Interview – Photographer Indrajit Khambe on finding his calling

Tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Indrajit Khambe. I was born and brought up in town named Kankavli, near the Maharashtra-Goa border. I completed my education in my town only. I graduated in commerce in 2001. When I was a child I was fascinated by 3 things. First was farming, the second was cricket and third was painting. My whole family had a farming background and my father was the first in a family who moved out of the village to a slightly bigger town Kankavli to take up a government job.

No one in my family had any background in arts. But somehow I feel that farming is also a creative process – equal to any art form. I wanted to pursue painting as a career but my parents did not support me. When I was a college going kid, I had developed an interest in computers. After completing my graduation in commerce, I started my own small business of computer repairing in 2001. Once I got involved in business, all my interests like painting and cricket got left behind.

When did you first know you wanted to be a photographer? How did you start in photography?

After starting my business in 2001, in the next 3-4 years, I started earning a good amount of money. I finally took the tough decision of getting back to what I wanted to do in my life. I joined a theatre group in my town. I started doing small roles and composing background music for plays. After doing theatre for almost 10 years, I started feeling that I am not made for theatre. Somehow, I was not able to come out of my shell which was formed due to my business responsibilities. Then in 2012, I started thinking about photography. Digital cameras had become pretty common and inexpensive by that time. Also, photography was a great medium for me as it allowed me a lot of flexibility. If I only had one hour free from work, I could use that for my photography. I didn’t have to depend on others like I had to earlier when I was involved with theatre. All these plus points of photography carried me towards it.

What and who inspired you in your early days?

In early days I got inspired by one of my great photographer friend – Sudharak Olwe. Then one day I came across the work of the legendary Raghu Rai and was mesmerised by it. I am inspired by various people from a variety of art forms. I am inspired by AR Rehman the musician, actors like Naseeruddin Shah, Irfan Khan and many others. I think our ideas should not come only from the photography field. We should find inspiration from all around the world.

Who are some of you favourite photographers past or present?

I have many favourite photographers from bothe the past and the present. Henry Cartier Bressan, Raghu Rai, Pablo Bartholomew, Barbara Davidson, Alex Webb, Larry Towel are amongst my favourites. But I am influenced by Josef Koudelka the most. I found my town and environment similar to places which Koudelka has captured in his images.

What first drew you to documentary and street photography?

There was not a particular thing which drew me towards photography. I was drawn into photography as I found the medium flexible and I just started making images. It was all about self-motivation. Once internet connectivity came to my town, I started learning various forms of photography. At that time, I got to know about Street Photography. I really got inspired by the works of Alex Webb, Garry Winogrand, and Matt Stuart. As a form, I love street photography very much. But I don’t do that on regular basis. The place where I live is very small and doesn’t have much potential for street photography.

So I like searching for some documentary subjects and working on them. I am learning something new every day. I got selected for a workshop by the Magnum photographer – Sohrab Hura. My work got exhibited in Indian Photography Festival in 2015 and 2016. My personal story “Chasing the question mark” was appreciated by many great photographers from all around the world. These are the few achievements which give me the motivation to go ahead.

How do you decide when to use colour vs B&W as the visual medium for your work?

It depends on the shooting situation. Mostly, I like B&W because I feel it’s relevant to convey my emotions. I choose colour when the images need it. For example, while doing series on wrestlers, I went with colour because the old akharas have great colours that are essential to capturing the mood.

Do you take on commercial assignments as well?

The place where I live is very small and doesn’t offer me any commercial work. But now I have started doing work for some state-level news media. I accept only documentary work and am happy doing that only.

What cameras and photography gear are you currently using?

I have made most of my images with my small Fujifilm X20. Also, I use Canon 7D with 15-85 USM lens. I prefer to go with one camera and one lens. Also, I love making images with my cell phone – Redmi2.

What makes a great photograph?

Having an emotional connection with the work you are doing makes a great image. As a human, you have to get connected with the things you are documenting. Any art form should be a byproduct of the life you live. Same applies to photography. Your images should be just a byproduct of your life. If you live fascinating life then you can find some great images.

Which is your favourite image that you have shot recently?

What lies ahead? Any projects that you are planning?

I am working on documenting the life of few of my friends. One of them is Omprakash, who has been playing female characters in the local theatre from the last 30 years. Another work I am doing is with my friend Sonali Navangul. I don’t call my work a ‘project’. They are my friends, not my subjects. And it’s my work, not a project. It doesn’t have any ending point. As long as they are my friends, I will continue documenting them.

How has your portfolio website helped you?

Having a portfolio website has enabled me to reach out to the world, way beyond my small town. My work has found an audience and its been amazing and encouraging to get feedback and appreciation from so many people.
I struggled for a long time to build an online portfolio website. I worked with 2 web designers and tried out WordPress as well. But, then I found Pixpa and was able to create my portfolio website myself without any help. Pixpa has been great to work with. Highly recommended for the photographers.

You can see Indrajit Khambe’s work on which is built on Pixpa.

All images in this blog post are by Indrajit Khambe.

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