Thursday, May 05, 2005

Calling the shots - Iqbal Mohammed & Anuradha Iqbal

“Indian culture is essentially vibrant – today, we’re also becoming a very visual society. From film posters to advertising, from book covers to publications, visuals exist in most areas of our daily existence. So, in terms of scope, photography, as a career, is really booming. Light & Life Academy’s objective is to put skilled photographers in this opportunity-rich space,” says Anuradha Iqbal of the Photography Academy in Ooty, that she runs with her husband, acclaimed automobile and travel photographer, Iqbal Mohammed.

They are in town on the last leg of an exhibition tour that covered Mumbai and Bangalore, showcasing the work of their students at Light & Life Academy.

Iqbal took a three-year hiatus from his photography assignments to focus on starting and stabilizing the institute. He handles the academics part of the work while Anuradha, with her Advertising and Marketing background plunged headlong into the admin and logistics of running this four-year-old, full-fledged training institute for photography, the first and only one of its kind in India.

First things first. Why Ooty? “We were looking for a visually inspiring location and had earlier considered Goa, Mahableshwar as well as Darjeeling. However, Ooty was our choice as it’s also locationally straddled between three states, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala. Moreover, it’s also safe. This is important as we have more female students now. What’s more, it has no distractions, which is a major factor while learning any art,” says Anuradha. Sounds like living a holiday to us!

Iqbal believes that here has been a transition in the way photography was learned. “Earlier, most photographers were self-trained, having assisted an established professional. However, today, with new technology and techniques, it takes a person that much longer to learn the craft. Which is where a formal study comes into the picture. Our students are trained to be ready to take on assignments once they complete the course. We stress on their assisting photographers so that they learn the non-technical aspects, more in the area of the business of photography.”

Anuradha narrates, “We once had members of the Young Presidents Association, all heads of companies, doing a course with us. The most amazing thing was their passion for photography – some had cameras that even established professionals lacked. You should have seen them get all muddied up on field trips for that perfect shot!”

Iqbal chips in with an incident, “Once, on a field trip to a national park near Ooty, our group of students had gone ahead while I was accompanying one student who had slowed down. Suddenly I saw, between us and the group that was advancing on the opposite hill, a tiger. I tried calling out to them by gestures so as not to draw the tiger’s attention, to take a shot. But they couldn’t understand what I was saying. Although the tiger stayed there a whole minute, none of us managed to get a shot.”

Coming back to the exhibition, by Iqbal’s own admission, the work of the students is so good that people at earlier exhibitions have enquired if they were all digitally manipulated! “While we do have a couple of shots that are intended to show skill in digital technique, the rest are all straightforward shots. That’s how good the work is,” ends Iqbal with justifiable pride. 

Light & Life Academy’s exhibition – Third Eye – is on between May 6th and 8th, 2005 between 10 a.m. and 7 pm at Amethyst.

(edited version published on May 5, 2005 in Madras Plus, the city features supplement of The Economic Times, Chennai. Pic courtesy Seven Shots, as published in Madras Plus)

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