Kishore Thukral realised the indispensability of a camera on his early treks in the ‘90s. His ongoing exhibition, Spiti-Paradise Unveiled, organised online by Delhi’s India International Centre, encompasses five sections – Gateway to Paradise, The Incredible Moonscape, Life in Paradise, The Lamaseries of Paradise, and Serene Snowscapes, each showcase the cultural and scenic side to the valley.
In a conversation with The Sunday Standard, Thukral talks about his inclination towards travel photography and his other creative pursuit, writing.
When did you begin photography?
When I started, I was more a point-andlet’s- see kind of photographer. Those were the days of the manual SLR. Only when I decided to do a book on the legends and folklore of Spiti valley in 2000, I began taking photography seriously. So, over several sessions I sat with a dear friend, Shailan Parker, who I regard as my guru, and took down copious notes on how to bring out the best from my manual SLR.
How do you go about choosing your subjects and themes?
A lot of my photography is mountain and water-related. That includes communities that live in the mountains, along the rivers and seas. I had trekked in and around Spiti twice (in 1996 and 1999) before I decided to do a book on the valley, Spiti through Legend and Lore (2006). It was love at first sight.
What are your other creative pursuits apart from photography?
I love to write. My first published work was a novel (The Chronicler’s Daughter). In my three other books, I combine my photography and my writing. In Hindi, I have written short stories, libretti for musicals and some songs, one of which was for the award-winning film, I Am Kalam. I just finished working on a novel, and now I am working on a handbook about Tibetan and Himalayan Buddhist iconography. By profession, I am a financial advisor.
What are your reading habits?
My mornings are devoted to the physical newspaper. I do a lot of reading otherwise, mostly fiction. In fact, almost all my spare time at home is spent either reading or writing. I am rather old-fashioned, and still haven’t taken to the e-paper or e-book.
Who are your favourite authors?
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Saul Bellow, Barbara Kingsolver, Ernest Hemingway. Among the Indian authors, my current favourite is Anuradha Roy.
Any influence of the capital city in your creative pursuits?
The city provides me with a great backdrop for all my writing, especially fiction. Since I have spent
almost all my life here, there is enough anecdotal experience that I can transport into my writing. Besides,
it is culturally, politically and intellectually stimulating, and its history is peerless. As a writer, I find no dearth of inspiration, but as a photographer, I feel automatically drawn to places where nature is more visible and human intervention is minimal. That explains why I have never given much thought to training my lens on the city.
What camera and lenses do you use?
I began with a Canon AE1, and then graduated to Canon EOS 550D and EOS 5D, both of which I now use. My lenses are 24- 105mm and 70-200mm telephoto. I have often thought of adding bigger lenses to my kit, but have been deterred for two reasons – their weight and that they will be a disincentive from going as close as possible to my subject. The results from my limited lot of lenses is satisfying.