D&B: Where are you from?
UK: I hail from Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India and am based out of Gurgaon, Haryana; a suburb of New Delhi, India.
D&B: What kind of photography do you shoot and how did you get started - any "formal" training?
UK: While survival makes me shoot people and lifestyle for advertising, editorial and my corporate clientele. My personal works revolve fine art and social documentaries.
In 2007-2008 I was smitten by still life while this year my focus is around abstract, conceptual and people-based works. Street is still my favorite playground for most of my subjects.
I hail from an artist family. My Grandfather taught music, my maternal grandmother won the first Oscar in India for her dresses in the movie Gandhi, my uncle a wedding photographer... I guess the art was passed onto me genetically.
In reality, I found it in 2007 when I actually started experimenting with my camera, having quit my corporate career post 8 years as a marketer. Passing through a dark phase in life, I started on this quest to find a few answers with the camera as my friend. Experimentation was the key and the perfectionist in me helped me grow and learn on my own.
Subsistence, Papadwala - Copyright Udit Kulshrestha
D&B: What cameras or techniques do you use?
I am a digital photographer. I normally use my Canon 5D and Canon 40D. However for my commercial work I often end up using a Canon Mark III or a 4x5 Sinar.
D&B: Who are your mentors (in photography)?
UK: Steve McCurry and Dinesh Khanna’s work has had major influence, especially around colour. However, it is World Press Photo Award Winner Pablo Bartholomew, who has guided me and mentored me from time to time by critiquing my work and helping me grow.
Also, when I started photographing, I chanced across this amateur photography club, ‘DFC’ in Delhi and Sid Trehan, its founding member handheld me from time to time, coaching me, teaching me a few techniques, taking me along on shoots, thereby fueling my quest. Whilst I struggled with post processing, it was the graphic designer and art photographer Mr. Sanjay Nanda, who still reviews my work and has taught me the basics of the digital darkroom.
Sandeep Biswas, another art photographer who often shoots with me has coached me in various ways personally. Finally, it was the art photography curator Mr. Ajay Rajgarhia, who spotted my works and showcased them in an exhibition.
These and my friends and colleagues have always encouraged me to better myself.
D&B: When did you realize you could have a career in photography? Describe your journey towards becoming a working photographer.
UK: October 2007 is when I realized that photography was my calling in life. Initially I chanced to speak to Pro Photographer - Dinesh Khanna who told me that socio-documentary and art photography were not sustainable careers. Hence, I started building my skill sets into advertising photography and worked for a photography studio in Delhi to learn the basics of studio.
My parents were against me getting into this career as all they had been exposed to, was wedding photography and did not want me to be a wedding photographer. They also knew I wanted this very much and finally gave me a go ahead. My first commercial break came to me in March 2008 with a fashion assignment and there has been no looking back. In fact, one of my works this year is a finalist in the prestigious Advertising Awards – OneShow and another body of work on a genre called ‘staged street’ has been submitted in the Cannes Advertising Awards this year.
Faith and Beyond (Hinduism), Samagri Seller - Copyright Udit Kulshrestha
D&B: What do you hope to achieve with your photography?
UK: Photography for me is a not only a form of creative expression, but also a statement that defines my ethos and value systems as an individual. It not only allows me to interpret my society but also helps me introspect into the very being that defines me.
I chance upon my country and its various facets everyday that move me to help contribute to make it a better country. Child labour, social security, poverty, religion and India’s cultural diversity are subjects that are very close to me where I would want to contribute to help shape up a better India for the future generations.
D&B: What's your dream photography project?
UK: A documentary on my personal story or a War photography documentary definitely.
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