Retro Kolkata Exclusive : Conversation with Radha Swami, an amazing Street Photographer from India


©Radha Swami
The axis of my work is Emotion & feel, be it street or pre-weddings or any other form. I strongly believe that my work should be able to convey emotion. Technically identifying a good composition is very important to me, I am never satisfied if the composition is not correct. Because unless the composition is correct, it will not convey the right emotion.

RK :First of all, thank you for accepting our invitation for an interview as our Guest Photographer. Let’s have a jump into the past. What first attracted you to photography?

RadhaSwami :I am into photography since 14 years. At that time I was very young to understand the seriousness of photography ,the thing that attracted me the most then was nature/flower photography.... I started with macro photography.


RK :At what point did you realize that photography is what you wanted to do as a career?

RadhaSwami :My curiosity for photography started at 17. I use to borrow camera from others to click pictures. Looking at my interest and passion, my father gave me 50k to buy a camera. Coming from a middle class family it was a huge amount 17 years back and I was not sure if I wanted to make photography as my profession.. So I refused to take the money. 4 years later I bought my 1st DSLR and started with portraits and street photography. After investing two years into photography I was then confident of making this my career choice and I started my wedding photography group.

©Radha Swami

RK :What photographers from the past or present have influenced you the most?

RadhaSwami :There are many great photographers in this list but the one who really inspired me was PrashantGodbole sir. He is the master of streets in my view. Than Raghu Rai sir and some from other international like Steve McCurry sir, Sebastiao Salgado, Joey Lawrence and many other personalities.

RK :How would you define your style?

RadhaSwami :I love to draw focus towards a single subject and avoid clutter, be it street or any other category.

©Radha Swami

RK :How does black and white vs colour play into your work? Do you find them to be totally separate beasts—or complementary?

RadhaSwami :I am not into black and white a lot. I love colours as I am a painter and love to play with colours. But yes black and white has its own importance in photography, specially when you want to convey a story or want to show emotions, it really works well.

©Radha Swami

RK :What are you looking for when you have a camera in your hands?

RadhaSwami :A different or unique perspective.


RK :What type of camera, lenses and lighting equipment do you use?

RadhaSwami :I am using Nikon full frame camera with many lenses like 70-200mm, 15-30mm ,50mm, 35mm etc I use some external flashes also in my pre wedding shots.


RK :What has been your most inspiring encounter since you began your photography journey?

RadhaSwami :There was an incident that happened while I was busy changing the lens and the one I missed to click is something I will never forget. Will Share some other time.

©Radha Swami

RK :What do you consider to be the axis of your work – technically and conceptually?

RadhaSwami :The axis of my work is Emotion & feel, be it street or pre-weddings or any other form. I strongly believe that my work should be able to convey emotion. Technically identifying a good composition is very important to me, I am never satisfied if the composition is not correct. Because unless the composition is correct, it will not convey the right emotion.


RK :You have done a lot of portrait. In your opinion, what are some of the qualities that make some photographic portraits stand out and apart from ordinary photos of people? Can you offer some examples of great photo portraits that hold power for you?

RadhaSwami :According to me if you r clicking a portrait try to click the soul through their eyes. Talk with the subject Let them relax after that try to click them by reading & focusing on the eyes.

©Radha Swami

RK :Taking a shot in the street can sometimes be difficult; you have to face the reaction of people or make sure not to be invasive, in the various situations that can arise, it is not always a simple thing. What is your approach in these circumstances?

RadhaSwami :I live in the city of lanes (Varanasi) so I know how to handle this situation. As in the terms of street photography u can not stage so first point your camera towards ur subject if they don't object go more closer according to your frame. You can approach people Only if you want the click street portraits.

©Radha Swami

RK :In recent years Street Photography has boomed, many photographers have dedicated themselves to this genre. What do you think is the reason why so many people prefer to shoot on the street?

RadhaSwami :It's easy to find street in any city but difficult to find a good street photograph. Everyone is having camera nowadays be it a DSLR or a mobile camera, everyone is a photographer. Plus, all you need for street photography is a camera. Financially speaking this is the cheapest of all the genres in photography as you don't need to invest in anything other than the camera. Plus availability and affordability of camera has made this genre very popular among-st people.


RK :We have seen some amazing pre wedding photographs taken by you. Taking nice photos of pretty people is a no-brainer. But how do you shoot flattering wedding photos for people who may not be conventionally attractive?

Radha Swami :I feel Wedding photography is very similar to street photography as u capture the candid moment although the scenario is arranged but the expression and moments should be pure candid. normally Ifocus on expressions and in pre-wedding feelings are important with an unique composition, I like to choose minimalist compositions if the couple is not so expressive.

©Radha Swami

RK :After shooting, what are the actions you take in terms of processing and editing?

RadhaSwami :I use Adobe Camera raw to process my photographs .

My workflow includes opening shadows, decrease the highlights and play with vibrancy. Sharpening on some selective areas using selective brush tool in camera raw.

©Radha Swami

RK :Do you have any pieces of advice for young photographers interested in photography but who want to earn a living?

RadhaSwami :Wedding photography is an easy way to earn money if u r skilled. But before one starts with that its important to learn all aspects of it as its an easy money but a very difficult genre. Product and fashion shoot are one more good way but for this you need to understand the use of light, both indoors (studio) and outdoors.

©Radha Swami

RK :We are trying to build one single stage for all the artists, because we believe that artists are the most beautiful creation of God and geographical boundary can never break their unity and harmony. Please say something about our initiative and any special message for your followers.

RadhaSwami :I completely agree with the views of Retro Kolkata that "Artists are the most beautiful creation of God and geographical boundary can never break their unity and harmony". We definitely need a single platform where all the artists can come together - explore, learn and grow, because no single artist can truly exist without the other irrespective of the medium once chooses.

I urge all my fellow artists to believe in their art and be a part of the initiative taken by Retro Kolkalat to raise to higher heights and make art not just a language for those who practice but also for those who don't...Art is the only language without boundaries.


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