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Street & documentary photography from India by Shivam Pandey

Short profile

Shivam Pandey's work is the result of his interest in discovery, exploring different places, engaging with local culture, and honoring individuals, their personalities and their lives. The Indian street photographer is guided by his heart and intuition, even in his choice of profession. "I never had any professional training in photography, but I've been lucky enough to work with some real professionals."

He lives and works in Kolkata, which he believes is "one of the most beautiful cities in India, which is itself one of the most vibrant countries in the world." In this interview, he explains how he got into photography, what inspires him, and gives us an exclusive insight into a new portrait project featuring the farmers of his home town near Varanasi.

portrait of shivam pandey.


Can you tell us a little bit about how you became a photographer? Please share something about your images (what is your special interest, how do you choose the colors etc.)

Like every other Indian high school boy, I was also trying my best to get into a medical school. I even gave few attempts of entrance exams and just before my last attempt, I met Mr. Jake at a public library. Jake is a professional photographer and after our few meetings, we became good friends and I was very much influenced by his art of photography. He started to share his learning with me and gave me his cameras to give it a shot. I was surprised to see my developing interest in this art and later I bought my first camera. The role of the city of joy,Kolkata and my native place Varanasi has been phenomenal in my journey of photography. Both the places offered me the perfect opportunity to learn the art like nowhere.

portrait of a man holding a large bale of hay over his head.

Photo: Shivam Pandey

After two years of my intensive photography and traveling to capture amazing pictures, I decided to start my photography tour company, . My tours gave me a different perspective and the learning through them has been life changing for me. Meeting more than 100 photographers from around 30 countries taught me the value of cultural inclusions and made me grow as a photographer.

Where does this interest come from?

I started with portrait photography on the streets of Kolkata, later I focused more on the documentary and street photography. I am very much focused on capturing the lights around directing my images. The photos which are taken on the chaotic Indian streets with a story in it are my favorite style of capturing an image. Currently I am using Liece cameras which helps me create some of the images which I visualize with the proper contrast of the focus and light. The diverse colors offered on the India streets are enough to help you create an amazing image.

You have to have a convincing approach to the people and places you visit to capture a great image in India.

person standing in water with a bridge in the background as a framed print hanging on a wall.

Photo: Shivam Pandey

How do you get inspired?

My inspiration for photography comes from the stories which I put in perspective once I am able to create the images. To explain this I would love to show you my work done in the covid lockdown which was around the farmers of India at my native near Varanasi and also the Hornbill festival of Nagaland.

I look forward to working on directing an image and balancing the different elements of light, exposure, background etc. once I visualize it in my head with different elements and the urge to achieve the convergence of visualized image and the captured images, propels my interest to continue my photography.

woman standing in water with a fisher boat in the background.

Photo: Shivam Pandey

And what inspires you the most? Films, books or magazines? Or what surrounds you?

The main source of my inspiration comes from the cultures of my country and the people around here. Apart from this I am a huge admirer of watching documentaries and non fictional films.

Watching documentaries helps me understand the story telling and encourages me to look for stories to create impactful images. Similarly, films offered a great source to learn about the direction or creating frame for the images and also the importance of lighting and its adjustments.

man with a wooden stick facing a light source.

Photo: Shivam Pandey

What are your plans for the rest of the day?

Most of the time I am living the life of a traveler running my photography tours and workshops. But I love editing my images back home and going on random photowalks. I am also an aspiring filmmaker for which I am leaving no stones unturned to learn it.

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