Students of Storytelling

Fujifilm Students of Storytelling: Ram Bhadra Finds Solace in Documenting Social Isolation

September 25, 2020

By Rangefinder

© Ram Bhadra

Photographed with a Fujifilm X-Pro3 camera and a 35mm f1.4 lens.

UC Hastings College of Law student Ram Bhadra won the Fujifilm Students of Storytelling competition for his work capturing two sets of portraits—one of individuals in isolation and how it has affected them, and the other documenting them doing things that help them feel like they are part of society.

Fujifilm created the contest to identify the next generation of U.S. storytellers, and to provide them with Fujifilm X Series or GFX System gear to bring their vision to life.

Rangefinder: What interests you as a storyteller? Which stories are you drawn to?

Ram Bhadra: I am deeply drawn to stories of communities and believe that each member is essential to the foundation of these communities. I like to use photography as a medium to capture the story of individuals living and interacting through these communities.

Rf: What stories do you want to share through your work?

RB: Given that we are living through very uniquely tragic times, I would like to tell the stories of friends, strangers on the street, and even my own experience living through mandated isolation from our communities.

Rf: Describe the evolution of your style and approach. How has it changed over time? What (and who) has influenced your work, and how?

RB: The switch from using the 50mm f/1.2L on a Canon 5D Mark II to the 35mm equivalent on the Fujifilm X100F is the perfect analogy for the change in my approach to photography. I began shifting away from shallow depth-of-field portraits that would often isolate the subjects from their surroundings towards creating more environmental portraits. During the transition, I realized that the favorite stories I told were always through photos that placed my subjects in their community. I think while my style of photography has changed over the years as I try to find the balance between my aesthetic preferences, my approach has remained largely consistent since I first started making photos. Growing up in New York City, the work of Brandon Stanton had a profound impact on me, especially his ability to give me a glance into the lives of folks who made up my community. Through my work, I have tried to get a brief insight into those around us.

Photographed with a Fujifilm X-Pro3 camera and a 35mm f1.4 lens. All Photos © Ram Bhadra

Rf: What are the key things you have learned or done that have helped you advance your career since you began shooting?

RB: The ability to consume photography through social media has been an extremely helpful learning tool. Given the time, I would scroll through Instagram for hours trying to learn from photographers using the same gear as me, or with a similar approach, or even creating images in San Francisco, where I moved last year. I think I have experienced the most growth in my skills and career by being more consistent in consuming and creating images that inspire me.

Rf: What is the most helpful piece of advice you’ve received and followed? Who gave it to you?

RB: The most helpful piece of advice that I’ve received was from a photographer that I saw in a YouTube video about street photography. Basically, it was about taking photos consistently and always carrying your camera every time you step outside your home.

Rf: How have your studies affected your approach to photography and storytelling?

RB: Over the past year, I have become more analytical about my photography, really trying to understand how various subjects and colors impact the images. Paying greater attention to detail in my photography has strongly influenced my decision to enter law school. I’ve learned to approach each problem analytically.

Rf: Can you tell us about your submission to Fujifilm’s Students of Storytelling program? How did you come up with the project?

RB: I came up with the idea after creating an image with my friends as a joke during quarantine. They all pretended to be sitting outside their doors 6 feet apart and socializing. This inspired me to embark on a journey of actually documenting folks’ experience with social isolation.

Photographed with a Fujifilm X-Pro3 camera and a 35mm f1.4 lens.
Photographed with a Fujifilm X-Pro3 camera and a 35mm f1.4 lens.

Rf: You have a distinct visual style. How does your use of lighting and color aid your storytelling?

RB: Despite enjoying digital photography and the features of my X Pro3, I am very drawn to the analog look of film, hence, Fujifilm’s film simulation is a great complement to my style of photography and storytelling.

Rf: In what ways do you see your new work for Fujifilm informing future shoots?

RB: This project with Fujifilm has helped me learn ways to build a series of photos. My work prior to collaborating with Fujifilm felt disjointed at times.

Rf: Where do you see your work going from here?

RB: I hope to continue collecting stories of individuals during this time of social isolation. Eventually, I’ll make my Instagram page a source of solace for those who aren’t able to share their stories.

Rf: Which brand, media outlet or agency is your ideal client and why?

RB: I think my ideal client would be Fujifilm since their gear has helped me realize the way I can tell stories best!

Visit the official Fujifilm Students of Storytelling site for more information about the complete program. Follow @rammerjammerr to stay up to date with Ram Bhadra.