The placement office, a ‘Mecca’ of sorts for most of the final year students is reduced to a mere room for a few. These intrepid souls decide to take matters in their own hands and venture towards the unknown with only their passion as the guiding light. Devendra Purbiya is not one of them. After passing out of KGP in ’04,he took a job in an IT firm only to realize that his interests lay elsewhere. A true artist at heart,he is a professional photographer now settled in Bangalore. TSA caught up with ‘the IITian’ who can click’ for a tete-a-tete..
TSA: Your blog answers most of the preliminary questions, so I’ll get straight to the point. You mentioned that you were a creative being from much before, how did your stay at an IIT and Kharagpur in particular influence your artistic tendencies?
DP: My stay in Kgp influenced my artistic tendencies quite a bit. First, it made me think. Since my childhood days I used to draw, write short stories and do crafts. But my artworks were restricted to copy-paste (not really sure how I picked up that talent much before my software job) and I perfected it to quite an extent.
But when I came to Kgp, I started taking part in art related competitions where I had to think and it helped my abilities. Special credit goes to illumination and rangoli. If you see the rangolis I made from first year to final year, you will be able to see growth in terms of understanding of colors and shading. And if you see illu works you will be able to see the growth in terms of creating new drawings.
Also I had learnt bit of softwares like Photoshop, Coreldraw, because I had to do some poster design for my department’s competition Bitwise.
TSA: What event/process during your days at the software firm would you attribute to that urged you to truly reach out and pursue your passion? Was the feeling serendipitous or did you intend all along to pursue your creative instincts at some point of time in the future?
DP: Any job routine which requires you to sit in office for at least 9 hours will urge you to reach out to pursue your passion (or at least to run away from your job). I always wanted to make sure that my job was giving enough money to enjoy my life, and I made it a point that I enjoy my life. For some people enjoyment comes from visiting a pub, playing sports. For me it came by nurturing my creative side. So before jumping into photography full time, I learnt animation, I did some theater bit as well and then gradually moved into photography.
TSA: Correct me if I am wrong, but it was nearly 6 years before you took to photography as a full time career. Would you, in retrospect, have left your job earlier if you had the chance? I mean is it necessary for one to tread down the ‘inappropriate’ path before one can realize where his/her true passion lies?
DP: The toughest part about leaving a job is the fear that money will stop flowing. If someone would have promised me that I will get as much money as my regular job, then I would have not even joined the job, sadly there are no such promises, and the biggest task is to convince yourself that you can earn money out of what you are going to do.
And I would say there is nothing called as ‘inappropriate’ path, each of the paths have learnings/earnings if it offers you learnings then its appropriate anyways, and if it offers you earnings, then it works like cement which becomes harder and harder over the time.
TSA: Who supported your decision to embark on the “unconventional” career path? Were your parents easily convinced (in case they were not entirely acceptable to your choice)?
DP: I would say my sister, brother-in-law and my friends were my biggest support. My sister and brother-in-law handled a lot on the family side. Luckily my parents are not forceful in terms of me doing things. When I told my parents that I am going to leave my job, my dad said there should always be a mainstream job and my mother just told “what happens to your IIT degree?” (In effect she meant, now how will I get you married?).
Over the time I kept telling them that people were willing to pay for what I am going to do, so that kind of eased it. For Indian parents, the major concern is that they think “if their son/daughter are doing something offstream, they will be on the road (almost begging for money)”, but I think I had safely evaded that concern of theirs.
TSA: Did you undergo any professional training in photography? Is it necessary at all considering the milieu of information and tutorials available in the webspace today?
DP: I did not undergo any training for basics in photography. When I started photography, it was just a hobby and being a photographer or to own a DSLR was not social status thingy(There was no Facebook). So I took my own sweet time to learn things. After shooting for two years with ambient light, I had attended a workshop on studio lighting with Hellmuth Conz, in bangalore.
I think another thing that is in-built in us is that we seek approvals. So till we hear that the picture is good from 10-20 people(40-50 likes on Facebook), we don’t get convinced about the picture being good. I think that factor goes off in professional training. Also during professional training you learn/do things that you might never do in your regular shoots and that adds dimension to your photography.
TSA: “In between I also attended some theater workshops, which gave me some nice friends who supported my creative side. “ (from your blog) Is society becoming more libertarian towards people from Arts or are they still looked down upon? Are you still in touch with your friends from your college days?
DP: Depends on where you roam around, if you are in Facebook/twitter audience, you will be treated with respect. And if you go to your hometown, then usual look on people’s face will be “are you slim because you don’t earn enough”. So I still think that the society is not yet so libertarian. But when you are mad enough to take an “unconventional” path, I don’t think you will bother about being looked upon.
And I am in touch with friends from college days. As now a days I travel a lot, so I get to meet people in each city. And people are more willing to meet as they hope that I will have some nice stories to tell.
TSA: 2010 Kingfisher Calendar Launch. How was the experience?
DP: CRAZY. When the results were announced I was already in Mumbai. (On a one month vacation). It took me quite some time to believe I was the winner and I will be going to the launch event. I was seen smiling for no reasons for the coming days.
When I reached at the venue (which was the palace of Dr. Vijay Mallya), it was awesomely hot place, because of the posters of babes which were put there. There were big celebrities there, Deepika Padukone, Abhay Deol, Kunal Kapoor … and so on … I was in a dilemma whether to focus on hot models or the celebrities. But in the end I got some good candid shots of all. I got a copy of Kingfisher calendar, which is safely hidden in my house (I am not sure where).
TSA: To conclude, where does the road lead to now? How are the future prospects of “the IITian who can click”?
DP: Since Kingfisher has stopped conducting contests, my dream that I will work with kingfisher and eventually say “IITian who can click Kingfisher Calendar!!” is on hold (some people started thinking I work with Kingfisher). If I would say that I have a very concrete plan about my future, I would be lying. I don’t really have a plan right now. I am going with the flow (of money).
I would want to explore more into photography, learn more things. I feel there is lots to learn in terms of marketing and techniques.