Sanjeev Kugan, Es Kay, or @sksquared on Instagram, is a visual story teller, specialized in lifestyle photography and digital content development. After discovering how to use Instagram as a place to express his art, he has now the chance to show in this community how to be a rad urban explorer. With his different perspective of the city, Sanjeev creates vivid imagery, and a very special collection of street photography, that makes you think on what you are looking at, allowing him to gain a strong following amongst the influencers and tastemakers in Toronto, urging everybody to push boundaries, and try something new to develop creativity.
Today we are invited to take a walk with him and his companions, running, jumping, levitating, and exploring the connection human-city, becoming one with it, through a study of movement.
When did you start photography and why?
Instagram is a very special place for me. It all started in 2012 when I switched over from being a die hard Blackberry user to an Android device – the Samsung Galaxy S3. At this point in the world of social media a lot of top platforms were beginning to mature, but a good chunk of users were still regurgitating the same content between platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
One day my perspective changed, when a coworker at the time introduced me to a new way of using Instagram. There was a movement of mobile photography that I was totally unaware of, a community of users using Instagram as a form of expression and art. I “instantly” fell in love.
Lastly, Instagram definitely has been a very special place for me because I was in a very dark place in the summer of 2012 with a tragedy in the family and a broken heart. Photography and the social platform that allowed me to meet strangers with a similar vibe really help me channel that negativity into trying something out of my comfort zone.
Why do you feel more attracted by street photography? And how would you describe this style?
Looking back to when I was a child, I was fascinated by architecture – specifically skyscrapers, bridges and of course historical erections. But it was only after using Instagram and meeting like-minded people that I really wanted to explore the city. Living in the Greater Toronto Area in Southern Ontario for most of my life – I never really explored it.
I have actually seen more of other major cities while traveling than I have of the place I call home. I have now explored more of Toronto in the last three years than I have for the past 20 odd years of living here.
As for my style, I initially started off capturing mostly architecture with a big emphasis on symmetry and very low angled compositions. As I matured I began to experiment with new styles that resonated with me - inspired by other artists in the city and around the world. As of late my images tend to be composed of architecture, landscape, action and the human element.
How do you create –in terms of preparation, camera gear, post processing and anything you want to tell– these images?
There is very little planning that goes with my images, it is mostly impromptu and on the fly. I like to travel very light, as I find it cumbersome having carry so many things that I might not use. I usually carry my body with a prime lens, an extra lens that is something for a wider perspective and depending the time of day a small tripod.
I really enjoy creating images that can make people stop and enjoy the details. The images tend to have a very strong shallow depth of field and something with a bit of action. My workflow usually consists of Lightroom and VSCO cam and occasionally Photoshop if I’d like to clean up anything or get a little creative with manipulation.
Seems like you love making people fly in your work, and you make it just so natural for the eyes. Could you explain us a bit more about how and why do you do it?
I definitely chuckled a bit as I read the question – and yes, I really like making people do something interesting (within their comfort zone of course). Whether it be levitation, jumping into a puddle, hanging off something or throwing something (at the camera or in the air) – any sort of action that I can perfectly freeze in time is currently my latest obsession.
Setting up these shots have been a little difficult at first, but as I began to do them more often I found my comfort level. There are several techniques that can be used to capture these action portraits and differs every time due to lighting condition, location, composition and of course your subject. I tend to play around with a high shutter speed and the largest aperture available with your lens but –like I say to many that ask– the best method is the formula that works for you.
Sometimes it also seems like the city is just there for you and the person you are photographing, is amazing, how do you do that in such crowded spaces?
There is something euphoric about capturing something epic in a big city that always has something happening or someone walking or driving by. It is still something I am very uncomfortable with but knowing what you want to shoot and communicating it effectively to the subject really helps make the process very seamless.
On your website we’ve found this: “As he continues exploring this art form, he constantly strives to push himself out of his comfort zone”. What are you exploring now in photography? How do you push yourself out of the things you already know?
Firstly, I don’t consider myself a photographer – because photography is just another form of expression for me that allows me to keep creating. I work in the creative realm that allows me to create things for the web such as design/development, graphic, print, video, graphic motion and of course photography. So photography was technically an extension of me wanting to try something out of my comfort zone.
In regards to pushing myself, I have tried something way out of my comfort zone through an opportunity that was in result of my photography – public speaking (the most difficult thing that I have shied away from for a very long time). I was asked to do a talk on mobile photography and social media – and I decided to say yes. What I realized, if you are really passionate about something you do – it will probably be the most gratifying experience along with the probably the easiest (okay it wasn’t that easy – I had to prepare like crazy physically and mentally). It was certainly the most humbling experience, and I am looking forward to excel in the art of speaking some more – if opportunities come my way.
Which is the next step in your career as a photographer?
To reiterate what I mentioned earlier, I don’t see myself as a photographer but as a creator I am looking to work with influencers and brands that would like my creative expertise.
For a longer term goal I am looking to essentially combine the creative knowledge I have acquired throughout the years into something a little more meaningful that can somehow give back to communities in need.
From your work, which is your favorite photograph and why? And from other’s work?
That is a very difficult question to answer, but I have to say creating with people who have a very similar vision and aesthetic has always been very inspirational.
But the most memorable photo was when I met Moustapha, an ambitious 16-years-old, had been asking to shoot with me for about six months but our schedules never met. One day I decided to skip out on my lunch and create, he inspired me to shoot again when I hit a creative slump. Ever since that day, there has been a very special energy that is fueled by people that surround me.