Monday, June 17 2019


Hemant Khandelwal

He is a photographer by profession, an artist by choice and a musician and a sculptor by passion. Hemant Khandelwal, a man with multifarious talents, shares his journey with Riddhima Nagpal.
You could call him a polymath. Hemant Khandelwal has many sides to his personality, and an avid belief that God can be found in each one. His spiritual connect plays an important role in shaping his life. A theatre enthusiast, he regrets not being able to do justice to his passions because of the nitty-gritty of everyday life.
Your intended career was not photography. What compelled you to make the switch?
I had joined my family’s hardware business, which has been running for 170 years. But from a very young age my keen interest had always been in visual art forms and music. I was very interested in sketching and doing other creative things. One fine day I just left the business and started to explore my creative side and since I had a keen interest in music, I started to learn to play the tabla, and then I delved into sculpting. But it was difficult to make both ends meet; so I then enrolled for photography classes and in a month I knew that photography was my calling. This was about fifteen years ago.
Did your early photographic goals include earning a living from photography, or did it start as a way to express yourself creatively?
In any profession, it is always a rough-and-tumble path in the beginning, so I had put up a textile business to support myself. I started shooting on subjects related to street photography. So yes, in the initial days, photography was all pure passion for me.
Your photography portfolio is very vast. How do you decide on topics, locations, subjects?
I have always had a keen interest in capturing human forms. Even when I used to sculpt, I would create figurative work. Human nature intrigues me and people excite me. I love doing films on this subject too and that’s how I started doing portraits; they are very close to my heart.
What is your relation as a photographer to the subjects during the ideating phase and while shooting?
Usually clients have a certain idea about what they want, but then there are ideas that generate out of nowhere. Sometimes I feel there is no basis of that idea. You just connect to it and feel strongly about it. I believe that it is an accumulation of all experiences and life that you have lived. When I am totally convinced by my concept, I try to execute that while shooting.
What is your opinion on ‘finding inspiration in unusual places’?
I believe inspiration can come from anywhere, be it a film or any object. But for me, how I connect to my surroundings is where inspiration comes from. For instance, I did a concept for designer Puja Nayyar where the brief was about capturing fast-paced city life and translating that everyday run-of-the-mill to the fashion shoot.
So do you think we need photographs to connect to the ‘real present’?
For me pictures speak their own story. The way one connects to a picture cannot happen in the case of text; when one writes, the reader imagines his or her own picture but an image itself is engaging. As far as the fad of exhibiting the ‘real India’ is concerned, if it is done with integrity and if the aim is to present something unique, then it is relevant.
What is your opinion about photographs being an open canvas?
Photography is now also treated as fine art. There is a genre of photography that is pictorial photography, where everything is planned in advance like lighting and composition for the picture to become a canvas. But there are no parameters that define beauty for me; instead I believe that lighting is the strength of any picture. Composition is the next very important aspect. Though the subject remains to be of utmost importance, it is the amalgamation of these three that defines whether it is an immortal image or not.
Black-and-white stills are more dominant in your personal work. What is your take on this?
When I work as an artist with no boundaries, then I like to shoot mostly in black and white; colour creates confusion. The same may not be applicable in all cases, but if there are shades of grey then it helps me capture the image exactly as I want. If I want the eyes of the viewer to focus exactly on my subject, then black and white is the answer.
Tell us about your photography collection, ‘Thoughts’.
This collection of images is closest to my heart and I love each of them. Each picture has a story behind it, etched in my heart.
Any interesting anecdote that you would like to share with us that has impacted your mind?
I was shooting portraits of the top women architects of India. I had to capture Brinda Chinnappa Somaya, the architect and urban conservationist. I have this habit of asking a few questions before clicking as it helps me connect with the person. She later told me, “I have done lots of documentaries and interviews in the past thirty-three years but no one has reached the depth of my personality like you have.” I thought that was the best compliment given to me as a photographer.
Which is your favourite click?
There is an image that I had clicked outside Louvre in Paris; I was inspired by the surroundings and was on a creative high. That was when I had captured the perfect moment; to me it seemed as if the composition was reaching to eternity.
During any session, how many photographs do you take to find ‘the right one’?
Initial shots are most important in any shoot, the approach and connection is fresh. The initial ten or fifteen shots always give me what I want.
You have done a filmmaking course from New York Film Academy. Any projects you are currently working on?
I am working on a documentary on a young enthusiast named Arav, who wants to join the NBA. It depicts his journey and his diligence; I plan to send this documentary to various international film festivals.
Sum up your passion for photography in one line.
When I click, it is like a culmination of all my experiences in that fraction of a second and I give something very personal to each picture. A
Capturing the beauty of Rome
Streets of Venice, a reminder of Old Delhi
Enthralling architecture of Piazza San Marco, Venice
Framing the play of architecture, light and shadow at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

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