Street corners that tell many stories, birdwatching on old Mysore Road, catching the most beautiful sunrise on Kanakapura Road, witnessing the excitement of the Champakulam boat race and nearly getting mowed down by raging bulls at the Mangalore Kadri Kambala festival—there’s little that slips past Bangalore Weekend Shoots (BWS).
Formerly called the Bangalore Shutterbugs, BWS is a steadily growing, active club of amateur photographers who spend every Sunday shooting places and people in and around Bangalore. The members meet nearly every weekend, and shoot a different subject each time.
Photography was the hobby that saved me a few years ago when I landed in Bangalore with exactly two human contacts. This gang of photography and travel enthusiasts in the city proved to be a lifesaver. Without them, I would probably still be walking up and down Brigade Road on weekends, bored out of my wits.
I would go out with BWS members on weekends on collective shoots, which quickly became addictive, and were loads of fun. A month without a shoot felt like something was missing. I was hooked.
Starting with around 15-20 enthusiasts, the group moved online to www.flickr.com, calling itself Bangalore Weekend Shoots, spearheaded by Vivek M—a doctor turned photographer. Soon, news spread, and the size grew to 160-odd members.
I met some of the most interesting folks on these weekends. Such as Sabir Ahmed, an entrepreneur, whose painstakingly composed shots taught me the art of taking a good photograph. I learnt from him that you need to take your time to get that perfect shot. His mantra is: Don’t hurry, enjoy the art.
Ahmed is a treasure trove of information on black-and-white photography, development and processing and old cameras, and nothing turns him on more than an antique Mamiya. For Ahmed, being a member gives him an opportunity to “look at life around us in a different ‘light’, learn new photography tricks and meet like-minded people along the way”.
Just as I was bemoaning the fact that there were hardly any female travellers and photography enthusiasts in Bangalore, along came the young and talented Lavanya Viswanath, a software professional and travel enthusiast, and the enterprising and smart Manjula Sridhar. Munching peanuts, fighting leeches and watching the rain in Agumbe—the Cherrapunji of South India, about 378km from Bangalore—helped us bond. Viswanath’s first large group experience with BWS was a trip to Gokarna beach. Without expecting much from the others, she initiated a thread shoot—images related to each other by a theme. She underestimated the group’s enthusiasm; more than 20 members joined. “When I thought of the idea, I knew there would be takers, but whoever thought there would be so many!”
Enthusiasm brings to mind another group member: the energetic Perumal Venkatesan, an advertising professional through the week and a BWS model during the weekend. We call him Peevee—it’s way simpler, and he likes it. Not only does he love experimenting and surprising us with his photographs, he’s also always game to model for us. He’s known to jump from any available structure around for us to get that perfect image of movement.
For Peevee, the BWS team is a combination of fun and learning, and a fabulous break after work. “Ideas and technicalities are shared, and it’s amazing to see the individuality and perspective of each photographer.” He’s one of those looking at taking up photography seriously in the future.
Vinayak Das, another talented documentary photographer, always makes me pause and think. His knowledge of light and shadow and his eye for framing is impeccable. Das has showcased his work not only in Bangalore, but in faraway Spain, and he’s definitely heading the pro way.
And then there’s Deepsan, another inspiration. There’s a story in his simple, yet evocative, frames that you need to understand first to appreciate. He is someone who has taught me to look beyond the obvious and stretch my imagination. Sometimes, his images make you say: “How come I didn’t see that!”
I am perhaps getting a little carried away here. Before you think it is all hunky-dory at BWS, let me assure you that we have our spats about everything related to shooting, location and equipment—everything is so passionately discussed and there are so many points of view that differences crop up all the time.
Last September, enthused by my growing collection after countless such shoots, three other BWS members and I showcased our works at the Chitrakala Parishad Gallery over a weekend. That’s also how I got to meet G. Sethuraman, senior manager, Web business, Pixetra—a company that’s into photography equipment and accessories. The Pixetra Club, launched in February, is now growing fast.
One of the participants in a recent Pixetra workshop at Thekkady and Bhadra happened to be Amogha Varsha, a wildlife photographer. Besides being a wildlife enthusiast, he freelances for some magazines, a career option that he discovered after the Pixetra connection.
I hope to attend a Pixetra workshop soon. As Sethuraman, a keen photographer himself, tells me, the club’s activities are fairly freewheeling, and they have a full-time club coordinator who monitors member feedback and plans various activities.
One aspect of these groups is the comfort afforded by the numbers. And then there’s a certain joy in losing yourself behind the lens. Lately, I am beginning to hope that when I excuse myself from a Saturday evening out, I will get another response: “Can I join you, please?”
Bangalore Weekend Shoots at http://www.flickr.com/groups/bangaloreweekendshoots; Pixetra at http://www.pixetra.com/club/index.htm
(Anita is a Bangalore-based amateur photographer. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org)