When photographer Anjum Vahanvati's car broke down in Khangral, Kargil, India on the way to Ladakh, he made the best of it and shot a photo in a local school that went on to become an editor's choice in the National Geographic 2012 photo contest. He also received honorable mention in the EXPOSURE 2012 photo contest. Currently based in the United Arab Emirates, Vahanvati has shot in numerous locations in Asia while constantly planning more excursions. We caught up with Vahanvati via email for a Q&A session about his travels and inspirations.
Where have you traveled in Asia, and what are some of your favorite locations to photograph?
So far I have traveled to the Philippines, Malaysia, Nepal and my home country, India. It's one place every year and I would love to cover most of the Asian countries. [I'm] looking forward to Vietnam, China or Cambodia in 2013. Final decisions have been mostly at the last moment so far. For the destinations covered so far, Nepal is where I loved the most, as that's where I really went deeper into people and portraits. India will always have a special place; it's the place I belong to, and a vast land to explore. Every place I have been to has given me something new to appreciate and look at the world and rethink about who we are.
How do you choose your subjects?
It's more of the subject choosing me. I was the one who never got along with kids, but my last two trips have a majority of pictures of kids. The featured images were shot in a small school in a remote location in northern India. The innocent looks on their faces, that smile when they see their picture on the camera screen, and getting the emotions more that you captured in the frame, is always a very pleasing and satisfying feeling for me. The best pictures turn up when you don't try to influence your subject but let them do what they were doing or whatever they want to do.
What are your sources of inspiration?
If I look too hard for inspiration, I always turn up empty and can't figure out anything. Inspiration is not always easy to spot but you know it when you find it. For me, it's always been grab the camera and go out and keep your eyes open — inspiration is all around us.
What project will you be working on next?
[I have a] few projects in my mind and [am] also planning my next trip. [I'm] currently working on my first e-book, which I hope to complete by mid-2013, which will be black-and-white street portraits from UAE, Nepal and India. [I] also started a photography group in UAE with my friend and we plan monthly activities that include regular shoot-and-learn sessions.