Balaji Maheshwar is a photographer from Chennai, India. He left his corporate job and become a full-time photographer. From last few years, he is capturing old theatres in Tamil Nadu, India.
In his words about why he stick this project from long time “Time is necessary for everything we do. Time spent on this was helpful, the project evolved and I found it very personal. I could understand the connection and reason for my obsession towards these theatres. The reason was my family. My childhood memory is filled with images from cinema, it was more than just a hobby to me since my grandfather was an actor. My father had dreams to act in cinema. Visiting these theatres, again and again, helped me to look at cinema from a distance, understand what It has done to me and my family.”
Thanks, Balaji for accepting our invite. Please read on…
Hi Balaji, thank you for joining us here today! First of all, Could you please introduce yourself?
I am a photographer living in Chennai, India. I have been working on my photography projects around the cinema.
Please share some of your childhood memories towards the art?
As a kid, I had a cheap plastic camera with which I used to take photos. I used to see a lot of world cinema and wanted to direct films, get into the cinema. I never thought I will become a photographer.
When did you start shooting and how did this love for photography happen?
I did my engineering and worked as a software engineer for 4 years. I felt a void, wanted to run out of it and grab onto something that could help me. The joy and independence I felt while taking photos was the reason to quit the job to become a full-time photographer. Photography gave me a purpose.
What makes documentary photography so special to you?
I cannot separate it as documentary photography or single photos. All of it is what I’ve lived.
You are capturing old theatres in Tamil Nadu, when you decided to start this project?
The first old theatre that I went to was Minerva in Chennai. Initially, it started with an urge to document this old theatre. This was the first a/c theatre of Madras Presidency.
What did you learn while you traveling every town or village to capture these theatres?
The fragility of life and the things we create. With the passage of time every man’s life comes to an end. So is the fate of man’s creations.
It’s very tough to stick on one project for a long time, why you are doing this project for a long period?
Time is necessary for everything we do. Time spent on this was helpful, the project evolved and I found it very personal. I could understand the connection and reason for my obsession towards these theatres. The reason was my family. My childhood memory is filled with images from cinema, it was more than just a hobby to me since my grandfather was an actor. My father had dreams to act in cinema. Visiting these theatres, again and again, helped me to look at cinema from a distance, understand what It has done to me and my family.
It took some time to get the focus and I feel this time is necessary to understand the project better. This year I tried making a small edit and I realized I am just starting to get a direction to work on.
How family and friends react when you decide to leave the corporate job?
They were supportive to an extent but had the fear that I might fail. They still have. But fear is a good sign that keeps me going.
You love films, you want to be a filmmaker one day, please tell us what type of films you like?
It is my father who introduced me to the world of cinema. We used to watch Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, Ben Hur, Ryan’s daughter and lots of classics when I was in 8th or 9th grade. Though I couldn’t understand the aesthetics and language at that time, I enjoyed watching it and recording on a VCR. Now I watch every kind of cinema.
I am very much interested in the slow cinema.
Your favorite directors?
- Abbas Kiarostami
- Nuri Bilge Ceylan
- Terrence Malick.
You are also doing wedding photography, but your soul is in documentary photography, are you satisfied with what you are doing?
It is very tough to balance both. In recent years, I had realized that I am traveling between two different worlds of photography. I somehow balance and do justice to both. Sometimes I fail.
What is that you have adhered and learned through photography over the years?
It is very easy and extremely difficult at the same time.
What is a good photograph for you?
I think the answer to this question creates a curiosity to create one.
What do you do to keep motivated, and not lose your passion for photography?
Attending workshop helps me to learn and keep motivated. Thanks to my mentors, I can never think of losing passion for photography.
Which photographers have inspired you?
- Josef Koudelka
- Daido Moriyama
- Max Pam
- William Eggleston
- Sohrab Hura
- Ashok Saravanan, without whom I wouldn’t have picked my camera and learned photography.
What camera and lenses do you use the majority of the time?
I just had a 35 mm until the start of 2019. So I didn’t have much choice. I sold some of my lenses to get some money for travel. I shoot my personal works with 35 mm.
Any favorite photography books?
Ray’s a laugh. Max pam’s Indian Ocean Journal, Sohrab Hura’s Life is Elsewhere.
What does Balaji do when not behind the lens?
Think, love, laugh, cry.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I do not think about it.
What is your favorite motto?
Stay true to yourself and listen to your inner voice
Apart from photography, tell me about your hobbies and interests?
I watch a lot of movies. I also read as much as I can.
Thanks again for providing 121 Clicks with this opportunity to interview you. Any final thoughts for our readers?
Thanks for giving an opportunity. Life is fragile, we should live every moment.
You can find Balaji Maheshwar on the Web:
All the pictures in this post are copyrighted Balaji Maheshwar. Their reproduction, even in part, is forbidden without the explicit approval of the rightful owners.