Rohan Shrestha is the first Nepali origin photographer who recently had the opportunity to shoot with football superstar Lionel Messi. A die-heart Messi fan, Rohan posted four black-and-white shots of Messi from their recent session as well as a selfie with the footballer which went viral on social media.
Carrying forward the legacy of his father, ace photographer Rakesh Shrestha who has shot for more than 600 films, Rohan’s passion for photography developed early in childhood. He started his career in 2009, and is today recognized for his celebrity and fashion work. He has photographed covers and editorials for leading publications and has developed campaigns of several leading brands.
Besides photography, Rohan is a certified Scuba Diver, a passionate footballer and a travel enthusiast. In conversation with WOW’s Ankita Jain, Rohan shares his experience of shooting with football’s biggest name – Messi, his first big break, life lessons from his father and more. Excerpts:
What was your experience shooting with Lionel Messi?
Initially I was nervous. It was a fan moment but it was a work assignment and I had to do my best. When he came to the floor, I intentionally put my camera on tripod because I knew my hands would shake and my pictures would be out of focus. It usually doesn’t happen but it was one such fan moment. It was a very big deal for me.
What got you interested in photography? Were you influenced by your father, Rakesh Shrestha?
I loved photography but my number one passion was to be a professional footballer. The reason I was scared to take up photography as a career was the fear of having to live up to my father’s name. He is an ace photographer and I didn’t want to be compared. However, my father never gave up. He kept pushing me and encouraged me to give it a shot. He always said, “Don’t fear of failure, learn to take risks.” He took me on different shoots as he knew I loved travelling. Travel gives you new perspective with interesting places to shoot so I wanted to try my hand at travel photography, and that’s how I got started.
What was your first big assignment?
It was in the year 2010, an assignment featuring Ranbir Kapoor. That was my first big break and after that there was no looking back.
Are there any similarities in photography that you share with your father?
I wouldn’t say so. Photography has evolved so much that we no more shoot on films. Earlier the photographers were much more talented, nowadays the process is much easier for the new generation. My father was phenomenal. Today, for paid assignments, it’s scary to shoot on film as you never know of the outcome and whether it is what the client wants. The past generation photographers were way too cool in their style, work, confidence and approach. Now we play a little safer because we have the opportunity to. The photography styles of me and my father is very different. I see colours differently based on mood and time. All of these play a major influence on how I look at my work.
Any life lessons you learnt from your father?
There are many. He has taught me to be more objective in my approach towards life; not to attach too much emotion and make logical decisions considering pros and cons.
In Mumbai where there is cut throat competition, what sets you apart from the rest?
Good work. We are judged based on our last shoot. My last shoot was with Messi which went viral and tomorrow if I do a bad shoot that will also go viral and I will be judged on that. This is how the industry works. With social media playing a pivot role, everything has become fast paced. Knowing that everyone has an opinion today, you can get bashed within seconds based on your poor work. You have to give your best to every assignment.
What is your photography style?
I love playing with the sunlight. If you put me in nature and travel situations, I enjoy my work more. Moreover, I never want to limit myself and I am still exploring my capabilities. I observe younger photographers who do things differently and learn from them. I want to keep evolving, not for the world’s validation but for myself. This is important otherwise I will stagnate, and once I reach that stage, everything is over.
Any celebrity you aspire to capture on your lens?
What are the work ethics that you don’t compromise with?
I don’t like plagiarism. However, when someone plagiarises my work, I look at it as compliment. Beyond that, bad lighting is something that really irritates me. I come from an industry which is very face dominant and I never compromise on face lighting.
A shoot memory that you cherish the most…
Your thoughts on the many Nepalis working in the Hindi cinema…
We Nepalis are really very talented. We are very much into arts. For instance, Binod Pradhan, a phenomenal DOP; Aditiya Narayan, a fabulous singer. Internationally, Prabal Gurung is doing wonders. Unfortunately, I never got an opportunity to work with him but I am looking forward to it someday. When it comes to the Nepali community, there are platforms where we are more than happy to help each other.
Besides photography what interests you?
Football, scuba diving and history.
How do you cope with failure?
It is easier said than done but you dust it off. In life, you will fail more than succeed but that doesn’t mean you don’t take risks. You never know which risk will become your best work. Also, failure teaches you a lot.
Learning from it and implementing your learning into your next work is important. This might sound a little clichéd but clichés do exist. I have failed often in my life, learnt from them, and moved ahead.
A trick to make your subject more comfortable in front of the camera…
You know your subject. You read about them and you understand what they are like. You have to do your research because at the end of the day, for the best pictures, the person in front of your camera has to trust you 100%. The rapport needs to be built.
Favourite destination to shoot: New York
Camera: Sony (currently)
One of your favourite magazine covers: Ranveer Singh shoot in Mauritius for Filmfare
Photographers who inspire you: Paolo Roversi, Suresh Natrajan, Farrokh Chothia, Prabuddha Dasgupta, Jatin Kampani, Atul Kasbekar