“Which ever field you choose, just keep working don’t get disappointed with what people say. If you face any problem in life, get out of it the very next day and get back to work because delay will only take us back. The only way to move forward is through work. Keep working.” Profound words, and what makes it even more so is the fact that it comes from a twenty six year old or rather, a young photographer- Vicky Roy. For most of us that’s an age where we would be settling into a career. For Vicky, he was already filled with fire to scale greater heights in the world of photography.
A Tough Life
Life has certainly not been easy for this young man, but he has seen each tough situation as a stepping stone to become tougher and fulfill his passion to become a photographer to be reckoned with. He nostalgically remembers his first exhibition in Delhi in the year 2007. “I knew that I would get the sponsors I needed. If I went to ten of them, at least one would agree.” A chance meeting at an exhibition with Jason from the British High Commission along with the support from DFI provided him with his first opportunity to create a portfolio with the help of his friend. Vicky’s exhibition bore the title ‘Street Dreams’. He showcased the daily life of street children and mentions here that “I tried to show how children under eighteen lived on the streets and how they have dreams too.” This exhibition was more of a flashback inspired by his own life.
Vicky had dreamt of travelling to exotic lands as a child; for this lad, however, the only place he had seen was his grandparents’ home and school. Left under the care of his grandparents at a tender age, life was not kind to him. He was subject to physical and verbal abuse that it reached a point when he decided to run away from home. With a “princely sum of Rs.900” he took from his grandparents’ home, he reached New Delhi. On alighting at the Delhi station, the little boy was dumbstruck at the sea of humanity that suddenly engulfed him.
A New Chapter
This was the beginning of a new chapter in Vicky’s life. Even though he was taken in by a children’s home, he instinctively made a choice to stay at the station. Here, he met other boys of his age who befriended him and took him under their wings. He eked out a living collecting plastic bottles covers from the bogeys. With the sky above as a view and side-walks to sleep on, six months of his life sped by. The biting cold winter began to have an effect on Vicky. Fortunately, a volunteer from Salaam Balak trust, the children’s home, spotted him and rescued him from the dhaba. He was admitted into Apna Ghar, a home for homeless children. It was here that he resumed his education and completed his tenth grade. Here, he quips “Teachers told me I was not good in studies and must change my stream to something else.” Vicky, however, had different plans; it was at this juncture that his dreams starting shaping into a silhouette of a reality.
“At the Shelter home I came across a photographer, Dixcy Benjamin, who was shooting for a documentary on kids. I told him that I want to learn photography and asked for help. To my luck, he took me on as an assistant.” His lack of knowledge of English and his background did not give him the confidence to face the big world, but this was put to ease by Dixcy himself. “Once I asked him How can I be a professional photographer as I didn’t know English. He said that there were many photographers like the Japanese and the French who are famous but do not speak English. More importantly, he said that I had the eye for photography.”
At the age of eighteen, he had to leave his shelter and chalk out his own path. Luck was on his side as the NGO found him another mentor, Annieman. A Delhi-based photographer, Annieman took Vicky under his tutelage. Life was on a roll for Vicky earned, learnt and possessed a camera of his own. “The turning point was having a Camera in my hand. I bought my first SLR Camera, the Nikon F18, on the 9th of March, 2005.”
In the year 2008, The Maybach Foundation and The Ramchandernath foundation nominated his work to be displayed for a world-wide photography competition. Only four photographers were competing for the top slot – One was from the United States and the other two were from Hong Kong.
Through this competition, he had the opportunity to capture the moments involved in the reconstruction of the World Trade Centre in New York. In his stay there, he also took up a course with the International Centre of Photography, one of the premier institutes in his field worldwide.
When he returned after 6 months, the NGO mentoring him conducted an awards program titled the International Award for young people. “As the winner of the award, I was called to London to dine with King Edwards at the Buckingham Palace. It was truly amazing. As soon as I got back though, I got to work.”
The year 2010 saw Vicky put up the exhibition of the work he did at WTC. This marked his second solo exhibition and was held at the American Centre.
From then on life was all about ‘Lights, camera, action’ for Vicky. His chance encounter with a fellow photographer at a competition, Chandan Gomes, led to a strong bonding between them. They took the realm of photography to new heights – sensing the need for books to be made available to” shutter bugs” at an affordable rate, the two started a photography library. Books were donated for the purpose by reputed photographers who more were more than willing to do their bit. The group for this cause was called Rang, and they even conduct workshops and talks for the cause.
Vicky was invited in 2013 by National Geographic for a reality show held in Sri Lanka. Though he did not win, the experience was a learning in itself. The year also saw the launch of Home Street Home, a photography book by Vicky supported by the Nazar Foundation. The book was priced at Rs. 5000/- and readily found customers. The photographer fraternity helped him reach this milestone.
He has had the privilege of being invited by MIT to help him improve his prowess as a photographer, and here he experienced the highest form of technological advance in his field.
Success and fame has not made Vicky forget his family. “I’ve been able to help my brother and sisters with their education and our dream home is on its way to becoming a reality”, he says as he gushes with pride.
A Dream Come True
As a child, he dreamt of travelling and his passion for his work –photography fuelled this drive. The United Nation had picked seven photographers to work for a topic and Vicky is the only Indian representative. His acclaimed video on Mountain Matters was exhibited in Geneva and will be shown in five other countries. He turned down a lucrative job offer in Bahrain, citing “I felt that my name and fame has come from Delhi, so whatever I do I would do in Delhi.”
Through sheer guts, perseverance and a never say die attitude, he has traversed thus far in life. His fear of not being able to converse in English did not deter his spirit to learn, relearn and excel at every stage, proving more strongly that “photography is the only language that can be understood any- where in the world.
Documentary photography being his specialization, this young man has miles to go before he sleeps and what better way to summarize his life so far than Einstein’s words, “Life is like a bicycle, in order to keep balance you must move.” Vicky is not just moving, but is surging ahead not only to capture the world through his lens but also to mentor camera enthusiasts. “When I was young and on the streets, with nowhere to go, someone took a chance with me. I will do the same for others whenever I can.”
In the rollercoaster ride of life, there are catalysts who come in the garb of mentors. Acknowledging their help, despite difficult situations, helps one achieve the very hard-to-get.
What’s so much more remarkable is how being absorbed in something so passionately can help someone truly achieve the impossible.