Oindrila got in touch with a short and nice list of questions for a short interview that would be published on the LifeAtESL blog. I’m reproducing it here with her questions and my answers.

I remember contacting Naina Redhu for my wedding photography. Needless to say, I was so impressed by her amazing clicks. When I thought of coming up with the idea of writing about people who have broken out from the routine and have not only taken up paths less travelled but aced at them too, Naina’s name topped the chart.

Meet Naina Redhu, the brand storyteller and photographer (and a gorgeous model herself).

Who is your style inspiration?

Mostly my wardrobe is my style inspiration! I wear whatever’s in it. I’ve learned how to put things together by watching my sister Akanksha, closely. She has this way of styling herself that makes it seem effortless. Like she just threw something together and proceeded to look fabulous, just like that! I’m also a tad influenced by my father’s Indian Army style. Clean lines, simple but tough clothes and shoes. Also, Pinterest helps a lot in terms of being able to see how people across the world style themselves. There’s so much to see – I’ve been able to appreciate my wardrobe a whole lot better due to all the above.

Which is that one photo-story that has appealed to you the most?

From my work it has to be the latest one that I photographed for Starwood Hotels & Resorts for their St. Regis brand launch in Jaipur. It was a beautiful three days of royalty, Polo, beautiful people and stunning Jaipur forts. Generally luxury brands are more in tune with attention to detail and appreciate my work as a photographer and storyteller. It appealed to me the most as well because the client’s confidence in my work meant I had a loose brief and could build a visual narrative according to what was best from my point of view for the brand’s launch event. It was wonderful throughout. I had no idea where the three days flew past!

Would you like to tell us more about the Naina beyond work?

There isn’t much to tell. I don’t see photography or blogging as “work” in the conventional sense. I get to do what I love and make a living and still find time for myself. I had not planned for it to be like this but things have a way of coming together for me if I stay at it and am honest with myself. After I’m done delivering my photography and blogging commitments, I’m inclined to listen to an audio book as I spend time completing my step-goal. Apart from that I could spend hours in bed sleeping. I also spend a lot of time driving all over the National Capital Region to see my family. I prefer to spend whatever little time I have with them. We’re quite a goofy, nutty, dysfunctional family and I get my whacky genes from my parents ( apart from all the other good genes of course ). I love drinking beer and coffee and I eat to live. I can watch hours upon hours of good stand-up comedy by performers like Jeff Dunham, Fluffy Guy, Christopher Titus ( even though he can get really dark sometimes ) and Jim Jeffries. I haven’t owned a TV for more than a decade and the only show I watch regularly, weekly, is John Oliver’s last Week Tonight on YouTube. I’ve recently started making short videos of the family whenever I’m home so that I have some audio visual memories too instead of just still images. I get frustrated very easily trying to work in India. I say “try” because I’m still struggling. Professionalism is nearly impossible to find and I worry I might forget some of it myself.

How did you end up being a visual story teller?

That’s a long story. I’ll try to keep it brief. After doing my MBA and getting a campus placement at a boutique consulting firm, I worked there for a year and realized I couldn’t see myself sitting in a chair 9-5 each day of the week for the rest of my life. I’d signed up on platforms like LinkedIn and based on a little personal illustration and photo section on my BlogSpot profile, I started getting enquiries from prospects in the US and Europe to have their logos and graphic design needs met. My portfolio evolved and I did more branding and design work for almost six years. By then platforms like Facebook and Twitter had sprung up and I was getting more work from there. I had always wanted to try my hand at photography too and armed with my Dad’s analog FujiFilm camera, I photographed my first client gig in 2006, which was the Mudra SEZ for the Adani Group, quickly followed by the factory floor of the Siyaram Silk Mills. It was a fun gig but all the money I’d been paid for these was spent only on getting the rolls of film developed! In 2009 I was able to afford a DSLR and a friend carried it for me all the way from Australia. I photographed a wedding and the rest is history. After that, friends and family were constantly asking me to photograph their weddings and I was able to start charging a professional fee for this. I’ve learnt so much from international photographers like Chase Jarvis who have shared their experiences and technical knowledge on the Internet for free. No photographer in India was willing to even talk with me, let alone provide some guidance or advice. I showed some of my work to a well-respected senior photographer in India and he smiled at me saying, “You definitely have an eye.” I looked at various genres of photography and tried my hand at most of them, which is when I discovered that I particularly enjoyed the documentary style of photography but not the gritty, dark imagery. I preferred high contrast, beautiful images with a touch of glam. I was lucky to find clients who were willing to hire me for such experimental photography in India. Even now, most prospects don’t really understand what it is I do in terms of photography. The best way to explain it is to show them one of the stories I’ve already done for another client. When I was hearing, “Looking at your pictures, it feels like I was right there!” over and over again is when I realized THIS is my style. I still experiment and play around with all kinds of photography but that’s because I enjoy it so much. I could photograph anything and make a story, a narrative out of it without even thinking about what I was doing. I love it.

What’s your favourite? Eat.Shop. OR Love?

Love. For me, when this aspect of my life is anchored, everything else falls into place. Inner peace!

–x-End Of Interview-x–

This was such a lovely interview to do! A nice and simple set of questions unlike a lot of other interview requests I get. It was fun going down memory lane as well, which is why it’s a nice piece to share on the blog too. I don’t usually write about the early days – I do talk about them quite a bit.