BY FR CARLOS LUIS SAC
Ansel Adams, an American photographer, said, "You don't take a photograph, you make it." Daniel D’souza, a documentary and commercial photographer from Goa, appears to live by this quote.
His recent photographs in Stories from Goan Houses, a book by Heta Pandit, do not just remind and reconnect us to the Goa of the past but narrate the history, heritage and culture of Goa.
Heta Pandit affirms the same, saying, “Daniel D'souza's photographs can tell a story on their own. Even if you don't read a single word in the book, you will get the whole story of the house from the beautiful pictures taken by him.”
Daniel pursued his photography and visual arts education at The One School, Goa, specialising in visual storytelling and commercial photography.
And his work has been featured in magazines such as Vogue, Grazia, Travel+Leisure, Elle Decor, GQ, Condé Nast Traveler and other major publications.
Speaking passionately about photography, Daniel states, “Through photography, I channel my most exploratory self. My craft enables me to explore spaces, objects and people with the visual landscapes I create.”
Stories from Goan Houses contains tales of families who have played a significant role shaping the state and chosen to turn around Goan houses; besides local legends, stories and myths from growing up in Goa.
Daniel tells us how he went about capturing the essence and genuineness of these stories. “Photographing Stories from Goan Houses has been an incredible experience. Heta Pandit and I would spend time with the families getting to know them from an insider’s point of view. Only after that and understanding their personalities, I would lift my camera to take photographs. Also, background research about the house and family would help me decide what kind of photographs I would like to take.”
His inspiration behind the photographs is the daily life around him; the conversations he has with his friends and the people he photographs; and the landscape and the culture of the places he travels to.
Nevertheless, personally, he enjoys documentary and portraiture photography and commercially he loves wedding, fashion, food and product, and architecture photography. He does not have a favourite genre as he considers that they complement each other.
He says, “From documentary photography, I learn to be spontaneous. From portraiture photography, I learn to connect with people on a deeper level. From food and product photography, I learn about lighting and composition. From architecture photography, I learn a sense of composition and balance.”
Confidently, Daniel adds, “I believe as a photographer, what makes you stand out is your vision and perspective of the world, and so it’s not just the act of pressing the shutter button, but what you want to convey as a photographer.”
His constant effort, therefore, is to convey what he would like to say through his photography and thought process, and at the same time, to be open to what the world presents to him.
He says that he has progressed over the years as a photographer re-counting, “From being very spontaneous to a more research-based approach. I feel it helps me add layers and depth to my photographs rather than just making ‘pretty pictures’. It also helps me to connect on a deeper level with the people I am photographing.”
Storytelling in photography plays a vital role.
Daniel states, “I believe it’s one of the most import aspects of photography, be it personal or commercial work because, at the end of the day, you want to trigger an emotion which complements or is beyond an aesthetically pleasing photograph.”
Finding it difficult, yet picking two of his favourite photographic storytellers, he says he is fascinated by, “Raghubir Singh for his coloured street photography work from the 1960s-1990s. And Michael Christopher Brown for his visual storytelling work, especially his work in Cuba.”
Other than photography, Daniel spends his time training in callisthenics, learning to skateboard or generally hanging out with friends in quaint spots around the city.
Daniel’s secret mantra is to show up day after day, constantly and curiously, not being bogged down and continuing to take photographs.
He says, “Be very curious and open to learning. Photograph everything that comes your way. Don’t get bogged down with the technicality of photography. And, most importantly, have fun!”
He is currently working on a book related to vanishing cultures and practices.
(Carlos Luis is a priest belonging to the Society of the Catholic Apostolate (Pallottine) and is currently the mission secretary of the ABVM Province, Bangalore. He comments on literature and films that mirror life.)