Rekha Damodaran captures the reality of life with photography and wants to tell the stories of the people around her. Her portraits from Pride in Chennai, India or from her community, reveal candid moments that speak on the issues she is passionate about. 

David Aaron has been photographing since he was just 12 and has an eye for intimate and personal portraits, always coming up with ways to position and compose his photos. From Lagos, Nigeria, he is inspired by cinema and the trends on social media which help him understand the direction he wants to take his photography.

In celebrating some of our top 10 entries for the IMAGO Scholarship, discover Rekha and David’s insights into their portraits, their processes and inspirations. 

Rekha Damodaran & David Aaron. IMAGO Photography Scholarship Shortlist.
Photography by Rekha Damodaran, instagram: rekhaaaa_d
Rekha Damodaran & David Aaron. IMAGO Photography Scholarship Shortlist.
Photography by Rekha Damodaran, instagram: rekhaaaa_d

How did you start out in photography? 

Rekha: I didn’t want to pursue engineering or medicine like my parents wanted me to. I was also interested in political science so I decided to pursue journalism. My passion for photography stems from my love of politics and storytelling. I started taking photographs right at the end of my high school. I was not able to afford a Canon and Nikon so I started taking pictures on my phone. I joined Journalism after school and finally had access to a camera. I am an introvert and knew I would never be in front of a camera. I continued to pursue my passion and worked as a Photographer for my department and college. 

David: I started photography when I was 12, my mother gave me my first camera which I started with and was also into phone photography. 

 

What excites you about photography?

Rekha: The thing that excites me with photography is like the moment of calmness before you click the shutter. You are seeing the image, building or person and you realize that moment can never exist anymore. It was so bizarre that there is technology to capture a moment. The second thing is the people you meet, the stories you hear from them are always interesting, not all stories are fun or happy. People let their guard down to show their vulnerability. 

David: I really think a lot and I love to imagine scenes. The process of arranging objects or people together just to capture the moment is one of the most exciting things to me in photography.

Rekha Damodaran & David Aaron. IMAGO Photography Scholarship Shortlist.
Photography by David Aaron.
Rekha Damodaran & David Aaron. IMAGO Photography Scholarship Shortlist.
Photography by David Aaron.

What topics are you most interested in?

Rekha: As I mentioned before I am most interested in politics and photojournalism. Capturing the livelihood of the working class. As my favourite photographer said, I want my photograph to break the status quo. 

“I shoot for the common man who wants to see and feel a story from a place where he can’t be present himself.” – Danish Siddiqui

David: I’m most interested in film making right now. 

 

What is your favourite motif in front of the camera?

Rekha: I am more interested in portraits and human-interest stories. There is a market in my hometown – it is a big market but the shops are small. It is always the same rows of fruit and vegetables but the stories and individuals inside the shop are all different human beings going through different lives and hardships. I also love apartments – they are windows but you can also see how each window has a different view. 

David: My favorite motif in front of the camera is the composition and process of directing.

Rekha Damodaran & David Aaron. IMAGO Photography Scholarship Shortlist.
Photography by Rekha Damodaran, instagram: rekhaaaa_d

How would you describe your creative style? 

Rekha: I don’t have a creative style or process. I want the person and their eyes to be the subject of my photos. I want them to tell their own stories. I usually sit and talk to the person to get to know them before clicking their picture. My creative style or photography comes from a lot of chaos and anger.

David: I feel like my creative style is very diverse and abstract in its own way.

 

What do you want to express with your pictures?

Rekha: I want to express my anger. We see how the world is controlled by a few capitalists, the oppressive structure that puts the majority of the people on this world through hell. You have the power to change the injustice you face. All you can do is watch with anger. I am extremely privileged to be where I am right now. I know a lot of people who are a hundred times more talented than me but they did not have the means and resources to pursue what they wanted. The bare minimum I could do is be better and tell their stories. 

David: With my pictures I really love to express how the mind works or how I think deeply.

Pictures that would take a little time to interpret. Something to make the viewers keep looking.

Rekha Damodaran & David Aaron. IMAGO Photography Scholarship Shortlist.
Photography by Rekha Damodaran, instagram: rekhaaaa_d

Do you have a source of inspiration for your photography?

Rekha: As I mentioned before, my source of inspiration comes from great people like Danis Siddiqui, Divya Bharathi (Kakoos Director) and sometimes the people I photograph.

David: My major sources of inspiration are taken from movies I watch.

 

What influence do your environment and the people around you have on your work?

Rekha: The people and the environment you grow up with have a lot of effect on how you see the world. My mother moved mountains to send me and my brother to a good private school but we come from lower middle-class neighborhoods. I grew up in completely two different worlds where the class division was visible. So, I grew up curious about why this exists in the first place. This curiosity led me to politics and theory and this is seen heavily in my work.

David: I grew up in Nigeria, Lagos Nigeria to be precise. I feel like the way my pictures express African culture and how the way of life has been influenced by the environment I live in.

Rekha Damodaran & David Aaron. IMAGO Photography Scholarship Shortlist.
Photography by David Aaron.

What does social media mean for your photography and does it have an influence on your work?

Rekha: Social media has helped me show my photographs and tell the stories. I was always able to follow amazing people and make friends who also have a similar interest and views. However, it also gave me raging imposter syndrome and questioned my skills and talent. It took me a lot of ‘soul – searching’ and understanding to know creativity is a learned skill, talent can be learned. 

David: Social media has been the major course of how my work has reached some certain height because of how connected everyone is. Social media has made me understand what the people want and what they want to see. This has influenced my style of photography a lot.

Where do you see your photography in the next few years?

Rekha: I wish to buy my own camera one day. Continue taking pictures, learn and tell the story of the working class and common mass. 

David: In the next few years I see my work hanging in houses, museums, hospitals, art, galleries in different countries around the world.

Rekha Damodaran & David Aaron. IMAGO Photography Scholarship Shortlist.
Photography by David Aaron.
Rekha Damodaran & David Aaron. IMAGO Photography Scholarship Shortlist.
Photography by Rekha Damodaran, instagram: rekhaaaa_d
Rekha Damodaran & David Aaron. IMAGO Photography Scholarship Shortlist.
Photography by David Aaron.
Rekha Damodaran & David Aaron. IMAGO Photography Scholarship Shortlist.
Photography by David Aaron.
Rekha Damodaran & David Aaron. IMAGO Photography Scholarship Shortlist.
Photography by Rekha Damodaran, instagram: rekhaaaa_d
Rekha Damodaran & David Aaron. IMAGO Photography Scholarship Shortlist.
Photography by Rekha Damodaran, instagram: rekhaaaa_d
Rekha Damodaran & David Aaron. IMAGO Photography Scholarship Shortlist.
Photography by David Aaron.
Find out more about the IMAGO Photography Scholarship here. Interview by Marcia Hyndman.