Updated: Jun 20
Dimpy Bhalotia, a London based photographer, left behind the fashion industry and chose to pursue black and white street photography. Over the years this creative photographer had made it clear with her example that street photography solely requires a passion and a calling to go for it. And today, she shares her take on originality with us.
How you got involved in street photography in the first place?
I realized I got too blinded by the fashion world. I felt the inadequacy of realism in it. I had a successful fashion brand but I couldn’t resonate with it. It got too plastic for me. I could express myself from what I made, but yet I felt it lacked naturalism. Metaphysically nothing is compared to the human eye, but street photography makes me feel closest to the semiotics of life. The power of capturing inevitable existential moments attracted me to it like a magnet.
When did you know street photography could be your field of expertise?
I figured there is no smokescreen in street photography and instantly I knew it is for me. Also, that the way the street scenes are disappearing under encroaching modernization I realized this is something I want to capture. My work involved a lot of traveling and street photography just transpired to me.
What is street photography for you?
To me, street photography is privileged photography as I can engage in it as a daily craft. Freedom of capturing transitory moments of the present era. Freedom of expressing the realism of what I see and experience in visual form. Freedom of what, when, and where I prefer to make my frames from. This craft is a manifestation of one soul with full of freedom.
What's the most unusual feature of street photography?
Me not having to carry a light with me. The fact that the sun never sets or rises, but we rotate and chase the light to capture it reflecting on the streets. What more beauty one can ask for without having to produce scenes and light.
How important is the originality of work in street photography?
To me, it's truly important. There is a lot of myth that everything is done and there is nothing left to explore. I don’t buy it. I think as humans we have hardly explored ourselves. Any form of art comes from within us. And there is so much that I can't wait to explore. As humans, we can do so much more. If really everything was done, art would have died decades ago. I believe a well-read and well-traveled person will understand this very well. Originality in any industry is very important if you want to stand out. And there are indefinite possibilities.
How can artists find their independent styles?
Everyone has their own ways to find that. Artists are sleepwalking into the maze of rules and formulas. And I believe there are none. Rules and formulas were made by and to sustain idealism. I don’t buy it. To me asking how to find the style is like asking someone how to find a partner. There is no one answer to it. Everyone has their own unique stories and occurrences. There is no one road to follow to find anything in this world. I genuinely don’t choose to guide anyone onto something which might suit me and not suit them. Because it works differently for all. What are the clichés in street photography that you don’t appreciate? Ha! This question has put me on the spot. Well, there are so many. But the most I find cliché of the lot is the purposefully produced juxtaposition. Somebody hunting for it all the time shows tiredness in their portfolio. It gets very obvious. It seems more like produced photography to me. A fortuitous juxtaposition is always refreshing, and you can tell the photographer experienced the moment and captured it in that very split second. I believe somewhere the fortuitous juxtaposition is dissolving.
What is your take on social media influence on street photography? Anything and everything has its pro and cons. Social media is a great platform to show your craft to masses at once and at the same point, it has backlashed too. I notice many people plunging into photography, be it in any genre and right away copy frames from other photographers. Well, if that eases you to grow as a photographer, then it's favorable for you. I don’t buy that concept though. Anyway, each to its own. But then why put it up on social media? Are you putting up to show it to the world that you are perfect at copying? With time what has appeared is in this flock of these copy photographers the audience doesn’t know who is the original photographer with that idea, it's later that they find out as they come across more portfolios. Point is if you don't have sufficient work to show, it's ok. Doesn’t matter. But why put out copy shots if it was just for your learning? These photographers have really ruined the platform and there is a whole lot of garbage now. What I also find funny is people claiming that social media especially Instagram has ruined photography. Bullocks! It's these photographers who imitate and have corrupted the platform. The platform was built to show your craft and not to imitate and steal others' work.
What is the most underrated feature of street photography you wish everyone discussed more about? Composition and reading light. Everyone is so blinded by the gears and shooting what's in trend. That they have overlooked the true semiotics of photography. In 1435 Alberti, in his book on paintings, outlined a method for drawing a complex object using a net, a grid of threads, held in front of the subjects. And now we use that same grid in our cameras to capture frames. Isn’t that cool? Now how many of us knew about this? Everyone is just producing photographs without fathoming it.
Do you believe readings and studies on this genre does help? Which work you recommend and why? Reading and studying different fields and genres are very important to avoid cryptomnesia. Reading just about photography is something I avoid, and I don’t suggest to anyone either. No matter how attune your mind and body are, there are high chances of cryptomnesia if you just study your field. I think W. E. B. Du Bois’s powerful data visualizations are very refreshing. Studying Buster Keaton’s comedy, a sense of fantasy with intense mathematical stunts is really thought-provoking. Learning and understanding how typeface impacts our thought process are another eye-opening. Learning and making my own Japanese concept of joineries also really helped me to think outside the confinements. I would highly recommend indulging in all this and broaden your perception and knowledge.
Do you take photos for yourself or for others? I started with taking photos for myself and I still shoot only for myself. But before I put out any of my work out in the world, I give a good thought to it. Gradually, with time, I feel more like a responsible photographer. While shooting I shoot what resonates with me, but what goes out in the world is a huge responsibility. I don’t believe in just injecting visual to my audience. There is a lot of deeper meaning in my photographs. So, you can say the photos which I share in public becomes photos for all. Not to please everyone, that’s not my responsibility, and I can't do that either. But as a street photographer, it's my responsibility to show the reality with no smokescreen. Most of your work is with birds. Why so? How do you manage to combine all the elements within the frame in sync with the birds? Is there a particular thought process while creating a picture, or is it just the decisive moment you wait for? I am using my photos to inspire action. The damnation of birdlife has severely damaged the ecosystem. To convey the real threat of shrinking birdlife, I am using a contrariwise method through my photos. Showing how beautiful birds are and how we enjoy chasing and running behind them. Their presence is like billions of shooting stars around us. This earth is for both humans and animals and its high time we don't take them for granted. I want my viewers to have a feeling to go out and look for them and if they don't find it, they will have a question arise that how birds are going extinct. I have spent more than a decade investigating and researching about birds. Scouting and looking for birds that are endangered by environmental changes and helping organizations save them. Rest is all pixie dust.
What message would you like to give other practicing street photographers? We live two lives. One before we find out what we love to do and one after we find it. Both are equally important for one to grow. My advice is don’t just look at someone and get into street photography right away. You really see first if you love it enough that you want to do it for life. I see a lot of youngsters wanting to get into this full time. My advice is you haven't even explored the world yet. Try out multiple fields first, travel a lot, and then decide. Don’t chain yourself. Maybe you are good at photography, but maybe in a different genre. Try everything first and then figure out what you really love doing. Otherwise, every step will feel like an obstacle to you.
To look more of her work, visit dimpy.bhalotia/