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Working Age Forum stories: My lockdown hobby

Working Age Adventures in the Capital

For the first instalment of the Working Age Forum’s Working Age Adventures in the Capital series,  Working Age Forum attendee Eshita Unadkat talks about her newly rediscovered lockdown hobby: photography!

My lockdown hobby

Do you remember cameras which required a film roll? Each photo you took had to be a special one as there was a limit to the number of photos you could take before replacing the roll. I really enjoyed clicking as a child but was conscious about letting others down in case a photo did not turn out the way we expected. There was also the fear of the film roll not inserted properly or just being blank. I always waited in anticipation for the prints to come through. To my surprise, the photos looked good most of the time, despite my visual impairment. Thus, I landed up with the important role of being our family photographer and capturing beautiful moments.

With time, digital cameras were introduced, and I got busy with growing up responsibilities so lost interest. I would take photos here and there but there was no passion.

Eeya’s Blind Photography

One day, a close friend complemented on an image I had taken on the iPhone. For some reason, that triggered memories of my childhood and reminded me of how much I enjoyed playing with the camera. I began noticing more complements from friends and colleagues. Being severely short sighted all my life, my perception of a good picture would be different to sighted people. The thought, ‘they are just being nice’, was always at the back of my mind. Hence, I was not feeling too confident.

Eeya’s Blind Photography was born in early January 2020 when I was having coffee at McDonalds in India with a close friend, who encouraged me to create an Instagram page after approving my photo of a coffee cup on the McDonalds tray. Being a private person, making a public account was a big leap. I bit my tongue and just decided to do it anyway. Between then and February, a few more close friends supported my idea and approved photos that could be displayed in my gallery.

Then came the pandemic, where my working world and mental health ended up climbing a steep mountain with no signs of the summit. I could not cope so decided to give photography a break once again.

iPhone Photography Academy

The game changed when I signed up to the iPhone Photography Academy in May 2020. Now, my hobby assignments involved taking photos fulfilling specific criteria such as focus, exposure, portrait, landscape and so on. I was asked to submit each photo into a private Facebook group where other members gave constructive feedback. This time, I was getting complements and reassurance from strangers. Eeya’s Blind Photography started gaining popularity and I became a part of a small community of photographers.

When asked how I was able to shoot amazing photos, my response always was that I got lucky. Someone once commented about a stork being right in the centre of one of my photos. As I had not seen this before, I magnified the image to have a closer look and to my surprise, I found a bird like structure right in the middle. It looked like a sculpture. Then I compared it to another image of the same place taken at a different time, the bird was not there! I started believing in my abilities when my photos began featuring on various Instagram guides and were being shared by popular photographers.

Losing motivation for my lockdown hobby

As the days got darker and colder, I was losing my motivation. To help me through, I decided to set myself a 66-day walking challenge and invited my Instagram friends to join in virtually. I became accountable. I woke up each morning with excitement of walking to my local park and looking for something to shoot. I will have clicked hundreds of pictures of swans swimming around and showing off their beauty. I felt more connected with nature and was starting to appreciate each season that was passing by from beautiful shades of autumn colours to bare trees and little snowflakes in winter. Spring just brought a leap into my footsteps, and I found myself chasing the pink cherry blossom wherever it was blooming.

Light, colour and contrast

My photos are all composed around light, colour and contrast as this is what I am able to see. Since bright light and glare make me uncomfortable due to my albinism, most of my photos are taken either early mornings, just before or around sunset or on night mode. To understand what I can see, let us compare a photo with low number of pixels to the one with a higher number. There will be lesser detail in the first one while the latter will be sharper and clearer. My vision has low pixels.

Photography has helped me express myself and create awareness around my genetic disorder. It tells a story that I struggle to put into words. My lockdown hobby has become an antidote to my mental health, and it is something that will stay with me forever.

 

Eshita Unadkat, August 2021.

Eshita attends London Vision’s Working Age Forum. Make sure you check out Eshita’s photography on her Instagram page!

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