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Journey of a Photographer / July 21, 2018

Story of a Failed Project (Part 3)

Moving on to the next chapter of my Story of a Failed Project (read Part 1 and Part 2 of the story, if you haven’t), this is the part where I discovered that the project was a failed attempt. Before that happened, it was time for disillusioned jubilation.

The Ephemeral Enjoyment Phase

The thing with achieving something is that it can distort the perception of reality. Rather, that flawed perception becomes reality itself. My case was no different. I was on a plane of eternal joy. While North India was experiencing the monsoon season, it was Spring for me. Flowers were blooming everywhere, and there was cold breeze instead of hot and humid air.

I could barely hold myself back from getting on to processing the photos. The same night, I took out the SD card from camera, and plugged it into the desktop. As a practice, I make sure that I first make two copies of my work – just to insure against data loss. I maintain one copy of the images on my hard drive on the desktop, and one on an external hard disk. Restraining my excitement, I chose to be patient while the backup completed.

With backup complete, I launched Adobe Lightroom and synchronised my catalog with the folder on my desktop hard drive. I could barely hold myself back till then.

That childish behaviour has some charm, something it seems we have forgotten through the time, growing older. And I can assure you, losing that child in you is not the price for maturity.

Lightroom was kind enough to quickly synchronize the folder. Over the next three hours, it was ‘process-athon’. It was late in the night, and with the processing behind me, I slept like a baby.

End of the Enjoyment Phase – Reality Crept In

Over the next two weeks, the enjoyment had gradually transformed into confidence. And confidence transformed into a mixed feeling of pride and deep sense of fulfilment. This is when I decided to have Sundreysh, an experienced photographer – who in many ways, is a mentor to me – review my work. We typically met during our weekly photowalks that he organized for the photography club.

Normally, I only carried my camera to photowalks. That day, I carried my iPad with the project photos. After the photowalk got over, I asked him to spare some time to review and critique my work. He was happy to oblige. Zooming into every photograph, analyzing the overall composition, he gave his verdict.

  • Sundreysh started off by appreciating my effort to take up the project. Most enthusiast photographers keep on planning to start a project, but rarely execute.
  • While appreciating composition of some of the photos, he noted that I had was simply lazy enough to not experiment with different camera settings. I had a tripod and a wired controller, and the time, yet I didn’t do it.
  • In some of the shots composition was completely off. Lines were leading away from the subject – the rickshaw.
  • He noted that the toy rickshaw conveyed what I was wanting to capture and communicate through my photos in a limited way. Using a toy rickshaw diluted the potential of the story. Despite all the advancements in the automotive sector, rickshaws and ‘rickshaw wallahs’ (men who drove them) remained resilient. He opined that had I shot photos of actual rickshaws and ‘rickshaw wallahs’ the story would have a strong human element to it. It would have made the story more relatable and built a strong connection with the viewer.

Sundreysh never minces words. He didn’t do that at that time. And that’s why his opinion matters to me, even if it feels harsh in the moment. Taking his feedback, and his encouraging words ‘Aur try kar!’ (Try again!) I headed back home.

Moving Beyond Failure

I won’t lie. I was disappointed in myself. For not thinking about all of this myself. My lack of experience outdid my desire to create something meaningful. Getting out of my comfort zone and pushing myself to execute the project was a task. I felt bad about the fact that I hadn’t worked hard enough.

But, I was not disheartened. I may be down, but I am never out.  I strongly believe that there is always a silver lining. At times it is right there in front of you, and sometimes it’s not. But, you must look for it.

After a week of deep introspection, I wrote down all that I had learnt.


Photography, like everything else, has a learning curve to it. The best way to learn is to keep playing. Keep looking for newer, unusual perspectives. Create variety in your composition with different camera settings.

Look for the Human Connection

The photograph that you are making will be viewed by a human, including yourself. So, look for elements in a frame that strike a chord, make it relatable, and evoke emotions.

Tell a Story

Each frame should tell a story. Better yet, a collection of frames should tell a consistent story over the arch of time.  It will not only make your work relatable, but relevant, at least at a point in time. If it goes beyond that, then you have created a legacy. Possibly.


This was probably the most important learning I walked away with. This failure or not so successful project was a beginning. It was up to me to rise above it all and start anew. And I did.


At a deeper level, this project taught me a lot more than what I have mentioned above. Hence, I chose to talk about it at length. From here on, began a journey that I am proudly experiencing, and hope to experience for remainder of my life.


If you have directly landed on the last part of this story, you can read Part 1 and Part 2 to the story here.


Authored by Shivendra Lal

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