Q: Tell us a bit about yourself and your journey to where you are today.
Briefly about myself. I’m Prashant Naik. I work as an enterprise architect in the travel industry in Atlanta, Georgia and I am originally from Karnataka, India.
However, my true passion is photography, and I mostly tell people that I am a photographer. Reason why? There isn’t a day (or night) when I am not thinking about photography. It is like eating, breathing and sleeping to me.
My appreciation for creative pursuits started at a young age. Back in the day, I used to sketch images of birds, make a photo book, and give them to schools. I also loved the old traditions of oil painting and spent my summer holidays painting auditorium walls, road signs, and temple interiors portraying scenes of nature & wildlife and sometimes that of deities.
I was quick to adapt to photography and learned the intricate process of developing films in the darkroom. This love soon advanced to digital photography which provided a medium for immense creativity.
I did not limit myself to just photography but also dabbled in timelapse and aerial cinematography. For more than two decades, I’ve documented exotic locations and wonders of the natural world – from the Western Ghats in India, to the wadis of the United Arab Emirates, to the deserts and mountains of the United States of America. My work has appeared in magazines and publications around the world.
Q: Why did you choose to submit this specific work to the IPA?
My submission – the film titled “Earthmosphere” – won at the coveted 2022 IPA Awards. It was published on Earth Day 2022 as a tribute to Mother Nature and how I envisioned our planet Earth to be – pristine, pure and peaceful.
Climate change is a greatest threat to humanity and it is not given enough attention. I wanted to send a message to the world that our planet is beautiful and what we are doing to it is ugly. I wanted it to be a reminder to everyone that we have to do our bit to save our planet and atmosphere so that our future is worth living and inheriting.
I believe “Earthmosphere” is an important piece of work in highlighting the need for urgent climate conservation, and hence it was worthy of submitting to the IPA.
Q: What does winning this competition mean to you?
Winning at the 2022 IPA Awards was an absolute honor. The greatest highlight and achievement of my brief photography career.
I was completely stoked to receive an email from IPA stating that my entry made it to “Official Selection” after the final round of jury voting. Of course, I kept it a secret from family and friends, until another email followed to confirm my winning placement.
It has been a tremendous experience sharing the news with my near and dear ones, and all the news coverage was beyond imaginable. This has energized my belief that my work is world-class and has the potential to be globally recognized.
Q: What other photographers have impacted your own work, methods, or style?
I follow many talented photographers for inspiration, but one person that made a huge impact on my photography work early on was my friend and advertising creative director, Shantesh Row, who is based in Dubai. He once told me that I had a great photographic eye but I have to travel to find my unique voice.
And so, I did. I traveled solo to different corners of the world, learning different cultures and documenting my experience. Sometimes, I would take off on weekends to a new destination just to photograph its wonders.
Since then I am on an endless transcontinental journey, like a mission to document our relationship to the natural world. Travel certainly made a huge impact in shaping my imagination and boosting my creative skills.
I am also greatly motivated by the works of photographers such as Erik Almas, Paul Nicklen, Varun Aditya, to name a few.
Q: What do you feel are the key steps to achieving great images?
Just two words: patience and perseverance.
When you have envisioned something you want to create, you have to visualize and plan to make it happen. It takes an immense amount of planning and patience to actually create and craft an image.
I remember going out many times and failing to get the shot. And I do it again, learning from my mistakes, until I get that golden shot.
It is sometimes exhausting but the end results are always rewarding. As a backpacker and camper, I practice leaving no trace and treating animals with respect when in the wilderness.
Q: How did you develop your personal style?
Just two words again: hard work and dedication.
There is a famous saying whose origin is not very clear. “At first when you don’t succeed, try, try again.” This is so true of photography or any other professional field. One has to go that extra mile or double the time on the field. And you keep getting better at it every time by improvising and incorporating newly learned techniques into your workflow.
Just like a painter who knows the right mix of colors which has come from years of experience to bring out his thoughts on the canvas, it has taken decades for me to arrive at my style. But again, it’s a work in progress. I know I can only get better.
Q: What do you find to be the most difficult aspect of becoming a photographer?
Building up a good portfolio and a sustainable business requires a lot of patience, and dedication. Keeping up with modern technology is a key to success. Or at least I used to believe that until the advent of AI – Artificial Intelligence everything seems to be up in the air. Just kidding!
Despite the emergence of AI like Dall.E and Midjourney, AI will never be superior to human imagination. That is because AI hasn’t lived a human experience of emotions. And photography and creativity need emotions.
However, in my opinion, the most difficult aspect in this digital age is how we perceive success in digital photography. That is essentially what comes after making an image, how it is celebrated in the virtual world.
A lot of photographers take their work to social media for validation. But, art is subjective, and seeking validation from social media sort of kills creativity and disrupts the atmosphere.
I believe one should be original and enjoy what you do. Success will follow. What’s important is that you like your creations at the end of the day.
Q: What are the elements that drive your photography? What motivates and focuses you?
They say anyone who sleeps on top of the mountain, comes down either as a madman or a poet. I’d like to assume I am the latter, but sometimes my creativity thrives in chaos.
I get ideas when I am in nature – hiking or exploring deep gorges in the middle of the forest. Working on one thing leads to another. I try to write my experiences down and work on those ideas for years, gathering the required footage and perfecting my art.
My biggest inspiration is nature itself and all the seasonal joys it brings. I have been fortunate to experience a lot of natural phenomena over the years. Observing these precious moments through my camera’s viewfinder and clicking away while still being there to experience those moments with my own eyes.
There have been numerous occasions where I’d just enjoy the moments as is without any interruptions, keep my lens aside, and be alone with my thoughts. This inner contemplation and reflection lead to new concepts and new ideas.
Q: What would your ideal photography project be if you could do anything or travel anywhere?
Documenting the effects of climate change to show that the threat is real, has been my obsession lately.
If I could travel anywhere, I would like to go to the Poles – to the edge of the Arctic Circle or even Antarctica – and document how global warming is threatening the landscape and wildlife that reside there, mainly Beluga Whales and Polar Bears.
Global warming has triggered myriad ecological changes such as the shrinking of sea ice, retreating glaciers, depletion of the ozone layer and more – all of which will have devastating impacts, if we don’t take enough measures.
Q: What’s next for you? Are you currently working on anything exciting?
While I enjoyed shooting and documenting many of the USA’s National Parks, my camera is now focused on the conservation of our natural environment.
I have decided it is now time to give back to nature by raising awareness of environmental issues through photography.
Recently, I have been working voluntarily with non-profit organizations such as the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) and Trees Atlanta on various conservation projects.
Through the art of visual storytelling and photography as a medium, I shall continue to strive to engage the public in environmental issues and raise awareness for the conservation of our planet.
I would also like to explore the Amazon forests in northeastern Peru and the Savannahs of Masai Mara in Kenya to document the wildlife.
Hopefully, this will help me in establishing my front as a conservation photographer.
Indeed, this is my life’s mission and calling.