I met Arati in a lighting class in ICP last Summer.
On the first day of the class the teacher asked us to introduce ourselves and share what we do, what we love shooting, where we want to go with our photography, etc. I’m not sure if it was me first who introduced myself to the class or was it Arati, but when the words of introduction were out there, we realized we both do sort of the same. But in a completely different locations. Whereas I shoot, write and blog to Travel magazines and website mostly in the US, Israel or Europe, Arati does the same, but for magazines in India and the area.
The more we talked, the more we realized we were sharing sort of a similar path. We both can’t really separate photography and writing and it comes naturally to do the two. According to Arati, ‘I have never been able to separate the two. A story to me, or any experience is necessarily vivid. And that means I have to portray it visually and verbally. It is beautiful to do both, and integral to me. I find when I am shooting, a burning urge to put words down too. Sometimes, when an image may not be possible, I fill it in with sketches or an infographic, if that is more appropriate. The story dictates the treatment and I let myself go with the flow when I am in the field‘
When I look at Arati’s images, I can’t even imagine how much courage and boldness this woman has. I admire how she traveled to Uzbekistan, or shot the rainforest of Bureno or chased elephants in Sri Lanka. And above all, capturing everything in such a delicate precise way. In fact, taking a class with Arati and watching the way she is preparing herself for a shoot, explains a lot about her explicit portfolio.
It has been a while since I wanted to introduce my readers and colleagues to Arati Rao and I’m so happy to feature her recent journey, where she captured The World of Elephants.
Thanks Arati. Can’t wait to see what’s next!
Where are you from? I was born in Bombay (now Mumbai), India. That city is still very dear for me. My ancestral home is in southern India, in a lovely little city called Mysore. But I call neither place home anymore. I think I’ve turned turtle. Haha. That is to say, I carry my home on my back.
Where did you study photography? I’m largely self taught. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, but constantly – and more recently very deliberately – refining and learning that craft. Am still teaching myself photography, and I taught myself graphic design while I was at Arizona State, for I felt it very central to visual storytelling.
What made you want to learn it? It was all organic. I kept wanting to add layers to my storytelling and each layer brought with it the need for these skills. And I am still adding to it. The goal is to keep telling richer and more engaging stories using all kinds of fantastic tools available to us these days.
If you weren’t a photographer what would you do? Aah, I dont think I’d be happy doing anything other than exploring, discovering, and telling stories. And writing, photography, etc. are all a means to that joy
Where do you get your inspiration from? So many things inspire me. Little graphics I spy somewhere, a story well told, a photoessay done refreshingly, people, their stories, places – the sights, a minaret, a river, a tree, a pitcher. So many things. places. Inspiration is everywhere. All I need to bring with me to every day is a curious eye and a wide open mind.
What do you mostly love shooting? So many things, I am not sure I can hone in on any one thing I love to shoot. A good story? An intriguing face? A forest! But if I were forced to pick, I would say put me in a wild place, New York, Bombay, or in an ancient city and I’ll be happy as a peach shooting.
What’s is the place that really left a big impression. Aaah, there are a few. The old virgin rainforests of Borneo, the vast savannahs of east Africa, and the ancient cities of Istanbul, Lhasa, Bukhara, and Samarkand. I love wilderness and I love history. That is plainly reflected in these choices, right?
How do you usually approach a new project? Good, strong research always stands me in good stead. So I try to do that. Read everything on the topic, see what people have shot, and then – what is non-negotiable is, go there. Go and spend time with the subject, in a place. There is nothing like being there, and the longer I stay, the better the story turns out.
What are you working on right now? I have been shooting Asian elephants over the last two years in India and Sri Lanka. I will be continuing that work and working with researchers to document Asian elephant gestures and behavior. I also will begin work on a personal project where i will be documenting displacement of native people and changes in their lifestyles.
Where are you traveling next? I will be heading to a rainforest later this month, and then am slated to go to Namibia in December, to volunteer with an organisation that works with local communities and desert adapted elephants.
Window or Aisle? Oh my nose is stuck to a window, any day, everyday.