In the archives of dance, one will always come across photographs of the various artistes and I am sure all of you will agree that photographs speak. Just like how dance does not have a language, similarly a photograph too has no language and that is why it can touch millions and convey myriad stories too.
Innee Singh is a Delhi-based photographer who has captured dancers on stage like none other. From Padma Vibhushan Dr Sonal Mansingh to Padma Vibhushan Pt Birju Maharaj from Padma Shri Madhavi Mudgal to Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee Rajendra Gangan and from Padma Shri Shovana Narayan to Padma Shri Geeta Chandran, he has caught them all through his lenses. I met with Innee Singh and spoke to him about his magic wand, his camera, which has the ability to light up every frame.
What made you get into dance photography?
I have been an avid listener of Indian classical music since a very early age. This made me go to a lot of live concerts in Delhi and photographing artistes on stage. Honestly, I was never interested in watching dance performances since I did not understand the language in South Indian classical dance forms. The first time I photographed dance was when I saw the performance of Dr Raja Radha Reddy at an event in Delhi. That was my first experience photographing classical dance on stage. This experience left me completely mesmerised and my journey as a dance photographer started from there.
You have been in the industry for long and have captured almost all dancers. Which artiste has been a delight to click and who gave you the most difficult time?
I have really enjoyed photographing Padma Vibhushan Pandit Birju Maharajji on stage while doing the abhinaya (bhaav) since my main interest in dance is when the artistes do the abhinaya and depict a story in it. I love capturing the emotions and expressions at that time and get into the moment the artiste is trying to depict. I did not have any difficult time photographing any specific artiste. All have been wonderful and I have enjoyed all the performances.
During the lockdown, dancers from all over India and abroad became a part of your music video Hum Hain Saath (We are Together) how did that happen?
The concept and music were by me, but what added value to it was the touching poetry of Shraddha Singh, the voice of Ravindra Pant and the presence of all the renowned dancers of India. Usha RK helped us tremendously to get all the Indian and international dancer and each dancer make the words of Shraddha come alive with their abhinaya and elegance.
Is there any dancer who you have not photographed and have the desire to capture through your lenses?
Yes of course, there are a few dancers whom I want to photograph on stage but have never had the opportunity as yet. I would really like to photograph Bharatnatyam dancer and actress Padma Shri Shobana on stage. I find her extremely talented. In younger dancers, I would like to shoot Rukmini Vijayakumar. I’m sure once performances and auditoriums open, I will get a chance to do what I wish for. I am also interested in photographing theatre once things get back on stage. There are a lot of emotions involved and it is always my main interest to capture expressions.
How do you feel when you photograph dancer?
When a dancer dances, I dance with them. Photographing performing arts gives me a sense of peace, listening to music and photographing expressions together relaxes me and keeps my interest alive in photography. I have photographed weddings, products, street, dance and music concerts and am available to photograph any of the above, however I enjoy photographing the expressions of people in portraits with music in the background the most, it makes me see better.
You often hold exhibitions of your photography work. How has been the response for it?
I have had a couple of exhibitions in India and a few in England too. I am humbled to say that all of these were received with great enthusiasm by all the art lovers and I received very positive feedback for the same too. Apart from exhibition, I have also been doing a calendar for the last few years featuring young dancers as well as legendary artists in it. In one calendar I use a total of twenty-four photographs. However due to the current situations, I have not done this for the last two years.
How has the pandemic affected the world of dance photographers?
It is indeed a difficult time for every artiste and people involved since there are no stage performances happening due to restrictions and closure of auditoriums. However, even before this situation started, I was shooting and editing a lot of videos for music performances and dance. This has helped me in keeping myself busy in these trying times. Have been shooting and editing projects for artists for their online performances and festivals. Also have been working on my own produced music videos. Currently I am working on short film documentaries on performing artists.
Sandip Soparrkar holds a doctorate in world mythology folklore from Pacifica University USA, an honorary doctorate in performing arts from the National American University, He is a World Book Record holder, a well-known Ballroom dancer and a Bollywood choreographer who has been honored with three National Excellence awards, one National Achievement Award and Dada Saheb Phalke award by the Government of India. He is also the recipient of the prestigious Rabindranath Tagore Prize for Social Achievement. He can be contacted on [email protected]