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Official Photographers for LIVA Miss Diva 2021, Amir & Raika, share experience of shooting with Harnaaz Sandhu

Amir Abbasi and Raika Gazder, visiting faculty at Apeejay Institute of Mass Communication emphasise on the importance of dedication, determination and discipline towards work

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Amir Abbasi and Raika Gazder are Photographers and Creative Director Duo who specialise in fashion and advertising photography. They were the official photographers for LIVA Miss Diva 2021. And recently crowned Miss Universe 2021, Harnaaz Sandhu was one of the winning contestants of the pageant. Having more than 15 years of diversified experience, the Mumbai-based photographers visited the campus of Apeejay Institute of Mass Communication (AIMC) to train and groom students on the art of photography. Moreover, students of AIMC shot multiple projects including a LIVE project for Delhi Metro Rail Corporation Limited under the guidance of Amir and Raika. In a telephonic interaction, the experts talk about their journey with Apeejay students, the need for hands-on experience and share essential tips for aspiring photographers.

Tell us about your journey with AIMC and its students? 

Raika: In addition to the interaction and engagement sessions with Apeejay students, we have worked on a couple of photography and video projects with them. And I must say Apeejay has a diverse mix of students with people coming from different cities and walks of life. There were students with different choices that they wanted to pursue. So our entire experience with Apeejay was that there was a balanced bell-curve in terms of the students and their interest areas. I remember there was a student, who had created an application wherein users can see whatever parties are happening in Goa. What I observed was that all these students were looking at pursuing various professions in the media industry. So there were two components: students were passionate and they were also good at what they were doing. Plus, while interacting and working on various projects with the students, the team dynamics was outstanding.  

Amir:  I liked how all the students were very enthusiastic. 

You mentored AIMC students on various projects. Any specific approach you followed to train or groom them?

Raika: I quickly figured that Apeejay students were quite tech savvy and had a lot of interesting questions to ask; they were eager to learn. They wanted to make the best use of the available resources. And so it becomes important that students have the freedom to express their thoughts and talent. It’s imperative during a creative team building exercise and that’s what we actually tried instilling in them.

Amir: The only best and fastest way to learn anything is via ‘Do It Yourself or (DIY)’. It helps individuals to learn and understand concepts in depth. DIY is an old concept however, it’s a trending phenomenon now. Moreover, hand-on experience is what we focused on. When students actually attend various sessions on photoshoot, ideation, concept building, etc., they understand how different industries like photography, modelling, media and so on work.

Why do you think such mentoring or grooming sessions stand important during a college life?

Amir: College providesthe kind of experience to its students that one would otherwise not get so easily in the real-world scenario. Like attending ideation sessions, going for photoshoots by picking a high-tech camera from the college studio, creating the concepts and putting the storyboard together, presenting the project in front of a client – these experiences that students get in college are valuable. 

Raika: These sessions help students get real-world experiences. The end result is what the audience sees. But to reach there how many hours are dedicated to click a particular shot. How many retakes are done to make a picture creatively and aesthetically perfect? 

You were the official Photographers for LIVA Miss Diva 2021 in which you shot with Harnaaz Sandhu, tell us more about that?

Raika: When we first did a photoshoot with Harnaaz Sandhu, she was not yet the Miss Universe. At that time, she was in the Top 20 of LIVA Miss Diva 2021. But what was very interesting about the whole photoshoot journey with her was how disciplined she was. We also realised that she was extremely focused towards her work. And a lot of it has to also do with confidence and that comes with knowledge. One thing most people underestimate and especially the younger generation is the number of hours that they put in to learn how a particular environment works. It’s important to note that every industry works differently. The pageantry photography is totally different from the advertising and commercial photography. Or say, beauty contests work differently from general entertainment content shows. Aspirants in any of these fields have to understand that they are one out of many at a global level. And all this homework, it was evident that Harnaaz had done really well. She was not just very enthusiastic but had the patience to wait during these long hours of photoshoot. In fact, her USP is that she strikes a fine balance between her enthusiasm and self-discipline.

Tips for aspirants looking to pursue a career in photography as well as fashion?

Amir: In the fashion industry, while it’s important to work on your looks, it’s extremely necessary to work on your knowledge. How you speak or how you handle yourself is key. Now talking about photography, it is an art. Therefore,  aspirants need a lot of hands-on experience. 

Raika: It’s also necessary to work on your interpersonal relationships. Whenever we are working for a client – we execute activities like model selection or location selection. And I want to tell this to the new generation that a lot is observed about you and your behaviour while you are working for a client. Let’s say, you are shooting for a client but you are constantly on the phone or getting calls in the middle of the shoot; these are being noticed and observed. A lot of your success depends not on who you are on day one but who you continue to be till the last day. Relentless dedication, determination and discipline towards work make a lot of difference.  

Fashion campaign photoshoot with students of AIMC

Harshita is Assistant Editor at Apeejay newsroom. With experience in both the Media and Public Relations (PR) world, she has worked with Careers360, India Today and Value360 Communications. A learner by nature, she is a foodie, traveller and believes in having a healthy work-life balance.

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