Life of children

“Why I love to photograph children is because they are so different from adults. Like another species altogether… no complications, no pretenses. What you see is what you get. Till the ways of the world transform them slowly and steadily into people you can’t really decipher”. – Project 365 photographer Ami Gupta

Ami Gupta, a photographer based in Chennai will be capturing the life of children in Tiruvannamalai. Ami will follow Children from diversified economic, religious and cultural backgrounds and photo-document their life and lifestyle.  She will be using the digital medium and will also experiment with the analogue cameras and techniques during the course of the year. This below interview presents Ami Gupta’s ongoing project in Tiruvannamalai as part of Project 365, the public photo art project initiated by EtP to document the fast changing South Indian culture and contemporary lifestyle.

How and when did your journey as a photographer begin?

Neither through my growing up years, nor through my advertising career as a copywriter, did I ever imagine that I would become a photographer. Someone stole the one and only camera I owned four years ago, and that, was actually the turning point in my life. I decided to buy a new camera, a DSLR and in no time it became my new raison d’être. Everything I saw through the lens seemed magical. Be it a shard of grass, a pattern of light rays, or ice cubes floating lazily in a glass of scotch, everything around became a subject of interest. That’s what photography did to me, made me see the world all over again …never the same.

Project 365 photographer Ami Gupta

Project 365 photographer Ami Gupta

Early experimenting was a self-learning process. I went on to learn the basics of photography with Mr. Raja Ponsing in Chennai and then began to consider photography as a career option. At first, it was all about ‘making’ pretty pictures, of interesting objects, glorious skies or good-looking places and people. No matter what the subject, my images have always been about what I connect with, in a relationship that is like a quiet underlying bond, using expressions that need no words.

Along with my various random explorations, I started to photograph professionally, mostly interiors and products and children’s portfolios.

Earlier this year, I was introduced to photojournalism and documentary photography. This was a very different genre of work, where beauty in pictures meant something else. What mattered was whether a photo had ‘soul’ or not… From street photography to a more focused approach to storytelling via pictures, I realized that I enjoyed this mode of photography even more. My first works in this realm, ‘Silent screams’ and ‘BuriNazar’ were a part of a group exhibition on Besant Nagar Beach during Art Chennai 2014.

What made you join Project 365? Tiruvannamalai, the temple town is not a particularly spectacular destination for a photographer. What has been your experience so far?

I haven’t traveled much in India as a photographer. As I had mentioned, it’s actually just been 3 years since I took up photography seriously. As a kid yes, I had traveled much. My parents along with their friends would take us to visit one new state in India or hill station every year. As I grew older, there was always work that kept me so busy, and then children… and travel now was all about going to different countries. Thailand, Italy, Turkey, Spain… where should we go next? So many places, so little time. And the ‘so many places’ in India somehow, were never on top of the list.

So when I first heard about Tiruvannamalai, to me it was just a vague town somewhere in Tamil Nadu. With a famous temple.Big Deal. Lots of people come to pray. Ok, so? There’s the Arunachala Hill. I’ve seen bigger, better.

But then Project 365 happened.I decided to take it up just to do something different and experience something new. An unusual project in a place I had never been to. So here I am…

This is the first time I am on a trip to focus on nothing else but ‘making pictures’. And after visiting this temple town just twice, I could tell that something in me has changed. Like I had been drawn to this place for reasons beyond my understanding, as though some mystic force had decided my fate. Maybe I’m being a bit melodramatic about it. But yes, I can feel some sort of a ‘peaceful energy’ if I may call it that, with every walk I take, every morning I wake up here, or each time I meet someone new. I don’t even know if I can explain it. I’m looking at life from another perspective now, however far removed from my actual lifestyle it may be.

What is your project plan? How do plan to portray the diversified culture of Tiruvannamalai?

I am right now in the process of spending time with children from different walks of life and different cultural backgrounds. I intend to document their every-day life, religious connections, the festivals they celebrate, where they study, what they play and much more.

As part of Project 365, I will be photo-documenting the life of Virupaksham in Veda patasala, Sri Ramana Ashram.

Life of children in Tiruvannamalai / Image (C) Ami Gupta / Project 365 PUBLIC archives
‘Virupaksham’ / Life of children / Image (C) Ami Gupta / Project 365 PUBLIC archives
Life of children in Tiruvannamalai / Image (C) Ami Gupta / Project 365 PUBLIC archives
‘virupaksham’ / Life of children in Tiruvannamalai / Image (C) Ami Gupta / Project 365 PUBLIC archives
Life of children in Tiruvannamalai / Image (C) Ami Gupta / Project 365 PUBLIC archives
‘Virupaksham’ / Life of children / Image (C) Ami Gupta / Project 365 PUBLIC archives

I will also be documenting few adhoc visuals and anecdotes of children that I come across during my photo shoot… there are many interesting stories and events that I find fascinating.

Life of children in Tiruvannamalai / Image (C) Ami Gupta / Project 365 PUBLIC archives
‘Vetriselvam’ / Life of children in Tiruvannamalai / Image (C) Ami Gupta / Project 365 PUBLIC archives

Vetriselvam was perched on his father’s bike as I walked by. This was during my walk to the town, a day after Project 365 Samarambam, that was held at Kalai Illam on 15th August 2014. Vetriselvam’s brothers and sisters were curious about my camera and me. They started to pose and I insisted that I want them to just play and continue doing what they do everyday. An ice-cream vendor passed by just then and Vetriselvam’s sister Gayathri looked up at her father with eyes full of longing. He shook his head, while I insisted that I treat them. For a child, happiness is as simple as that. A mango ice stick that has the power to make his or their day. Vetriselvam was in his element. Grinning away non-stop, while Gayathri recited poems and sang songs she’d learnt at school. I was welcome to stay and hang out with them, they offered me the peanuts that grew on their farm and just like that we connected. I will go back and give them these photos. Small moments of pleasure frozen forever. The image shows Vetriselvam after a satisfying ice cream.

Life of children in Tiruvannamalai / Image (C) Ami Gupta / Project 365 PUBLIC archives
‘Archana and Yuvraj’ / Life of children in Tiruvannamalai / Image (C) Ami Gupta / Project 365 PUBLIC archives

The above image is of Archana and YuvrajI vividly remember my visit to their home. The farms on either side of the road were glowing, with that healthy sunny green and yellow freshness you see after a bout of rain, and I was loving my walk. It’s strange how you come to meet people in life, and how they leave an impression on you. Like it was meant to be. That’s how I met 11-year old Archana. She was studying, or doing some homework sitting outside the door, as she looked up at me. Of course I wanted to take her picture, so we got chatting, about her school and her little brother and her parents who are farmers, (they grow and sell marigold flowers) She was learning English at school and her handwriting was impeccable. Indoors, a small room cluttered with daily objects surrounded her as she smiled for me. Her brother Yuvraj tried hard to pretend to be writing so that I would take photos of him too. As I looked around at their threadbare belongings, and at the hardship in her parents’ eyes, I ‘felt’ a sense of hope for them. They are giving their very best to their children- an education that is priceless, and the only reason for hope that their lives will change.

Thank you Ami Gupta


Project 365 is a PUBLIC PHOTOGRAPHIC ART PROJECT initiated by EtP to photo-document the fast changing ancient culture and contemporary lifestyle of the ancient Tamilakam territory. During the first phase, forty photographers will be documenting the multi-cultural aspects of #Tiruvannamalai, South Indian heritage town over a year period (Aug 2014 – July 2015). This Project is led by contemporary Indian photographer Abul Kalam Azad. FOR MORE PROJECT 365 IMAGES, see #etpproject365 In the next five years, EtP will document the Sangam period ports Muziris, Tindis and the cauvery basin culture and lifestyle.”

Disclaimer: Image (C) Ami Gupta / Project 365 PUBLIC archives.

All rights reserved. All the images published in this blog is copyrighted property of the author and belongs to PROJECT 365 PUBLIC ARCHIVES. Reprinting / publishing rights reserved by the author and EtP (PROJECT 365 public archives). Prior permission is required for reproduction / re-publishing. For more information about Project 365, contact EtP at {0}4175 237405 / {0}94879 56405 / / FACEBOOK – Project 365

Project 365 initiators and partners

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