A Creative Life Surfaces From the RiverA Creative Life Surfaces From the River

A Creative Life Surfaces From the River

Growing up in a peaceful area of the river Ganges, five minutes from the pulsing chaos of the city is a juxtaposition that seeped its way into the visual language of photographer Rishi Raj. He shares his creative story, how he discovered the internet for the first time in 2015, started taking phone photographs and eventually went on to develop his recognisable style.

You might say the creative life of Rishi Raj was gifted from the river Ganges where he grew up.
His photography practice began with walks around the river taking photos. Documenting his observations was his antidote to boredom.
“I would take my phone out with me to take photos of random things and places near the river Ganges, which happened to be only a few minutes away from where I lived. Living so close to the river meant that whenever I would go out for photowalks, I would always have things to photograph.”
Discovering the internet on his mobile phone for the first time in 2015, Rishi dived into the world of video tutorials to develop his skills as a photographer. “This was 2015 when I had just discovered the internet on a mobile phone. So I would look for photography tutorials, lessons, and then go out to practice them regularly. And this habit became something more or less like a challenge for me. Every now and then I would explore new places and learn new things about photography which kept me going at that time.”
Today he describes his work “as something honest.” He aims for the viewer to feel they’re “witnessing something from their own point of view and not looking at an artwork from outside.” Adding there’s an effort on his part “to avoid the super polished, almost clinical look” to his work. “Having said that, there’s a sense of visual contradiction that runs throughout the work. Meaning that the subject and the background may not always make rational sense. But they’re visually cohesive.”
This contradiction adds a warmth and a quirky simultaneously surreal and hyperreal quality to his photographs — something he says originates in the contrasted environment he grew up in.
“My upbringing near the river Ganges has a lot to do with it. I remember how walking for five minutes towards the city would fill me up with so much chaos. We all know what a busy capital city in India is like. And I didn’t really like that always busy, always running atmosphere. But as soon as I would go near the river, the world would be entirely different. It was so calm, so serene, a lot more peaceful. I realized very early that the river bank was my place. I couldn’t believe these two places were five minutes apart from each other and I lived right in the middle of these places. This resulted into the visual language I currently have.”
As an expressive outlet, or a place to untangle thoughts, a creative practice always serves the artist in some way. For Rishi, the act of taking photographs he says, satiates what he calls the ‘creative soul’ within him.
“My work is an honest depiction of who I really am, there’s no facade, no trying to be something I’m not, nothing of that sort. The process of taking photos very often puts me in the ‘flow’ state. And that makes me forget all the troubles and worries of the world, I feel truly in the moment. I believe that a photographer can create photographs honestly only if they are letting their work be shaped by their life’s experiences.”
“Up until recently I was trying to establish a visual language of my own. But currently I am thinking more about exploring the ideas, the messages, and the narratives that are communicated through my work.” Attempting to draw a throughline between all artists, he shares “with whatever minuscule experience I’ve gained so far, I have learnt that everything comes back to one’s experiences as a human being, how one feels at a certain point in their life, or how they are as a person.”