For a person hailing from a small town in Karimnagar, 30-year old Venkataramana Mallojjala’s determination to make it big in the photography industry has surely paid rich dividends placing him as one of the most sought after photographers in South India today.
Better known as Venky among his family, friends, colleagues and clients, he was born into a family of poojaris but his keen interest and passion towards photography drove him to Hyderabad to get a BFA degree in the subject from JNTU College of Fine Arts.
Recalling those days Venky says, “I would accompany my father as assistant poojari, but my concentration would always be on the photographer; what is he doing, how is he taking the photo, what kind of lighting is used… later, I started clicking photos of my relatives by myself.” That is when he decided that if he stayed as a poojari, only those coming to the temple would know him but if he wanted the world to recognise him, he would have to come out of his house.
However, studying in JNTU wasn’t without its own share of hardships. Not only did he have to survive on the meagre 500 rupees that his father sent him as pocket money, but having studied in a Telugu medium school till Intermediate, Venky also had to acclimatize himself with the English language and the pulse of a city life. “All through those four years, the textbooks were in English, the professors as well as students spoke in English. But in my final year, I passed out with a gold medal,” he says proudly.
The 5 lakh likes on the Facebook page of his company, Photriya, is the highest for any photography page in South India, he claims. This page is also the only verified photography page in India he informs.
But it was in the tiny little ‘V Studio’ at Vengal Rao Nagar that Venky’s journey into the world of photography truly began. This was the first studio opened by Venky and his friend, Krishna Reddy, in 2000, while still in their II year of BFA. “It was a second floor room, with no board. I had the money, while Krishna had the camera. We invested 15,000 rupees on that place,” Venky reminisces. The duo took any assignment that came their way; from taking pellichoopulu and birthday photos to clicking passport size photos.
Explaining how he learnt the importance of advertising, Venky narrates an interesting anecdote. “I would go to S R Nagar circle everyday which swarmed with chaiwallas and mirchi bandi people. I would drink chai there and invite them to come to the studio with their family. I would then click their photos, frame it and ask them to keep in their shop. Then one day the colony leader came up to the chaiwalla and enquired about the photo. The man told him about us and that’s how we ended up being invited to cover the colony’s Navaratri event. That was my first major assignment,” he says.
After college, they shifted the studio to Krishnanagar and began advertising in film circles. “I realised that… while a pellichoopulu will fetch me 60 rupees, a portfolio of a struggling actor will fetch me 1000 rupees!” But when in 2005, Krishna left to do MA Communication in UoH, Venky again moved to Srinagar colony and here was born Photriya as we know it today.
“Photriya is a combination of two words, Photo and Priya, my wife’s name,” he explains, “and it has eight letters which is my lucky number,” he adds. Photriya has recently opened a branch at Edison, New Jersey. Venky also conducts photography training classes in Hyderabad which has seen about 230 students pass out till date. Seven to eight of these students are in New Jersey working for Photriya. They mostly do wedding photography.
Ask him about his love for wedding photography and what drives him to capture those precious few moments, and pat comes the honest reply, “I came from a white ration card family and my only challenge was to be able to make money. Big money in Hyderabad is only in wedding photography.” While film photography and star photoshoots are the means to gain name and fame, for his own happiness, Venky does nature photography which finds its place in his Instagram page.
With 12 years of experience in digital photography and the support of a 34 member staff in his three branches Venky has covered over 900 weddings. His first high profile wedding was of Paidipally Vamshi, the director of Yevadu. He has also done photoshoots for several big names in the Tollywood like Ramcharan, Samantha Ruth Prabhu, Kajal Aggarwal, Siddharth, Tapsee and many more.
Venky directed a short film titled ‘Jhanda’ recently. Talking about the difference between commercial photography and film photography/shoot, he says, “The former demands the use of your creativity. It’s all about your idea and the final result is from you too. You can exercise control over its production. But films require team work with the director, the actors, the photo editor, the designer… and very rarely is there complete satisfaction.”
This young photographer also makes online tutorials which he feels is a way of passing on his knowledge and teaching people the art of photography. “I want to share my experience with other people. That’s the reason I put up the technical detail of every photo on my Facebook page. No one else does it.”
Talking about the photographers who influenced his formative years, Venky names Ansel Adams and Gautam Rajadhyaksha. These photographers, he believes, value expressions in their photos. Among his contemporaries he feels that Joseph Radhik and Ranganath are two photographers who think like him. But he says that there is no sense of competition between them. “Everybody has a market here. There are 25,000 photographers in Hyderabad… and everybody has work.”
With the influx of smartphones and phone cameras everybody is a photographer in his own right. A DSLR is owned by all and sundry. But there is only one difference between them and a professional like himself, Venky observes. “We all may have same equipment but they will click 500 photos and give you 300, but I’ll click 300 and give all of it to you. They will randomly click picture but I ‘choose’ to click that picture.”
Mulling over his future projects, Venky says that he is focusing on spreading his business and moving into ad films. But he does not wish to move out of Hyderabad as he is content with his work here. He also plans to venture into filmmaking moving ahead.
Click here to go to Photriya’s website and view the contact details.