#TheDissident: DON’T STOP. DON’T GIVE UP .DON’T SETTLE.
Celonarants: Tell us a little about you. The community would love to know The man behind the amazing brand “RAJIV
Ravij Chopra: I am an engineer, and an MBA. Lots of education. I was in the corporate world for over 25 years, and then left it. Rather, I was dumped out of it. The reason, I believe, is that my boss did not like my somewhat independent spirit. In my view, he was not qualified to be my boss. I think that my attitude showed I have been doing photography for many years. I went into this as a reaction to a neighbour vomiting all over me. That is when I decided to clean up my life and give up hallucinogenic substances. This happened a year after I started work. It took another two decades before I really started to work on my health.
As of now, I am an ‘independent contractor’. I represent a few companies, am building an advisory & mentoring business and, apart from this, I would like to be able to run my life through photography and writing.
Celonarants: How does the photography you create help generate change around the society you represent?
Ravij: When I started photography, I had no money. I still don’t have much money. In this way, things have not
changed much I started with black & white film, and this is still my first love
I shoot landscapes, portrait, pinhole, and street/travel.
I started with the street. This is where I remain. When I started, I used to shoot the misery of people. This, I have stopped, because I feel it is exploitative.
When I am on the street, I focus on the human drama, the story and my intent is to show the inherent dignity in people. This is the way that I wish to bring about a change. People are not commodities.
When I shoot landscapes I wish to show the beauty of the world. It is the only one we have. These days, my focus is on the mountains and the waters. Nature is all we truly have.
Despite our knowledge and our data, we are idiots. We need to be able to think. We need to think and lift our petty brains above our mundane desires.
This is something that I hope will slowly happen through my combination of photography & writing.
With the way the media outside India has painted Modi’s administration as sectional, one-sided and not completely inclusive, how do you intend to give your voice, via your art; do you intend to support his administration or speak against it?
I do indeed believe that he is non-inclusive, sectional and will seek to divide India. He believes in one way communication, and is incapable of engaging in dialogue. Everything he does is based on how he would like to be seen.
You cannot fight fire with fire. I do not seek to be a de-stabilising factor. However, if there is fire, then this has to be fought by using techniques that seek to douse the flames.
In an atmosphere where anger, hate an irrationality rule, it is sometimes best to wait for the quiet moments in which you can show an alternative.
While I do not, in general, support Modi, he is not wholly good or wholly bad. Like everyone else, he has good points. Some of his strengths are remarkable indeed, and are worthy of emulation and acknowledgement.
To fight the unsavoury changes that are being wrought in the country, I will seek to show balance. There is always a balance.
As I said, it is best to wait for the quiet moments, when people are prepared to listen. That is the moment to talk.
Celonarants: What do you like best about the storyline/mantra of this campaign and tell us how your concept and craft can influence this community positively?
Ravij: I assume you mean – the ‘don’t stop, don’t give up, don’t settle mantra. It is a good mantra. However, I would like to see an additional point about bringing in a positive change. A ‘dissident’ can be a voice for positive change as well as negative. What we need to appreciate, is that definitions of positivity and negativity are driven by perceptions. Nothing more. We each live in our own world, and it is our responsibility to bridge the
gaps, and make the connections.
Celonarants: How does your powerful storytelling through your visuals and photography influence society in a positive
Ravij: Let me give you an example or two.
When I started photography – street photography – I focused on the poverty of people. I thought that these photographs were authentic. In many ways, yes, they were and are.
As I grew, and hopefully matured, I changed my viewpoint. Homeless people live on the street. They spend their waking hours there – sitting, eating, shitting and, if they get the opportunity – having sex. They sleep on the streets.
They have no privacy. Shooting their misery started to seem like an invasion of their privacy. It seemed as though I was exploiting them, and stripping away their last shreds of human dignity.
When I shoot them now, I either shoot their faces, and try and capture some of their essential human dignity.
I do the same while shooting landscapes. Instead of shooting the crap that tourists leave behind, I try and shoot