Interview,Nirav Patel -
The Poetry, The Communion, The Light
Nirav, What is your understanding about feeling lonely?
I believe there are two states based on personal experiences. First, there’s loneliness. A feeling like you are the only one that seems to be capable of understanding your own thoughts and actions. I believe it is a saddened state of mind when you yearn for attention or company but can’t find acceptance. I don’t necessarily feel like you have to physically be alone to feel loneliness. Even when others accept you, you can still feel disconnected and unable to relate causing a mental state of isolation. The other state being solitude. One of which you find peace and joy in being on your own. As a young boy, I experienced both. When I learned to be at peace while being on my own, it unlocked a new world for me. From that point on, no matter where I went, I saw the world in a simplified, calm, and quiet way. Even in the most complex environments, I could see the calm and quiet moments making me feel at ease with being on my own.
You constantly portray your subjects in a secluded setting - how is that setting significant to how you live your life?
Most of my work pertains to a very particular moment and time in my life as I mentioned above. But this small window of my life was a major catalyst for me. It changed everything about how I viewed the world. Now I’m a father and husband so this seclusion is not as apparent. I believe myself to be an introvert and still enjoy quiet spaces over active environments.
One more thing about such portraits that you create, I am curious to know, In your portrayal, are your subjects in a dialogue with themselves or are they in a moment of reflection. It’s either one or you create a different story with each one?
Typically the people I photograph are in moments of reflection. I like to start each session with a dialogue to understand each other’s stories and to find the ways in which we may relate. Then we build on these commonalities. But while I’m actually photographing, there is typically very little dialogue.
There are also some stories that have a more divine tone, of a revelation. Are those the moments or such portrayals come from your own spiritual experiences?
My faith is a major part of my story and vision. I learned about loss at a very young age but through this, found hope through spirituality. I’m a Christian and my love for Jesus is a huge part of how I view the world and make my imagery.
Speaking of them, the use of light particularly, it magnifies the beauty of such moments. Firstly, what is your relationship with light? Secondly, how do you use it?
When I mentioned in my first answer that I try and find a way to simplify complex environments… I’ve found that using light is the best technique for me to be able to do this. I use light to isolate and share the quiet moments that I see. Most of my compositions are based on lighting more-so than environment/backdrop.
And the lights coming through the curtains, the mood it creates, how does it make you feel in particular?
It brings me a sense of quiet and makes me feel at ease (my name actually means “quiet”). It’s sad to say that my mind rarely stays in the present. I am constantly thinking about what’s next. The images I make give me a sense of calm and make me feel present. Revisiting these photographs takes me back to the headspace in which I made them.
Do you ever think that the lines, shapes or geometry, your attraction towards that keeps you away from capturing the flux of a moment?
No, I don’t feel that way at all. Before photography, I was an engineer. My ties to engineering and working with architects have brought the use of geometry and lines into my photographic works. My vision is a culmination of life experiences and inspirations. So I feel like the addition or attraction to these features and characteristics only add another personal touch to the moment I’m trying to create.
With that, can you share with us the most profound teaching or poetry that has influenced you? Your work is nothing short of poetry.
Most of my work has been influenced by films/movies both from a compositional standpoint as well as storytelling. My favorite cinematographer is Emmanuel Lubezki because of his innovative approaches as well as how he’s able to bring you directly into the mindset of a particular person or character in a film. His beautiful use of natural light has also been such an inspiration to see. My favorite photographers are Jack Davison, Vivian Maier, Sally Mann, and Todd Hido. As for painters, I love the work of Aron Wiesenfeld and for poetry, the work of my dear friend Lauren Isabeau is incredibly beautiful. Music is also a huge inspiration and my top tracks are by The National, Broken Social Scene, Jeff Buckley, Tycho, and Keith Kenniff.
Lastly, what would you suggest or share with other photographers?
I always share the same quote. It was the quote that pushed me to quit my job as an engineer and pursue photography.
It’s a quote by Eric Roth and was featured in the film “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”.
“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late… to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”
Interview with Nirav Patel