Joseph Radhik, Founder, ‘Stories’ has revolutionised the grammar of wedding photography in India and abroad by adding a human touch to post-modern candid photography.
What started with a simple Google search by Joseph, when he searched ‘wedding photography’ during his sister’s wedding, inspired the IIM grad to quit his full-time corporate job and start telling stories of the most intimate moments of peoples lives. He uploaded one picture on Flickr which led him to his first wedding photography assignment. The rest, as they say, is a newfound pop-culture element of photography that has swept people off their feet. Wedding photography is now, the number one priority for couples and wedding planners.
“My dad is an engineer. My mother is an HR specialist. We are farthest away from the creative industry,” he chuckled. One of his first big clients was Telugu megastar Allu Arjun.
Today, his team is the army behind the viral and gorgeous photographs of celebrity weddings like Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Nick Joans, Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma, Katrina Kaif and Vicky Kaushal, Varun Dhawan and Natasha Dalal and Rajkummar Rao and Patralekha along with the Ambani weddings to name a few top names.
An average Indian who follows Radhik’s work has a dream to have stunningly memorable wedding photographs. Ceremonies like Haldi, Mehendi, Sangeet which were more small scale and intimate for many households, are now the prime events that the bride and groom look forward to, primarily because of the gorgeously colourful photographs that emerge from them.
“In the first 10 months, I had to quit my job and take this up full-time, because I was booked for 14 weddings. Starting 2010 to mid-2011 my life wasn't even in my control,” Joseph Radhik told Asian Voice.
“It was the first time I saw Shankar Ehsaan Loy perform on stage or a Falguni Pathak or Rolls Royce being gifted,” Radhik told us, as he explained the kind of highlights he has seen over the years at weddings.
The method behind the madness
Indians and punctuality are still not married to each other. So the engineer’s mind and IIM graduate Joseph Radhik and his brother Joshua (CEO of Stories) have capped their labour of capturing people’s life-changing moments at $10,000 per day. Radhik brothers have a plan B which is also their Plan A.
Their core team of photographers work in shifts at weddings and functions where a ceremony scheduled for noon may get pushed to evening, and a cocktail party may go on till wee hours of the morning. Since families are paranoid about not losing the important moments of their lives from being captured on camera, Radhik doesn’t disappoint.
‘Stories’ is led by 5 directors of photography for weddings. Among them, they have a collective experience of 40+ years of documenting weddings. Noel David, Shivali Chopra, Anupa Rao, Mohamed Jameer, and Joseph Radhik together have photographed more than 400 weddings in 29 countries around the world.
“Today, I think that nine out of 10 times the bride are the ones who get in touch with us,” Radhik said and he added, “I don't care what movies you've done. I don't care how big you are or which venture capitalists you are. I really don't care about any of that. I do care about how you are as a person who you care about in that group of 100 or 50 odd people. Why do you care about them? What are your stories with them?”
He tries to have at least one conversation with the bride and groom to understand their expectations, emotions and also note down the names of people who are most likely to shed a tear, burst into laughter and break the dance floor.
As a rule, team Stories is introduced to clients by name, which makes them feel like a part of the celebration and doesn’t rob them of their identity as a photographer. When asked if they’re treated, accommodated and respected at these high profile weddings, Radhik quite proudly mentioned that no one treats his team badly. People, whose weddings are covered by Radhik’s core team, often bump into them at other weddings and come to hug and say hi, which of course is heartwarming in a task that can turn out to be a thankless profession.
Radhik said, “I only shoot 10 weddings a year 10 couples a year actually. Among the five of us we even today we only do 30 weddings, which is very small for a team of this size. We believe that love exists and know that everything else is immaterial for us because then you go in there with that belief. We get to see the happy moments that you see in all of our photos.”
In one of the viral videos during actor Varun Dhawan and Natasha Dalal’s wedding last year, Shivali from Stories was being hounded by the paparazzi while she was just doing her job. The internet took note of that. Taking that in the right spirit, Radhik said, “Shivali has been with us for nine years. Noel (another photographer from the team) has been with us for 10 years. I know families that come back and say that if you're not available, it's fine. But if Shivali is available, it'll be great. And that to us is a winning formula.”
When asked how does his team create the iconic shots that later become viral on social media, he said, “If you see one great photo, from the wedding of Katrina and Vicky, or from Priyanka Chopra Jonas’, you are seeing you think one of probably 50 great moments we have made during that wedding. It's just that the couple has decided to share that one moment in their mind. That photo is relevant and one photo encapsulates everything they want to say about the wedding. I am not the controller for that.”
A person is designated to process the photos right after the wedding and a first lot is shared with the couple so that they can enjoy the spirit of the wedding before the celebration fades.
Team Stories doesn’t work the next day after finishing one assignment. They sit back and re-energise themselves for the next one. That’s how their calendars are set.
During a wedding ceremony at the Ambani house, Nick Jonas spotted Joseph and walked up to him, giving him a hug, remembering the beautiful photographs that Stories had put together from his wedding with Priyanka Chopra Jonas. Moments like these are truly heartwarming for Radhik and his team, especially when people remember the art not the artist in this specific case.
Today, Stories has covered weddings across Spanish Steps, Lake Como, London, Birmingham, Bali and all of India. Due to the pandemic, some destination weddings have been pushed to mid-2022, but they are not cancelled.
Interestingly, Joseph told the newsweekly, that in most cases, for the biggest of weddings, he gets a call and is in the knowhow of the wedding plans approximately six months in advance. So much like how brides say that ‘they know’ when they want to marry someone, Joseph Radhik and his team at Stories, ‘know’ the reality behind rumours.