Kausal Parikh is one of the names the pops up when talking about contemporary street photography in India. Being the founder of the Indian Street Photography collective That’s life and balancing that with the responsibilities of being a father and an active street photographer did not seem to deter KP in pursuing self-publishing his very own photo book. Eric chats with KP regarding the photobook making process, motivations behind the book, and the current status of That’s Life.
Eric: First of all KP, congrats on the new book. To start off, why decide to publish a book (instead of just uploading it online as a project?)
Kaushal: The day my son was conceived I was overcome with the desire to create something permanent, something representative of me and what I do. Something my son could hold on to long after I am gone. And being a longtime lover of photo books, publishing my own book was the logical way to go. The internet is too transient. The time one spends imbibing an image on the net is negligible. That defeats the purpose of looking at photographs according to me. I often spend several minutes absorbing and trying to understand images that I see in books. And I read a photo book many times over, each time gaining something new from it. It becomes an interaction, a dialogue with the photographer. An experience I much prefer to the flippancy of the online world.
What is the concept of the book, and what do you want your viewers to get out of it?
The book is actually just a reflection of my journeys through India at a more grass-roots level, that helped me appreciate the beauty and engage with the millions of lives that just keep on going.
How viewers interpret the book is really dependent upon how they relate to it, but I do hope that at least some of the images move them. The poetic prose written by Tara Sahgal offer some context and help put things in perspective.
Thanks to a better understanding of my country, I find myself complaining a lot less about frivolous things and am generally less greedy and more content (I said ‘generally’. I am in no way a saint!)
What were the most challenging (and fun) parts of putting together the book?
The challenging part was also the fun part and that was editing a huge body of work down to 65 images that flowed into a coherent sequence. Finding images I forgot I had, letting go images I loved, including images for reasons beyond their aesthetic value. These are all things I learnt that I hope will help me in my photographic endeavours going forward.
And of course the most fun part will be if people appreciate my work. I shoot for myself but I would be lying if I said I didn’t care what people thought. After years of putting your soul into something it always means a lot when others validate your passion.
Can you share how you decided which photos to include (and which photos not to include?)
I started with all the images I felt were aesthetically strong. Then as I started eliminating and then sequencing the chosen ones I found gaps that were filled better by images that were not conventionally appealing but had relevant content made in an interesting way. I fought to keep the images with which I had a strong emotional connect but then with the help of a few friends I managed to let go of the ones that really didn’t work in the flow. Once I had most of the images selected I then played for months with the sequencing trying to make it so that no image felt like it didn’t belong. This process could have gone on for a lifetime but at the end of the day I knew I could never please everyone and so I settled for what I was happy with.
And to tie it all together (contrary to my initial plan of having no text) I asked my dear friend and super talented writer, Tara Sahgal, to pen a short essay in her inimitable style. When including prose, it is so important for the writer to be in sync with you. Tara’s essay really was spot on and perfectly cemented the book.
What kind of tips or advice would you give to other photographers who want to put together a book of their own?
For self-publishing this is what worked best for me. First thing is to decide a budget. It is ideal if this budget is an amount that you are willing to write off without any pressure. This ensures that the process remains a labour of love rather than becoming a commercial venture. Once that is out of the way just dive into it and put together a product that you are proud of and love. Just have fun doing it. Everything else is incidental.
What is the next step for you in terms of publishing?
Still enjoying this moment too much to think of the next. Living in the present!
How has everything been with the Indian street photography collective, “That’s Life” which you founded? What has been some exciting things you’ve worked on, and how has the collective been beneficial to you as a photographer?
The collective is still a great source for many people who wish to see photography from India. There is lots of viewership on our website, fb page etc. And I am flooded with applications for membership.
Unfortunately the collective’s activity is a bit slow. It is hard to get 12 people to motivate simultaneously. But after my book excitement fades I do plan to put certain things in motion with regards to the collective.
Having said that we have done a few interesting exhibitions as a collective and we have all received a fair amount of exposure and some of us have even managed interesting assignments through the collective. We also conduct workshops together which have been well received.
The best thing to come out of That’s Life, for me, is that I have made a few good friends that are a constant source of support and inspiration.
Any last words, or shout-outs you would like to give?
I am so grateful to my family. I have never been much of a family person (apart from my immediate family) but I now realize that family is always there for you. As are good friends; if you have good friends you are the luckiest person in the world and my good friends are just incredible!
My wife has supported my decision to do what I love and has never grudged the fact that my life is so simply amazing. I travel often, am relatively stress free and am happy. And to top it all she gave me the most wonderful gift of all – my son.
So honestly the only last words I have are Thank You!
For more on K.P.
To order Fragments of a Spinning Rock, click HERE