I have a great admiration for photographers, one of the photography artists that I truly admire is Shiv Kumar a.k.a Lens Kumar, who captures both fashion and real life photos of normal people in a most magnificent way. Shiv, an architect by profession, started photography as a hobby. Today his work has been featured in Lonely Planet-India to many other magazines.He currently lives in Hyderabad and works with many local designers like Bharghavi Kunnam to shoot their seasonal collection. He also works with corporations like ISB, Microsoft as well as star hotels and restaurants to do food photography for their menus and food campaigns. While he does different types of photography work, he admits street photography is closest to his heart.
He shares his captures on his Facebook page, and has a most impressive Instagram account( last see here). Last month, I had a long conversation with him about his inspiration, future plans and how does he approach strangers to capture them in the most beautiful way possible. While he answers all my questions with smile, he is sharing his pictures from his recent Jaipur trip exclusively with BarelyVogue. Read on…
BV: Tell us a little bit about yourself, how did you become a photographer studying architecture ?
Shiv: I studied architecture in JNTU, Hyderabad and while doing my apprenticeship in Pune, I bought my first DSLR and started shooting. Later when I moved back to Hyderabad and started working as an architect, I was doing photography simultaneously while working and did some projects for friends.I worked on some interesting projects where people started noticing my work. I worked with an advertising agency where I shot food etc. and my work slowly took off.
BV: Oh! great, so you are an Architect turned photography artist, wasn’t architecture your calling?
Shiv: I think Architecture is an art, I think that is what inspired me. That is what you see in my pictures, they are more composition oriented.
BV: What is your favorite style of photography?
BV: My favorite style is definitely Street Photography. Life in general. Shooting on the streets, people and portraits. In the beginning I used to shoot weddings but now I don’t do that much. Weddings are totally different game!
BV: Wonderful, you have also done fashion, probably you should start a street style photography blog. Hyderabad needs one.
Shiv: haha(laughs)..if you look at my pictures they are not high fashion or grand, they are something that you can relate to. Not that I don’t want to do, probably I’ll slowly get there. But my photography style mainly depicts common man.
BV: How do you approach strangers and take such breathtaking pictures? When you are taking pictures of these women, are they ever scared or doubtful to let you capture? How do they agree?
Shiv: I always approach with a smile and try to make a conversation with them, I take photos as part of the conversation and tell them what a pretty face they have or talk about their beautiful eyes based on who they are. I usually spend some time around them until they get comfortable and show them the pictures I take and how beautiful they look.
BV: Your photo shoots for Bharghavi Kunnam are extremely popular, how did you start working with her and how is the experience?
Shiv: Bharghavi is a dear friend from college days, she used to be my senior. While she started doing her Masters she was pregnant and had a baby. Back then I used to help her with her assignments and stuff. We have similar sensibilities, similar taste in color and geometry. We think alike. All the shoots we do together, we want every girl who looks at the picture to relate and imagine how beautiful she can look in those clothes. That is what is our idea behind the shoots.
BV: After stalking your Instagram long enough, I see you have a great taste for interiors and have very unique and vintage’esque stuff around your home, like bright colored trunk boxes, hand figurines, turtles etc. I also, loved what you gifted Bharghavi, the unique wall clock. Where do you score all these interesting pieces?
Shiv: Thank you! Whenever I travel or go around the city I buy stuff. Those trunk boxes, I painted those myself. That clock I bought for her from my last trip to Thailand. I bought it from ChatuChak Market in Bangkok. It’s apparently one of the biggest markets. You can go mad there, they have everything there. And the hand figurine, that is actually a buddhas hand and I got it from a vintage market in Pondicherry. I have a thing for hands and feet, even when I am taking portraits I always shoot people’s hand and feet
BV: You have a such well curated Instagram account, how do you do that? Do you have a favorite filter?
Shiv: I just share pictures from my phone and use it to share my day to day life thats it. I don’t really rely on filters. Now a days you can add more filters than just one.It depends on the picture, some times I don’t really add any filter. Sometimes I add more than just one.But, I don’t have a favorite.
BV: How did you deal with people who come to you with different expectations, that they want to look a certain way in a picture and want something new every time?
Shiv: Most of the people who come to me have seen my my work in the past and are interested to work with me. So they know what they can expect. Based on what type of photography project I am working on, for example if it’s a corporate shoot or restaurant campaign, we work accordingly based on the theme. There is lot to do and so much to explore so we will never fall short of ideas or fail to be creative as long as we get good work.
BV: What do you want to do in next five years? Where do you want to see yourself? Do you have any plan?
Shiv: I never had an answer for that even back when I was an architect,now I am into photography, so I don’t really know. But ultimately, the thing I wanted to do is have an organic farm or something and grow my own food. I really love gardening and I think I have a green thumb, usually everything grows quickly in my garden as soon as I plant.
BV: So, last question.What will be your advice to some one who wants to be a photographer?
Shiv: If you have a creative side you should, it can take you places. Only thing I can tell is, share your work don’t be shy. These days social media is really strong, your work can really make an impact if you are creative. But, it is a process it will take time to get there.
images via ShivKumar