Hey Nirav! Could you give us a little background? Where you're from? What made you get into photography?
My parents emigrated here from India to give me a life full of opportunity. They worked incredibly hard to make sure I could have a great education and a successful career. They are the most selfless people I know and I’m incredibly proud of them. When it came time to choose a career path, I decided to be an engineer as I felt that there was a level of security that came along with that profession.
After graduating from college, I immediately found an engineering position in Santa Rosa, CA. I fell in love with the area and knew it was where I wanted to stay. In my mind, I was going to remain with this company for the long haul.
Everything changed, however, in the downturn of the economy in 2009 when I was laid off. I was having difficulty finding another job and I was spending some time at my parent’s home. Looking through family photographs one day, I found my parent’s wedding album. These images allowed me to “live” through these incredible moments in my parent’s lives.This is when I started to realize how important photography is and it pushed me to start documenting moments in my own life.
My love for photography grew and soon became an obsession.
In early 2010, I found another engineering position that came with job security. I was thinking that I would now have to be here for the rest of my life because of the state of the economy. But each day at work, I couldn’t focus because all I wanted to do was learn more about photography.
Six months into this new position I realized how much I would regret not trying to make photography work as a career, so put in my two weeks notice and started my business.
Wow! We love how you followed your heart. What advice would you give a professional who’s hoping to transition out of their career/day job like you did, in order to pursue photography?
What it takes to transition from a “job” to a “passion” is truly believing in yourself (as cliché as that might sound). Honestly there’s no recipe that works for everyone but believing that you can do anything you put your mind to and not letting fear hinder you is a huge step.
There was very little certainty for success when I left my job, but I knew that if I didn’t do it, I would regret it for the rest of my life.
I share this all the time but I’ll do it again because I love this quote so much…
“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late…to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”
― Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Screenplay
Who truly inspires you and why?
There are several inspirations I have but I’ll name three that have been a huge influence on me at this point in my work…
My good friend Meredith Adelaide. She’s a beautiful human being (inside & out) and well.. she’s amazing at everything she does. Her heart spills out in every one of her images and she’s as genuine as a person can get. I respect the heck out of her and her images truly impact and inspire me.
Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki. My work is highly influenced by film and the most beautiful films I have ever seen had this man behind the camera. His work pushes boundaries and his ability to tell a story and bring a viewer into the mind of each character is mind blowing. He’s made a huge impact in the way I approach my work.
Henri-Cartier Bresson … and I don’t think I need to explain why ;)
5.) If you could go back to the beginning of your photography career, what are 3 things you wish you had known or done differently?
I wish I had started shooting earlier.
I wish I had studied filmmaking.
I wish I would have learned on analog before digital.
My body is made of marshmallows and chocolate. God, my wife, my son, my family, and my friends are the graham crackers that keep me together. I’ve spent most of my life studying everything mathematical. After getting my engineering degree and professional license, I decided to become a photographer. It was one of the easiest/hardest decisions I ever made. But it’s great to finally toss out the formulas and just do what feels right. Capturing moments and telling stories in an emotional, creative, and organic way is what I do now and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
To see more of Nirav's work, visit him at niravpotelphotography.com.
From a very early age I loved taking pictures and looking at them in magazines and books, but the art of photography captured my heart when I was a teenager, on my first overseas trip to Wales. From that point, I began shooting with a little film SLR and having my friend model for me. In college I took some digital photography and visual communication courses as part of my communication studies major, and decided to pursue a career in photography. I became a legal business and took my first paid client at age 20, and it's been quite a journey and adventure over the past nine years.