A digital collage artist and street photographer, Mr. Neenad Joseph Arul lives in Mumbai. Presently he focuses on collage formations for his ongoing project "The Collage Art" wherein he mixes all sorts of images, majority of street photographs. His art can not be categorized entirely as street photography and that's where he makes a point about originality and moreover about purity as he explains why it is the most important.
How you got involved in street photography in the first place?
It just happened, 8 years ago I bought a new DSLR from my first salary, and next thing I knew I was street shooting anything and everything I liked on streets, and coincidentally the way I shot fell under the street photography genre. Later I did a workshop to learn & explore more. Named Mumbai_Streetphotographer on social media to act cool and trendy. ah, regrets. Well, at least I was not shooting birds and flowers anymore.
When did you know street photography could be your field of expertise?
Frankly speaking, never. Till the day I just shoot what I like and don't feel I have any expertise in this form of photography. And love it that way. Expertise means limitation for me. You have to abide by certain rules. I would rather be an amateur, make mistakes, and explore.
What is street photography for you?
Going out on the street, strolling around for hours as a curious spectator just to witness the hidden treasures out there, connecting with complete strangers, and creating art out of their everyday life is what I love. Photography helped me overcome my fears, made me more humble as a person, and taught me to cherish every minute details of life. Taking photographs gives me the power to stop time, appreciate the truth of a moment, and question myself. Frankly speaking, I just love the mere process of making images, that's it. Like I said before the way I shoot falls under the Street photography genre. Now for me, it doesn’t even matter if someone gets up and calls my work something else. Rest other things which follow/followed, have always been a by-product to me and the love and hate relationship with them continues.. like making money out of my work, networking with other photographers, being a part of the community, editing & posting images on social media, promoting, website, exhibiting, etc that came along with what I loved doing. It’s not like I hate them but at times (most of time) I get bored or lazy enough not to participate in them. I never expected them to happen when I started making images, were never on my mind either, and are not the reason I started making images. Yes, some appreciation here and there makes me feel good but I believe I can survive without it too.
What's the most unusual feature of street photography?
It is the unexpected and the unknown that excites me more than anything. The same goes for making collages. You don’t know what you are going to see next on the street and nothing much can be planned.
How important is the originality of work in street photography?
Frankly speaking not much. I mean originality in street photography do matters when you are part of a certain community or fraternity, going with some trend or when you are on social media where there are hundreds of other photographers racing for likes and same followers or participating for awards, submitting work to magazines and Instagram pages, etc. and have certain rules & obligation or even pressure do it. Well, I don’t mean you should copy the work otherwise that has been done before, which you have seen somewhere or because it's trending. But there is no fun in that. So let's put it this way personally I give more priority to purity in work than originality. How pure is your work, how much of your heart is invested in it? What made you make that image in the first place. How much of your output (images) is actually you and made just out of love for making images and not hijacked with outside ideas, inspirations, influences of the work you have seen on social media or other mediums consciously or subconsciously for some likes, acknowledgment of others, trend or publicity makes your work pure. And with purity comes originality in work ultimately. If purity is the process then originality is the outcome. Chances are there might be some instances of parallel thinking of ideas unknowingly but with purity and ethics, your work is as original as his or her, be it made in the past or future.
How can artists find their independent styles?
The easiest way is just to look within. Every individual is different. Shoot or create work from life around you. Keep doing it if you believe in it and love it. Doesn’t matter if it is appreciated or not, if not street than something else. Why limit as an artist be free, keep learning & exploring.
What are the clichés in street photography that you don’t appreciate?
I am nobody to do that and it doesn’t affect my work either.
What is your take on social media influence on street photography?
There is no influence of social media on street photography actually. Street photography would be the same with or without social media pure, unmanipulated, and exciting. I believe it only influences photographers doing it and their way of shooting as if you create something keeping in mind what works and what not and what gets you exposure on social media instead of shooting what you like and explore without being a slave to it. I also feel photographers will come and go, so do their trends and different styles of shooting images within the photography community and other platforms. Street Photography at its core was there before social media and will survive after social media has survived analog to digital transition too. I know hundreds of street photographers who are not even on social media till date and happy.
What is the most underrated feature of street photography you wish everyone discussed?
The street is better when it is mysterious.
What differentiates a professional street photographer from the rest?
Ego haha. Seriously, I have no answer for this. I am not a professional street photographer. Yet at times I do earn some money from it here and there and not sure if the workshop counts.
Who are the street photographers whom you look up to and why?
None, there was time I used to explore different photographers’ work initially but gradually my work ended up getting influenced by theirs, so stopped it and have been happy since. My inspiration comes mostly from people and friends around me and to some extent from classic movies I love watching from Kurosawa to Mikhail Kalatozov, from Satyajit Ray to Sayed Mirza. Not that I hate any photographer, I have made some very good friends in the field and I do appreciate and respect their work and hard work behind it.
Do you believe readings and studies on this genre does help? Which work you recommend and why?
Well, reading, writing, painting, playing with kids, interacting with complete strangers while traveling, exploring new movies, music, cultures, and languages even simple observation of life around you when you don’t have a camera with you helps not just street photography related. Simply put would just explore other fields that excite you; it can be anything that challenges you or your emotions; eventually, it will show up in your work. If you are into movies, I have a bunch of them listed on my website that I loved and learned from. Has photography documentaries too.
Do you take photos for yourself or for others?
I do take self-portraits at times just for documenting, I have also been documenting paragliding scenes in Maharashtra for 3-4 years now and have a personal project on my niece, doing it for the past 5 years.
Your idea behind "The Collage Art'' created a new dimension of this genre. How did you come up with the concept of a series of stories and art by adding images?
Boredom! 3-4 years back I was on a long train journey and had my images with me on the tablet was simply sorting similar images together. Thought of mixing them together in simple collage software loved the result and there was no end to it. How different images shot at different times of different subjects at different locations matched together to form something unique. Mind you this is not Street Photography these are simple collages like many other people have been doing for years now both in analog form or digital form, but only unique thing is I have series where I use street photography images to make them. The biggest one was with 21 images. Believe none has done that before and recently have also started a new series of work where I mix public domain images too. And to add more and frequently asked too I don’t use Photoshop because I don’t know how to use it. Like the imperfections all the miss and matches in them and perfection would make them boring I feel.
What message would you like to give other practicing street photographers?
Always remember why you started it in the first place, All your answer lies there. Just explore and Have fun!
Visit neenadarul.wordpress.com to learn more about his different projects.