Photographer Iqbal K Mohamed’s Light & Life Academy in Ooty is fast emerging the hub for Indians passionate about the camera. The lensman is working on several projects besides developing the academy, which he hopes to make a global hub for photography in due course. The academy is also planning introduce a 3D and animation course soon.
Mohamed is currently working on a campaign on AIDS awareness (which is due to break in February, 2006), for the AIDS Control Board, besides working on a tourism campaign to promote Karaikudi (a place in Tamil Nadu), among several other projects.
Speaking to exchange4media at Chennai, he said, “In India, with so many brands coming in from all over, people are realising that images can be used for practically anything. Pictures are made for more than just awards. We need to realise that we can make a difference with the power of images.”
Recalling a visual-led campaign against the use of plastic, which he had done four and a half years ago, Mohamed explained that in six months the use of plastic in the Nilgiris was banned.
The Light & Life Academy was created with a vision to train photographers to enter the world league in terms of class, he said. “There are an estimated 80,000 registered portrait and function photographers in India. There must be at least three times that many unregistered photographers. The tragedy is that they have no access to material they can learn photography from. We realise during workshops that the talent is incredible, but language is a barrier,” explained Mohamed.
And that is perhaps the reason he wrote a book on portrait and fashion photography five years ago – a book that was published in eight languages and has sold close to 11,000 copies till date.
The academy conducts a full time programme, besides week long focused workshops through the year. A week’s programme in photojournalism is now part of the annual calendar, and more recently, it started a course on digital photojournalism. The present task before the academy is recognition from the relevant authorities, and it will then move on to offer courses in 3D and animation.
“Groups have started approaching us from India and abroad, and we are talking to various colleges now. Everyone who comes here from outside says that India is a photographer’s dream. For now, we believe the academy is becoming a hub for Indian photography. Eventually, the idea is to make it a hub for global photography,” surmised Mohamed.
The other projects that the photographer behind the Innova campaign (and several others) is involved in at present, include a coffee table book on the picturesque Nilgiris – something he promises will be a ‘little more’ than a coffee table book. A book on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands has been in the making for six years now and will be completed soon, and he is also hoping that his second book on Portrait and Function photography will also be released in eight to nine languages shortly.
Not surprising that Mohamed does so much outside his academy, when you consider that he has consistently spent not more than 25 per cent of his time on commercial photography ever since he began his career. But most of the action for now is at the academy, where the use of lights and camera are being taught.