Remember Farhan Qureshi from the 2009 film 3 Idiots? The engineering student (played by R Madhavan) who has a passion for wildlife photography, who later convinces his conservative father to let him follow his passion over completing engineering? This is in essence also the story of 36-year-old documentary photographer Avneesh Kumar, who had to convince his parents to let him follow his passion for photography 15 years ago. “I wanted to be a doctor and was studying medical science as well. But at the same time, I was good with paintings, so when one of the doctors in the medical college saw my work, he pushed me to pursue it. And when I told my parents they supported me,” Kumar shares about his beginnings.
Today, his work comprises topics like India’s culture, history, architecture, and fashion to food and major festivals throughout the year. Among them is his recent series on the Kumbh Mela – a major pilgrimage and festival in India. According to the photographer, this series is the result of his love for Indian culture and festivals. “I have always been inclined to Hindu mythology, and Kumbh is just the representation of complete Hindu culture in India,” he says, further revealing that the crowd in Haridwar celebrating one common culture spellbound him.
Kumar, who finds himself intrigued by abstract stories in Indian culture and festivals, has been capturing the stories of the people who are bound by faith and devotion in Kumbh Mela across the country. So far, he has travelled to Haridwar, Ujjain, Nasik and Prayagraj to follow his instinct of capture the festival. Just like for any photographer, capturing naga sadhus and aghoris is a challenge for Kumar as well. “It is challenging; at times you just have to travel miles and miles to get one picture. And moreover, you have to deal with their moods,” he shares, adding that he makes sure his subject is comfortable before taking a picture. “I at times wear saffron clothes so that they think I am part of the crowd and not some professional photographer,” he laughs.
With the spirit of a painter and a graphic designer, Avneesh loves to tell stories with pictures. According to him, his love for photography developed during his college days in Varanasi. “I studied there and I was always surrounded by stories and cultural activities, so I started taking photographs of all the activities in the city,” he recounts. As for what inspires him, the photographer explains that he only looks for composition, light, and subject. “Then the story is automatically there. I am inspired by history, culture, art and anything that is part of either of these things. It is worth a picture for me,” muses the photographer in conclusion