By Anissa Lamare
“I’m a commercial photographer specialising in Adventure Sports and Outdoor Lifestyle since 2016,” begins Praveen Jayakaran as he breaks the ice for one of the most dynamic features of the magazine.
As a cyclist or mountain biker, have you ever imagined what would it be like not having your shredding documented? Let’s admit it; those gnarly photographs not only help improve your form on the bike but can leave you utterly awestruck after seeing that jump you just nailed being caught on camera.
I first saw Praveen’s name on watermarks of mountain biking pictures featured in Mtb Mag Asia’s recent issue. Today, I sit with him as he takes me on yet another virtual interview, enthusiastically sharing his personal experience with photography. For Praveen, it all started with “a leap of faith” after a stark realisation he would only be a “weirdo and misfit” at a desk job. So freelancing it is, until the freedom became what is now a full-time occupation for Praveen.
Praveen’s social media account at a glimpse would take you through a wild journey of places, people and outdoor activities. It had everything from kayaking, rock or ice climbing, mountain biking, motorsports, surfing, breathtaking portraits and uncountable adventures. Each image effortlessly narrating its own story, while the technical consistencies sprinted through all his pictures.
But what caught my attention most are the recent streak of photographs taken of mountain bike riders all over India. It’s no surprise considering the diverse range of pictures in his portfolio.
Praveen took his first mountain biking photograph in Ladakh at a race in 2019. “The mountain biking community in India has an excellent network, so it’s easy to catch hold of a person in the outdoor communities as I’m very active,” says Praveen. Along the way, Praveen met riders who shared the same passion for riding and that blended well with the ideas he had in mind. A friend, who is also a whitewater kayaking and outdoor instructor, Manik Taneja, eventually leaned towards enduro and downhill mountain biking. Photographing mountain bike riders became another interest with this journey, and “working with people who encourage your skills is always more fun”, says Praveen.
Photography is something that can continuously improve with time. Consistency births new ideas, and new ideas will always produce something different. “The never-ending need and thirst for making good photographs which make people say "wow" at times, makes me stand out from the rest of the regular photographers.” He adds on by saying, “I repeat the shot until I make it look perfect or at least close to perfection.” If Praveen were on a stage right now, this would’ve been a “mic-drop” moment.
While Praveen’s photographs had the right shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and focus, they also went through endless struggles before turning into a masterpiece. “Adventure sports in India is a niche community”. This means most riders and photographers do it because of nothing else but out of sheer passion. Praveen’s passion for photography also led him to invest his own money in most of his projects with the rewards of meeting new people and developing new relationships. However, the grim fact remains that “brands, international companies or start-ups” either pay too little or none at all to photographers. Merely mentioning the photographer’s name does not pay bills, but to Praveen, commercial benefits do not overpower his love for photography.
But, jokes asides, we all need something to sustain to keep going. So, how does Praveen balance it out? Well, by now, it’s no secret that hard work runs in his veins, and while understanding the market for photographers, Praveen shoots for weddings and corporate events to make ends meet.
Besides being the primary tool that can stop time for a moment, photography has enabled Praveen to connect with new places and people while also helping him make, as he puts it, “some interesting choices in life.” He also believes that photography has opened paths for him to communities and, in turn, helps to preserve nature from “commercialisation and destruction.”
After the interview, a short chat eloped into learning more about Praveen’s perspective of life. Some run away from commitments and responsibilities, while few figure what they want and work towards it, and as Praveen puts it, “they are rare breeds.”
Before becoming a sports photographer, “you need to be a sportsman first.” Without loving and understanding the sport in the first place, the photographs will have no soul. So, take this advice from a photographer who has captured countless moments in life. He speaks not only from technical experience but from continuously learning and un-learning his own life from his photographs.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, Praveen’s captures have been on point. Here’s another piece of advice from him - “plan and prepare.” “Never settle for mediocre content, follow and analyse other creative artists”, and in your own way, create something new.
For the ones struggling to find stability in life in whatever you do, “success doesn’t come overnight, but you can set a five-year goal and take small steps towards it,” ends Praveen while embarking on his never-ending journey of growing with photography.
At 29, Praveen stands tall with his Canon 5D MK IV alongside 24-70mm, 70-200mm and 50mm lenses.
Here’s a great trivia/fun fact (choose either one): Praveen had written the entire interview on paper before documenting it as a soft copy. “I’m a pen and paper person. That’s my comfortability”. I’ll leave the end perspective of Praveen to you.
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