Sharad Haksar is a world-renowned photographer with a passion for creating work that has never been done before. A true pioneer, this year he has released the first ever calendar in the form of a 3D camera lens. His work has also been nominated for the Sony World Photography Awards 2009.
How did you get into photography as a profession?
For me, photography was always a hobby rather than a profession. I wanted to be an architect! Then, one day, I met Iqbal Mohammed, who was setting up a unit in India. That was the first time that I saw international creative photography. When Iqbal saw my work, he said, “I want you to work with me”. However, I wanted to do a degree first. He told me that he had done a degree, in literature, and it had turned out to be a waste of three years! So, after twelfth standard, I joined Iqbal in Bangalore and worked for him for a year and a half as his assistant.
Which photographers have inspired you?
My favourite photographer is Henri Cartier-Bresson because of his composition and because he always seems to capture the ‘magic’ moment. His images have a lasting impression – you can’t forget his work.
I am also a fan of Nadav Kander and Nick Veasey. Nick Veasey is an X-ray photographer – what Ansell Adams is to black and white landscape photography, Nick Veasey is to X-ray photography. He has even shot a Boeing 747 on X-ray!
I think it’s important that a photographer stands for some style. I can’t just take pretty pictures – there has to be some creative concept behind them.
You started your own studio, “Eye-light Pictures” at the age of only twenty. What challenges did you face?
My studio was actually my bedroom, which was 10ft x 10ft! I started out with two lights and a 35mm camera with one lens. So equipment was a constraint.
Another problem was my age. When I went along to advertising agencies and showed them my portfolio they would say, “Great, how old are you?” Nobody wanted to give a major campaign to a twenty-year-old. So I took to wearing very formal clothes and glasses in an effort to look older.
Nowadays, times have changed and clients are much more willing to give opportunities to young photographers.
You took the plunge into digital photography much before anyone else. What was the reason for this?
I switched to digital when I realised the quality of a digital image was better than film. This was when 16 megapixel packs became available. In fact, I wanted to make the switch earlier but I waited until the quality became better than film.
I don’t agree with those who say that digital has ruined photography. Whether it’s a digital or film camera, it’s still a person behind the camera. Ansell Adams used to manipulate his photographs in a dark room; now we get the same thing done on a computer – what’s the difference?
I do agree, however, that film has got its own charm, especially black and white.
Do you ever use film?
Not really although a while ago I shot some cancer patients on Polaroid – I wanted the photos to have that ‘polaroid negative’ feel.
How has having your own creative agency (1pointsize) influenced your work?
As a freelance photographer, I used to feel frustrated. I believe a lot of my best work has come in the last five years since I became involved in the creative side by setting up my creative agency.
My interest in architecture has also influenced my photography as I design my own sets!
Do you ever think that photographers aren’t experimental enough?
Nowadays you see a lot of photographers who are technically-qualified but, once you have seen ten of their photos, the next fifty are the same.
I think it’s very important to have different looks and styles. I wouldn’t want to do something similar to what has been done before. If you look at some of the great painters such as Picasso and Rembrandt, what made them special was that they were ahead of their times; they created images that had never been seen before.
The exhibition I am working on at the moment showcases photography that no one has ever done before. It takes photography to a new dimension. I’ll tell you more about it as soon as I can.
How do you keep coming up with new ideas?
I have a bank of ideas that I haven’t used and that I keep adding to.
What prompted you to take the series of images entitled “Brand Irony”?
Since I’m in advertising, it occurred to me that there are a lot of hilarious situations involving advertising. However, my image of a Coca-Cola sign behind several empty vessels waiting to be filled up with water resulted in Coca-Cola threatening me with a lawsuit. I originally wanted to do a book with a hundred images but then I realised that I would be in court for the rest of my life so I dropped the idea.
The whole experience was very interesting as, during the Coca-Cola fiasco, I had four lakh visitors to my site. It showed me that the Internet is an amazingly powerful tool.
Irony is a strong feature of your photography. What other features would you like to point out?
More than anything else, I like to do things that are different. I would love to do travel photography but it is difficult for me to go away for long periods because of the agency. I think my dream job would be to work for National Geographic.
You have won many awards (including 1 gold, 1 silver, 2 bronzes and 21 nominations at the IPA awards) and you were also named amongst “the 200 Best Photographers Worldwide” by Luerzer’s Archive. Are there any awards that you would still like to win?
The one award that I would really like to win is a “black pencil” from D&AD. Every year there are around 25,000 entries, 700 are shortlisted, 50 win “yellow pencils” and 1 wins the “black pencil”. The black pencil is given to work that is truly groundbreaking; in some years they don’t award any black pencils at all! I have been shortlisted twice but I have my heart set on winning a black pencil. My lens calendar (a 3D calendar in the form of a camera lens) has been entered in the “Calendar Design” category of the D&AD Awards this year.
I have also just heard that my campaign for Reliance has been nominated for the Sony World Photography Awards, which I’m thrilled about.
What printing equipment do you use?
I outsource most of my printing to labs but for internal work I use my Epson printer.