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Obsessed with the image.

Obsessed with the image.

by Joseph 'Joe' Radhik on Wednesday, June 6, 2012 at 6:12am

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5 years ago during my last days at business school, I was shortlisted for the final round of placements for an international firm after being very very arrogant in the first round (I already had my dream job and wasn't interested in leaving India). In the final round, the senior management dude had only one question to ask: "Joseph, what keeps you up at night?" I remember being stumped initially (as it is I was flummoxed at being shortlisted) and I also remember grinning widely 'cuz I was really starting to like this firm! I answered this: "Creativity. Creating new and interesting content keeps me up at night, keeps me going through the day, keeps me looking forward to the next dawn and pretty much drives my whole life. Whether it is a simple presentation of existing facts with some new thinking, a photograph of today's sunset or even a byline for a brand OR ANYTHING that I can make, it is in creation that all my happiness lies. It is not a way of life, it's almost an obsession." Five years, 2 jobs and one chottu niche business later, I can happily say that nothing has changed. Heck, it has been just a shade more than 10 years since I picked up my first camera, just short of 10 years since I opened Photoshop for the first time, and slightly more than 15 years since I picked up a piece of pen n paper to write 10 page letters to my sister/dad complete with illustrations and more! The habit of blogging came n went, I ditched the canvas n brushes to pick up the keyboard n mouse, relationships have come and gone, homes have changed and I have gone from fat to thin to fat to now slightly chubby but that single obsession with creating content has been the one common factor in the conscious part of my life (Stephen King reference!). So, why am I talking about this now? (Instead of working in Photoshop on my next upload of Postcards!) Because I see a lot of new photographers/artists/writers addicted to social media and spending more time talking about their (or others'!) work than creating a body of work. And it doesn't help that appreciation for work is never too far away in this age. No matter how good (or bad) you are, a 100-500 Likes are never too far away, nor are a few RTs and a few thousand followers. Now, more than any other time, is when I think we might be facing a decline of quality of content around us simply because of the accessibility of appreciation. Don't get me wrong, I see unbelievably high amounts of good work being dished out every single day on behance/500px/1x/flickr/DA and many more such websites. But then, I also see a lot of crap everyday. Crap with a lot of Likes. The term "viral" is used like it is a daily word (I'm making a viral video dafuq is that supposed to mean?) and "________ Photography" pages are created at the speed of 168 per second (unofficial stats here). I am writing this not because more people are creating content (everyone learns only by doing *more* work), but because I get tons of "Invites to Like my page", "Oh your work is good, here's mine" posts on pages, "RT please." requests. So before this post turns from a thought to a rant, let me change the tone and talk about what makes me tick and how I go about my content creation. Disclaimer: I do not consider myself an expert in this, far from it! I'm yet to create even one piece of viral work or something that has become world famous but I just like seeing great work around me. :) Also, this will focus on photography (mostly). Tip: Pay close attention to the names/websites in this post, they have meant everything to me in my progress as a photographer.


Get better taste, aim higher - much much higher. Be inspired. Move on. That's my way of saying look beyond your sphere of influence to things that are beyond your benchmarks now. If you are a wedding photographer whose style lies in making people look beautiful - immerse yourself in the best works in fashion/beauty photography across the world. Two weeks ago, I spent 4 hrs learning how to take a headshot (from a Peter Hurley DVD) and I constantly live in the world of Grazia/Vogue and beautiful movies. And though this means I look very effeminate while browsing in a bookstore or I see movies in still frames - to the extent that I sometimes can only see lighting, texture and color combinations and not the story! It also means that every time I put the viewfinder to my eye I see every detail, every highlight, every shadow in the scene and then take a decision to remove, add or modify the composition, exposure or any other variable. If you're someone who likes to 'capture the moment', National Geographic is a great place to start (and Boston's Big Picture feature). I've been reading NatGeo magazines since I was in 5th grade and they are the sole reason behind me picking up a camera. When I started to learn photography, I used to be awed by Flickr's Explore section, and then while I *slowly* developed my skill I found myself moving on. My next stop was a great little web forum named which is a place for professional photographers of every genre to exchange thoughts and work. For the longest time, I spent countless hours in the landscape division, then sports and it is then that I stumbled upon wedding photography. The work I saw almost made me cry the first time, it was that striking, powerful and filled with beauty. But soon FM also died because of an influx of newbie photographers and the overall quality of work being displayed wasn't as strong as before. By this time, I'd become a constant follower of some of the best guys on FM (Tony Hoffer, Sam Hassas, Jeremy Clay,



Obsessed with the image.

Spencer Boerup, EB, Brenizer) and a weekly visit to their blog was enough of a dose for me. In the eight years it took to me get here, I'd also started shooting a lot more so now I did not have enough time to spend on forums, I was now spending that time in Lightroom. I came across a wonderful set of DVDs titled "Masters of Wedding Photography" where I came across three greats - Jeff Ascough, Joe Buissnick and the very very awesome Jerry Ghionis. Today, I hardly go to any of the websites or photog's blogs mentioned. I spend my lunchtimes and lazy afternoons (if any!) on Vimeo while learning and looking at great work in the cinema/video space everywhere. I follow Indian and international cinematographers/DoPs whose work I admire, and try to see more great contemporary films. I also spend much more time looking at both old and contemporary art (most of which I don't "get") than I used to earlier. I have no clue what will inspire me next but I am pretty darn sure that I'll never stop immersing myself in beautiful work everyday.

Ask why, not how. Obsess. Everyone who sees a good photo nowadays asks "Which camera?" "What settings?" "What kind of editing did you do?" "Strobist info?". I'm sorry, my friend, but if you can't make that out while seeing the image itself you are doing it wrong. If you make/take enough images regularly and spend enough time looking at them instead of answering comments or waiting for Likes, you wouldn't be wondering such things. A 16mm lens looks very different from a 35mm and a f/1.4 shot looks very different from a f/4 shot. Harsh noon light looks way different from the soft myriad hues of sunset and so much more. So before asking "How", ask "Why does this image look good?". Is it the geometry in the image? Is it the play of colors? What is being included/excluded in the composition? Why was this image shot at the time it was shot? Why does the light look the way it does? Why does the subject look good here? (Is it their stance, their confidence, the light or are they always that darn beautiful! :D) Look for BTS (behind-the-scenes) videos of photographers working, see how they interact not only with their subjects but also with their environment. How they shift around looking for light, how they create light, how they anticipate moments and anything you can garner. Look for patterns and similarities between the work you admire, I noticed that I loved how most of my favorite photographers made people look so happy and places look so "alive" that I felt like I was there, and I tried looking for similarities between their work. Of course, it wasn't just a broad search, it came down to specific things like processing, toning, and even focal lengths - or simply realising that I love images that are 'real' and not excessively photoshopped. This was what worked for me, you might love a different kind of style and am sure you'll find your inspiration if you look for it. In the beginning, this tip just means shooting more and comparing your work to what inspires you and asking "why does that look better than my image?". Sometimes it is the lack of compression in the image, sometimes it is the lack of context, or inferior lighting, or not enough expertise in editing, or that it wasn't the right moment. As you progress, and observe more great images *and try to emulate them in the field*, your eye will evolve and see further detail and subtleties that you never noticed before. I'm not saying "see, learn and apply", I'm saying "observe, obsess and evolve". Being obsessesed with your image is part and parcel of being a visual artist and the first step begins at pushing yourself to expand your vision and not be happy with 'nice' but instead aim for 'epic'. The one thing that I learnt across everyone's work was this: great images are not made by chance but with a lot of observation, experience and planning. And so here's my next tip.

Put in those 10,000 hours. Those among you who have read Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers know what am talking about but for the rest, here's a short summary: Gladwelll postulates that most super talented artists (and successful people in general) are not born geniuses but that instead they have put in a serious amount of work to get to where they are. The quantity of 10,000hrs of serious work is what is seen as the common factor between geniuses like The Beatles, Bill Gates and so many more. I'll put it in a simpler way, something I teach at all my workshops: photography or almost any creative craft is like learning to drive. Initially, it is all about the car - how fast you let go of the clutch, how much pressure you put on the accelerator, when to put on the indicators, how to use the sideview mirrors and all those tiny details. Then it is about the cars around you, how fast are they going, how much space is there to do a manouevre and so on. But it is only after these phases, that the real fun begins: the road and the drive itself. After you put in enough time learning all the basics, you start to truly immerse yourself - feeling the g forces pull you and numb your ears while driving hard through a corner, the exhilaration of blasting through at 200kph, the joy of getting the approach speed to a corner just right and sailing through the apex. If you don't do the basics right, and don't spend enough time in the grind, the next time you are cornering at 100kph at an altitude of 1500+m, there's a high chance the scenery in the distance will be much closer, much faster than it should be. :D Simply put: shoot more. Everyday if you can. Don't be scared to experiment, raise the ISO, go hand-held, shoot with your phone, use instagram. Do this enough and you'll reach a stage when the camera (DSLR/iPhone/Whatever) is a natural extension of your vision. When you reach that stage, the only limitation will be your vision, and your imagination.

Search for people, places and things

Travel. Not to make great images or better your portfolio. But to soak in everything that his wonderful world has to offer. I believe that our work reflects who we are and that at the end of the day, we are simply the sum of all our experiences. Discover new languages, new food, new ways of living, do not be a tourist but truly




Obsessed with the image.

travel by immersing yourself into a new culture. Your horizons will Selvaraj expand and yourGud boundaries disappear. Rajiv likes Very Ma's photo. Make some images while you are at it but remember that the experience is far more important than the images. The memories etched in your mind are more significant than a few gigabytes of data (one of the Sindhuja Selvaraj shared reasons I didn't really moan when my hard disk of travel photos crashed). Sunita Jugran's photo. Exploring the world in real life is a much more inspiring activity than couch surfing to Too Close by Alex Clarethe internet. :)
on Spotify. Shankarananth Mc likes Samir Raval is listening

Let this be the source of your happiness and your sadness, but Sathish not Kumar the only Shanmugam's source. photo. Remember that life is far more than just this craft. Linda Montgomery says When you do any kind of creative work there is an energy to it. This energy is made up of everything that is you, Sahil Seshadri commented on your personality, Stuti photo: will your life experience, the books you have read, the things that youSharma's are drawn to "I as a stop human being. This now!" energy gives the work life and this is what people respond to when they see it." Hence, live your life to the fullest, the richness will show in your work. :)
Manu Ld likes Vinoth Kumar's link. Hariharan Santhanam likes ! 's photo.

Finally, be obsessed wit your work but also learn to look back at your best work and grin. added a makes new I agree this sounds a bit self-involved but looking back at the best of your work you realise how good photo. you are/were and you can be your own inspiration. When you feel your vision is at a low, it always helps to realise that it is just a phase. (I travelled to Bali last year and of the 2000+ images I shot during our travels, Ashok Muthusamy I returned with *one* image I truly liked!).
Bharathi Murali

A REQUEST: If you've read this far, then please do SHARE this Note with your friends. Everything I've Mandhana learnt in photography has been through the internet and this Dron is my way of giving back the love. :) Cheers! Joe
Lakshmi Swetha Pamarthi 3h Mamata Thatte Pratik Salanke Pravin Manoharan
31m 1d

PS: Be grateful that you have something that keeps you up at night. Most people coast through life without a passion that makes life so rich. :) Shankarananth Mc
Sudharsan PPS: If you put any of this into effect and do create some epic images,Balaji feel free to share them with me at and let's see if we can work together someday. :D
M O RE FRIENDS ( 2 4 )

PPPS: What's a post without an image? :)

Amit Ganeti


Moments of clarity. Sydney, January 2012.

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Ward's Pics I think the distilled version comes down to: never is it the what, and even after the what it is not even the how, instead it is first and last is the why. And then only then can photography be like our lives; the two merge into something beautiful and wonderful. Thanks for the writ words and more so the beautiful photographs. Both inspire! June 8, 2012 at 2:24pm Like Aabha Chaubal Thanks Joe, your post is going to help me grow. June 9, 2012 at 4:44am Like



Obsessed with the image.

Amol Khade This is great! Thanks for sharing the wonderful amount of experience you've earned, rarely do we get such people these days, among this crowd of immensely self-obsessed (virtual) pros. As Aabha has mentioned above, this will help a lot more people gr... S ee M ore June 9, 2012 at 5:13am Like Kalyan Manda Wonderfully written! June 9, 2012 at 10:49am Like thats very well written , and its clearly reflecting your experiences and how pure you are . thank you. June 10, 2012 at 4:29am Like Inderjeet Singh Gill Is it only me who noticed that "Jeff Ascough, Joe Buissnick and the very very awesome Jerry Ghionis" all have their names starting with "J" just like Joseph 'Joe' Radhik June 11, 2012 at 9:27am Like June 11, 2012 at 1:49pm Like Amit Kumar Sharma TL;DR June 12, 2012 at 2:58am Like Amit Kumar Sharma Sorry, bookmarked it. June 12, 2012 at 2:58am Like 1 1 3

S.Santhosh Kumar *got up from his chair and bowed down at the laptop screen*

Bennet Abraham beautifully written, joe. June 12, 2012 at 6:50am Like 1

Vaibhav Garge Thanks for this Joseph. Definitely inspires me to do something new and experiment more. June 12, 2012 at 10:39am Like Harleen Multani Gajria Beautiful full stop June 13, 2012 at 3:51pm Like Sree Mounica No words... June 14, 2012 at 4:22am Like Vikram Verma Read... Think... Find your obsession June 23, 2012 at 3:21am via mobile Like Nilesh Patwardhan Its brilliant man June 23, 2012 at 2:46pm via mobile Like Joseph 'Joe' Radhik Thanks everyone! July 9, 2012 at 8:10am Like Ips Khurana Inspiring Joe ! July 9, 2012 at 10:31am Like Francis Xavier Thanks to you for such a brilliant note. July 9, 2012 at 10:34am Like Sudhanshu Sudhir Nafde Made my day... Thanks for such a good write up... July 9, 2012 at 11:13pm Like Akshata Dalvi Simply superb and highly inspiring! Thank u so much for writing this!it will surely help me to GROW August 11, 2012 at 2:03pm Like 1 1 1

Shiv Kiran U are reallyy inspirational,, ll love to work with u asap :d August 29, 2012 at 11:37am via mobile Like Soumen Das Keep it up,cheers August 30, 2012 at 5:02am via mobile Like Siddharth Srinivasan If I've learnt something from you, it's that "World is not enough". I wonder how far can you take your idea and each time your work answers this question by raising it a notch higher in quality, quantity and beauty. Everything to me is an idea- thoug... S ee M ore September 25, 2012 at 8:58pm Edited Like Tanushree Vaidya Photography Super Inspiring! Thank you! October 14, 2012 at 3:06am Like Lachi Luxme good words October 31, 2012 at 2:43pm Like Desha S Gehi Loved your note. Its like an eye opener for me.. Thank you November 2, 2012 at 1:42pm Like Kailash Goel Thanks for the lovely post.. def a long way to go.. but at least the path is clear November 17, 2012 at 11:15am Like Poornesh Poorna YBz inspired highly... November 21, 2012 at 7:02am Like Manu Gowda No words.. Gr8 thoughts.. I love it..... November 21, 2012 at 9:53am Like 1 An eye opener \m/ true respect.. You've given me a lot to think about!

Neha Chopra Absolutely loved the note !!! Must say each word is worth it and has life in it for the coming year December 30, 2012 at 2:23am Like

Rohini Nair According to Malcolm's theory, I must be well on my way to a genius at appreciating pics/videos. Many of them being urs. Multiple times. December 30, 2012 at 2:25am Like 1 Jeet Storyteller Photography [O] I think once in a while every photographer should travel without any camera. I've had experiences of losing out on 'living' great memories while trying to capture them.. Traveling without a camera gives a whole new purpose & perspective to your jour... S ee M ore December 30, 2012 at 4:08am Like 4



Obsessed with the image.

Tanya Dsouza I think this was one of the best post nd set of advice i have read of fb yes its nice to see good work nd your is one of them .. your original thats what i like ... i just got my slr this year so i am still learning anyways all the very best 4r 2013 December 30, 2012 at 7:26am Edited Like Anupam Prasang Khare Its an inspiring read joe.....hoping that we work together someday. Prasang Khare tagging you for a good read December 30, 2012 at 7:36am via mobile Like Muralidhar Patnam I'm not saying "see, learn and apply", I'm saying "observe, obsess and evolve"... "WoW" December 30, 2012 at 9:12am Like Richa Sirohi I can't believe I am "fb liking" it today. I am 100% sure I read it when you first wrote it and obviously loved it. Out. December 30, 2012 at 12:34pm Like 1 Joseph 'Joe' Radhik Jeet, perhaps you should read the paragraph on travel again. stressed on. Everyone: thank you so much for sharing this and your views. It is quite humbling. December 30, 2012 at 1:11pm via mobile Like 1 It is exactly what I

Jeet Storyteller Joseph 'Joe' Radhik.. I did & loved it! I wanted to stress more on it further December 31, 2012 at 12:18am Like Mourya Dandu Good Post Joseph Radhik . December 31, 2012 at 7:29pm Like Krishnaja Gutta Great post! you've put into words many of my philosophies January 4 at 12:53pm Like Gomathi Sriperumbudur cant believe i read it a good year late! In total awe of Joseph 'Joe' Radhik the man, the artist, writer, thinker, traveller, creator! RESPECT! January 7 at 12:58pm Like 1 Yadavilli Nikhila Thanks Joe for the amazing write up ! January 28 at 1:51am Like Shantanu Chandratre Truly inspirational for novices like me! January 30 at 4:40pm Like Veeravalli Veerendra Babu awesome..keep it up bro February 14 at 8:30am Like Rahul Bhansali I'll keep it simple - 'Thank you !' February 18 at 10:06am Like 1

Priya Koka Thank you, now your an inspiration for many like me. February 22 at 10:58am Like Sivaram Murthy Loved the post !! Middle of the night and this got me thinking 24 minutes ago Like Write a comment... Thanks !


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