Photography is a fine art that requires a lot of dedication, hard work and an eye for detail and sometimes capturing one masterpiece takes a lifetime. Today, we have the best mobile phone cameras with the capability to click the very best photographs. Using our phones to take photos does not require formal training but cannot be replaced by the amount of effort one professional photographer puts into capturing those precious moments. Here I am going to tell you the story of Dattaram Gawade who struggled on his way to achieving his dreams and has now become one of the finest fashion and product photographers around.
Datta Gawade is a well-known name in the fashion and product photography world in Goa. He started his journey into photography when there were no DSLR cameras and photographs were developed from film rolls. Working his way through years of struggle, Datta has established his name in the Goan market. “I very much belong to Goa. I was born in Goa but most of my studies I completed in Maharashtra: the Fergusson College in Pune to J J School of Arts in Mumbai,” he said.
“My passion for photography began r at the age of eight when I met one of the faculty members from J J School of Arts, Mr Nabre. He was in the process of establishing a Fine Arts College in Sawantwadi and it just happened that my father took me to him and told him about my interest in photography. He immediately handed me a camera and told me to go and shoot whatever I find on the way. During those days it was a black and white camera with cut roles inside and colour photography was not yet in vogue and very expensive too. He showed me how to handle the camera and asked me to click only 15 shots since the cut role had only that much capacity. So, I went around and clicked whatever I saw that was worthy of a photo and handed over the camera back to him.”
“He called me after two days since during those days the negatives had to be developed which took some time. I saw him holding the negatives in front of the light and he looked at me saying ‘You are very good at photography. Take up this field and you will do good so at aged 8, I did just that.”
“After that day I was sure of my goal and knew how to achieve it.” After finishing his 12th, he went to Pune to start his new professional journey in photography. “I joined the Fergusson college in Pune and since it was an evening class, I could work during the day time. Here I met my guru and mentor Shri Chandrashekhar Bapat who happened to come as one of the guest lecturers. When he began to showcase his work, I was completely stunned and decided that if I have to learn photography, I have to learn from him and no one else.”
Datta made his decision and told some of his closest friends who were completely behind him to enable his mission to be accomplished. “We pursued Babat sir to request that he teach us photography but he kept saying that he’d meet me tomorrow. I didn’t give up though and one day he gave us an assignment. But the assignments were weird as he would ask us to click photos of some buildings, street lights, sun and moon and slowly, students started dropping out from the group thinking there is no future, but I remained firm on my decision and kept going. At the end of the month, only 3 people were left in the group of 15 plus aspirants, and to our surprise, he invited us for tea. We went to a hotel just opposite Fergusson College and there he told us that he was checking who is serious about photography and who isn’t. Every day after finishing the lectures, my friends and I would go and meet Bapat sir and learn from him and from there my new journey started.” According to Datta after completing his studies he decided to come back to Goa to serve his motherland.
The next thing Datta came across was colour printing. “I had already learned manual printing but now I wanted to learn about the batch printing process that takes place on the machines. It was fast, accurate and could process hundreds of photos in one hour. I decided to visit each lab in Pune but everyone said that I will have to work for a couple of years before learning the process. That was not possible for me since I had limited time and a lot to learn. One gentleman working for a lab in Pune suggested that I go to Goa and he guided me to a place called Photophone situated in Karasswada where they do machine printing on Konica machines. The next day, I left for Goa and went to meet Mr Rajan Salgaokar who was handling the Konica lab there, He told me the batches are full and I would have to wait for the next batch in 6 months’ time. I did not give up and kept pursuing him till the time he said to come and join.”
Dattaram learned the full process within 6 months. “I learned printing on the machine and the next step was working at a colour lab, so I started searching for options. Finally, I got a job at Kudal at Ashirwad Colour Lab. They were buying a new machine and asked me if I can handle it so I told them I have experience on Konika machines but I am good at printing, I worked there for 6 months and then I got an offer from Sawantwadi, where they utilised a Konika machine and which used to print a whopping 600 prints per hour!”
One day Datta received an offer from Mumbai to work with a well-known photographer in Mumbai, Mr Chetan Bhende, “I did not think twice and picked up my bags and left for Mumbai. I had no place to stay in Mumbai but finally one of my friends who was in Mumbai offered me to stay with him. I met Chetan sir and started assisting him, Chetan is a very well-known name in the industry and with him, I had the opportunity to work with a digital camera for the first time. It was while working with Chetan I was admitted into the J J School of Photography, where I learned a lot of things while sitting in the canteen before lectures. Many big-time photographers from the film industry used to visit the institute for assistance on their assignments and I grabbed every opportunity that came my way.”
“During that time, a well-known photographer, Sameer Parekh, who came from the USA was setting up his studio in Mumbai and was looking for an assistant. “I immediately went to Mr Parekh’s office and left my portfolio in his office. Again, the same thing I started where every day I would go and sit there to find out when I can join and one day, I finally got a call from his office that Sam (Sameer) wanted to meet me. Sam interviewed me and called me for the shoot. The next morning at 5 am, I was called to the shoot and I reached at 4.45 am. I did all the odd jobs like holding lights, carrying stuff around etc and finally, I received the green light from Sameer to continue working with him and today we are good friends. Sameer has bought a house in Goa and we meet whenever he comes down.”
After training under Sameer Parekh for almost a year, Datta came down to Goa since Sameer left for the US and his dad was also not doing well in Goa. “I decided to stay here and started taking whatever assignments came my way and one day I met Eknath Pai, a photographer and artist by profession who was also a distributor for Kodak. He gave me an offer of a shoot of a resort,” said Datta, adding that he had never done a shoot of hotels and their interiors, “But I decided to take up the challenge. Next day we arrived at the location and I did the shoot. It was my first shoot of interiors because till now I was more engaged in nature shoots, landscape and fashion photography. At the end when the results are good, all is well. From there my journey started in interior photography.”
Now Datta has a plan for expansion outside Goa. “According to me, staying and working in Goa is a great experience and I would never want to leave Goa but I am looking to expand out of the state. I will very much stay in Goa since I’ve already invested in a property here. My family is here and I like the people of Goa, they are very sweet and my roots are here so why would I leave? I want to go out of state only for work. I am getting inquiries from other states like Karnataka, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Himachal and Punjab.”
Datta is now planning to get more into interior and hotel shoots rather than sticking to the image of a fashion photographer. “Fashion does not have such a large scope in Goa and I feel that to grow and expand, I need to concentrate on hotels and interior shoots. I have done many shoots in this domain and I feel that I can give them more for less money and far superior quality. Getting a photographer from Mumbai and Pune is always going to be more expensive and being a Goan, I can give them similar quality right here in Goa itself.”