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Work by ace photographer Atul Kasbekar, who shoots the annual Kingfisher calendar, has featured in magazines such as Elle and Time. He talks to Lata Kubchandani about his career and passion...
What made you decide to become a photographer?
I enjoyed taking photographs of my sister and my dog. This was from Class 6 onwards. But I enjoyed other things too. It never crossed my mind to think of photography as a career option.
It was after I joined UDCT and started my Chemical Engineering that I realised that that wasn't what I wanted to do. I remember meeting Prahlad Kakkar after my first year in UDCT and he told me to find what I enjoyed and to do that because then it wouldn't be work. I quit engineering in the second year.
What is your advice to aspiring photographers?
I wouldn't really advise anyone to take up photography as a career because things have changed. Right now it is fairly competitive. Photography is in a state of flux. The classic form of photography has disappeared.
Earlier you had to rig the whole paraphernalia, but now that is not required, you can do everything on the computer, you don't have to be experienced in getting the right kind of light or background, it's all easy to compose on the computer, so that part is outsourced to somebody else.
So you don't stand apart unless you are really unique in what images you get, unless you can bring something that others can't.
How has photography as a profession evolved?
Earlier doing star photos was huge now it's not happening. You don't even need genuine skills to generate the kind of light you want. You can piece the shot together without 30 years of knowledge, you can do the same job today with good knowledge of computers. So where does the skill lie? Of course, the use of images will always be there but unless you can bring an uniqueness there isn't much point.
It's not pure photography any more. It's more of image making. My job is to record a model, after that an illustrator comes in and at some point the illustrator will say 'Why am I not doing this?' too.
How did you get started?
I started off in this line because I got a couple of lucky breaks early in life, I think someone up there was watching over me. I did the Vadilal campaign and Park Avenue for Rahul D Cunha at Lintas. That was my first break.
Today a photographer doesn't need the knowledge of shooting, using a dark room etc. It's sad. Also in the last five to 10 years I haven't seen any new superstar photographer emerge, the same old names crop up all the time.
Is it a paying profession?
As far as payments are concerned you can do hundreds of magazine covers but that doesn't pay your bills, what does pay is commercial assignments. The editorial rates I get are only a third of what we get in advertising campaigns.