THE CANDID PHOTOGRAPHER
Interview with Kismet Nakai
We speak to Chandigarh based wedding photographer Kismet Nakai about her journey from being a hobbyist to a highly sought after ‘candid photographer’. She tells us why she loves her job, the transforming wedding photography scene and why she hates the word ‘candid photography’.
Tell us a bit about your background.
I was born and raised in Chandigarh where I went to school and college. This place has made me who I am today. I have lived in Delhi and Mumbai for over a year but ultimately came back to Chandigarh. The wide open spaces, trees and of course family played an important factor.
How did you get into photography?
I got into photography in an unexpected manner. After training as a Special Educator (teacher for children with disabilities), I went to Mumbai looking for a decent job. Neither came my way and it was pretty disappointing. Without giving it much thought, I had been taking a lot of photographs with my little point and shoot camera in Bombay and Goa, photographing things and places all the time! On my father’s suggestion, I joined a photography course in Mumbai to learn the basics of how to use a DSLR, and after that it was all fate/luck/being in the right place at the right time, call it what you want! A very kind person offered me an (unpaid) photography job and I took it up, struggled through it but made it through and have been at it since then. My support system was strong, my family as well as strangers trusted in me.
How did you become a wedding photographer?
After the photography course, I returned to Chandigarh. A friend and I started a blog ‘The Unreal Bride’. It is one of the earlier wedding blogs in India. We wanted to take regular wedding photos and add a twist to them. After a few practice shoots with friends and models, I got asked to cover a wedding. Once again, I just went with the flow and haven’t looked back!
What is candid photography?
I have started to cringe a little every time I hear that phrase ‘candid photography’ now. People know it is a key word to getting their business and throw it around loosely!
So let’s just call it documentary photography or something else! I don’t put that label on my work any more and let people judge for themselves. What it means to me is to be able to tell the couple’s story without intruding in their space or moments and actually documenting the day and series of events, as they happen. It is to be a (very attentive) fly on the wall, is my theory.
What are your insights on the transition in the wedding photography space?
I think the transition has been pretty evident in the wedding photography space. Five to six years ago, it was nearly impossible to find a ‘non traditional’ wedding photographer who did things differently and didn’t photograph weddings according to the norm.
Today, you can find at least 10 ‘candid’ photographers within a 5 km radius of where you are regardless of the city!
Also, brides and grooms care more about their photographs. They have started making informed choices. They research and find someone who will photograph their wedding in a way they would like to remember it. This is the most refreshing change of all.
As a woman, what is your experience to be wedding photographer? Does that get you more attention?
I won’t lie-it definitely gets you attention and I am glad to say 90% of the time it has been positive attention. Older people saying ‘how lovely it is to see women out there doing what they have primarily only seen men do’, is special. Lots of girls/women come up to me and have long chats about the change in society, women empowerment and how women now have more choice to do something different with their lives. It feels great to have these mutually inspiring conversations. I truly enjoy them.
What are the challenges of your job?
The job is challenging in many ways-long hours, always have to be alert, long post processing hours after the wedding but those are the things I like the most too.
What about wedding photography do you enjoy the most?
That it is challenging! It is like taking a final exam every single time I go for a wedding. No matter how well prepared you are, something will go awry and you will have to compensate and think/shoot on your feet. I like that feeling of being challenged and scared at the same time. I never want to walk into a wedding and think I can shoot this with one arm tied behind my back or blindfolded because that will be the day I will do injustice to myself and to the couples who hire me.
I love meeting new people and have so many amazing experiences I would never have had sitting at a desk doing a regular job!
Any anecdotes you would like to share with us?
A funny thing happened with me once. I reached the venue of the wedding. I had only spoken to the bride so didn’t actually know what the couple looked like. The baraat was entering and I thought let me take some extra shots (I was supposed to cover the bride getting ready and ceremony). As I was shooting away the baraat, I noticed that the people were all staring at me strangely and I started to feel pretty awkward. I decided to ask someone the grooms name and it turned out I was shooting the wrong baraat !!! It happens when big venues host two or more weddings at the same time! I’ve been very careful since then.
Are you pursuing other photography projects / work?
I have so many ideas / projects in mind but all are gathering dust on a shelf in my mind right now. Who knew running a business would take all your time!
Kismet’s work can be viewed on her website