Kalyani Lodhia is a hard working photographer based out of the United Kingdom. Kalyani’s detailed, humanistic shots, as well as her landscape drone and aerial work are astounding. She truly elevates familiar landscapes to new heights (pun intended!) and we love seeing her photos pop up on Instagram. We really can’t wait to see all the amazing things she’s sure to accomplish with her craft! Today, we’re excited to introduce her work to you all. Without further ado… here’s Kalyani!
Thanks for sitting down with us today, Kalyani! For those readers who don’t know your work – could you tell us a little about your story and what you do.
Hi, I’m Kalyani! I’m from a pretty small, industrial city in the UK called Leicester. I did my undergraduate degree in bio-veterinary sciences because I’ve always loved science and animals but I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do (I just knew I didn’t want to be a vet!). After that and my MSc, I now work in TV as a researcher on a show called “How the Universe Works” and I’ve even worked as a runner on the Great British Bake Off! I often work 7 days a week, weekends too, sometimes as a runner or doing bar work, to be able to afford all these trips and the gear.
We admire your hustle! So, you’ve been a lot of places! Do you have a favorite destination?
India will always have a place in my heart. As a kid, we used to go often to visit my grandma. The colors, sounds, smells and tastes, the extremes of everything: silence and deafening noise, nature and metropolis, ancient temples and modern architecture – it’s a sensory overload but everything seems a bit bland after visiting, like there’s a spark missing. It’s an extraordinary country that’s just indescribable and so vast. It’s also my second home, where my heritage and culture is from and where my grandparents grew up and that makes it really special.
Everyone’s got to start somewhere. What was your first big trip abroad?
My first big trip abroad was when I was 19 years old. My parents sent me to an ashram in India for 6 months and at first I thought: what on Earth am I going to do at an ashram for THAT long?! Being 19, fresh out of school with no idea what I wanted to do with my life, it seemed like it was going to be boring and that I’d have to be well behaved. It turned out to be the opposite. I could honestly write a whole book about my time there. I was very naive, innocent and everything was limitless. I learnt so much about myself, about people and the world around me – I definitely lost some of the rose tinting in my glasses and not necessarily for the worst. That trip is what made me first realize that travel was a thing and that I could do it, all by myself. It also made me realize just how good I am at defying others’ expectations of me and that’s always fun.
What lessons have you learned from your experiences traveling?
I wouldn’t say I’ve learnt many particular lessons. I think you just develop with each trip. I’ve been lucky enough to be blessed with a disposition suited for travel – patient, curious, trusting (enough), resourceful and good at being in my own head for prolonged periods of time.
But one thing that I keep learning over and over again is just how beautiful our planet is – from the people to the landscapes and the weird and wonderful animals. It’s all well and good watching ‘Planet Earth 2’ and these movie-like documentaries, but I don’t think you can ever truly appreciate it until you’ve seen it yourself; like holding the smallest chameleon in your hand after finding one in the rainforest or diving with thousands and thousands of hammerhead sharks. It’s so hard to put these quantities into words or get them across on screens. It just makes you realize how lucky we are to have this planet as our home with everything packed inside this tiny blue marble, whizzing around space, and how important it is to protect it all.
We love to ask this question… did you always want to travel the world?
Not at all. I grew up in a very conservative Indian family. I was always expected to act a certain way, like certain things and had a clear path that I should have followed: study, get a good, stable job, get married and have kids. I was always told off for playing football with the boys and ruining my clothes and made to feel that liking animals was wrong and somehow disgusting. Leicester is quite grey and industrial and it has a pockets of small communities where you can’t really see much outside of what you know. I had no idea what was out there and I didn’t grow up with any role models who went outside the norm – it just wasn’t done.
In immigrant families, a lot of emphasis is placed on being safe – both physically and financially. It’s completely understandable considering everything my family has been through but I just knew I wanted more and I never knew what that was. I was always climbing the few trees there were, collecting snails, questioning all my teachers and playing football or cricket with my brother.
Luckily, my parents were never quite ‘normal’ and they’ve always had an open mind. I think my curiosity for adventure came from them encouraging me to look outside the box and just be the best version of me I could be; whether that was taking the traditional path or something a little different. They really nurtured my inquisitive, fiery spirit and I’m so grateful for that – otherwise I might not be doing what I am today!
Why do you think it’s important for women, specifically, to explore the world?
Apart from the obvious answers that it’s incredibly empowering or just for the thrill, we have a worldwide narrative of seeing everything through the male gaze and I think that it’s time for that to change. Everyone has blind spots in their understanding of the world around them. We’ve been viewing the world from the perspective of cis white men for so long, who probably all come from similar backgrounds that are very different to mine or yours. I think we need to put our own stamp on the world, and share experiences through our lens – and I’m particularly speaking as a woman of colour too.
As great as all of that is, I generally don’t think it’s important for anyone to do anything. Just do what makes you happy. You don’t need a reason to go out there. Our narratives tend to be those of the broken woman, out to find themselves – think ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ or ‘Wild’. Whilst those have incredible and valid stories, I think we’ve been limited to that. I don’t travel because I’ve recently been through a bad break up or to escape something, actually the opposite. I travel for the same reasons white men throughout history have traveled: because I love it. And exploring doesn’t mean battling your way through overgrown plants and giant bugs in the jungle. Even if it’s just a day trip out of town, with someone or alone, it’s about the experience. Jumping on the tube to a new part of London is an adventure for me!
Well said! So, have you faced any struggles traveling as a woman?
Of course – I don’t think any woman hasn’t! I’ve been so lucky not to have experienced anything particularly bad. It’s mostly the staring, especially traveling alone (and on top of that being a woman of colour alone), people not taking you seriously, men giving unsolicited advice on how to use your own camera – just the usual really. I hate people looking at me in any setting so that’s what I struggle with the most – and I draw attention to myself more with all my camera kit, which doesn’t help. It’s really stopped me getting the shots that I want to because I don’t like drawing attention to myself. I’m still not quite over that yet but on every trip I try and force myself, at least once, to ignore everyone and just take that photo that my brain tries to stop me from taking.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I think the #DTBehindTheLens series is fantastic. Instagram has become a clone machine, where it seems like the goal is becoming about getting the perfect selfie. The idea of hiking up a mountain, getting changed into a beautiful, flowing dress and then taking a photo of myself just seems a little impractical and extremely time consuming.
Whilst I admire the creativity and the patience to get those shots (and I honestly think they’re beautiful), I think showcasing the ‘female gaze’ is really important; I guess, personally, it’s about women looking not just being looked at.
For me, travel photography is about capturing what I see and the editing process is about staying true to what I saw whilst also trying to get the feeling of being present in that final image across. Travel photography isn’t about me, it’s about the journey and the world outside of my little London bubble – I’m just the vessel, looking at the world through my unique pair of eyes. I really hope these blogs inspire women to go beyond social media engagement and to create something new and know that what they create is really, really valuable.