Amrit Vatsa has a very strategically placed ‘shop’. It’s not really a shop at all. He occupies the upstairs of a half-finished brick house opposite Frank’s. I say strategic because no one would know he was there, and indeed some have found out he was there when they appear sometime later on film. I was having a conversation with three others in this spot one evening and after about five minutes I turned around and looked up to see The Sniper pointing his camera, with its big fluffy boom, right at us. My first thought was had I said anything that could be held against me!
Amrit’s a kind of Indian David Attenborough sitting patiently for the wild life to wander past. One hopes for a leopard but sadly so far there’s just been a mongoose. That’s a kind of ferret, for the uninitiated; not half as exciting as a leopard but if he waits long enough…
Amrit’s photos and videos have delighted us all the last few weeks. Village life here is so exquisitely human and so on display, and it’s the utmost pleasure and privilege to watch, to see, to film, to photograph, to document.
Probably his most enjoyed has been this one of children returning to the village from school and getting into a scrap right in front of his camera! The sub-titles are magic.
Of all the Indians I’ve met here so far, Amrit’s the only one that’s been to New Zealand, although to my relief most of the others comment I really want to go there, because you know we Kiwis are always pleased to hear that everyone else in the world also accepts the fact that ours is the most beautiful country on Earth. Below is his karaoke holiday video around New Zealand’s southern lakes with his wife. Funny and fun and beautiful.
Like many aspiring to a creative career, Amrit didn’t start out with a view to being an artist. He completed an engineering degree at one of India’s most prestigious schools and went on to consult for Price Waterhouse (PWC) for four years. He liked his work but he also didn’t want his life and career to be one long computer game where he eventually got to the top level. He wanted to create something, to be able to leave something to the world that was identifiably his. So he did that courageous thing that so many artists do: he quit his job.
At a friend’s suggestion he started photographing weddings. Initially this was definitely a means to an end, a way of making some income. By now it was in his mind that he’d like to be a documentary film-maker and another friend suggested he go make a documentary in Goa because it’s so full of interesting people and things. After attempting this and realising how difficult it was, and how much he had to learn, Amrit thought he could either apprentice himself to someone, go back to university and learn about it, or – the idea he hit upon – make short, and therefore more do-able, documentaries. And so 3-minute Videos was born. Whether it’s film or photography that ultimately becomes his main thing Amrit isn’t sure; for now it’s film. His photos though are equally fabulous.
ShopArt’s been an interesting experience for him, as it has for all of us. Amrit usually comes to a new project with a plan – here there was none, and he wasn’t sure if he’d even be able to talk with the villagers and draw their stories out. As it turned out though, wandering round the village with a camera and a giant boom attracted more than enough attention and questioning, and Amrit soon found himself invited into villagers’ homes and lives.
Amrit’s not sure what this experience means for his career exactly, but he’s as clear as the rest of us in knowing that this month-long village stay will impact his world view and will most certainly be reflected in his work in the future.
Perhaps there are a few among us who take for granted somehow this incredibly rich experience of a month in a remote Indian village – Amrit’s not one of them. Nor am I. And it’s a pleasure to share that with so many talented and creative individuals, all in their own way drawing out the many flavours of this remarkable place, bringing the world to Gunehar, and taking a little of its magic away with us too.
photo credit: ‘Women who talk to goats’, Amrit Vatsa