Little Box conversation
Sachin, please introduce yourself.
Hi, my name is Sachin Chauhan and I am an India based, 22 year old Street photographer. I have been doing street photography for the last four years. In 2019 I won first prize at the Brussels Street Photography Festival and third prize in the Miami Street Photography Festival and was also named a finalist in Street Foto San Francisco. This year I was nominated for the Leica Oskar Barnack Award 2020 (in the Newcomer Category) and named as a finalist in the Italian Street Photography Festival, HIPA and the Kolga Award. Right now, I am teaching photography in a University (Guest Faculty).
When did your passion for photography begin, why did you become interested in it and why is it important to you?
I belong to a middle class family. I was the kind of person who didn't have any aim in life. In my second year of university I was introduced to photography. At that time I copied a lot of stuff on the internet because those kinds of photos used to get a lot of likes on social media. One day my friend and mentor Manish Jaisi said “What are you doing Sachin? This is not photography.” Then he introduced me to street photography and sent me the profile of Master Vineet Vohra. That’s how my journey started in street photography. I think we don’t choose street photography, it chooses us, because street photopgraphy is for self-satisfaction and for joy. Candidness in street photography attracts me a lot. Candidness is the soul of street photography which I like most. Street photography gives me the super power to see the future and teaches us that we all are connected. So much of who I am, I’ve learned from street photography. So, thank you so much street photography for choosing me.
You live in Gurgaon. Please tell us a little about what it is like to be a street photographer there.
I have lived in Gurgaon for 22 years. Gurgaon is divided into two parts – Old Gurgaon and New Gurgaon. I belong to Old Gurgaon. I don’t shoot much in Gurgaon because people act weird when they see a camera. So, for me its very hard to shoot with the camera, because they equate the camera to a nuclear weapon. There is not even a single street photographer here. That’s why I travel Delhi for street photography, which is 30km from my home. But in the last year, because my confidence has built up after four years of shooting I have started shooting in my own city. There are no photographers here and so I shoot alone, which I really like. Soon I will try to start doing some projects in my own city.
Do you prefer capturing specific subjects and is there a style of shooting you prefer? If yes, why so?
No, I don’t follow any specific style and subject in street photography. I just follow one rule which is candidness. For me street photos have a street smell, and if I ever got that candid smell from my hometown, I would be very happy. I just click what I like. I always follow my heart. Because the mind can be wrong but the heart is never wrong. So, always follow your heart.
The majority of your images appear to be candid. Can you tell us why you are attracted towards candid photography and tell us a little about your ethics towards candid photography.
Yes, all of my images are candid in street photography. I am a hardcore street photographer who just loves to make candid shots. Honestly for me – candid is everything. I don’t like staged shots. I think candidness is the soul of my photography. My USP is candidness in my photographs. I love to shoot stolen moments in a candid way. I don’t know why, but it gives me a lot of happiness and self-satisfaction. Staged shots don’t have any space in street photography. For me, even if I do documentary work I always prefer candid shots. Staged shots are destroying the beauty of street photography. So please maintain its beauty.
Do you have a preference for colour photography or black and white photography and why? Do you think a photograph needs to be black and white to be timeless? What are your thoughts on this?
This question has a lot of layers. I don’t think too much about whether an image should be in color or black and white. For me, the story and message is everything. If you can convey emotion, story and message in colour than go for colour, but if black and white works better to convey your feelings than go for that. So, it’s my opinion that everything depends on the story I want to convey through my art. We have the privilege of using colour or black and white, but in the past photographers only had the choice of black and white. That’s why a lot of legendary photographs are in black and white. When we talk about this topic, black and white or colour, I think I love black and white because of the message it gives – that we are all the same. Every person has a different skin colour but our shadows are black and it doesn’t matter if your skin colour is fair or black. Black and white can add peace to our frames. That’s my opinion. I don’t think a photograph’s colour affects its beauty or worthiness. It doesn’t matter if your photographs are in colour or black and white. If that photograph is good then you will always remember it. A good photograph has the power to stand out.
Have you ever had any negative encounters or scary situations happen while out photographing?
Yes, it is common for a street photographer. I think street photography gives us a lot of things especially if we photograph candidly in the streets. I think we should be thankful to all the people on the streets who help make our frames. But sometimes you can become the victim of negativity on the street. Sometimes people be abusive and misbehave towards me. However, I never over react when I’m in that kind of situation. Street photography has taught me to be patient, so patiently and calmly I try to handle the situation. In the street I feel as though I am a director and the people in the street are my heroes - a situation which can happen between directors and actors. So, keep patient and make your movie. I remember one incident when some people called me a ‘kidnapper' in my own city. But I calmly handled that situation because I had an expensive camera in hand which I also needed to take care of. I always think about my camera before me. If a situation gets out of control and I get the sense my gear or I could get hurt, I quietly leave that place.
Do you have any projects you are currently working on and if so, can you tell us a little about them?
To be honest I don’t think too much about projects. I just click what I like and if some of my photographs have the same voice and I can connect their dots, I make a street series. That’s how I make my street photographs because I believe mostly in single images. If any of my photos in a series are not strong enough, then I don’t make the series. I am not working for a photojournalism agency, doing a lot of research, finding subjects and then shooting. I just love shooting and I don’t think too much about projects. Your voice should connect automatically to your work. However, there is one project I am doing consciously which is a very personal project. In this project I am photographing my little sister. This project is just for me.
Is there a particular photographer who has influenced your work or the way you see?
Actually I don’t take inspiration from photographers. Every good photograph is my inspiration. Because when we take inspiration from photographers we try to copy their work unconsciously. I take inspiration from nature and hip hop music. Nature teaches me consistency - how to be consistent in photography, and hip hop teaches me depth and in turn gives depth to my photography. For example, if you want to show death through your photographs you don’t need capture a dead body. You can also show death through a dry leaf, which also symbolizes death.
Tell us the most important thing you have learned from being a street photographer?
The key thing I have learned from street photography is consistency. If you want to grow in street photography or any genre, consistency is the key element to improve your work. Keep practicing. It doesn't matter what is the weather or the situation is like, keep shooting and practicing. This is the Universal truth.