Often showcased through folk dance and music, the vibrant culture and long standing traditions of Rajasthan are found all across the nation. As a nucleus of cultural activities, the state and its culture have been an inspiration to many photographers, compelling them to train their lens and imaginations to the famed fairs and festivals of Rajasthan. But for 51-year-old photographer Rajesh Kumar Soni, it’s the faces of the artists that draw him to the state.
Rajesh’s photography ranges from capturing Rajasthan’s Kachhi Ghodi artists to its Garhwali women dancers, from the jockers of Behrupiya art, to the Bawri community folks attending the Ramdevra fair, dressed up as transgenders during the Ram Navami procession. These artists emerge only at the time of these cultural festivals and Rajesh has his calendar marked ahead of every year. “You don’t get to see them otherwise and during those festivals they’re in their original state of mind so it makes a beautiful picture,” he explains.
Being an anthropology student, Rajesh draws inspiration for his pictures from the artists and their unique behaviour. According to him, it is his upbringing that has brought him closer to the arts and culture of the country. “I have always been interested in art and traditions. I have grown up listening to old stories and lived my life in such an environment,” he says, adding that it is perhaps, the versatility of the Indian culture and its vast historical repertoire that pushes him to continue with photography.
While talking about the most challenging part of his photography, he recalls an incident in Ujjain during the Kumbh Mela last year. He narrates, that while he set his frame on an Aghori puffing on a pavement, the Aghori asked him for a few bucks in return to click his picture or else threatened to curse him. “If they see a photographer they don’t allow us to capture them, they’ll ask for money. They become professional at that time,” he quips.
A public service administrative by profession, Rajesh believes in capturing natural and candid poses. For him, a pre-decided frame doesn’t pack a punch; the trick lies in being a fly on the wall. “If I tell any artist about their picture, they’ll start posing for me and that’s not photography at all, so I click when they aren’t aware of the camera,” he shares.
With no formal training in photography, Rajesh’s first click was just five years ago. But his deep interest in these artists has turned him into a professional portrait photographer. He can capture faces with narratives at the back of his hand. “I invest at least 15 hours a week for my photography and I am abreast with technology to learn new techniques and to improve myself,” concludes the photographer....