One of India’s most prolific photographers, Iqbal Mohamed is astute, benevolent and passionate. His sense of duty and dynamism is bolstered by his perfect marriage to Anuradha, who was once an advertising honcho.
Today, the couple run the 3-acre full facility Light and Life Academy in Ooty. It is India’s first and only holistic and intense photography programme. "I came from very humble beginnings and even to get a bank loan for photography studies was hard. But I persevered and enrolled at Brookes University, California," says Iqbal. Anuradha adds, "It was the only university which at that point had a dedicated programme for photography."
Having completed his course with flying colours, Iqbal then assisted iconic photographers in the US like Dick Zimmerman who shot portraits of John Travolta, Michael Jackson and Tom Cruise, and also assisted Jay Silverman and automobile photographer Bill Werts before heading back to India.
There was no dearth of work for Iqbal who was immediately signed on by brands like MRF. "Photographing tyres is complex but we aced it with the techniques and knowledge I gained at Brookes University. I depend on light and composing the photo through scientific calculations. Depending on photoshop and technology doesn’t deliver as good a result as natural photography," says Iqbal. He continues, "All genres of photography interested me so I didn’t want to pick a specialisation. Once you understand photography truly, you can shoot anything with precision."
The Shore Temple at Mamallapuram in moonlight, India’s only active volcano in the Andamans’ Barren Island, Iqbal’s mettle shines through in these and other photographs. Anu proudly says, "His sheer passion and perfection won him prestigious awards and brands. He is India’s most engaging photo expert who presents products, people and nature with absolute commitment to its DNA."
Iqbal is also credited with larger-than-life sets, high quality production techniques and a comprehensive understanding of brand personality – the Citibank credit card shoot is a good example. Once he set the trend, shoots for brands started happening in film studios with much larger budgets.
Iqbal and Anuradha look back at over three decades of their marriage, setting up the Light and Life Academy and the academic brilliance it has achieved, all enhanced by the magnificent architecture that seamlessly blends with the hilly terrain. Created by architect Jaisim, this earthy structure has been showcased in nearly 30 countries as a case study for eco-architecture. The academy houses a state-of-the-art equipment library, 14 studios, props zone, canteen and even a football field. A specifically designed automobile shoot studio is built with technology that can define and project every nuance of automobile design.
The couple, fiercely loyal to their goal of knowledge transfer, says, "Our aim is to create photographers who enrich the world with their skill, tell stories of human interest, add to economic progress and above all document humanity’s metamorphosis as time progresses."