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Yogesh Sajnani on publishing his anthology, Finding Bearings

by Ashima

The ambitious photographer reveals what it’s like to see the world through his lens

By Ashima Sethi

As someone who doesn’t know a thing about photography, it’s easy to think that capturing the perfect image is all about a well-timed click of the shutter. But when I  sat down with ambitious photographer Yogesh Sajnani, and he begins to tell me about his journey, it’s evident that the profession goes far beyond just the tools. To mark the publication of his anthology Finding Bearings, Yogesh takes a break from working on his portfolio to give me a glimpse into his work.

Was photography always your passion?

I’ve always been interested in photography but my passion was sparked on a family trip to the U.S. years ago. We went whale watching in San Francisco and on our tour there were many photographers with professional cameras getting super excited about what they captured. I only had a tiny digital camera, so no matter how much I zoomed in, I couldn’t get the shot. One of them saw I was really trying and he showed me the photos he took, how he could zoom and adjust things. He showed me the possibilities, so I went home thinking that I needed a camera.

I’ve always considered my grandfather an inspiration. Back in the day when he still lived in India, he had a photo developing store and a solid background in photography, so he was always supportive of my dream. When I returned from my trip, he took me to buy this really cool camera that I still treasure to this day. Without that camera I don’t think I would’ve pursued photography, that’s why my book is dedicated to him.

When did you decide to translate your passion  into a profession?

I attended NIST International School and then pursued video production at university. I didn’t want to go solely into photography because I wanted to better understand things like sound effects, special effects, camera movement, and transitions. When I moved back to Bangkok, I worked at a studio in Ladprao. We did a lot of corporate videos but I found it quite draining, so I left after a few months. I’ve been working in the family tailoring business, we work with a lot of high profi le clients such as the Danish Ambassador, Denmark’s Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Education. We tailor uniforms, work with diplomats and lawyers, so we spend a lot of time abroad.

I’ve always wanted to pursue photography, but I never had the time because I was caught up in the family business. Once COVID-19 hit and we had to close for a while, I decided to dedicate my time to photography because I finally had no distractions. The book coming out was a catalyst, once it was published people started approaching me for professional jobs.

What inspired the photography in Finding Bearings?

My photography has always been inspired by travel. Regions north of the equator are my favourite because I love the landscapes and the wildlife, especially the birds. I had plans to go to the Faroe Islands this year in August. August is my favourite month to travel because summer is ending, the leaves are falling, you get those fall colours, and it’s not too cold. It’s the perfect month.

The book itself goes through many countries: Scandinavia because that’s where I spent a lot of my time, Spain because I lived there, India because I travelled in and out a lot, and Iceland, because it was my favourite trip. I went to Iceland with two close friends to do the 1,332km ‘Iceland Ring Road,’ a famous route that circles the entire country. We finished it in six days, so it was a lot of driving, more or less non-stop and off -road. It was truly a trip of a lifetime.

What was it like putting the anthology together?

I was going through my hard drive last year and while looking at my first, initial shots, I was like wow, it’s been 10 years. That’s when it hit me, I had this body of work that I can print and I felt like it was time to create a collection, complete with photographs and stories about how I got each shot, funny moments, things like that. I chose the name Finding Bearings because the book finally gave my photography some direction. I wanted to publish a book because on social media people engage with your picture for a second, they ‘like’ it and move on, whereas a book makes someone stop and look at a picture a little longer.

What was the most rewarding part of the process?

Holding the finished thing. Also, after the book was out, people started contacting me for large prints of my photos, and since everyone is moving towards being more environmentally conscious, I’ve been sourcing reclaimed aluminium sheets from a junkyard and I’ve been working with someone to actually print my photos onto these sheets.

What are you planning on doing next?

I’ve doing a lot of freelance work to expand my portfolio. Cars are another passion of mine, so on the weekends my friends and I go to car meets as we’ve got a few cool cars between us, and I just approach other drivers telling them I’m growing my portfolio and they’re always excited for me to take photos of their vehicles. I do this mostly for fun because I love cars, so adding photography into the mix just makes it even better.

I’ve also started doing product photography because I’ve realised that it’s a market I can tap into now that everyone is trying to sell stuff from home. I’ve been experimenting with food photography, and slowly but surely I’ve started getting into real estate photography, too. This came about because my cousin had a few properties for sale and I did the interior shots and 360-style walk-through videos because people couldn’t visit the places in person due to COVID-19. The properties sold quite well, so I consider my first foray quite successful.

I consider myself lucky because I already own a lot of equipment so there’s very few barriers stopping me from experimenting. I have the skill, the knowledge, the equipment, and now there’s the demand. But I always knew I wanted to start small to give people the chance to feel confident in my work, and I feel like this book has given people that confidence, and I’ve been trying to grow ever since.

Yogesh’s photography prints and visual anthology Finding Bearings are available for purchase via his Instagram: @yogesh_sajnani. Stay updated on his portfolio at www.yogeshsajnani.com

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