The path of life is a strange one. A year or even a day’s decisions and ways can come as a surprise. Isn’t that the beauty of life? The uncertainty is probably how the world came to be. The big bang, the ice age, human existence, the renaissance, the industrial revolution, the world war and more than anything, the faith that developed into the distinctive identities for each place; that’s the uncertainty that brought about the beauty to everything. Searching for the hidden beauty in the living, people and their environment is Prashanth Vishwanathan.
Photojournalist by profession and passion, Prashanth has found his emotions as he explores the newest trends and oldest of traditions in the most remote villages. It is the belief that people make a place and their values its soul. Moreover, the rawest essence of a place comes from its natural sightings – it maybe the scenic beauty or the passed on heritage. With a dream to create a sustainable world, Prashanth seeks to capture this very essence with its good and the bad.
What Goes Around, Come Around
Like every other Indian student is expected to do, Prashanth completed his MBA before landing an internship in the Sales Department of Reuters. However, it was the photography unit of the publication that sparked his interest. It was the frozen moments that made him pick his camera over his pen.
The inspiration to click came from the best. Arko Dutta, a photojournalist based out of Mumbai, trained the boy in the early stages of his career.
“Photographs should be thought-provoking; they should document our times and spark a debate.”
The phrase from his coach inspired him against the odds to remain in his photography profession. Soon enough, Prashanth was roaming villages, capturing nature and people at their best and the worst. The idea was to bring out the reality in the pictures.
As a freelance photojournalist, Prashanth Vishwanathan has contributed to the Times, Newsweek, The New York Times, International Herald Tribune and various other publications.
First Travel Awakening
In conversation with Prashanth, he recalled his earliest memory from college when he visited the villages of Rayalsheema to document the lives. It was one his first exposure to seeing the daily lives in the Indian villages and how they flared. From their regular lives at home to health and education, he considered it an eye-opening experience.
He would later go on to tell the stories of these people through his thought striking portraits.
A Perception Change
As a photojournalist, Prashanth travels 8-10 months in a year covering the lives in various cities and village across India. Through his years to clicking, he has come to realise the change in not only the lives of people but the natural environment they have lived in. While various scenarios gave an insight into the changing lives in the world, it was Leh Ladakh that changed it all.
Prashanth reminisced how he had gotten a call from a publication he had wanted to shoot for. Once the call was done, he had reached a milestone in his life. However, that changed. People often travel to Leh to relish the snow and the landscape. The rising monasteries and the high Himalayan mountains often hid the reality of the living there. A visit to Leh Ladakh in the winters was the real deal. With his camera along, he discovered the importance of the season in the lives of the locals.
Furthermore, it was the lives of the locals who have adapted to the extreme temperatures of the terrain that intrigued the photojournalist. With time, the cold desert has seen many such lives come and go. Now it is the time for the desert to face the ordeal of climate change. That was a reality he knew had to be brought to the world, not just the beauty at its best.
Meaning of solo travel
Solo travel can strike differently to each. While some travel to get away, some others travel to find themselves. For Prashanth, the idea of solo travelling is about living the environment and understand that the magic isn’t in just seeing the good around. Travelling alone is merging with the new environment – switching off one’s phone and even sitting silently next to a monkey. One might get bored without a phone but perhaps, focus on his surroundings more deeply. Sitting next to a monkey might not be an eye-opening experience but would probably let the reality settle in.
There is a beauty in that moment of reality and focus.
Prashanth has prefered to travel to places with some history attached to them. Referring to himself as a mid-budget traveller, he has loved mingling with locals, discovering their cuisine and traditions, but at the same time, he prefers to private, clean place for his stay. That helps him focus on his motive for travel.
A Click To Tell A Story
As a photojournalist, it is essential to fall in love with the environment. He talked about how every portrait is a peek to one’s soul. The talk of the eyes and the wrinkles that speak of a person’s lifeline. Moreover, he fell in love with the way the geometry of light danced through his canvas to project a form of reality. There is a story to tell through every photograph.
Even when there is silence, there is a noise which makes way for a photograph.
Perhaps in the near future, Prashanth dreams of fulfilling his ultimate bucket list goal of creating a bio-diverse forest. A biodiverse forest where humans can live in harmony with nature. With the determination to travel to tell many stories of people, the dream could perhaps be a reality soon.
He said that he photographs all the time. Even when he isn’t using his camera, he is using his cell phone. A cell phone is a much easier means to click on the go without making the person in front uncomfortable. Moreover, if not a cell phone, it is his eyes and mind that stores the memory as a photograph.
Being a photojournalist can come with its own cons. While putting thought-provoking pictures out there, there would be many biases and comments that go against his perception of reality. However, he moves forward with his love for photography.
It was Abbas, an Iranian photographer who said: “Buy a pair of shoes and fall in love.”
That is what drives Prashanth Vishwanathan to do the same to achieve his wishlist. Don’t give up. Fall in love. in his own words, “The journey is the destination.”