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Meet Kaveer Rai, a documentary photographer who wants to create social impact through his pictures

This story is part of World Photography Day series – Part I

Passion is something that makes a good photographer. However, for Mangalore-based Kaveer Rai, it is much more beyond that. Having empathy for people is his highest priority. “When I will look back after 20 years, this is one thing that will stand out for me, nothing else, not even my photography,” says Kaveer.

Kaveer Rai

How it all started for Kaveer

It all started for Kaveer at a young age, when he picked up the camera and went about capturing day to day moments into photographs. His photography sessions began with a handy-camera lying in the house and they have come a long way since then. He wanted to click pictures that changed or touched people in ways that could make the world a better place.

Today, after so many years, Kaveer is exactly doing what he had envisioned. He taken upon documentary photography and aspires to do stories around water-human relations through his work.

Clicked by Kaveer Rai

Kaveer as Documentary Photographer

Document photography has allowed Kaveer to travel to plenty of unknown and remote places. After he decides a topic and an issue that he wants to capture, he just does not pick up his camera and start shooting. He visits the place, speak to locals and gather insight that acts as his base for the project.

“If you don’t know what is happening, the photo will not have a depth and will not create the desired impact. If you are shooting a subject, you need to be an expert, you should know everything about it,” says Kaveer.


The Masterclass

In 2013, Kaveer was selected for a master class with Stephen Alvarez in Puerto Rico, organized by National Geographic and Nokia. He was the only candidate from Asia and one of the five across the world. Talking about the experience, Kaveer says, “Shooting with a 44 MP camera phone at that point of time was like using a DSLR.”

Clicked by Kaveer Rai

He further added, “It was a very busy workshop, very technical. Every minute was a learning experience in terms of ethics and sense of photography.”

Currently, Kaveer uses a Nikon 750 with 35 mm lens. He also has a secondary camera, Ricoh GR for his personal stories.

Dreams Not Remembered

While Kaveer does not have a favourite click, there is a personal project ‘Dreams not Remembered’, which is very close to his heart. “This project involves a lot of my flaws, my fears, and my aspirations,” says Kaveer.

What makes this project special for Kaveer is that it tries to derive his dreams using a reverse approach. “If the definition of dreams is a reflection of your thoughts, then I recorded my thoughts,” adds Kaveer.

Every morning when Kaveer woke-up, sometimes at different times of the night as well, he wrote down whatever came to his mind and spent the day taking photos that could reflect the same.

The whole project was for 30 days and Kaveer feels that it was a very difficult process but a very satisfying experience at the end.


Winner of Slideluck Editorial

Kaveer recently won Slideluck Editorial Grant along with nine other photographers across the world. The theme for the third edition was ‘Everything is Connected’, a reflection on how the events associated with climate change are inextricably connected either with the way we live, eat, vote, consume, act upon; but also with the unjust world we live in.

Clicked by Kaveer Rai: Part of Cyclone Fani – After the Storm Project

Kaveer’s entry for the grant was a photo series from his ‘Cyclone Fani – After the storm’ project. 64 people lost their lives in the cyclone, while the earlier cyclones had claimed thousands of lives in the region.

This photo essay is his journey into Puri district after the storm where the left behind lives pick the scattered pieces of the past with a hope to rebuild and survive.

Clicked by Kaveer Rai: Part of Cyclone Fani – After the Storm Project

Talking about his experience of working in this project, Kaveer says, “I was initially reluctant to travel due to unprecedented challenges such a situation has to offer. However, I decided to go ahead with the project and I was one of the first people who had visited the village after the cyclone.”

The villagers thought Kaveer was from an NGO or government agency that was there to help them. People were literally pulling him to their damaged houses to show their sufferings. “It took quite an effort to make them understand about his purpose of the visit,” says Kaveer.

Clicked by Kaveer Rai: Part of Cyclone Fani – After the Storm Project

Things weren’t right, admits Kaveer. There were different problems and sufferings – houses were broken, families of some people were dead, fishermen had lost their boat. There was no buyers, no electricity or transport that could have aided a minimal support to the villagers.

“It was hard to tell all these stories in a series,” says Kaveer. However, he managed to click pictures that showcased the apathy of villagers in the aftermath of one of the most severe cyclones in India.

Work in Progress

Kaveer is planning to work on various projects now that travel restrictions have been eased across the country. While it is still in the initial phase of the planning, Kaveer wants to do a photo series on Locust Attacks and Netravati River. He also wants to go to Odisha and see what all has changed since his last visit.

Also Read other travel stories on Unkrate

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