Life through the Lens

Features Issue 37 Aug, 2010
Text by Amar B. Shrestha / Photo: Kishor Kayastha

His eyes were full of dreams, his heart full of sorrow, remembering bygone lives.

The journey of his childhood started with an unknown melancholia.

Never interested in formal education— then in the twilight of the formative years of his life, in his subconscious mind, was born a compulsive interest in photography.

Lost in the gloom of a darkroom, he witnessed the birth of a photograph with magical manipulation of chemicals on paper - a picture in black and white.

Afterwards, everything else in life became unimportant.

Possessed his first camera at the age of 9—then, came a life transformed by lens and celluloid. Obsessed, but never understood by anyone.

His adolescence was greeted by hatred and ignorance, even from close ones. Anger within, inflamed; in utter frustration, he started observing the world outside more with the mind rather than with the eyes alone (and what an eye, through the lens!)

He saw a life covered with mist – saw dizzy drizzling afternoons swing between dream and reality- saw foam clouds in the sky.

Discovered an overturned world reflected on water filling a pothole on the old brick road – the fallen grace of a forgotten kingdom.

A photographer was born – Kishor Kayastha, 15 years after his birth.
-Sabin Waiba

 He had first planned an exhibition of his photographic work in 1997. He was then only 19 years old. For various unforeseen reasons, the exhibition was delayed by almost four years, and it was only in 2001 that Kishor Kayastha got to exhibit his ‘Images from Bhaktapur’ at the Park Gallery. Kishor expresses his gratitude by saying, “My sincere thanks to Mr Navin Joshi, who really helped me to exhibit my photographs for the first time in my life to the public.”

No doubt, this must have propelled him towards much greater enthusiasm in the pursuit of excellence in his chosen profession. His second exhibition was titled, ‘Three Man Perspective’ and was a joint exhibition of the works of Navin Joshi, Art Director of MaxPro Advertising as well as owner of Park Gallery, Nick Dawson, an English photographer living in Nepal and of course, Kishor himself. According to Kayastha, “It was an exhibition of three totally different styles. Navin’s work was more expressionist, Nick specialized in color and micro photography, while mine was of an abstract nature.” As expected, all twelve of Kishor’s works in the collection of 6o photographs were sold out.

“I am holding my third exhibition on 3rd December at the Indigo Gallery,” informs the best-selling photographer. “It will be titled, ‘Life through the Lens’ and will feature 40 of my pictures.” The exhibits will be on display for a month that is of course, if they are not sold out before then, which seems quite likely, taking into consideration his past record. Kishor elaborates, “This exhibition will have my works taken from different perspectives and in three different styles, ‘panoramic’, ‘fog’ and ‘dance’.” He adds, “I take this opportunity to pay my respects to the senior photographers like Mr Jagadish Tiwari, Mr Madhav Thapa, Mr Raj Bhai Suwal, Mr Mani Lama and Mr Raju Bhandari for setting a benchmark for us to follow.”

Kishor remembers lugging around a camera and taking potshots wherever he went from the time he was only nine years old. Undoubtedly, there must have been something in his veins to arouse such interest at such an early age. It is no surprise that Kishor’s father, Rameshwar Kayastha, 51, is also a photographer. In fact, he has been in the photographic business for the last 35 years and has been running the Neelkamal Studio in Bhaktapur just as long. The studio is named after Kishor’s mother, whom he has the highest regard for, “Both my parents were supportive and encouraging towards my interest in photography. My father was and still is a good photographer and my mother is herself quite good in portrait photography.”

However, in others, Kishor’s passionate interest in the medium aroused mixed feelings. Many dismissed him as crazy. Kishor had very little interest in studies and indeed did not complete his education, instead making use of all available time to take photographs of the fascinating monuments of Bhaktapur. He recalls, “I used to get up very early and go to photograph monuments. Many times I had to lie prone on the hard and cold ground to take pictures from unique perspectives, and seeing all this, people began to say I was a lunatic.” At the time, seeing Kishor moving around with his camera in Bhaktapur square on dank mornings, perhaps one could not be blamed for thinking he was crazy. “Those were days when a profession in photography as it is these days, couldn’t even be imagined. Maybe that’s why people were dismayed at my ardent interest, because photography was by no means a lucrative profession.”

Born in August 1978, Kishor is the only son, and has a sister, Neera, who is married and living the life of a housewife. Kishor himself got married to Mina some two and a half years ago, and is a proud father of a 10 month old son, Manav. “Yes it was a kind of love marriage,” admits Kishor. “Actually it was more like a ‘telephone love’. For two years we only talked over the phone.” Mina is an artist herself and is studying Fine Arts at Kathmandu University’s Art Department where Kishor himself is an associate artist. “I took some classes under the English Principal, Aidan Warlow, who is an excellent art critic. I believe he taught me many things about the subject of art in general and this has contributed to my success.”

Kishor likes to call himself a Fine Art Photographer, although he is also engaged in commercial photography for obvious reasons. “One cannot ignore one’s calling and commercial photography provides me with the income to sustain my major interest. The major interest being, Fine Art Photography, which he says, “requires deep knowledge about things like harmony, perspective, proportion, rhythm, emphasis, balance and composition besides other things. On top of all this, one also has to have devotion, dedication and discipline.”

Kishor admits he is undisciplined in most other matters but when it comes to his passion, he does not compromise. “I get up at 4:30 AM every morning and go for early morning shoots and am in the field till almost 10:00 AM. I go to my studio, ‘Photoclub’ at Tripureswar at around twelve and am there till about 5:30 PM. From 8:00 PM to 1:00 AM, I am at my computer everyday, finishing up my pictures.” While one cannot help but admire such dedication to his craft, does not such a schedule leave precious little time for the family?

“I have absolutely no problem on that front,” says the young photographer. “In fact, all of them are highly supportive.” One can presume that his family must be very proud of his achievements and are surely looking forward to Kishor attaining greater heights. Likewise, having an artist for a wife must be added good fortune. “Yes indeed,” agrees Kishor. “Mina has a keen eye for artistic detail and is one of my best critics. Besides, we are on the same wavelength, and talk a lot about matters related to creativity.”

However, Kishor is not so fortunate when it comes to friends and companions of his age group because, as he says, “I consider myself more mature in my outlook towards life than most friends. Friends my age still spend their time talking about trivial things and about unrealized dreams.” Kishor admits ruefully that he does not have any real friends, and reveals that he has a few companions who are older than him with whom he gets along well. “But of course, I cannot say that they are my friends in that sense.”

Kishor voices his indebtedness to the  people who gave his life new direction; “Nick Dawson has been a great help in every way and has always supported me, and senior photographer as well as an intellectual, R.S.Sagar, I consider my mentor. He taught me a great deal about the ways of the world. Kishor believes that they could have been impressed with his works after seeing them at the exhibitions. “Without their assistance and encouragement, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” he confesses.

So, where does Kishor stand today? As far as his commercial work is concerned, Kishor has a host of big clients in his portfolio. Clients like Surya Nepal, Horlicks, Carlsberg and Yamaha motorcycles besides many others. He remembers his first big commercial project, “I was invited over to the Surya Nepal Pvt Ltd where, after seeing my portfolio, they assigned me work to make their annual calendar.

As far as his Fine Art Photography is concerned one doesn’t have to look far to see that he is outstanding in the medium; leafing through many of this year’s photographic features in ECS is enough to put to rest any doubts about his mastery. At present, Kishor is enamoured with panoramic photography and says, “Panoramic cameras cost a fortune and photographs also tend to be distorted, so I make panoramic pictures by taking photographs in sequential order, which I later arrange in a panorama. Kishor believes that digital photography has revolutionized photography and has helped photographers in many ways.

Seeing that he is but only 26 years old, it is no surprise that Kishor wants to experiment. He is planning to do fashion photography next and says, “I want to do it differently from what is being done now and will prepare all the finer details like the drawings, choice of clothes etc… before shooting, so that concepts and perspectives are clear. It is not the beauty that others expect which I want to portray. It will be the beauty according to my own perspective that I shall try to display.” He adds, “This will be only for an exhibition.”

As for his final words on the art of photography, this is what Kishor Kayastha has to say, “Taking pictures is one thing. Making pictures is something else.”