"Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going."
- Paul Theroux

Views & Interviews

Q&A: Talking to Travel Photographer, Satheesh Kumar

April 2015
Satheesh Kumar is a photographer with a keen interest in outdoors and travel. He has a background in mass communications and advertising, and has worked with some of the most inspiring gurus in the world of photography and films - Sivan, Vipin Das, Pankaj Shah, Sanjay Ramachandran, and Manmohan Singh Arora.

Like most young aspirants, he started out as a light boy, carrier pigeon and personal assistant. Each passing day, working with these greats brought him closer to the art and craft of photography. Satheesh shares some of his inspiring moments in this interview, and talks about the passion that helps him look for a little more than what he can see in his view-finder.

Q: You’re probably aware of timeshare in India – it’s a world that’s closely related to yours…

A: I’m aware of vacation ownership in India, and picking up a timeshare plan is on my bucket list. Yes, this is an industry that gives photographers like me an opportunity to capture a visual experience and share it with the world. If I were to choose my location for an assignment, I would pick a timeshare resort off the beaten track. I would look for resorts that are located, or being located in newer, undiscovered locations. There’s always that element of curiosity when you step into a world that the traveler hasn’t really seen.

Q: How did you actually get into photography?

A: Well, I come from a humble agricultural family in Kozhencherry – one of the most picturesque locations in Kerala. It’s a setting that either inspires you to become an artist, or a photographer. Well, that’s what happened to me. Not many people know that I initially pursued a degree in law – only to shed the black coat, to work in a more colorful world. A world that allows you to ‘paint with light’.

My interest in photography has taken me far and wide – from career stopovers in Bangalore, Kochi, Trivandrum and Coimbatore, to Mumbai, Delhi and Dubai.

Q: Why did you want to become a travel photographer?

A: Actually, when you start out in photography, you pretty much shoot everything that comes into your frame. You then slowly mature as a photographer and shift focus to subject areas that are close to your heart. For me it has always been the natural beauty of the outdoors. Blue skies, towering mountains, romantic beaches . . . the sparkling waters of a stream, the magic of the backwaters. Actually God’s own Country gives you a really wide horizon in terms of the most endearing pictures. That’s why I always go back home, when I need a change of scene.

Q: What are the other highs of being a travel photographer?

A: According to me being a travel photographer gives me the opportunity to see new places, meet new people, experience new cuisines and touch a cultural landscape that offers an experience on its own. This does not happen to you if you’re a photographer confined to assignments that are strictly within the confines of a studio, or a commercial brief. Travel has opened my eyes to a wonderful kaleidoscope of images and experiences, and I like the flexibility and freedom that comes with this job. It’s a good example of liking what you do, so that there’s not a single dull moment.

Q: Does travel photography lead to other areas of interest?

Another thing that interests me immensely is covering ancient, or period architecture. These are design perspectives from another era, and they seem to be telling you a story. Interestingly, each photographer fascinated by period architecture brings in his own special viewpoint that is unique to him. Only a photograph can capture your moment in history - this is what makes us different. We’re looking at the same architectural elevations, but each one of us has a different approach to the picture - to add an imprint in visual legacy.

Q: Is there something unusual you can recall from your shooting expeditions?

Young couple from Belgium

Yes, there are many, but one incident at Top Station in Munnar comes to mind now. Top Station is 32 km from Munnar and is the highest point at 1700m. From this vantage point you get a panoramic view of the Western Ghats and the valley of Theni District. Well, there I was, waiting for the right moment, when a young couple from Belgium came into the frame. Suddenly, we were swamped by a huge curtain of mist that reduced visibility to near zero. The mist cleared within a couple of minutes, but I was waiting with my camera ready to capture this really endearing picture.

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