickingitreal.

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Printable version | Mar 28, 2020 11:07:29 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/shitabh-pillai-concert-photography-hyderabad-pure-raw-unfiltered-emotion-and-intensity/article24207496.ece

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