#LetsGoRyoko Vol. 8.0 with Swati Mandava
How did you get into photography?
I was always curious about photography, I think there's something magical about being able to freeze a moment, the way you see it, for eternity. As a child, I remember being fascinated by the Nikon point and shoot that my parents owned. Given how expensive it was to buy film back then, I was allowed to take a photo or two, on occasion, as a special treat. My mother very kindly bought me a Sony Cybershot (after months of pestering no doubt) when I was in law school and I remember being absolutely thrilled to finally have my own camera and a digital one at that - oh, the joy of instant gratification!
A few years later, I was working and living in Bombay and at this point I started to think about upgrading my camera. Of course, other than that I wanted one, I knew next to nothing about cameras. Fortunately for me, a close friend had the same thought running through her head and researched the hell out of the options. After a crash course from her and several rounds of intense discussions over beer, we settled on the base model of the Nikon DSLR - which was the D3000, back in 2009. It was a wonderful camera and I enjoyed the many years I spent with it.
What phone/camera do you shoot with?
I currently shoot with the Nikon D850 and the Pixel 5 and find both immensely satisfying to use. I try to use my Nikon as regularly as I can but that can be challenging, given the size and accompanying paraphernalia. The Pixel on the other hand is my mobile phone and goes everywhere with me, so ends up being the default option at most times. The Nikon travels with me on all holidays and sometimes even on longer drives around the emirates.
What inspires you to shoot?
Honestly, everything around me. I think you can find beauty in everyday objects, in the most mundane settings and in the most unexpected places, if you are willing to take a closer look.
How do you choose your subject?
More often than not, the subject chooses me. I think that's the simplest explanation. I'm not a professional photographer or content creator, so I rarely have the need to shoot a specific object. I mainly shoot because something has caught my eye in that instant - it's a flash, a fleeting glimpse and then it's gone. If I have missed that moment, no matter how much I try to recreate it, I can't and believe me I've tried. Sometimes, there's a goal - like when I'm in the jungle, I want to keep my eyes open and absorb as much as possible but it's never my goal to shoot one thing only.
What genre of photography excites you?
I'm still learning and discovering the various genres and the nuances associated with each of them. I currently really enjoy wildlife photography and want to start shooting more portraits. I find B&W images arresting and when you combine B&W with portrait photography, I think the effect can be stunning.
What sort of project drives your creativity? What is your dream project?
I can't say I have a dream project but I really would like to master the art of shooting birds in flight. Over the last 8-10 years, I have started watching birds and the more I see the more I am drawn to them. They're truly beautiful, the colours, the calls, the formations, the mating rituals, I find it all fascinating.
What is the hardest thing about photography?
To stop taking photographs! It becomes really difficult to put your camera down and enjoy the moment in front of you and sometimes you literally have to tear yourself away from the camera. Taking photos can be addictive but there’s no replacement for just enjoying the moment with your own senses.
What advice would you give to a photographer just starting out?
Wait, so what advice would I give to someone like me then?? Jokes apart, I don't think I'm anywhere near the "advice giving" zone! Everyday, I see the beautiful photographs that people, professionals and amateurs, take and I'm reminded of how much I have left to learn. I recently went to a photography exhibition of the Natural History Museum of London - it was a collection of images of the winners in various categories of wildlife photography and some of those photos were taken by 8 and 10 year olds - I would like to ask them for advice! The only thing I would say to anyone who likes taking photographs is to keep taking them and to find their own style and their own beauty in each frame.
What are your thoughts on Ryokō? Do you have any advice or feedback for us?
I love that your pieces are eye catching yet understated. Even the brand logo is not overpowering and is worked into the overall design. It’s clear that Ryokō is a passion project and that is visible in every piece in your store. To me, a large part of buying is the process of actually getting there, it is learning about the product and the story behind it and Ryokō does a splendid job of telling that story.
I’ve bought Ryokō pieces for myself and as gifts and I’m going to keep coming back. Keep doing what you have been doing and I look forward to discovering something new the next time I pop in!
What’s your idea of a perfect camera bag?
Compartments, compartments, compartments! This applies to all bags as far as I’m concerned but is especially important for a camera bag. A good camera bag needs to be sturdy and comfortable to carry and have several accessible compartments (not just for the camera and lenses but also for the various odds and ends that you inevitably need or imagine you will need!). In addition to all this, if it’s a looker, that’s icing on the cake!
My Ryokō camera bag is all these things and also works very well as a carry on bag for longer flights. I love that it serves me in multiple ways and is a great fit on my cabin sized suitcase.