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Tell us about yourself. How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?
Mahima Bhatia decided to rise above all the barriers and take up photography as her career. She knew very early on that an ordinary life would never do for her – she stepped out of the poetic and literary world of Shakespeare and Thomas Hardy to enter a brand new one — the equally colourful and somewhat more exciting world of photography.
Today, Mahima is a very well known player in the world of Indian Wedding Photography. From setting up a photography society in college to becoming an established wedding photographer, she has had her share of ups and downs. Our tete-a-tete was an attempt to get to know her a little better and share the love with our readers!
What did you study?
Mahima is an alumni of Delhi University (Bachelor’s in English Literature) and Jamia Milia Islamia (Master’s, English Literature), and finished a short program at New York Film Academy.
When did the epiphany of photography as a viable career strike you? Did your Bachelors degree in the Arts have a hand to play in pushing you towards appreciating aesthetics?
I started photography during college. In an Arts setup, the whole college was divided into music societies, dance societies, drama societies etc. but there was nothing formally available for photography. So we started small — a couple of us started taking our cameras for nature walks and other college events. Eventually, we set up the photography society of Sri Venkateswara College, which was coined ‘Effulgence’ by yours truly.
While I was doing my Masters (in Literature), I took up wedding photography assignments alongside. I got better at it and assignments started flowing in. The workload intensified to a point wherein I had to make a choice – that between going ahead to apply for an M.Phil degree or to continue with wedding photography as a serious profession. I chose the latter simply because it made me happy. It still does. I also realized I’m not the kind of person who can sit all day behind a desk and, so, my choice was quite obvious really.
As a woman who is a powerhouse of talent at a fairly young age, how do people respond to you? Are they intimidated by your success or do they have a hard time taking your abilities seriously on account of age?
I think the first and foremost reaction is shock. People don’t expect (A) a younger person and (B) a woman.
But beyond the initial shock I think it has always worked in my favor. I feel that I can relate to the bride, understand her state of mind because of both, my gender and my age. Frankly, from carrying lipsticks for the brides to holding their hands when they are going through a bout of the jitters, I believe in becoming bride’s best friend. And I truly reckon that this is one of the facts that make me connect more with the people around me while I am working.
Given that you studied photography at a prestigious institute in a city like New York, how does that dictate your sensibilities as opposed to a self-taught photographer who is a bit of a dilettante without prior training?
Being in NYC taught me a lot of things, things that I realised the importance of only much later, like respecting my own vision and art and putting that first and foremost. It also put things in a much larger perspective, that of an international level playing field. As far as technique goes, although I do agree that capturing an important moment or emotion at a wedding must take precedence over the perfect composition, I truly also believe that weak or subpar technique can immensely hamper the impact of the most powerful, emotionally charged image.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Oh, that’s a toughie. There’s so much talent around us that it’s hard to choose! Many of the super talented Indian Wedding Photographers are my friends so I’m going to play it safe and not call out to my favourites. From the international players, I’d have to narrow down my inspirations to Two Mann Studios and Sam Hurd.
Considering the huge demand for skilled wedding photographers, the competitiveness amongst them, and the ever-changing trends within the industry, how do you manage to stay ahead of the curve?
By being constantly open to learning. Even a newbie can teach you things, you just have to be open to learning. I attend workshops, keep abreast of my peers’ work and engage with international photographers as well.
Many budding photographers draw inspiration from you. Opting for academics or an artistic stream of their interest is the predicament of most of the youngsters these days. You too had to face the dilemma of either going for M.phil degree or continue with wedding photography. What is your advice to the youngsters when it comes to a situation like this?
For the longest time, I was taking up commercial wedding photography assignments alongside my Masters. I was following my passion as well as was keeping up pace with my studies – the best of both worlds, you could say. I only felt like I had to make a choice when it was time to apply for my M.phil degree, which is a higher degree and requires complete and utter concentration. At that point, I chose wedding photography because I had procured my Masters degree and felt like I was done with my basic education – it seemed like it was enough for a back-up plan beyond photography.
So I do believe that education is essential and I would advise everyone at that juncture to make sure that higher education is taken care of, before proceeding with a full time career in photography.