You only have to look at Akshata Viveka’s images to see how passionate she is about photography. Her signature style is evident in her commercial work, editorial portraiture, lifestyle setups, travel shots and even her work as a contestant on National Geographic’s Cover Shot: Mission North East (a reality television show that showcased India’s top 10 amateur photographers to be featured on National Geographic Traveller India Magazine.) BeBEAUTIFUL chats with the artist to see what it takes to follow a dream.

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My ability to see beauty in even the most mundane of objects. I like beautifying everything I shoot be it a middle-aged housewife, a hotel room or even a bedraggled little cat on the street. I believe that not everyone is born beautiful, but everyone develops a beauty of their own as time goes by. It is such beauty that creates magic on camera.

Pictured Here: Alsisar Palace, Ranthambore

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Her inspiration

Ami Vitale is my favourite photographer. Though documentary is a genre I struggle with, I am always amazed and awestruck by the depth and beauty of Ami’s work. She is one person who sees the world differently.

Pictured Here: Space Museum, Hong Kong

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On her journey

The biggest challenge for any aspiring photographer is the years of struggle during which you need to be prepared to live like a pauper and work like a boss. Money is scarce, and any money you earn ends up getting diverted into your photography equipment, which is notoriously expensive. At an age when my friends were getting settled into their full-time jobs, pursuing their MBAs and getting married, I was spending my days and nights grovelling around for work and struggling to get my life into some semblance of discipline. But these are the years that will define your trajectory so take them in your stride and stick to your guns.

Pictured Here: Bombay Beach

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Tips and tricks for an emerging artist

The single most important piece of advice I can give anyone, is to inculcate a strong sense of discipline from the start. When you are working in a creative field, it is very easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of freedom you have. It’s easy to think you’re doing a lot when actually you’re barley making any progress at all. Secondly, don’t get so idealistic and absorbed in your notion of “art” that you forget that the success of any art depends on how the public is viewing and consuming it. Neither you, nor your work can exist in isolation. Stay grounded, stay real and know that there is no such thing as too much knowledge.

Pictured Here: From the BBC Good Home shoot

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The three things she keeps in mind while clicking the perfect picture

Expression, composition and lighting.

Pictured Here: Corridor Detail, Mysore Palace

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On Nat Geo’s Cover Shot experience

In January 2014, I was working as an account manager at a digital agency when a colleague of mine forwarded me a call to entry for a National Geographic photography contest. One lengthy questionnaire, an interview with the production house and a screen test later, I was selected out of hundreds of shortlisted entries to be on a photography contest reality TV show, to be shot in North East India, complete with a National Geographic judge and television crew.

Pictured Here: While on assignment for National Geographic’s Cover Shot

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What dreams are made of…

It was 21 days of bitter cold, erratic schedules, zilch sleep and a diet consisting largely of cabbage, dal and boiled eggs. But what an experience! From seeing the way a reality show is shot and constructed to experiencing how tirelessly the crew has to work behind the scenes to make it work, I saw it all. I learned so much thanks to our judge Lana Slezic, all amidst the stunning backdrop of frostbitten mountains. 21 days of sheer poetry. The show changed my life. It introduced me to the nuances of a genre of photography that I had never attempted before—documentary. It took me to a part of the country I had never travelled before and brought me in touch with nine other fantastic, curious and talented individuals who I am now happy to call friends.

Pictured Here: Model - Alana

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On comparing her job to the 9 to 5 equivalent

I think dipping into a 9 to 5 job every now and then keeps things real. It teaches you to work in a group and pulls you out of your little bubble. In most cases, a desk job will never pay you as much as freelancing will, but the takeaways of team work and networking are equally important. Most photographers love the isolation as it helps them think and be creative on their own time and space, but being successful requires you to be working with people all the time!

Pictured Here: Lodhi, New Delhi

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The biggest perks of doing what she does

Your fate is entirely in your hands. Every failure is yours, but then again so is every victory. It’s a creative, hands-on, fun profession so you never really feel the strain of “working” per se.

Pictured Here: Savera Shrestha for Alter Ego, Jaipur

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On what it takes to muster up the courage to follow a dream

You have to lose the fear of failure. You cannot succeed at an offbeat profession if you are fundamentally afraid of what people say about you. Because truth be told, your curve will be slower and only the most persistent and patient will reach the top.

Pictured Here: Raymond Furnishings

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Where she sees herself grow

I see myself as a successful photographer and business woman who has diversified from photography to other areas of interests such as furniture design. My dream project is to use photography to sensitise people about the plight of animals in this country. I am restless by nature and I like to dip into as many experiences as I can.

Pictured Here: The Pavillion, Goa

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On staying fit on the job

I cannot stress the need for a good diet and exercise regime. People don’t realise it, but being a photographer is a lot of manual labour. You end up lugging equipment that is 15+ kilos heavy for over 12 hours. It’s next to impossible to keep up if you’re not physically fit. I substitute sugar with forest honey in everything right from tea to dahi to desserts. I eat brown carbs instead of white carbs. I avoid maida like the plague. I drink about one litre of lemonade every day and about three cups of green tea. I carry dry fruits or channa choor to eat with me in between shots. I work out for two hours every day.

Pictured Here: A shot from a wedding shoot

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On protecting her hair and skin while out in the sun

I have a pretty basic skin-care regime. I always carry a packet of skin wipes and use a non-sticky sunscreen if I’m shooting outdoors. I hydrate with water or nimbu pani which I cart around in a little bottle. I wash and condition my hair every single day because aside from shooting I also work out every day so I end up sweating. I try and get a pedicure every couple of weeks because I end up walking so much on the job so my feet end up looking dusty and tired very fast.

Pictured Here: Photographer – Akshata Viveka