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Light and shadow has always been quite a standard theme in photography, but just a few photographers have really understood the harsh beauty of strong light and deeply obscured shadows. It isn’t a mere contrast, it is a compositional thing that makes life becomes timeless and still. Rammy Narula has that keen eye that sees light beyond the evident and obvious by capturing the quotidian life with such a consistent style. His ethnographic vision puts in question that every city is different, and there is something not that obvious to everybody that we all human beings belong to the same species. Colors are more than important, are almost the main character that links each and every single city in front of his lens.
F. Every street photographer seems to have a very personal and own definition of what “street photography” means, what would be yours?
R. That sounds like a fair statement, though I don’t think mine differs from what a lot of people might say about their work. It’s simply a kind of personal documentary. Recording what I see, the way I see it. No more, no less.
F. Your approach to the everyday life is clean yet frantic, your work is very consistent in visual terms. What are the key elements in a scene that make you press the shutter button?
R. I don’t necessarily look for any key elements before I press the shutter, to be honest. It’s quite instinctive and I try to be free from restricting myself when I’m making pictures. I would go with whatever interests me in the moment. I suppose the consistency comes later in the editing part of the process. How do I choose my photos and what I choose to publish. I am very visual and how things look together matter to me, so as I edit and narrow down my selections I’d consider what I’ve done before and decide which photographs work as continuation to those work. With photographs I like that don’t fit into any existing groups, I’d start a new pile for them and see if they build over time.
F. How you coped street photography with your daily routine when you were just starting out your career?
R. For me it was quite easy. I started photography at a time when I needed something new in my life and I was willing to try anything. When my brother handed me my first actual camera I just threw everything at it. I took a lot of workshops and spent a lot of time making pictures. I’d fully dive into it and practically gave up on everything else for a little while. Life happens to everyone of course, and over time as my family and work responsibilities grew I had to start managing my time better. Balance came naturally over time, but it’s a constant juggle and I’ve slowly learnt to accept that.
F. Light and shadow seem to dwell constantly in your photographs. Which photographers, painters and/or movie makers could you say are your main influences?
R. I’ve always loved watching movies, especially ones that pay a lot of attention to creating atmospheric scenes and focus on character developments. Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese are two of my favorite filmmakers and I think their work has had some influence on how I make pictures and what catches my attention. I like many photographers too. I have pretty much all of Harry Gruyaert’s books and I enjoy his way of seeing a lot. I also love Christopher Anderson’s work. The way they are able to convey what they see on photographs is remarkable.
F. What could you tell newcomers about gear?
R. Pay attention to the equipment, but don’t get sucked into the advertising. You have to choose what’s comfortable for you and not what others say are good, is what I want to say. Experiment. Borrow and try a few if you can. Settle on one and really dig into it. Learn the equipment in your hand as though it’s a part of you and know how to use it as quickly as possible in any situation. You’ll benefit a lot from being able to pick up your camera to shoot without hesitation and not mess around with camera settings.
F. When you were photographing Hua Lamphong in the early stages did it ever cross your mind that you were going to publish Platform 10?
R. No, not at all. I did have a dream of making a book someday, but I didn’t think it was going to be with this project until the very end of finishing the work. I first went to the station because I was told it’s a beautiful place and I had never seen it. I spent the first couple of years shooting it in Black and White before adopting colour photography. It wasn’t another year or so later that I found myself on Platform 10 and even then I simply thought of making a nice short series out of it. In the end I found a great publisher and the potential to make the book was discussed and it happened.
F. You just announced your exhibition for November and December, right? Could you please share some details about it with us?
R. Yes, that’s right. An exhibition in Bangkok at Kathmandu Gallery opening November 16. It’s a duo exhibition with Khun Manit Sriwanichpoom, a fellow Thai photographer. He’s a prominent photographer in Thailand and I’m absolutely honored to be sharing the stage with him. He will be showing his work from the Bangkok Central train station that he made in 1985 and I’ll be showing my work from the same place made in 2015. A coming together of photographers from two different backgrounds and viewpoints. A sort of conversation for the work themselves and a way to bring more life to the photographs with personal stories.
F. Thank you so much for your time and can you please tell us where we can purchase Platform 10 and see more of your work?
R. Thank you for the interview! The book can be purchased either directly on my website at rammynarula.com or via my publisher at peanutpressbooks.com. They have some fantastic books on their sites of some really good photographers so definitely check them out.
Being able to capture colors without them being a distraction is something worthy of being pointed out. Such a careful craft for tones in the everyday deserved a conscientious photography reading. Capturing the daily life as it unravels from society becomes an aesthetic experience through Rammy’s eyes. Brief splashes of context are needed in under to understand the complete story behind each and every single frame in his body of work. He is currently working on extended projects that span further than mere street photographs, and here we can see the importance of working around well-defined concepts. We really had a good one while watching his work, and we are sure that Rammy will continue to fine tune his eye, which is by now extremely mature and accurate.