Sujata Setia: But Natural Photography

Sunetra Senior Wednesday 31st August 2016 08:15 EDT

Sujata is an award-winning family and children’s photographer who captures all the emotional nuance and inner glow of people’s lives. Whether it is the simple tenderness of new-born babe wrapped in a blanket - looking for all the world as if a fuzzy caterpillar - or a more complex portrait of a melancholy mother in search of herself or a national identity, in the retreating reflection of a train window, Sujata's works never fail to penetrate the secret below the surface: “I always tell a story” she told us, “that’s part of the reason the photography becomes art. My characters are never overly staged: I peer into their personalities and ultimately also the essence of their narratives.” Sujata isn’t simply talking as an instructor of photography here; another service offered as part of her uniquely attentive business, But Natural Photography. She has actually experienced that thorough, finally liberating, introspection by way of progress and making a mark in her own life. Having been a successful journalist and one of the top reporters in India, the young professional found herself spiritually stranded when arriving to the post-recession landscape of the UK: “it was a very challenging time when I moved here,” she carried on. “There were very limited options for me, and at times it felt as if I was losing touch with reality. There finally came a point where I could either give up, or fight to take myself forwards.” And, as it turns out, Sujata made more than the right decision: “I did throw myself back into life, going out, spending time with friends and through that fundamental passion, my photography began to sprout. I started to notice I was very good with the camera, set up my own page online, and have not looked back since.” Following the light within, the fighter photographer - and mother of one - has conquered a whole career.

How do you bring the idea of ‘natural’ photography to your work?

I follow the idea that people are their best, most beautiful and evocative when they’re in their natural environment and the space where they’re their happiest. There must be a strong relationship with the self. Perhaps that’s why a lot of my photos are taken in a rustic setting; it’s all about fostering that organic feeling.

Are there elements of photography that you particularly enjoy playing with?
I love working with the light: seeing how it falls and how best to follow it. I play with colours too and also the perfect styling – there's always a symmetrical poetry to my subjects.

You’re described as a ‘rule-breaker’; how exactly do you do that?
I don’t really pay attention the ‘right’ way to follow the technical. I’m not afraid to experiment with light and composition; photography is very creative and set rules will constrict your images.

What is your favourite part of the whole process?
Photography is essentially my redemption for the stresses of life; it sets your mind and heart free. If you’re feeling physically restricted or in any way weighed down by responsibility, it allows you to generate an inner freedom. The possibility for translating your imagination into reality is endless. That is always important: freedom of the mind.

What’s one of your most memorable moments?
When I was doing a workshop with students very recently, with the Syrian crisis specifically in mind. I created a photo of a mother on a platform who is simultaneously clinging to and having to let go of her son. That very week the newspapers and social media were circulating that photo of a single refugee child sat at the back of an ambulance - the parallel was uncanny! The woman in the photograph could be a refugee of any situation really: whether it is a political crisis, the national rift of war or being an unwitting hostage to her own inscrutable emotions.

Do you have some good advice for budding photographers?
Don’t fear an investment in learning; be agile and look around. Be open to the process. There’s always another level to transcend. Always keep trying and following the light – that’s a technical necessity!

What’s been one of your most prized awards?
Probably the one I received from Digital Fine Arts Magazine for Best Children’s Photography. It was one of the first awards I received and commemorated the fact that I had kept going for every rejection that came before. My work, as it is continuing to do, was speaking for itself.

What’s been some of your favourite editorial work?
There was a picture of a little new-born child that got a lot of love. It was published in several journals: the Booker online, Digital Photography online to name a few.

Finally what’s one fact about photography that people believe, but simply isn’t true?
That anyone who has a camera can become a great photographer. You need to develop the art too: grow both theoretically and emotionally.

comments powered by Disqus

to the free, weekly Asian Voice email newsletter