A scroll down young photographer Akash Sekar’s Instagram account opens a window into some of Chennai’s most vibrant streets — some recognisable, and others not much. The shutterbug uses only natural light to capture the portraits of people living in different neighbourhoods of the city.
A flower seller letting out a tiny smile at the sight of his red roses, a cobbler taking a pause to gaze at the streets in the midst of a shoe repair, the determined face of a young girl preparing to hit the ball in a game of street cricket — these are some of the stories that his pictures hold. Starting his day at 5 am to make the best use of sunlight, Akash spends hours on the streets trying to chronicle people’s emotions during a day’s life.
“My interest in photography started with my passion to become a filmmaker. I thought photography can be a positive step towards that, and decided to capture photographs that speak of human emotions. I always try to visit a street I’ve never been in before, and attempt to capture the life of the street. I don’t use any navigation to get to these streets. My aim is to visit the unknown and unexplored streets and capture the emotions of people living there,” the 23-year-old photographer tells us.
Born in Tiruchy, Akash moved to Singapore for his studies and then served in the country’s military service for five years. On his return from the island nation to Chennai a few months ago, he decided to pursue his passion for photography. “I began attending all the free photography workshops that would be held in the city. They helped me understand the areas where I could improve.
When it comes to photography, it is about practising as much as possible. So, if I’m capturing the people at a flower market, I try to go there at least four or five times so that I get a chance to improve upon my pictures of the same people over different days,” says Akash. Even though there are many passionate photographers in the city, I think street photography is still lagging here, he remarks.
Since he is relying completely upon natural light for his images, his photography schedules are dependent on the weather forecast. “I’m not very keen on editing the pictures and introducing artificial light into my photographs. So, weather plays a huge role in my photographs. If it is an overcast day, I just have to wait till the clouds clear. Sometimes, I wait for nearly six hours in the same street, trying to interact with people there.
The more time I spend on a particular street, it allows people to find me as a part of the street, making it easier for them to give their natural emotions. I make sure I ask for consent to photograph them,” he asserts, adding that it is in pictures of people living in slums of the city where he finds the most expressions.
Photography is also helping him learn about the city in a very up close manner, he admits. Once he completes the filmmaking course that he is currently undergoing in the city, Akash plans to work on a project making use of the street photographs he’s clicked so far.