Suresh Naganathan is a street photographer, born and raised in Switzerland. Currently, he is living in Mumbai, India.
In his words about street photography “Growing up, I used to go on these random bus rides with my mom during the summer holidays. We would just take a bus, go to the last stop, roam around a bit and come back home. I always felt like a wanderer, watching life unfold around me. Street photography is an extension of this wandering spirit. It is about documenting life in its most candid form. There are so many magical, quirky & strange moments around you. People do weird stuff all the time! All you need is a good pair of shoes, a camera and keep your eyes opened and you can catch them!”
Thanks, Suresh for accepting for our invite. Please read on.
Could you please introduce yourself?
My name is Suresh Naganathan. I was born and raised in serene Switzerland in 1980 where I spent my childhood and early adulthood. In 2008, I did the opposite of what any sane person of Indian origin does, I moved back to India. My parents still wonder why. What was supposed to be a 1-year stint turned into a decade of living and working in Mumbai.
What is your childhood memories towards the arts?
My earliest memories towards the arts are about watching my dad spending evenings and nights painting. My dad studied art in India and Switzerland but had to give up being a full-time artist to sustain his family. However, that didn’t prevent him from spending sleepless nights after work to give in to his passion.
What first drew you to photography and how did you discover it?
I have always loved how the camera felt in my hands. I remember taking my first pictures when going on holiday trips with my parents. I was the designated family photographer and used to take semi-crooked pictures of my parents in front of touristic spots. During my teenage years, I completely stopped taking pictures and only restarted when I bought my first point-and-shoot to document my first solo travels in my late 20s. Somehow, I was never satisfied with them. I was looking for something more in my pictures but didn’t know what it was until I discovered street photography 4-5 years ago. I never looked back.
What makes street photography so special for you?
Growing up, I used to go on these random bus rides with my mom during the summer holidays. We would just take a bus, go to the last stop, roam around a bit and come back home. I always felt like a wanderer, watching life unfold around me. Street photography is an extension of this wandering spirit. It is about documenting life in its most candid form. There are so many magical, quirky & strange moments around you. People do weird stuff all the time! All you need is a good pair of shoes, a camera and keep your eyes opened and you can catch them!
What do you think about Street Photography in India?
I feel that Street photography in India is growing stronger by the year. We have world-class talents (The Vohra brothers, Sasikumar Ramachandran to name a few) who are inspiring more and more people to join the ranks of street photographers. There is so much life and potential in this country that I am expecting a real boom in the coming years.
Although there is still a bit of confusion between street & travel photography for a majority of people, I feel that we are now having a core group of hardcore street photographers who regularly feature in international competitions. What I would love to see in the coming years is more street shooters from smaller towns and rural areas. This is the next step for me. There is so much variety in this country in terms of culture, landscapes, people. Imagine the number of scenes and situations we are yet to see! I’d love to see street photography from the North-East or from the Himalayas.
What do you think makes a memorable street photograph?
A memorable street photograph needs to have layers, great light, a head replaced by something else, a couple of limbs, illusions and humor, that’s it (laughs).
Jokes apart, to me, there is no set formula. A memorable street photograph needs to arrest me. It can be an illusion, a moment of joy, a mood; anything that makes me stop and think “Whaaaaaaat or Woooooow”. Over the years, my taste has evolved and while I still enjoy a nice photograph with great form, I am more and more looking for strong content. A memorable photograph is one that stands the test of time. If you can still remember it after a few weeks or months, it is a successful one.
What do you want your viewers to take away from your work?
What I’d like people to take away from my work is that there are pictures out there waiting to be taken. Life is continuous and every moment is ripe with potential. I hope that by looking at my work, it will inspire people to pick up the camera, pay attention to their surroundings and go shoot.
What do you do to keep motivated, and not lose your passion for photography?
Street photography can be frustrating at times. You may go through weeks without being able to see anything or taking any worthwhile shots. This challenge is what makes it so addictive. You know that at some point, you’re going to get that shot that gives you a rush. That’s what keeps me going.
However, it’s also good from time to time to take a break and disconnect completely from photography. It’s like recharging the batteries. You need that every once in a while.
Finally, I think that one thing that keep me going is the sense of community that is there. Many people I know have only started street photography in the last 3-5 years. We are all growing together and I feel that there is a lot support within us. Especially with people from Bangladesh (who are some of the sweetest people I know). This really helps me stay motivated.
Could you please share one photograph from your portfolio and story behind it?
I took this shot in Japan around 3 years ago. I was wandering with my brother in the back-alleys of Tokyo and we came across this strange scene. I still cannot really explain what was happening here but it attracted me instantly. For me, this shot is a constant reminder that the world around is full of strangeness and if you are willing to explore, walk around and keep your eyes opened, you will be rewarded!
What is the best compliment you received so far?
A friend of mine recently told me that he passed near a spot where I took a shot a few months ago and that every time he passes through this place, he remembers my picture. The fact that someone remembers one of my pictures several months after I shot and published it on social media is the biggest compliment I can get.
Which photographers have inspired you?
The list is so long! Hundreds of photographers, Indian and foreigners, masters and contemporary inspire me. I discover new artists on Flickr, Instagram or books every week and they gift me their way of seeing the world.
What camera and lenses do you use the majority of the time?
For the last 4 years, I have stuck to the Fuji x100 series (first the x100s and when it broke down, the x100f). Having a fixed lens and a single camera makes the technical part automatic. I only need to focus on the composition and the moment.
Any favorite photography books?
One of the first books I got was”The Suffering of Light” (Alex Webb). It is still one of my treasures and I look at it regularly for Webb’s use of light, shadows and the layers. Any book by Harry Gruyaert is among my favorites for the way he sees and uses colors. Recently, I got “Varanasi” by Raghu Rai and “The Red Cat and other Stories” by Ritesh Uttamchandani. They are both amazing books that document India and inspire me.
Apart from photography, tell me about your hobbies and interests?
Whenever I can, I travel backpack. It goes very well with photography!
When I am in Mumbai and I am not shooting or working, I like to read and watch movies. Oh and I run… a lot.
Thanks again for providing 121 Clicks with this opportunity to interview you. Any final thoughts for our readers?
Thank you 121 Clicks for this opportunity! And for the readers, no matter what you shoot, the key is to be honest with the art form & have fun. The rest will follow.
You can find Suresh Naganathan on the Web:
All the pictures in this post are copyrighted to Suresh Naganathan. Their reproduction, even in part, is forbidden without the explicit approval of the rightful owners.