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Ryan Paul Lobo | Interview
Ryan Lobo interviewed by Shai Heredia
SHAI HEREDIA: Ryan, you are a photographer, a filmmaker and a painter .
RYAN LOBO: Yes, I have always painted and still do. I have also always enjoyed making photographs and have been taking them ever since I was very young. My father had an old manual camera that I would use when I was in middle school. I would get one roll of film and shoot it carefully as I would only have 36 exposures.
I quit a Master’s degree in cell biology from an American university and returned to Bangalore where I started an ad agency with a friend of mine. A year into that I realized I was thoroughly bored. I helped out with a documentary film where I met Eric, my present business partner for films, then an associate producer. After several conversations regarding all the stories that could be done in India, we made a pilot with a local naturalist. National Geographic liked what we had and, after doing couple of films for them, things snowballed.

They were hard times at first. There was blood, sweat, tears. Years of running around, being completely broke and worse. However, to cut a long story short, over the next 5 years we shot numerous films all over the world for various companies including National Geographic, Animal Planet and Oprah. Alongside the professional work I was doing, I found time to make my images, my own personal images of what I was involved in. Many of these images were used by the companies I worked with including National Geographic. They were still my own personal bits of work though, and quite separate from my film work. While the films often cater to the clients’ tastes more than my own, the photos are always mine.
I shoot documentary films and I enjoy that process but making photographs is what I have always loved. I get to work on my own and I find it aesthetically more pleasing. With professional documentary filmmaking, one is not totally in control of the politics or aesthetics of the client. With photos, the images can be your own personal work and I value my photographs far more than the films I have made.

With photographs you choose your frame exactly; the exposure is yours. When it comes to editing your work, it’s all up to you. So I have a lot more control, which I appreciate and enjoy. The films are often beautiful. “Well shot”. They are often cut a certain way which, of late, seems to have become more choppy and sensational. A film is not yours alone. Many people work on it. You cater to an audience with films. With photos, I cater more to myself, my own personal aesthetic.
SHAI HEREDIA: Can you be descriptive of your style of psychological portraiture?
RYAN LOBO: An art critic friend of mine told me that my photos contained moments where people were alone with themselves, in the middle of crowds. Removed. Contemplating mortality. Looking inwards without pretension.

Amidst crowds, I search for aloneness and intimacy.
SHAI HEREDIA: Yes, this is quite evident in the wedding series. I find these images beautifully melancholic.
RYAN LOBO: Well . . . some of the wedding photographs were shot at a time in my life, which was quite hard. I was sad. Maybe, that’s why I chose, as you say, melancholic moments. Sometimes I think that when I make a photograph, I am shooting myself in some way. The image can be a reflection of who you are or perhaps, what you are looking for at that point in time. However, a sad moment in the middle of a joyous occasion can also be interesting and I, as a photographer, might also make an image like that because it’s just that — interesting.

People are so similar. We are all part of the same biology. The same politics exist at similar social events. So, it’s liberating as well when I return from my travels and things take on new meanings — the weddings I used to roll my eyeballs at as a child have, all of a sudden, become exciting places because I see and feel the dynamics and history behind tiny movements, moments, gestures, raised eyebrows, old women looking on the same events with the same smiles on their faces . . . I know many of these people. I know them deeply. I like, love and dislike some of them. Weddings are microcosms. Everyone is present. Looking their best.
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