AS A TEENAGER, Sanket Rathod received a Kodak camera with a roll as a gift from his father. He was advised that the reel will stop at 36 so he can only click 36 times. An excited Rathod spent the entire reel on his then muse, a pigeon who used to visit his Girgaum home every day. Today Rathod, an Assistant Photographer with the Mumbai Police’s crime branch, has 15 gold medals and 7 silver medals to his credit but he still prizes two of the first 36 pictures from his initial clicks.
“In 1998, my father, now a retired cop got a Kodak camera. It was valued at Rs 1400 then and was a priced possession for me. My father gauged my interest in photography and gave me the camera. He categorically told me I could “click” only 36 times therefore I should spend it wisely. While he thought that I will click the beach, people etc; I was only interested in the pigeon who used to visit my home. I spent my entire reel on her and later when I developed the images only two or three were proper, the rest were either shot in poor light or were blurred or were not properly shot,” narrates Rathod. “Those clicks changed my life. I had a hobby which later became my passion. I started reading and researching a lot on photography and in 2013, I was transferred to the police photography department. My passion is now my profession,” adds Rathod.
It was during his stint with the police photography department that Rathod completed his photography course from JJ School of Art. “At the police photography department I was expected to click pictures of the crime scene especially concentrating on micro-photography that deals with fingerprints which are used as evidence in a case during trials. Our photography is crucial to the cases and therefore there is a certain approach with which it has to be clicked,” reveals Rathod. “However, the course taught me the nuances of photography. How to use light differently while shooting indoors and outdoors, the various techniques one can employ to make a picture speak a thousand words,” adds Rathod
While Rathod is not comfortable with the idea of clicking dead bodies, his toughest frames don’t involve mutilated bodies but innocent infants who are difficult to manage and therefore clicking a candid picture is an ‘uphill task’ of sort. “You cannot make infants pose and they will never ‘look’ into your lenses, so getting that right picture requires a lot of patience,” he adds with a smile.
Last year, Rathod bagged a gold medal for the Mumbai Police in the photography competition held at Maharaja Ranjit Singh Punjab Police Academy. Photographers from 28 states participated in the contest. “The competition involved a mock situation and we are judged on how we videograph it. The situation which was enacted was involving a godman being shot while a minister was delivering his speech. The ‘bodyguard’ of the minister was the culprit. I managed to capture him in my frames,” says Rathod. “They judged us on the ability of our pictures being of evidential value during the trial. While I bagged the gold medal in the videography segment, I was a runner up in the still photography section where the situation was pertaining to the murder committed of a husband by his wife and I managed to click the fingerprint of her on the broken glass bottle which was the murder weapon,” narrated Rathod.
In his leisure time, Rathod doesn’t give a break to his camera. A job with the police department might be taxing but Rathod plans his vacation well in advance. “I get a month’s leave. I use that for both going on a vacation with my family and doing photography. I decide what I want to shoot in advance and plan my holidays accordingly. I love wildlife photography and sanctuaries are my preferred holiday destinations,” Rathod adds with a smile. “Policing is a tough job but my camera is my constant companion,” Rathod concludes.