When I press the shutter button, it’s not just a conscious choice but an indulgence.

Theatre documentation has always been an important part of preserving the art form. Apart from books, journals, and magazines, theatre photography has played a huge role in documenting the legacy of Indian theatre. As a drama student, I realized that there is a dearth of theatre archives, the reasons for which could be the absence of funding, lack of interest or enthusiasm on the part of stakeholders, low market values (as compared to say fashion and wedding photography) and negligence on the part of cultural practitioners.

Over the years I also observed that sheer passion and love for the craft trumped these issues and one could spot more people working in the theatre as volunteers, production managers, technicians and photographers! On an occasional visit to a theatre venue, you could spot these wonderful people with their cameras hanging on their neck, creating interesting frames and capturing beautiful moments.

This time around, we decided to reach out to some of these incredible photographers and asked them to share their favorite photograph and the story behind it that makes it special. Presenting to you, 8 talented photographers and their favorite moment of capturing the Theatre!

Sai Ghatpande, Mumbai

A photographer for almost 8 years now, Sai has mostly done wedding photography but she was always keen on capturing theatre. She says, “I always wanted to shoot a play because theatre lighting is spectacular! I wanted to see if I can capture the essence of the play in a photograph. Sujay (Saple) is a cousin-in-law and a friend so I harassed him till he agreed…that’s how I got to click these photographs.”

“I LOVE the way the play uses light to enhance the mood of the story. When I saw this moment, I instantly knew I wanted to capture it, but with a monochrome effect.”

Still from This Is All There Is When There All This. Directed by Sujay Saple & Rachel D’Souza

Trinadh Rakesh, Hyderabad

A self-taught photographer from Hyderabad, Trinadh since his childhood engaged with many methods of art like painting and crafts to express his creative self. He says, “I applied my background in science by not only using the latest technology in photography but also design methods to extend the frontiers of conventional methods.” Theatre photography for him is all about understanding the emotions of the artist and story.

“Across the years, I have had to sharpen my skills to capture the perfect moment. I stood for hours to click this photograph and that makes it special.”

Virginia Rodrigues, Bangalore

Virginia is an actor, photographer and an arts documentarian. She has spent nearly two decades documenting plays, music concerts and dance recitals both in India and Europe. When she is not behind the camera, she works in front of it. Despite her entry into mainstream cinema six years ago, she makes time for theatre and her documentation work around it.

“When I press the shutter button, it’s not just a conscious choice but an indulgence. I oscillate between being an actor and a photographer and let instinct guide me to the moment. So this moment captured is most beloved to me. Often, I don’t even know what the play is like, not even have had the opportunity to watch a rehearsal. That makes it very important to just slip into the play and journey with it while shooting those moments. Focus, spontaneity and a lot of determination to get a sharp picture often keeps me on tenterhooks. Most often, the challenges are too many and no matter how much experience one has here, every play is worth that new lesson. There are too many favorites to choose from, but this one is special for its aesthetic, energy, and the simplicity it brought to life.”

Squirrel’s Birthday performed by Arundhati Nag and Margrit Gysin

Manasi Gadkari, Mumbai

Manasi is a documentary photographer from Mumbai with a specialization in performance arts and family photojournalism. On expressing her passion for theatre photography, she says ‘I love to capture the raw moments of life as they unfold in front of me.’

“Just a few minutes before the third bell, I noticed there was some interaction happening between Mansi Multani and Neha Saraf. I anticipated the humor and laughter and as soon as it happened, I captured it! What I love about this moment is that each time I see this photograph; it brings a big smile on my face.”

Still from Piya Behrupia (backstage). Directed by Atul Kumar

Sarika Gangwal, Mumbai

Sarika has been working Green Room Pictures and Rajat Kapoor’s theatre company since 2015. She says, “Being a part of the theatre is an amazing experience and I am very thankful to Rajat for giving me this wonderful opportunity.”

“While being in the green room, sometimes you don’t understand if actors are rehearsing
or just cracking jokes. This picture is from ‘I don’t like it, As you like it,’ where Cyrus Sahukar plays Jàquès and this is when during one of the rehearsals he just sat and was lost in some thought.”

Still from I don’t like it, As you like it (backstage). Directed by Rajat Kapoor

Neville Sukhia, Mumbai

A portrait, architecture and performance photographer Neville is based in Mumbai. He assisted Farrokh Chothia at his studio for some years before branching on his own over 10 years ago. He freelances with various magazines, lifestyle brands, theatre and sporting events. When he is not with his camera, he moonlights as an urban farmer.

“In 2019, I had the pleasure of shooting backstage for my dear friend (Sheena Kahlid) and one of my favorite theatre companies Patchwork Ensemble. This shot is special because it captures a personal yet funny moment, Sheena (the director holding the phone) is reading out a bizarre review of the play while the actress Rachel D’souza is doing the makeup for her co-actress Priyanka Setia, while actor Shubham Chaudhary is listening from the doorway. Its moments like these that the audience doesn’t get to see.”

Still from Shikaar (backstage). Directed by Sheena Khalid

Yashas Chandra, Delhi

Yashas has been working as a documentary photographer, graphic designer and filmmaker for the last 15 years. He has also worked as a visual collaborator with several theatre groups in Delhi.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the mechanics of ensemble theatre pieces. Just seeing how all these moving parts can meld into one cohesive movement. This photo was taken during the first run of ‘Songs from Snakes’ (by Barefoot Theatre), one of the larger ensembles I’ve collaborated with. For me, this photo depicts that moment when all these disparate pieces of the ensemble become one, living, breathing being.”

Still from Songs from ‘Snakes’. Directed by Shena Gamat

Kunal Sharma, Mumbai

Kunal is a graduate in Bachelors of Mass Media from Mumbai. He started documenting theatre from 2016 and had the fortune of working with Prithvi Theatre Festival 2016-2019 and Aadyam, Season 3 and 4.

“I feel like a montage of photographs can often tell the story of the play very interestingly. These images are from the tech rehearsal of the play but they look like they have been taken during the show. Every moment in the rehearsal was performed Spot-On!” 

Still from Deewar. Directed by Sunil Shanbag

Capturing a moment from stage is not just clicking a photograph but documenting our history, preserving the legacy and for that we need more people who are able to pursue their passion fearlessly. As we encourage talent, we must also put efforts to expand our audiences and provide institutional support to practitioners by generating more opportunities.

We are excited to share with you more about The Alkazi Foundation Theatre Grant 2020 for Theatre Photography. The grant of INR 1.5 Lakhs seeks work that documents theatre (events,
practices/processes, people and spaces) as well as photographs that are theatrical i.e. enact a
moment, an event or a state of mind. Please check out https://alkazifoundation.org/theatre-
photography-grant-2020/ for more details of the same. The deadline for application of proposals is till 20th July, 2020.


Cover Photo by: Sai Ghatpande

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