In Conversation with Jagrati Marwaha

We caught up with Jagrati Marwaha, a young professional photographer, to talk about how she got into this field, her experiences, and more.

If you had to describe what you do to someone you’ve just met, what would you say?
Introducing myself as a writer / photographer used to give butterflies in my tummy, but I’ve stopped doing that lately. The unconventional choices I’ve made takes up the majority of the conversation, and we rarely ever come around to discussing what the other person does. Something I get asked often is “Why/How do you do so many things?” Saying that I’m a lonely person, and that I need ways to maintain my relationship with myself has become a standard answer.

Initially, what got you into this? Where did it all begin?
I was a 15 year old tumblr-fed teen in 2010. Looking at inspiring photos taken by vintage cameras everyday was one, and having your cousin marry a Spanish girl who had their cool photographer friends come down for the wedding in Kolkata was another. I would really try to pretty-up for their vintage gears: smile and laugh even harder when I saw them around, or even worse, hug my cousin and act emotional especially when they were around. I started noticing how they would turn their cameras off every time I was there but if some distant relative did the whole “eyes closed trying to tie my hair into a messy bun”, their shutters would go off just because how beautiful she looked. Not a single photograph of me. I came home and I started pestering my parents for a camera for my 16th birthday, for I wanted to take photos of all the people who were made to feel ugly. Although it started with channeling my anger, I’m ever so grateful to those photographers and I think I will e-mail them about this someday.

What do you prefer- the technique, or the raw photograph? Why?
If I think I have ample amount of time with one situation, concentrating on the techniques makes for great practice. It’s nice to not control your images on photoshop too much but if I merely have to react to a situation and I have a few seconds in hand, capturing it before it’s too late becomes more essential. When you’re taking a chance like that, controlling a few elements in a raw photograph can do wonders. So I think I’m pro both of them.

Describe a day in your work life.
When I successfully treat work like fun-time, it’s automatically a successful photo-shoot. If I haven’t had any fun at all, I delete the entire shoot (if it’s personal work). It’s something I’ve started doing more often. If I fail to see myself in it, my heart in it, then there is really no point in keeping them. A day in my work life is just a lot of fun and should never feel like work at all. I end up making some really good conversations with the models I work with and get to explore new locations. I go home feeling inspired and most alive.

Describe an ideal day in your work life.
The one that starts at 5 am, shoot at 6:30 with beautiful sunlight. A girl in a very long red dress running around in the woods, it could be slightly windy! The tall trees creating a light and shadow play on the green grounds and me chasing the entire situation with my camera. Get breakfast and a beer with the friend whom I’d be shooting, go home and listen to my indie folk music with my dog on my bed. It should be raining outside by now, and I begin to post-process the photographs. Then take them for printing. That would be an ideal day in my work life.

How did you reach the platform you’re at presently?
Consistency played a huge part. It all fell in place because all I did was believe in the madness of it all. I wouldn’t know how exactly one would describe the platform you talk of but all I did was shoot a lot, convert places in my mind and heart into images and shared it with my people on the Interwebs. Their constant motivation got me going and growing, I try to show gratitude to them for at least ten minutes every day. It’s less, very less. But I still have a very long way to go. There’s a lifetime of this left.

What would the last line of your autobiography be?
And it’s time to dance.

Which one of your own works has influenced you the most?
It was Blue Roses, a series I did with Radha Gautam that I hold very dear to my heart. We created that day and I never felt so invincible in my life. It’s been a year since that day and it’s still my favorite.

Which of someone else’s works has influenced you the most, and why?
Initially, it has to be Brooke Shaden. Even though I wasn’t influenced by her style but her constant creations made me believe that you can create anything you want. The freedom that was there in what she did was very inspiring.

What are you currently working on/ what are you releasing, next?
I’m currently working on a 52 weeks photo diary on my Instagram, I’m creating something every week to keep the creativity flowing. I have a folder full of unreleased photographs. As a student of Raghu Rai Center for Photography, we will be exhibiting all that we are hiding at the end of our Diploma course this September.

What, according to you, is more important- the idea, or its execution/presentation?
The idea is any day more important but how you package and dispatch what you create is also very important. Although earlier I used to over process to achieve certain kind of tones in my images. But lately I can’t help but just process to bring them closer to reality. I also believe your styles, ideas and way of editing changes as you change as a human being. It goes hand in hand.

What does it take as a person, to do what you’re doing? What were the circumstances involved?
Four years ago, people didn’t encourage photography as much as they do today. I hear parents wanting their children to take up photography classes and it genuinely makes me happy for the children. And I’m sure it’s still quite a struggle for a lot of people out there. For about 2 years, it was quiet a struggle. I never studied because I was apparently distracted by photography and so, my camera used to be taken away from me for months. I had to really prove it to my parents. It becomes better when you start getting paid. Unfortunately, I could never really prove it to my teachers in my time as a student. I wish they were more encouraging, only one or two believed and I’m forever indebted to them.

Are you involved in something other than this? Tell us about it.
Like I told you earlier, I’m a lonesome person and I need ways to keep up my relationship with myself. Writing, poetry, taking photos and painting are things I do to feel closer to myself.

If not this, what?
If not this, I would like to see myself as a mother and a wife 10 years or so down the line. And also someone who would take care of and raise dogs in a farm house, or someone who works with NGOs that deal with different social causes. (I think I will be photographing my children, husband, dogs and the NGOs anyway, hehe)

If you were a pizza delivery guy, how would you benefit from scissors?
I’d cut my own hair because I wouldn’t have the time or the money to go for a haircut as a busy pizza delivery guy.

How do you balance your personal and professional lives?
There has never been a need to balance when my professional life has always been a part of my personal life. My photographs always come from some place personal, I’ve made a life out of whatever I do.

If you were a box of cereal, what would you be? Why?
I would be Chocos because they’re tasty and they’re my favourite and I have a sweet tooth and my mom never lets me have them.

What would your three sentences in the game ‘Two truths and a lie’ be? Haha I’ve never played this game before, I had to google it. But these would be the three sentences.

  1. I trained to be a professional contemporary and jazz dancer and teacher in 2009 .
  2. I was three times my size in school and boys called me Big Foot.
  3. I scored a 65% in my CBSE 12th Board Exam.

What’s your least favorite thing about yourself?
I can be easily broken, I hate how brittle I am; but that comes with being a very emotional person.

With regard to what you’re pursuing, do you have a story for your grandchildren?
Oh yes, I do! I would love to tell them about how Hardwell was the first DJ I ever photographed and how in years to come I got to work with Sunburn, and how it taught me about all kinds of people, how it made me more aware of what is good for you and what is bad. From opportunities to days when we were mentored by Magnum Photographer Raghu Rai. I’m glad I’m already writing it all down for them to read.

What has been your best experience while interacting with people who respect your work?
It’s very hard to narrow it down to one such instance, I think my favorite would be from the evenings spent with my friend Radha. She hasn’t only encouraged me by her overwhelming ways of expressing but also has played a huge part in the photographs I’ve clicked. We make the best team man, it’s something I’ll be forever proud of. Our wavelength while shooting is so powerful that it can almost be physically felt.

Do you believe in the butterfly effect? Do you think you’re making a difference to the world?
Of course, I believe that even if you change one mindset for the better, you’ve created this space that has potential: something that can give us a better future. You must keep creating possibilities at all times, it comes from your ever changing/evolving self. I think just by allowing myself to grow every day, I’m making a difference. Sharing my daily musings and almost daily epiphanies just so that more could benefit from it is something I really love doing, and I only hope it’s making a difference.

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