In May 2014 I started something that even today remains the single biggest source of creative satisfaction, self-motivation and self-pride in my life. I cannot fully recall what made me choose the name ‘One Life, One Passion’ but I am certain that the word passion still invigorates me as much as it did then. I would like to believe that everybody who is alive, has a passion that gives them a sense of purpose in life, in a way that it defines who they are. As I approach the 2nd anniversary of my visual storytelling project ‘One Life, One Passion’ I cannot resist writing about what I have gained from it. Here’s a lowdown of my takeaways:
Entrepreneurs Are Very Affable People
Through the course of this project I have closely interacted with over a dozen entrepreneurs and made stories on them. Most of them have 2 personas. One is visible to the world, created by the media while the other is their intimate self. It’s when you have lunch or a chat over a cup of tea while shooting through the day that you realize that behind their formal countenance, entrepreneurs are as apprehensive as many of us. They are not the ‘know-it-all’ people as many of us would imagine. They have a lot of questions they don’t have answers to. Sometimes they know what they want but don’t know how to get it. Most times they won’t shy away from sharing their trials and tribulations or a word of advice if you asked them earnestly.
Koushik & Piyush of SustainEarth gave me a tour of Sri Venkateswara college campus and offered me pizza for dinner.
Nevertheless, there is a common thread that runs through all entrepreneurs. They are extraordinarily passionate about their ventures and don’t rest till they get their answers or find a way around an impediment. It’s their struggle that makes them not just resourceful but also humble.
Entrepreneur’s Life Provides Great Insights
One of the biggest learning from ‘One Life, One Passion’ has been the insights I have gained from talking to spirited and innovative entrepreneurs. I have had the privilege of understanding the challenges and issues they face in running their ventures, very closely. This has enabled me to form my own opinions and perspectives on social entrepreneurship.
Manish Ranjan, Co-Founder of NanoHealth demonstrates how his company uses technology to keep track of BOP patients.
I clearly see the sun rising on social entrepreneurship in India. Most of the entrepreneurs I met were between 22-40 years, equipped with impressive educational and professional credentials and filled with ideas. This is a marked departure from the activist cum NGO culture prevalent in social good sector so far. They marry their acumen for business management with their passion for social impact. I have learnt more about entrepreneurship through this project than I ever did from my management education. This inspired me to write on various topics related to social entrepreneurship in some leading positive news portals.
Stories Are Out There!
None of the stories I have created till now have ever been shot in the comfortable confines of a studio. Instead, I have visited places I would generally never visit. Be it the narrow lanes of Dharavi in Mumbai, the dingy market place at Vashi’s APMC or the pristine dung-scattered dairy farm 140 kilometers from Chennai. I have gone wherever the story unfolded- ground zero of the story. Diversity of themes and characters has been the essence of ‘One Life, One Passion’. In most cases, my field subjects- rural farmers, urban poor, artisans and social workers have been incredibly cooperative with me and have been happy to readily share their stories with my camera. I have learnt not to carry a prejudice or underestimate the communication skills of those at the bottom of the pyramid.
Krishna Reddy’s cattle farm in a village called Tanapalli.
Shooting stories in the field is a different ballgame than shooting an outdoor movie or an advertisement. Real stories are about real people in their native environment shot with minimum amount of disruption to them. This entails using less intimidating, quick to deploy and easy-to-carry camera equipment. My paraphernalia comprises a compact camera bag and portable lighting accessories. This has helped me be highly productive in the field while keeping my costs low.
Everything Should Evolve As It Grows
When I conceived ‘One Life, One Passion’ in May 2014, the original idea was to find passionate individuals in different walks of life- adventure, music, arts, entrepreneurship etc. and create their visual narratives by combining photographs with written story. After shooting a few creative individuals, I came across a husband-wife duo who ran a social enterprise that made hand-crafted, eco-friendly shoes. I enjoyed going to the slums to capture visuals of cobblers employed by them. However, it was the opportunity to personally chat with the cobblers and understand their perspective that became the high point for me. It dawned on me that each social enterprise is a repertoire of stories of human strife and subsequent innovation to overcome it. This points towards an immense storytelling potential of such ventures. I re-purposed the vision of my project and decided to exclusively focus on social entrepreneurs going ahead.
Me shooting in slums near Chembur.
The format of storytelling has also evolved over time. ‘One Life, One Passion’ which came to life as a photography project is now a visual storytelling project. It now comprises a theme-based video feature juxtaposed with a written narrative that’s accompanied by a dozen high quality still images. The underlying motive is to treat each story differently while still maintaining consistency in the output.
‘One Life, One Passion’ has served me in multiple ways. It has helped me meet and learn from spunky and dynamic entrepreneurs, push my creative bar with each story and kept me motivated and passionate about my purpose. I owe a lot to it!