Aparna Swarup

It was Annie Leibovitz who once remarked that what you will see in my work is that I am not afraid to fall in love with the people I photograph. So when you are a people’s person and you are not afraid to fall in love with them, that’s when and why photography happened to me.

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I began as a painter, starting only to dabble in photography when my husband was posted in South Africa. I was doing a series on women called Risky Dreams, a tribute to women who went out every day in dire circumstances to chase their dreams, and against all odds, make them come true. Naturally, I did not expect them to sit and pose for me, that is why I went out and took their pictures. As an artistic project, it was a mixed media series using my own photographs as a reference point, and I really sought to blur the line between the two mediums.

Risky Dreams
‘Sylvia’

The results were quite effective and it was from then on that I wanted to expose myself more to photography for its own sake. As a painter everything came in easy for me in terms of colour and composition, but the technicalities of this medium were still new to me, so I enlisted in a formal course in photography.

Today, equipped with some knowledge, a lens and a boundless thirst, I shoot and capture the stories of the unheard voices in our lives. The people who exist alongside us in our lives, yet we always fail to notice. I have always felt that every eye contact tells you a story, and that it is up to us to read them, and we should always be careful not to judge.

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People have always been my subject and my strength. Communication comes to me naturally. I can talk to people from all walks of life, and I love to know more about them and then see what parts of their story I want to convey.

Of course, this relationship sometimes goes beyond the shutter speed and aperture when they are in need of some help, and this was the inspiration behind Shot Stories, my Facebook blog.

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I write and shoot people who make me smile and cry with them because when my lens opens I give a part of me to them. There have been happy stories. There have been sad stories. There is love, pain and survival. That is life, but we should always question and think about how we can change the society we live in, awareness is only one part of the matter.

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Talking of painting, I feel with painting I start with a blank canvas and then complete it. Whereas with photography it’s the joy of starting with something which is already complete and then making it yours in an incomplete way. My intent here is not to compare both as that will be unfair and I enjoy both immensely. But in today’s fast and impatient world instant is in demand and visual is the language that is widely understood and spoken as social media rules our lives.

For me, all I can say is I am happily married to painting and flirting with photography for now. As it’s all about love.

Views expressed are personal. Aparna Swarup tweets @aparnaswarup. You’ll find her Shot Stories page on FB here.