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​The Guy Who’s Done It All: Chandan Vatish

“Life can’t be left at average. The average is what we have without art.”

This week I had the chance to interview our very own UWaterloo alumnus, Chandan Vatish. Chandan studied biology at UWaterloo  and was also the former president of the UW Photography Club. Along with being a photographer, Chandan has also worked as a coder, designer, illustrator, and more. He’s done it all.

On a Friday afternoon, I met Chandan on campus at the new Starbucks located in the new AHS building (be sure to check it out if you haven’t already!). We discussed his work as the former president of UW Photography Club, photography, going to lectures, and even Donald Trump.

But mainly photography.

To all photography lovers out there, keep reading down below.


Hometown? East Scarborough; pretty much as far east as you can get in Toronto.

What program were you in? I was in Biology.

Talking more about UW Photo Club, how did you initially get involved?

During my first year at UW, I attended a few meetings, and then the next term I attended a meeting to potentially become an exec. They accepted me upon seeing what I had to offer, and may have done so even if that wasn’t the case; it’s a very inclusive club, as I hope for it to always remain.

I’m generally known as a pretty confident person, but nonetheless, it was my first year here, my first time actually practising photography with other people. I had never taken a course for it before and never shared my work and techniques directly with others.

So I became an exec and I ran two workshops for UWPC that term: digital darkroom (Photoshop, Lightroom, etc.) and one portraiture session. I attended every event otherwise and made sure I helped where I could, because it was easy to be passionate about it in that atmosphere. Not long after, I was asked if I wanted to be president of the club. I took the offer, of course.

What do you miss most about being the president of the UW Photo Club?

You know, realistically, it’s such an inclusive organization, a lot of the roles are just names, and this may as well be one of them. Everyone is welcome to do whatever they can put in. Not just being president – for lack of a better word – but being a major component of the club is what I miss most. Just to be able to apply myself in anything relating to the field is what came with the title. Whether it was marketing or designing or developing for the club. From client management to overseeing projects, so many opportunities came through not just being president, but by acting on the role itself.

You did all of that for the club?

Yeah, but I don’t think I went out of my way to do it all. It was just a matter of putting an effort into some work I cared about.

If someone is trying to get into UW Photo Club, what tips would you give them?

There’s nothing required, really. You don’t even need your own camera and every term we restart the club, in terms of the base content. Every single term is a fresh start in that sense, but every workshop and event brings a new perspective and input so it’s also a great place for those with more experience. Getting involved just depends on you attending; you can subscribe to the newsletter, check out UWPC on social media, or keep an eye on the website to keep track of the events. The newsletter goes out every week along with posts on Facebook and Instagram. It’s entirely up to the student to attend events, there is no commitment whatsoever.

If someone is interested in photography specifically, what kind of tips would you give them? Any tips for beginners?

If you’re trying to get started in the industry, properly into the field, then you should network.

You’re not going to get anywhere without a network. Whether that network is a whole different set of photographers, or just general artists, creative minds, entrepreneurs, or even just clients.  If you think you have the technical and practical end of it already, build a network of clients. From there, it’s just a matter of getting your name out there. The right clients definitely help, but it’s also useful to find others in the same position as you, to learn from what someone else is doing right or wrong in getting to where they might be.

“How well you do with your first client might determine how well you’re going to do for years to come”

Is that how you got started?

I’d like to say that in any visual art or creative practice, there are a lot of different ways to get to the same point. Personally, I got the technicalities of it down, got the jargon and the inner workings down. I’m a very technical person, the type that will not just learn what light is doing, but also how it’s doing that. I bothered with the technicalities of photography first, and for me, it made it easier in the long-run. To know how it works leads to knowing how I can make it work faster, more efficiently even. It becomes a copy-and-paste type of job that way, with some variety mixed in for unique results.

The theory end of it I developed over time. I have a traditional visual arts background and I just carried that through. It’s all the same theory, as with anything visual, and things work well for a reason. I treat photography as a quick and easy painting now, and the shutter is just the finishing touch. You can work and build on the theory or technical aspects separately or build them up together, practicing along the way. Either way, as long as you’re getting better and pursuing it, you’ll eventually end up at a point where the things you try just depend on you remembering how to make them happen.

The same goes for studying for example: some people read through a text book twice, some people make notes, some people skip every single lecture and teach themselves, and they all might get the same grade.

“The key thing is to try. Really, just try.”

If you notice that something doesn’t work though, don’t give up on it right away, especially if you’re in a creative field. It might take some time, effort, opportunity, or a combination. Take that second opinion, some critique, or a simple suggestion from a friend, and don’t just eliminate what you tried, make it fit you better. It might take a mentor or a motive, or just certain circumstances, but as soon as it starts to fit what you envisioned, things tend to fall into place as long as you take the next steps.

The right client might come up to you and say “I need corporate headshots by next week, someone told me that you have a decent camera” and nothing more. You don’t want that to happen, especially if you don’t have the skills ready for it, but pretend that it could happen. That might be the motive to get you started, to have you prepare for an unexpected opportunity. You may have not driven your whole life, but if you’ve forgotten that your driving test is in a week, you better start driving. You don’t have to take the test, but keep in mind that you’re just staying still if you don’t do anything to get better.

Little hacks/quick tips of taking photos?

There’s just so many  visuals to recommend, but if I had to suggest one thing: focus on denormalizing what you’re seeing. If you’re taking a photo, and this goes for just about any creative style of photography (so, barring most corporate, product, etc. photos), consider what the average consumer, viewer, or general audience views.

Change that; change their view.

Say you take a photo of a squirrel or a goose (pretty much all we have at UW). Taking a photo from your typical upright view is standard; everybody sees your subject from there anyway. Instead, go down to your subject’s view, put your audience there with it, and just see what happens then.

Maybe I should start doing that for Instagram.

You could apply that to everything. Even if you’re Instagramming a cup from Starbucks, get away from the view that everyone is used to. Experiment and learn from every point of reference. Your subject is probably mundane and has been covered by someone already, so it’s up to you to change things up.

What type of photography do you prefer?

I’d say that any photographer generally has two sides to their preferences: what they enjoy shooting doesn’t usually coincide with what makes them money, and ideally, we’d all prefer both at once. On that note, I usually enjoy both sides of it, because whether it’s something I personally enjoy or something a client needs, I’m getting a chance to fulfil that. If I had a real choice, I would be well into wildlife photography. Zoology has been my whole life aside from art, but at the same time, I don’t like to limit myself. That’s why I’ve been in multiple fields of photography and general visual arts the whole time.

“Before I’m doing it, I’m prepared to enjoy it. I try not to discriminate what I’m shooting.”

That’s very cool because you started off in biology.

I think that a common misconception in academia vs creative industry experience is that they don’t go together. But if you look at everything around you, there is art involved. There is creativity involved. Whether someone actively seeks it or not, it’s applicable. I’m very much an advocate of interdisciplinary art and interdisciplinary academia. Most people limited themselves based on what they’re already comfortable with, or at least what they’ve been taught to be comfortable with. Education is an important way of getting there, but it’s too easy to let it be a ceiling on your abilities.

Last but not least, I got to ask Chandan about the big controversial question everyone wonders about. Do you prefer Nikon or Canon?

I prefer whatever is available to me. I think that eventually you get to a certain point where brands don’t mean a thing. Unless you’re a brand ambassador or something.

If I have to answer… I personally shoot Canon because I’m invested in their lenses. I do shoot Nikon a lot though, along with Sony, Fujifilm, Panasonic, Olympus, etc. It’s been a bit of my job to familiarize myself with everything; it’s tough to help people if I have to rely on them using a certain camera.

I started off with Canon because before I really got into professional photography, I dabbled in cinema and filmmaking, and Canon does that well. Nowadays it’s a game of leapfrog with every brand, they’ve all reached a point where the most recent just ends up being the best technically. You can’t go wrong with any brand now, there aren’t really any bad cameras, just those with more or less value.

It’s always such a controversial topic…

I don’t think it should be. Nobody talks about a famed artist with a bias against what paintbrush they use. Honestly, I couldn’t care less what anyone shoots with. It’s all in the technique. It’s all in their eye. It’s all in the idea of creating. Take what you can when you can and work with it.

“Because 99% of the time, the limit is YOU, not your tool. I’m always going to be my own limit. That falls for almost anything.”

“You can’t visualize this in your recording” he says this as he spaces his hands apart, “…but you’re this small, and the industry is always going to be this big. You’re basically never going to be bigger than the industry. If at some point you get close, your own brand is still what matters, not the brands you used to get there.”

There you have it. It was a pleasure interviewing Chandan. Follow his journey on social media and check out his website. He posts about his travels around the world, taking captivating and exquisite photos as well as his local experiences at UW.

Also, be sure to join the UW Photo Club!



Website: http://cvatish.com/

Facebook: http://facebook.com/cvatish

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cvatish

Flickr: http://flickr.com/cvatish

500px: https://500px.com/cvatish

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