( Priyanka Sharma, a student journalist who wrote this article about me for her college magazine. Thanks Priyanka)
The beauty of her mysterious mountains and the tranquility of life in Shimla, had been captured with amazing flair by a zillion cameras over the years but never could the “queen of hills” truly boast of someone out of these shutterbugs, who was nurtured in her own bosom. Certainly not someone, who is just 21 years old.
Walking back from school everyday little did he would have expected that very soon the pictures he clicked of those tall, dense deodars would earn him a name that would transcend the misty, huge mountains of his town. Started off just as a hobby, photography now completely fits as another form of living for Himanshu Khagta.
While his fellow classmates were occupied with the hits and wickets in cricket, he was busy chasing the magnificence of the historical monuments around him in his reel camera. Nothing was as essential as the call of the camera for this Himachal lad. Photography happened to him like flying happens to a bird.
Every time they got the photographs developed, his parents wondered why they were never made one of them. Their perplexed mind finally got an answer when they saw their boy’s clicked picture in one of India’s leading magazine’s guidebooks, Outlook when he was only in 12th standard. The journey, from Action Cameras for $100 to a camera phone to a digital camera to his first DSLR, a short one though, was long enough to draw him out his hometown and take him to more intriguing places in the North.
He couldn’t wait long to give the colours of Pushkar a touch of his own. The vibrant festivals of Gujarat could not be missed. The diversity of culture in Uttar Pradesh surely deserved to be caught. But the Pahari boy adored the mountains like nothing else. Srinagar just deepened this love while he went on capturing the people making them appear as normal as every other Indian. And Uttarakhand was the perfect destination for the making the flashlight meet the thunders of the sky. But nothing could change the love he had for the place he came from. He has travelled extensively in Himachal. Every culture which has always remained unnoticed in the country’s best tourist state was put in frames with stunning sanctity.
Doing the rare required him to put down the comforts he was used to. His photography expeditions have made him starve, walk endlessly for 14 hours and what not. “The Chanshal Valley tour almost made me forget about photography, all I wanted then was some morsels of food” he says smilingly. His experiences of convincing people to let him click a picture can make for an interesting storybook. “Often I have been asked to pay them in return” he says it with a smirk.
He thinks of his camera as more than a machine to click and capture people, moments or nature. He feels he can contribute in preserving the rich and varied ethnicity of rural India which faces a threat from the Western influence, with his small yet powerful tool. “Rural India is more intricate than we think, every experience there gives me an impetus to travel deeper into it” believes the snapper. And the respect with which he treats his subjects and the sense of maturity he shows with sensitive themes cannot be guessed by his age.
The geek is not a great fan of technology but admits is a slave to it, after all, everything started for him from the clicks of the mouse. It would not be wrong to say that the Internet mentored him. It wasn’t a long time ago when he used to put his pictures on sites like Flicker and get his friends to comment on them, now he is a contributor in various national and international magazines and newspaper; Femina, DestinAsian, Discover India and The New York Times to name a few.
The travel photographer wants to make a trip to the South soon but wants to go with the Gujjars(nomads) on a mountain climbing trip first. There is no dream project as such but yes there is a bag full of aspirations. There is a lot more to travel, lots of cultures to be explored, lots of people to be met and of course lots of pictures to be clicked.