A picture is worth a thousand words,’ is a quote we have heard all our lives. With the dawn of the technological era and the availability of camera phones it feels like each person is vying to be the next photo idol. With such stiff competition how does one stand out and make an indelible mark? I would simply say, “ by being a dare devil like Rohan Shrestha !
Cosmopolitan, Harpers Bazaar, Femina, Noblesse India, L’Officiel, FHM, Grazia, Verve and Filmfare among others. You name it and Rohan Shrestha’s imprint is seen grazing the covers of some of the world famous magazines, iconic fashion brands and intricate artistic escapades.
Prior to our pre-scheduled meeting, I contemplated on what it would be like to meet the celebrity photographer who hob knobs with the legends of Bollywood and the movers and shakers of the fashion world.
His nonchalance at being a legendary photographer and charm set the pace for the interview which was conducted in an informal manner. Rohan, who had visited SL twice before was fascinated with the oasis known as Barefoot where the interview was conducted.
Accompanied by his friend, Sri Lanka’s very own versatile artist, MB Imran who was instrumental in organizing the rendezvous, we blended into the artistic setting and talked away until it was time for Rohan to depart for the airport.
Was I fascinated? Now more than ever and it is not merely because of his association with the stars of Bollywood or other world class publications but his mannerisms and zest for life.
Following in the Footsteps of a Maestro
One cannot disassociate the influence of his father, Rakesh Shrestha who is a reputed Photographer in the industry. An Indian of Nepalese decent, he started his career as an Accountant at a film lab and experimented with developing photographs during his leisure time. “This was in 1977, when the Bollywood films were gaining popularity and my father was adamant to click a picture of Neetu Singh and to do so he pursued her relentlessly. Finally the actress relented and my father stuck stardom! The picture went viral and graced the cover of a celebrity magazine. This was a turning point in my dad’s career as he discovered a hitherto untapped skill and a penchant for photography and he basked in the stellar success he received overnight.” Coincidentally, Rohan’s first celebrity cover, the Filmfare Magazine’s June 2010 issue ,was of Ranbir Kapoor, the son of Neetu Singh!
“Our home was flooded with the glitterati of Bollywood but to me they were ‘normal people’ (paradoxically speaking). My father was very well respected in the trade and I looked up to him but strangely enough my first career option was not photography. Yet, creativity was in my blood and I dabbled in many genres pertaining to art so there was an inclination towards capturing that perfect image.”
Art alters your perspective and it is a form of rebellion. One has to be a maverick!
“So finally I relented and began as an apprentice to my father in 2004. I also had the privilege of being a protégé to some of the experts in the various photographic fields including Indrani –Pal Chaudhary in New York City. The time spent at the New York Film Academy exposed me to glorious possibilities in the world of photography and I put everything I learnt into practice,” said Rohan who proved himself beyond a reasonable doubt as a force to reckon with.
His images bear a stark resemblance to his adventurous spirit and are in strong contrast to the irresponsible or mundane clicks we are flooded with on a daily basis…in a sense Rohan walks the talk in reference to his art.
Excerpt from the Web
‘….. Rohan has the distinct advantage of shooting a large number of celebrities including Kareena Kapoor, Ranbir Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, Karan Johar, Abhishek Bachchan, Anushka Sharma, Vidya Balan, Imran Khan, Zinadine Zidane the footballer and many others.
Advertsing : Rohan’s photography also extends to advertising assignments for Hermès, Satya Paul, Casio, Perfetti, JBL, Pepsi Co, Panasonic, Jade, Anita Dongre, Global Desi, Myntra, Nirav Modi to name a few .
Fine Arts:Among his many accolades, is his foray into travel photography. His portrayal of Rajasthan was purchased by the Leela Udaipur and thereafter his depiction of Delhi was commissioned by the Leela Kempinski Chanakyapuri (New Delhi). Both were displayed as part of the respective hotels in-room art decor. He work in Chennai has also been displayed in the Leela Palace Chennai. “With reference to fine arts I had a show with Diesel called Hanami which was a hugely successful sensory exhibition in 2016.”
In 2013 I witnessed a photography exhibition at the New York Film Academy of the Vietnamese war and realization dawned that photography comes with responsibility and you are responsible for portraying a message through your image.
Photography like every form of art gives you space to explore and there is so much scope. For instance I myself do not follow the expected norm and my photo shoots are radical (definitely an understatement); if the model in question has to be daubed in body paint or required to pose in a revolutionary style so be it as I believe that one has to be fearless in art.
Learning through experience is the key to gaining a thorough knowledge and defining your individuality in the chosen field. Photography is liberating and allows me to explore the beauty of life.
Discovering an Ocean of Possibilities
Since we are on the subject of exploring the beauty of life Rohan glided the conversation towards his underwater exploits which are a marvel per se. Vacationing at Mauritius at the tender age of 19 was a dream but I was not keen to go scuba diving,: confessed the renegade photographer who was a bit reticent about taking the plunge (excuse the pun) but with a little help from friends he braved the waters and happily so as he discovered a world like no other. His underwater snapshots woo us to the treasures of the deep with its breathtaking beauty. A world which is more beautiful than the terrestrial sphere we are in revealed Rohan who is more comfortable in the mesmerizing depths of the ocean.
Continue experimenting! Do not stop! Be daring, as you are only as good as your last project !
The ‘Nomad Within’
“Possessed by the spirit of wanderlust I travel extensively and value the varied cultures and people. I am fascinated. I am comfortable in my own skin and value my own company , which does not mean that I do not have friends or do not a social life. It is simply stating the truth which many are fearful of acknowledging or facing, when one finds value in self it reflects as one does not need affirmation or attention from anyone and its liberating and allows you to explore your potential devoid of inhibitions. Travel is an avenue to explore.”
So how does he rejuvenate himself after panning to the demands of the corporate world?
“I am a staunch follower of various forms of meditation with Vipassana, which requires you to take a vow of silence, which helps me to rejuvenate.
At 24 years Fate dealt a deadly blow in 2008 and 2009 when I had to face the death of my mother and grandmother and I it took me awhile to recover emotionally but I enmeshed myself in discovering the deeper meaning of life.” An advocate for chakra healing, jazz music, lucid dreaming and other forms of mystical albeit soothing genres of music and pathways (not necessarily in that order) Rohan is profoundly spiritual.
Another cherished past time of his is writing ,“it is very intense and private as I have no intention of sharing it with anyone at present but it gives me an immense sense of satisfaction,” confessed the ‘closet writer,’ who I am positive will entice us with this hidden skill if ever he decided to expose his work.
Whenever time permits I visit the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York to gaze upon the many artistic exhibits, which is a form of relaxation.
Giving without an agenda
He is also an exponent for contributing towards the betterment of society and gives of his resources and time through cancer Patients Association, Balashan Trust and more. “The ability to help someone who cannot return the favour causes immense satisfaction,” enthused he.
Every signal day is something new and grants us immense opportunities
“Another valuable lesson my father taught me was never ever say you know everything as you have to be willing to learn even from those who are younger than you. Nothing comes easy and one has to work hard to reach the pinnacle and remain there.”
The proverbial apple has not fallen far from the tree in terms of the chosen career path and achieving success through it but that is where the resemblance stops as he has created a name for himself through sheer determination as Rohan Shrestha: a legend in the ever-evolving world of photography!