Soft Focus

By Karan Kapoor 1

Karan Kapoor on his original inspiration and biggest influence—his parents, Shashi and Jennifer Kapoor


Why am I a photographer, I am often asked. I suppose my parents were my biggest influence—their passion for their work; the conversations at home; the stream of actors, directors, poets, photographers, writers… We were encouraged to read the classics, to watch all types of cinema. When Dad started producing films, we were all involved. Mom did the costumes, Kunal, my elder brother, and Sanjna, my younger sister, played bit parts in the films. We would sit around the dining table during discussions with Shyam Benegal, Aparna Sen, Girish Karnad, Ashok Mehta and numerous heads of departments.

As a child I always had a camera, an instamatic. I remember Govind Nihalani going through my pictures. I worked as his apprentice after I left school. I was also influenced by Subroto Mitra, Satyajit Ray’s cameraman. But I found cinematography too constraining, and wanted the individuality and freedom that a photographer enjoys.

Our family trips to Goa also played an important role in my becoming a photographer. On the first one, October 1970, we stayed at the Mandovi Hotel in Panjim. Every day we took a taxi to a different part of Goa. On each journey, Dad would make up a story. Very James Bond—the stories involved secret gadgets and women! We then moved to a “shack” on Baga beach; it had a white heart on the roof and was called the “Love House”. We spent our Christmas, Diwali and Easter holidays here for the next 30 years.

As I grew older I would go on my own in the monsoon. Walking the length of the beach to Fort Aguada and back, dodging the rain in little boat shelters. Always with a camera. Then, when I was old enough to drive a motorcycle, I would ride all over. Always with my camera bag sitting on the tank of my Bullet. Taking pictures and talking to people and stopping at old taverns. Mario Miranda introduced me to Loutolim— an incredible town with so many characters and stories. I remember thinking if I could write, this would be my Malgudi Days. Instead I took pictures.

Goa was special for me. It’s in my soul. My mom’s and her parents’ ashes were immersed in the ocean in front of the Love House. When we arrived with my mom’s ashes the whole village was at the house.

My recent exhibition (Time and Tide) brought me back to India after nearly 30 years. My Goa series spans over 16 years (1980-1996). And I owe so much of this to my parents, who gave us life experiences that money simply cannot buy. That’s why I took pictures.

This article is part of the Jan-Mar 2017 issue, the theme of which is Family.

In the same issue Jai Arjun Singh writes about caring and communicating with an ill mother he is exceptionally close toJerry Pinto ponders over familial bonds and what lies at the heart of the family. Paro Anand examines the changing nature of the family in the books she has written for children. Akshai Jain looks at the increasing number of genetics companies in India and questions the worth of the diagnoses being offered. Mandakini Dubey reflects on the nature of family ties, particularly hers with her grandmother and children. In her graphic story, Priya Kuriyan prises open the family closet to let the skeletons tumble out.


One Comment

  1. Romir Baptista January 10, 2017 at 1:51 am - Reply

    What a lovely story. I can imagine and visualise as I read Karan. Also I had the pleasure on one occasion to stay at your Love House a fantastic time I can never forget! I enjoy your photos immensely as each one has a unique story behind it. Cheers Romir

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