mid-day's 39th anniversary: The responsible photographer

Updated: Jun 29, 2018, 09:52 IST | Shweta Shiware

Son to one of India's most prominent film photographers, he is staying away from comparisons and walking his own unique road

mid-day's 39th anniversary: The responsible photographer
Rohan Shrestha extends the idea of the #whiteTee series featuring portraits of celebrities, to cancer survivors. Pic/Shadab Khan

Rohan Shrestha, 33

Everybody has to start somewhere. Despite being son to photographer-to-mega-movie-stars Rakesh Shrestha, Rohan Shrestha started small, gradually building his portfolio with backstage assignments for a fashion magazine. "They [magazine] didn't give me a cover until 2014, a good six years after doing smaller shoots that featured on the inside pages," he remembers.

But consistent top quality work has meant that he is now ranked among the top celebrity photographers, and shares a rapport with actors, including a friendship with Ranveer Singh. They met as kids, attending the same school at Juhu. The second generation of younger stars are the ones Shrestha does maximum work with — Sonam Kapoor, Shradha Kapoor, Varun Dhawan and Sonakshi Sinha. "That's the crew I usually work with, and that has nothing to do with who my dad is," Shrestha says.

Seen above are photos by Rohan Shrestha of (left) Raja Ram Gupta, 9, a survivor of Hodgkin's Lymphoma, and Bhagwat Sahu, 3, from West Bengal, who agreed to smile for the picture after a nudge from Prince Kumar Verma, 8
Seen above are photos by Rohan Shrestha of (left) Raja Ram Gupta, 9, a survivor of Hodgkin's Lymphoma, and Bhagwat Sahu, 3, from West Bengal, who agreed to smile for the picture after a nudge from Prince Kumar Verma, 8

He explains this matter-of-factly. "If actors are not happy with your pictures, and not looking their best, they won't come back. It's a job at the end of the day. I am 10 years into my career. I must have done a decent job for people to come back to me," he laughs.

But it wasn't an easy start. When he was a teenager, he had hoped to pursue travel photography. "I was scared. Dad is a pioneer. It was an unnerving thought to follow in his footsteps. And when I did, the comparisons came. 'Your dad had great energy, you are quiet and reserved' - I get that a lot. But this is who I am."

He may operate in an industry thriving on vanity and glamour, but he is anything but vain. Dressed in his usual uniform — black tee and drop-crotch track pants with a hoodie — it's only a pair of canary yellow socks that give away the edge that characterises his work. Being in front of the camera himself makes him nervous, and he asks to be excused for five minutes to wet his curly mane when we say the mid-day photographer is here to take a picture.

Shrestha hasn't given up on his first love. The pictures taken in Guam (island on East coast of Japan) were featured in National Geographic Traveller in 2015. He calls working in glamour "a brain fry job", which is why travel photography is his refuge from big pressure-big budget assignments.

Fashion editorials, he thinks, lie somewhere in between. As photography director of currentMood, an independent digital fashion and culture magazine, he celebrated its first anniversary with Kalki Koechlin on the cover this May.

But it's projects that combine his talent with a cause that matter most. His association with non-profit Cancer Patients Aid Association (CPAA) has seen him shoot poignant portraits of children battling cancer. The #whiteTseries of pictures, that saw him click the biggest names in glamour at their candid best, was extended to a series of black and white frames of these kids also dressed in white tees. On his Instagram account sits the entire series including an unsmiling picture of Raja Ram Gupta, 9, a survivor of Hodgkin's Lymphoma. After treatment at Sion hospital, Shrestha writes, he is now back at school. "I shoot glamour for others, and to pay my bills. This series I did for myself."

Before I turn 40, I want to
Get married and have kids, hopefully. I work in a high-pressure industry with impossible deadlines, and I'd like to believe I have already chalked my career path, so it would be timely to settle down.

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