When Rohan Shrestha decided to turn photographer at the age of 18, he didn’t undergo any formal training. It helped that his father – Rakesh Shrestha – was a noted name in the industry. So Rohan learnt the tricks of his trade by assisting him as well as a few others before going solo.

Now 33, Rohan has been in the business for well over a decade, and is one of the better known photographers in the industry. The launch of the Rohan Shrestha School of Photography in Mumbai, thus, comes at a great time. With courses set to begin in March, we got him to share his vision for the academy, and what aspiring photographers can expect if they sign up.

Why open a photography school at this stage in your career?

I started photography at the age of 18, and learnt by assisting other photographers. I never had any formal training, and that was always a regret. So at the age of 27, I went to New York and did summer school at New York Film Academy (NYFA). The entire experience of studying theory and using practical knowledge really helped me broaden my horizons.

NYFA does offer longer courses, but because I already had a career, I opted for a 12-week course and then stayed back for an internship. I’m glad I decided to put everything in Mumbai on hold and just take off for five months. My experience in New York – the style of education and what I learnt there – is something I’ve wanted to bring back for a long time.

Obviously, as time goes by, you tend to forget these things or prioritize others. But about eight months ago, my friend Varun Gupta – who runs LEAP India – told me about how he was planning to start a make-up school in Mumbai. He had some extra space and suggested we work together on setting up a photography school. He has a lot of plans for this space. So I came and checked the place out – it’s enough for about six students, which is perfect for me. I always wanted to start small with niche courses just to hone your skills and give you an edge. It’s a very competitive market for photographers out there. I wanted a different sort of syllabus where I have the ability to take my students out to actual shoots and give them hands-on experience along with practical and theoretical knowledge. So basically, I was given this opportunity, and I grabbed it.

How many different courses are you offering?

As of now, there’s going to be just one – I’m still designing the syllabus. I’ve been planning a lot by watching videos, and  I even attended a couple of workshops when I was in New York last October, just to figure out how workshops work. As of now, I’m thinking of an introductory two-week course. I don’t know if I want to expand just yet. I want to work through this first and see how it goes.

It’s primarily to do with lighting and hands-on experience. I want to take them to my own shoots. When I was younger, I would visit different photographers’ sets to just watch. You learn a lot by just observing people at work.

I want to do guest lectures with different photographers as well. I’ve asked Colston Julian, Abheet Gidwani, Avinash Gowariker and I intend to ask a few more as well. Our fraternity is quite small, and everyone knows everyone. I have a lot of friends in the industry who have come on board and agreed to help me out. For kids to come out and get such different perspectives, it offers a much more rounded perspective as opposed to learning just my style of working. I feel a certain sense of responsibility for giving them as wholesome a perspective as I can.

Is there a screening process for applicants?

At the moment, I don’t want to start with an absolute beginners’ course. It’s more for intermediate photographers who want to hone their skills – guys who already know the basics. I’ll conduct the interviews myself. I wouldn’t want to charge anybody who doesn’t know the basics. There has to be a level of skill so that everyone’s on an even playing field. I don’t want people running around to catch up.

How much time will you be able to personally devote to the classes?

Realistically, a two-week course means ten days of classes. I want to be there for at least 3-4 days out of the ten.

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