“Photography is instinct and spontaneity”: portrait photographer Shikha Khanna

A mother herself, portrait and baby photographer Shikha Khanna—who has worked exclusively with mothers throughout her career—decided to artistically bring out the voices of 100 mothers, who have created a niche in their respective fields. This resolution has now taken the form of a coffee table book – 100 Self-Portrait, 100 Dreams — which, she says, was born out of a mother’s need to be “honored for her selfless efforts.” “That thought led me to conduct 100 interviews with mothers from all walks of life,” said Khanna, who specializes in baby, child and family photography. indianexpress.com.

Khanna, who also runs MUM or Mothers United Moment, “an initiative to honor mothers’ living stories and make an impact”, aims to inspire mothers to dream again. In the same context, it is organizing an event, from November 10 to 14, 2022 at the Oxford Golf Resort, Pune, where 100 notable mothers will attend as lead delegates from 31 countries. Her book will be launched on the last day of the event.

In an exclusive conversation, Khanna, who started at the age of 19, describes her journey, talks about what photography means to her, and also about the making of the book.

Tell us about your background, your work.

I have captured special moments of over 1000 prominent families from all over India. I love black and white and also work with natural light. I believe that every human being has an inner light, and my effort is to bring it to the surface. I am also very passionate about teaching photography and I have led courses and workshops. I launched a self-portrait photography workshop in 2020 as a tool for transformation and have facilitated 10 online workshops and trained over 50 international participants.

An overview of Shikha’s book (Source: PR Handout)

What does photography represent for you?

It is the tool that shows me the beauty that I would otherwise have missed. For me, photography is about instinct and spontaneity. It allows me to intuitively connect with my subject and capture its life. As I mentioned, inner light reflects when you are comfortable and in tune with yourself. I facilitate this. Formal education certainly helps in understanding technical aspects, angles and the importance of speed etc. I feel like the equipment scares people. The feel and texture of natural light is very difficult to replicate in the studio. Natural light Mastery is also an opportunity to move to different places and take up the challenge in each space. Personally, I would be very bored in a studio and it’s not as exciting for me.

I would like to say that a person holding a camera is blessed to be aware of life. Photography makes us sensitive to the visuals around us. You have to use photography to get closer to life and light.

Tell us about your book.

This book covers Air Force officers, LBGTQ activists, coaches, Olympians, a photographer, doctors and musicians – whose stories I have assembled with their self-portraits that represented their identity as mothers. What makes this book different is that it is at its rawest; mothers caught on from how they see themselves – not from a biased societal lens.

How did you choose these mothers?

It started with mothers I knew who had inspired me, and through them I began to form a tribe of more mothers. Every story is equally inspiring and every struggle is an inspiration. It was a tough choice, I selected 100 unique compelling stories that I believe had the power to inspire people to overcome obstacles and be victorious.

What is the main idea behind working on the book?

I want these 100 mums and their families to recognize that their stories matter and then I want this mother who works in the dark of night when everyone else is asleep to wonder why motherhood is hard to inspire by these 100 mothers. With this book, I want all mothers to feel that if those mothers can do it, so can I. I would like and wish that entrepreneurial mothers make it their mission to support, inspire and empower at least one mother in their life.

Favorite memories of the making of the book?

My favorite story is that of Sangeeta, the first female Indian Air Force officer who took her child to Ladakh on border patrol when she was two years old. She guarded our borders while doing her homework and all while raising her child in extreme conditions.

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