Yesterday I had coffee with Unnikrishnan Ravendranathan (Unni). A young photographer from India with an amazing eye for story telling. His work is always beautiful and often disturbing. His home page at http://www.unniphotography.com/ currently greets you with an image of a bloody cow from his series on underground butchers in India. You want to look away but you really can’t.
Oddly enough, we spent a good portion of our time talking about the challenges of photographing children and families. Unni is comfortable simply approaching heroin addicts in the Tenderloin and cancer patients in India to get their picture, so I chuckled a bit when he said “That was hard” and “man I was exhausted” in describing his first family session (which came out amazing BTW).
But what struck me is the underlying similarities between our work. I shoot kids and families and he shoots cows, addicts and cancer patients – vastly different worlds but we both approach the subject in very similar ways. If you listen to his interview on the Candid Frame, Unni describes how he finds many of his edgy projects by simply finding someone to talk to. “People are people and they just want to talk” he says. He gets to know them and then starts taking their photos. Now he is also a well trained photographer so he is constantly looking for elements (light, shapes, lines, backgrounds, etc.) that enhance the drama and story of the pictures.
I believe good family photography requires the same thing – you get to know the kids and the family, see where they work and play, look for the best light and try to capture an image that says something about what makes the family special or unique. And while like any “documentary” photographer, a family photographer ought to leave the viewer with a sense of the family’s story. After all, one of the main reason’s to hire a family photographer is to document what the family is like in this moment.
Absorbing Faces by Unnikrishnan Ravendranathan
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