Though wedding photography has been male dominated for quite some time now, there have been women who proved their abilities and made their mark on par with men. One such person is Gayatri Nair. I have known her only very recently and have had the occasion to have interesting conversations about the current wedding scenario with her. She always comes across as a practical and sensible person, extremely passionate about photography. Happy to feature 'Weddings by Gayatri' as the photography of the month. And oh did I tell you? It's a question & answer session for a change!
1. Can you tell us about yourself? I was born in Chennai. My father was a pilot with the Indian Air Force. So my childhood was spent all over India. I studied in 12 schools from LKG to XII!
2. How and when did your journey as a photographer start? My father had a camera that always fascinated me as a child. This became a hobby as I grew older until finally I decided to do it professionally. The first wedding I shot very casually was for a friend. When I moved to Chennai, I had the chance of working with a very talented wedding photographer. His name is Amar Ramesh and he has been my mentor. I heard about him through a similar interview like this, and I took a chance and emailed him. He replied almost instantly, we met and he took me under his wing. It was a great learning experience as I knew nothing about wedding photography.
3. Can you recall the first photograph taken by you? It's hard to remember the first photo taken. Although a distinct memory still remains; when my father first let me hold his expensive film camera & I dropped it! Thankfully it still worked & my father, being a very patient man, let me have a second chance. I still have that camera and the bump on its lens still reminds of that incident.
4. As a wedding photographer, what changes do you see in wedding scenario since the last decade? For me, the most important thing that is changing is that the bride and the groom are getting to have a bigger say in how the wedding is conducted than before. Also, parents are becoming very broad minded and accepting newer ideas from their children. A trend I do not like happening is when weddings are too large and the bride & groom get lost in the crowd. Weddings should be intimate & personal in my opinion.
5. What has been your 'favorite' photo location? I like shooting in family homes. I like when events are held in the garden of the bride or grooms home. It makes things so personal.
6. Is it important to research before shooting? Is it important to know a lot about the concept to get the perfect shot? Yes, do research. But always be prepared for the unexpected at a wedding! I prefer to use the natural light available where I shoot. So a lot of times, it is also about luck. Being at the right place at the right time. However, it is very important for you to know your equipment very well - what different lenses are used for, what kind of settings work in what environment and so on. This will allow you to capitalize on the opportunity when it comes along.
7. When you get booked for a wedding, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Now that wedding season has begun, I have quite a few assignments lined up for the coming months. The first thing at the start of a wedding project is to get to know the bride and the groom. To understand their personalities and see how best I can capture them.
8. Is this industry male dominated? What are the challenges you face in this field? Traditionally, like many professions, this has been a male dominated one. However, there are a number of excellent female photographers who are now working all over India. I have shot weddings together with many of them as well.
9. How does your family support you? My parents, my husband and my in-laws have been very supportive. My work involves a lot of travel and the hours can be quite hard - some days can start very early and some nights end very late. So it is good to know that your family is behind you.
10. Any interesting incidents to share? Sometimes people don't believe that I am a professional. The first few times people thought I was the bride's friend. Even when I told them that I was not, they assumed that this was a hobby and not a profession. One time, after a wedding, an elderly man from the family came to see and told me that this is not a good profession for a girl. I just smiled at him. But most of the time, my clients & I get along so well. The proof is in the number of referrals I get from past clients. Many of them, by the end of a wedding, see me as a member of their extended family.
11. Memorable wedding that you shot The most interesting wedding I shot was at the Registrar's office in Chennai. It was the smallest wedding I have ever shot (just 8 people including the couple) and the office building was such a unique location for the shoot. After the wedding the couple were generous to include me in their wedding lunch. It was a very touching experience for me.
12. Any advice or tips to girls who like to take photography as a profession.... This is an issue that I am really vocal about. Often I notice that people talk this way - that girls shouldn't do this or that. That makes me very upset. Being a girl shouldn't stop you from following any profession. All I will say to any girl wanting to take this up is, be confident about yourself and your abilities. Develop a thick skin. Don't listen to what people say. Follow your own path.
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