An emerging artist stalks the streets of Madrid with her camera in the dead of night to create “I AM VERY TIRED,” a documentary of place and self-discovery. She describes her project as “a body of work where I have been in search of situations, actions, objects, and myself.”
Q: How would you describe your photography?
A: My images are from my heart and not from my mind. It’s the heart that feels and in that split second an image is created. I never pre-plan a shot … I just go with the flow.
Q: Were you a serious enthusiast before becoming a pro photographer? And what made you decide to go pro?
A: At thirteen I picked up my camera and I knew it was my life. I have had no second thoughts about it. In fact, I haven’t even thought about it since. It’s just me and my camera. That it would be my chosen profession came naturally.
Q: Did you have any formal education in photography, with a mentor, or were you self-taught?
A: I completed my Masters in Professional Photography and Digital Imaging from Shari Academy (Mumbai, India) and recently completed my Masters in Documentary Photography from Istituto Europeo di Design (IED, Madrid, Spain).
Object photography was something I was always interested in and that made me become obsessed with bottles and glasses, which I still love to shoot. Apart from that, recently I have been enjoying going through a lot of documentary work and have developed an interest in shooting people/portraits and street photography.
Q: How did you first become interested in Leica?
A: I grew up with the name. My uncle owned many Leica cameras and lenses and had a whole room with a dehumidifier dedicated to them. The Leica was not a camera, it was a jewel to be cared for, so it was obvious I would one day turn to Leica. A deep desire inside me started to unfurl and as I saw Leica going digital I knew that the desire to hold one in my hands was getting stronger. Now it’s just a matter of time before I take the plunge.
Q: What does photography mean to you?
A: It means everything to me. It’s my world. I have no other existing world around me. I eat, dream, sleep, and pray photography. It’s what makes me the happiest.
Q: Why did you choose the metaphorical title of, “I AM VERY TIRED” for this series?
A: The first thing that struck me when I landed in Madrid was the pulsating energy of the city. To me it was a city that never sleeps. Everybody seemed to be on the streets. A month into Madrid, I thought to myself that at some point this city would get tired. So, I went out in search of the Madrid that was tired. This is how I chose the title and how the images came about. I just wandered the streets trying to figure it all out – observing, watching, experiencing, feeling and waiting for the images to jump out at me.
Q: You mention that you do not plan your photographs but describe them as spontaneous creations. While creating artistic photographs is fundamentally emotional, conveying a feeling or telling a story also entails effective use of lighting, composition, exposure and other variables in order to articulate your vision effectively. Do you agree, and how do you integrate the emotional and technical elements in creating your work?
A: For me it’s the emotional connection that I first look for. Sometimes it’s very intuitive. I pass by a particular situation and then I see myself coming back to it in a few minutes because there is something inside me that tells me that I must capture what I saw – I can’t let it go. Sometimes it’s also about what I am going through that I see something around me as a photograph and I then capture it. Where the technical aspects are concerned, I think that comes with time and practice. I love experimenting with my compositions. Where other variables are concerned it all comes to you at that minute – all that you have learned, and all that you have practiced.
Q: You mentioned that your uncle’s passion for Leica cameras inspired your interest in the brand. Which particular Leica models and lenses are you most interested in and which do you think would be particularly suitable for your style of photography?
A: Definitely the S-System and I can’t wait for the Leica S (Type 007) to arrive. I also like the compact digital cameras because smaller cameras can get you some really amazing moments, as people don’t tend to notice them. Everyone ends up noticing a Leica! About the lenses, I love block lenses so I would definitely go for a 100 mm, 50 mm, or 70 mm.
Q: You are certainly eloquent in your passion for photography. What is it about taking pictures that gives you such exquisite pleasure? And which part of the process – seeing the picture, taking the picture, or seeing the finished picture – gives you the most personal satisfaction?
A: Just the fact that I can capture a moment in time is what excites me. It’s not just the photograph but the process, from the interaction to the connection to all that goes in one’s heart before the shutter releases! To know that I can see the world in the weirdest perspectives or the way I would like to see it gives me immense pleasure.
Q: Many of the images in this portfolio convey an ‘after the party’s over’ feeling, the deflated aftermath of revelry, and many have ironic juxtapositions such as this one with a jaunty athletic poster and garbage in the street or the image with artwork of a colorful figure jumping in the snow next to two large plastic garbage cans. What exactly do you think these images express and what were you thinking when you pressed the shutter release?
A: These images for me were more about the energy and things left lying around by the end of the day, like the garbage in front of Ronaldo’s display and the garbage cans in the other picture. Garbage here showed stillness, tiredness, something that was over and done with, whereas the displays showed energy. I saw a contrast here and decided it would go well with the theme!
Q: I notice that the nicely composed night shot of a folding chair shot from the back bears the inscription “Very Tired,” which is also amusingly ironic. Was this what inspired you to use the title “I AM VERY TIRED” for this series, where was it taken, and what do you think this picture says about night life in Madrid?
A: This image was actually the last of the images I took for my series. I was walking down Callao in Madrid when I saw this chair. The minute I saw it I knew that it would be the final image in the series, and that I had found a perfect closure to my body of work. For me, this image speaks a lot about the nightlife, because in the middle of all the hustle and bustle I observed that people would come and sit here for a few minutes chat and then get going.
Q: This image of a couple in fancy pointed shoes manages to vividly convey the spirit of nightlife in Madrid even though it only shows the shoes and the bottom of the subjects’ legs. The sexy angle of both pairs of shoes, the contrast with the varied texture of the shoes and pavement, and the exquisite directional lighting all combine to make this a masterful composition. What’s actually going on here?
A: I saw a couple walking down the street at around 1 a.m. looking for a bar. More than how they looked, what caught my eye were their shoes. I followed them for a while, about 20 minutes, and then finally asked them if I could shoot their shoes! They were taken aback, but agreed and that’s how the shot happened. The best thing about this image, which brings a smile to my face whenever I remember it, is that the young man handed me a card saying that I must buy shoes for my boyfriend/husband or father once in my life from this store. I still have the card!
Q: Here is a classically composed image of a woman standing near a brick street at night holding forth a bouquet of roses. She appears to be a flower seller, but you can only see her hands and feet, and the picture has a very shallow depth of field that gives it a timeless quality. Her right hand is black and appears to be gloved which lends an air of mystery. Is my impression correct, do you agree that it has a classic almost 19th century quality, and which lens and aperture did you use to get such beautiful bokeh?
A: This woman was actually sitting at 2 a.m. waiting for one of her friends, and I happened to be at the city center looking at and observing the things around me. There she was in the middle of the night, and I loved the way she was patiently sitting with a bunch of fresh roses. I really liked what was taking place in front of me and decided to make a picture. And as I was clicking she smiled and asked me to come closer if I wished. Then her friend arrived and she gave her the roses, and both ladies walked away. The lens I used was a 50 mm f/1.8.
Q: This image is beautifully composed but somewhat enigmatic because feet in orange sneakers appear under an old bentwood chair, but the person’s body is evidently concealed behind what looks like a reddish orange drapery or curtains. I can certainly see what attracted you to this subject, but what emotions did you experience as you composed it?
A: While walking the streets of Madrid one night, I saw this scenario through a window of a cafeteria. I passed by and in seconds came back and decided to capture this moment. For me, it was about someone who was tired, who was resting by taking a break at the café, but at the same time the way his shoes were positioned it seemed he was all set to leave at any minute, as if he was about to get up and get going. I like the sense of mystery this image embodies. I can’t see the whole scenario – what they are eating, what they are doing, or their faces – because of the red curtain. All I could see were elements that suggested being tired, of resting before going on in their journey, so to speak.
Q: How do you see your photography evolving over, say, the next three years, and do you plan to explore any other genres other than people, street photography, travel, and fine art, or venture to any new places you can talk about?
A: I have traveled in my own small way to various countries as an assistant cinematographer for two Bollywood films. I love the energy on film sets, but I realized my heart was more inclined towards walking by myself with my thoughts and with my camera and some music plugged into my ears. The minute my camera is slung over my shoulders, my iPod is on shuffle mode, and I am walking, it seems the whole world at that point in time changes and I look at everything as if I am looking through a viewfinder. I am oblivious to everything else.
I have no idea where I see myself three years from now but all I know is I will still be making pictures and hoping it will touch a chord in the hearts of the people who see these images.
Q: Aside from being published on the Leica Blog, do you intend to exhibit these images at galleries, collect them in to an in-print or online book, or perhaps offer these images as fine art prints?
A: Yes, Yes, Yes to all! Exhibiting is something that I would like to push forward in the first instance, followed by in-print or online book and of course fine art prints one day!
Q: Do you think you fulfilled your mission in creating this series, and will you continue to enrich this portfolio by shooting additional Madrid night pictures going forward?
A: If I’d had more time I am sure I would have created a lot more images than those I shot over two months, but essentially I feel this particular project ended once I saw that chair at the city center … but you never know. I might end up creating more images of various other countries and cities taken in the night and present them under different titles.
Thanks you for your time, Vaydehi!