From Consultant to Photographer
By Sharada Balasubramanian
It takes grit and determination to follow the heart, to chase dreams and finally walk on the chosen path. As part of the Techgoss series on Techies who leave tech to follow their dreams, here is the story of UK educated Mayur Channagere who resigned his job at Infosys, and left 10 years of a successful career in the corporate world, to step into the world of photography.
Mayur’s work has been published in iconic magazines like Rolling Stones. He speaks about his ‘bucket list’ plan, constant persistence and all that he has learned, in this interview with Techgoss.
Techgoss (TG): Tell me something about your education and background.
Mayur Channagere (MC): I have a MBA degree in International business from University of Hull, UK. After working briefly in London with National Health Service in 2001, I came back to India. On my return, I worked with some of the top companies in India, with my last job as Solution Consultant with Infosys.
TG: From when did you develop an interest in photography? Was it a hobby you pursued from childhood?
MC: Though I was interested in photography, I never pursued it seriously till 2004. Photography was no doubt, an expensive hobby and owning a SLR camera was definitely a luxury. I was always fascinated looking at pictures shot by my uncle. He was (and still is) an amazing photographer. After looking at his pictures, I always hoped that some day, I would be able to take this as a hobby.
In 2004, my grandfather gifted me his SLR (Yashika FX3) he got from Germany in the 80s. It was then that I dabbled with photography. This helped to get my basics right. This was unlike the digital SLR where you had limited rolls to shoot with and you had to get the image right. To get the image right, it was essential to understand how the camera worked.
TG: When did you seriously think of becoming a photographer or pursue it seriously? Which was the first digital camera you got? Any fond memories during the initial photography days?
MC: It was in 2007 that I got my first digital SLR a Nikon. This also happened to be the year when I did my first concert shoot - Jethro Tull at IIM Bangalore. It was great to see Ian Anderson (I am his fan), the legend on stage. The concert changed my outlook.
The first few years as an amateur, you shoot everything under the sun, not really knowing what you want to specialize in. But after that concert I knew that I wanted to specialize in performing arts. When you are shooting a live performance, you get a split second to think, compose and press the trigger, you are thinking on your toes, and that gave me a rush.
The high point for me was when I got a call from a local news paper for covering the Iron Maiden concert, as their photographer fell ill in the last minute. It was not just the newspaper that picked the images I shot. The band Iron Maiden chose my image to put on their official website for documenting their concert. That was indeed a moment I cherished!
TG: How did you land up in India from London? Did you have plans?
MC: After my MBA, I was working in London. There came a point where I had to take a call if I wanted to continue in London or return to India. I was in a dilemma. I decided to return, unsure of what was in store for me. There is one thing I strongly believe - there is a purpose and a reason when things happen in life.
I started looking for a job in India, and trust me, it was not easy in the initial months. I then spotted opportunities in the outsourcing sector. It was the turn of the millennium and the outsourcing industry was opening up in India, Bangalore being the hot bed of action. With my exposure in UK, I had an edge over my peers. I landed up in the BPO industry.
TG: What made you jump into photography? Was it an intrinsic call that was waiting to be answered? What did you then do?
MC: I was always an outdoor person. My mother encouraged me to try music, painting, writing and so on, but I never stuck to any of them for more than a month or two. Looking back, I realize that the reason why I never took any other form of creativity. It was because there was limited scope of interaction with people. With photography, there was and that made all the difference.
In 2004, I was looking to learn photography and I came across Bangalore Photography Club, a started by 4 guys to share tips and tricks on photography. I was the 5th guy. Today, we are close to 10,000 members from all over the world.
Photography gave me an opportunity to express myself. Some experiences made me realise I had the medium to freeze memories.
TG: What was the triggering point of turning into a freelancer? How long did it take for you to decide?
MC: Sometime in 2008, I, along with two other friends went on a trip to Mudumalai forest. There, we individually made a ‘bucket list’(inspired by the movie here). It was a list of things we wanted to do in life. We also ended up setting a time line. What started as a fun activity became serious list over a period of time. Today, after almost three years of making that list, we have achieved 80% of the things we listed. On that list was my aim to become a full time photographer.
Three years back, I almost quit Infosys impulsively without any planning. I met a photographer friend, spoke about my ambitions of being a photographer, showed my work and asked him for advice. He trashed my work. It was a wake-up call for me! He advised me on how important it was to create your own style. I took his advice, started working towards it and made a business plan.
Photography is an industry where most of the business is done on reference. Over a period of time, I started getting calls from people to do commercial shoots, performances, weddings, family portraits and so on. It was good pocket money and I was able to pay for my equipment and this gave me the confidence to take it to the next level.
TG: Your family's reaction?
MC: Initial reaction was “Are you crazy?” To throw away a career in Infosys and get into photography. The perception towards photography as full time job was quite different. I spent time to plan, gave them the confidence and we agreed that if we takes off I will continue, if not I will go back to my corporate life.
My family has always been supportive of my decisions in life and that always gave me an extra push required to achieve greater things.
TG: How was the initial experience of moving into something you were passionate about?
MC: In the beginning it felt funny, no more 9 to 5 job, no more back-to-back meetings, you are your own boss. On the first day, I got up wondering what I will do next. I sat down and made a list. By the end of 30 minutes, I had 25 things to do. There has been no looking back since then. My days are packed with my projects, shoots, talks among other things.
I also get to spend enough time with my two-and-half year old daughter.
TG: What were the stumbling blocks of choosing something for passion than a regular job?
MC: The biggest challenge is that you will have to move away from your comfort zone of having a regular salary come in every month. Second thing, you need have a disciplined life. You need to train you self to follow a schedule. Have targets set, time lines defined and follow them to perfection. When you are on your own, people think you have all the time in the world, which is truly not the case here. You have to do everything here and make it successful.
There will be nights when you will get up in cold sweat wondering and questioning your decision. What you then do is, think about the all reasons why you made this move and jot down the things you want to do and move on.
TG: Is there a specific area of photography you focus on? What are those?
MC: I specialize in Performing Arts - Dance, Concerts, Dramas and Plays. I also do a lot of editorial and life style shoots like weddings, family portraits. My approach to life style shoot is quite different. Where people go to studios to get portraits done, I choose to do shoots in place where they are comfortable. The result then is very candid and personalised.
TG: Tell me something about the first photograph you published. Where was it published and how did you feel after that? Did that propel and reconfirm on your decision to follow your heart?
MC: My first picture that got published was in a Vijaya Karnataka which later became Bangalore Mirror. This was for the Iron Maiden show in Bangalore. I was thrilled, not only because it was my first picture to be published but also this was my first paid shoot. Did this propel my decision to follow my heart? An emphatic yes!
TG: Where all have you published your work?
MC: Most of my work on concerts has been published in Rock Street Journal and a few with Rolling Stones -India. In addition to this, People & Royal, Bangalore Mirror, Travelscapes to name some.
TG: Publishing with Rolling Stones, that is a huge milestone crossed. How did that happen? Can you share the experience?
MC: During one the concert shoots, a fellow photographer and a good friend now from Rolling stones was also present and he had seen some of my images. He suggested that I send my work to the editor. I did not hear from them. I kept sending them mails asking for their feedback. After about 15 days when there was no response. I managed to get the desk number of the editor and made continuous effort to reach out to him. Finally, I got a response and they agreed for a trial. I guess my persistence paid. One big lesson for me here –never give up. If you fail, pick your pieces together, try to figure out why you failed and fix the problem and move on.
TG: Any other interests apart from photography?
MC: I love travelling and that also gives me an opportunity to learn from different culture and life styles. I love reading. Teaching is something I want to do by using photography. One thing that is missing in our education system is the art of self-expression. I want to introduce that through my method of teaching.