CAPTURING THE MOMENT
Ashwini Attri, Deputy CAG in the office of Comptroller & Auditor General, is also an amateur photographer perfectly balancing his work and passion with great perseverance
Ashwini Attri is an auditor belonging to the 1981 batch of Indian Audit & Accounts. An amateur photographer, he became interested in this hobby during his college days. Since then, he has been trying his hand at capturing nature, monuments, portraits, flora & fauna, candid moments – anything which captures his vision.
Tell us about your journey in the world of photography?
As most of us are keen on preserving our photographs right from our childhood days, so is the case with me. I was inspired into photography by my father who was an occasional photographer, and we cherished him. During those days, the major constraint was having a good camera and my father had a small, black & white camera, which was used by him to showcase his 'skills'.
From my father, the art was adopted by my elder brother and then it was adopted by me during my college days. I recall an instance from 1975: during my summer vacations, I had joined a two-month diploma course in photography. During the course, we were taught about the nuances of photography, which included film development, colouring of black & white photos and several other features of the art.
We were also taught about timing in photography. One can capture the best photos before 11 am and after 4 pm as during this timeframe the light is soft and it's not jarring. The shadows also play a vital role in adding an artistic touch to any composition taken during these times.
Though the course ended in two months, I kept following it. My father also supported me and he arranged a professional photographer, who further trained and honed my skills. After my elder brother was allotted the Bihar cadre to serve as an IPS officer, he bought a camera from Nepal and gifted me. Then, I started participating in photo competitions being organised by several clubs and most often, won awards for best photos.
This motivated me. When I joined my services, I practiced photography just for self-consumption, without ever displaying my creations anywhere. The credit goes to my family and friends who pushed me to exhibit my photos and then came out with my solo photography exhibition twice.
What made you pursue photography?
It's well said that a picture is worth a thousand words – I love being able to express myself and tell a story through my photographs. It all started with picking up photography as a hobby in my college days, which soon turned into a passion. So, photography to me is pursuing my passion with patience. It has taught me to pay attention to the minutest details as well as to the grand landscapes and to observe and appreciate what is happening around me. It drives me to capture memories, freeze moments and my vision at that time.
It reminds me of being in that moment. For example, the light might never touch a person's face like that again, and the camera is there to document and preserve that moment so that it can live on and move you forever. It's that one photo that inspires me to try to do it again and again. It makes me feel happy as it allows me to be myself. It also gives me creative fulfillment. It helps me express myself and every successful click further inspires me to keep pursuing the craft.
In a nutshell, pursuing photography is my humble effort to capture and share various moods and creations of God and mankind with the hope to spread smiles and trigger a few thoughts. It has been an amazing journey through the days of black & white to colour photography on the traditional medium of film rolls or 35 mm transparencies, and finally to the digital images.
Being the Deputy Comptroller & Auditor General, a task loaded with responsibilities, how do you balance photography?
My passion has never blinded my responsibilities. Most of my photographs are taken during my official and private visits. Whenever I get free time either during official work or during private tours, I roam around the visiting city and try to capture moments of the day. Since my first priority is my work, I have often not had the time to shoot during every official or personal visit. Sometimes, work takes up all my time and I don't get time to even take out my camera from my bag.
What's the story behind naming your photo exhibits Third Eye?
The Third Eye name has been gifted by my Telugu filmmaker friend B Narsing Rao, who suggested this name by saying that what I'm able to see is not seen by others. I was a little hesitant in using this name as people may relate it directly with Lord Shiva. However, since Rao gave his veto on Third Eye, I had no choice.
Do you keep any particular theme in mind prior to shooting a sequel?
No, it's not thematic; rather I would say it's situational. Most of my works are related to light and shades, as I get attracted towards it. Wherever I go, I try to shoot scenes, shadows of light, living things, seashore, lighting works in buildings, etc. I have shot reflections of candles in the night, artificially lit buildings, etc. Basically, I try to click as the things look.
Any moment that you missed and still want to remember?
Yes, it was a memory that I will miss forever as it can't come again. The incident is of Bharat Darshan, a trip organised for trainee officers in 1982. Since I was the only photographer in our group of officers, I clicked memorable pictures and sent the film for development to America through my instructor. Developing colour photos in India was very costly then. Our instructor arranged to send those films through his friend. Sadly, those photos never came to me as the briefcase of the person who was bringing those prints got stolen at the airport.
Another incident is of my post-marriage photoshoot. I clicked several pictures of my wife soon after the marriage and, after some days, I found that there was no negative film in the camera. These were really memorable incidents that one never wishes to forget. Similarly, during my Fatehpur Sikri visit, I clicked several photos of the architectural beauty of the monuments, but I ended up with nothing as the films that I had purchased were exposed. These are really painful moments.
Lots of money is being spent on cleaning the Yamuna and Ganga. If you have to convey a message on this to the people through your photographs, how would you make it?
I would like to click photos of floating bodies in both the rivers – Yamuna and Ganga. The other part of it is Ganga Aarti at Haridwar and Varanasi to make a religious connect so that people may stop putting waste in the river or on the banks of the holy rivers. Also, I would like to cover the flow of the river Ganga right from Gomukh to Kolkata.