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This Is How: ‘Emotional Distance – Rahul, Ramya & Anya’ by Abhimanyu Sharma

It’s an honour to share a fantastic ‘This is How’ piece by Abhimanyu Sharma of Going Bananas Photography today, as he takes us behind the scenes of this fantastic Reportage Award from Collection Five. This is a fantastic piece, dealing with the vital importance of empathy, and of creating bonds with our couples and their families/friends, in order to be able to capture an image like this. A brilliant read, thanks so much Abhimanyu!

We read somewhere that the best photojournalistic work is that which has a universal appeal. An image that makes an impact irrespective of country, colour, caste, creed or religion. And while we aspire to one day capture that one image that moves humanity, our current focus as photographers is exactly the opposite – to capture something so customized, so unique, so personal – that it only “moves” one person. The person who understands the importance of that moment. A moment which means the world to that person.

When we think about how we created this image, the mind quickly goes through various levels of conscious and subconscious, direct and indirect decision making that we (all) go through before we freeze a moment on our CF/SD cards.

The image you see here probably doesn’t mean much to you – a funny (maybe mildly memorable) image of a young girl being crushed in a group-bear-hug. As a photographer, you might see leading lines, two hands leading your eyes in the direction of the girl’s eyes, framing, composition, post-processing, etc. You might even say it’s a good image.

In order to capture an image like this (or any other), a lot of creative and business decisions tie into each other. We decided to cap/limit the number of weddings we cover in a year. Why? Just as a good street / wildlife / war photographer spends more time studying the subject (understanding it’s habits, routine and behaviour) and the shoot itself happens fairly quickly, any good wedding photographer must also spend a lot of time understanding the couple, the family, the customs, the factors that make those specific people ‘tick’ and what makes them unique. This means you are also making a financial / business decision.

In photography, we speak of ‘focal distance’. Using certain lenses to be physically ‘closer’ to our subjects. What we should also talk about is ‘emotional and psychological’ distances. How close does your subject allow you to get, emotionally? That distance is much more important than any lens, camera, equipment or law of optics.
Does your subject trust you like he/she trusts their best friend? Have you invested enough time in that bond? Are you genuinely interested in them and their life – their happiness, sadness, opportunities, challenges?

Can one get a good (even great) image without being so invested in this process?
Yes. Absolutely!
But if you follow this process, you will definitely increase the number of good images you will make in each wedding you cover.

Once we understood that Anya (the young girl in the photo) is the groom’s daughter it became obvious that we were fortunate to have been given a very special opportunity. Weddings are already an emotional roller-coaster, but the presence of Anya meant an additional emotional component to this beautiful story, which required our complete attention and a huge sense of responsibility. We tried putting ourselves in the position of Rahul (the groom, Anya’s father) and Ramya (the bride), as well as the grandparents, to try and imagine what their minds would be going through. And the love and affection Ramya was showering upon Anya throughout, and how comfortable and in love with Ramya, Anya was – it was obvious that these were very strong bonds of undiluted and unconditional love and affection.

We shoot organically (without any structure), in that we shoot how we feel rather than what we see. This works for us because we never have to modify our approach, but just be in sync with our own feelings and be sensitive to any and all emotional stimuli during a wedding.

With this image, we hoped to capture the overflowing love everyone was showering on Anya. And in this instance, right after the wedding ceremony concluded, Ramya, Rahul and all their friends came to give Anya a big, giant, group-hug. We hope this real moment will remain with Anya as a reminder of how loved she is, how loving Ramya and Rahul are, and how genuine respect and love for each other allows people to rise above social stigma (especially in the Indian society) and live and love together.

And for Rahul, Ramya & Anya – thank you for accepting us into your life and home with such warmth and love. Our hope is that even if this image doesn’t move humanity, it means something to the three of you. And if we are lucky, maybe to your next generations also.

You can see more of Abhimanyu’s work over on his website, or here on his TiR profile.

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