Published: 06th November 2019
How this military man-turned-photographer is capturing the essence of Chennai's street life
Raw and unabashed, Sekar Akash’s authentic brand of Chennai street photography is catching the fancy of many Instagrammers
After completing five years of military service in Singapore, Sekar Akash was faced with three options – continue in the military for another five years, pursue an MBBS degree acceding to the wishes of his parents or follow his passion and come to India to pursue filmmaking. Akash chose to follow his heart and he arrived in Chennai eight months ago to learn the ropes of becoming a filmmaker. “I was born in Tiruchy but was raised in Singapore in a typical Tamil household. I always wanted to come to Chennai and live here, as Tamil is very close to my heart. It’s not that Singapore does not have any Tamilians, but Chennai’s ‘solid’ and unadulterated Tamil is what I live and die for. I feel I can be my authentic self in this city, without any frills or ‘show’ attached,” says the 22-year-old, who, in his bid to become an ace filmmaker, decided to take up photography first.
“I bought a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV camera using the money I had saved up for this specific purpose. I started attending all the photography workshops in the city; I did not miss even one as I was hungry to learn all about photography,” Akash recalls, explaining that he thought at length about what kind of photography he wanted to do in the first place and experimented with different genres of photography before settling down on street photography.
Akash's photos are in-the-moment and use natural lighting conditions
“I chose to take up street photography seriously because Chennai’s streets are always bustling with activity. I wanted to capture the banal existence of the average Tamizhan in their most raw and unassuming form,” he says, adding, “The people here exude the kind of warmth that draws you into their circle and you unknowingly kind of fit in. There is no ‘othering’ at all. They consider you their own.”
Akash approaches photography with the same discipline and dedication he imbibed from his rigorous military training. “Photography is an art and every art needs to be approached with seriousness and sincerity. I wake up at 5 am in the morning and travel to random streets in Chennai. And once I have chosen a spot, I observe the people and their whereabouts. Slowly, I chat them up and then, take their photographs eventually. It is a smooth process. I do not just go ‘lights, camera, action’ and then bugger off in an instant. I take my time with it,” he points out.
Every photo in his collection tells a unique story
His ability to camouflage with his subjects and their environments has helped him a great deal in creating portraits that he regularly posts on his Instagram handle, s.akash_photography, that have caught the attention of many Instagrammers. What adds to the appeal of his photos is that he gives self-coined quotes as captions. “I think an apt and crisp caption is as important as the photograph itself; it completes the photo so to speak. People love my captions. Many a time, people DM me telling me how much they love the captions and totally forget to compliment the photo,” he laughs.
Akash may be flexible in his photography techniques, even going with the flow depending on the situation at hand, but he has a strict motto: consent is important. “I respect people. I do not just click their photos and run away, saying the job is done. I ask them first if I can click their pictures and even show them the final photo before going on my way,” he avers.