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“My parents wanted me to do a 9 to 5 job but I followed my passion and became a photographer”

At 22, Ashley Fernandes has already shot 50 weddings, several behind-the-scene film shoots and earning a lot more than his friends.

Ashley Fernandes thanks his grandfather Epaul for supporting his photography career.

Ashley Fernandes (22) from Mumbai was gifted his first camera when he was in Class IX, by his parents to take photographs at his school picnic. Little did they know that their gift would inspire him to pursue photography.

Today, seven years later, Ashley makes ₹8 lakh per annum, a lot more than his friends, as a freelance photographer and videographer, shooting products, events, weddings and behind the scenes of feature films. Yet, his parents are not completely happy with his career choice. Ashley’s father Brian Fernandes (49), a property management agent in Dubai and mother Cynthia (48), a clerk with a school in Lower Parel, want Ashley to pursue a profession that will get him a steady, 9 to 5 job and a pay check at the end of every month. “I am still trying to convince them that photography is the right career for me,” says Ashley. “It is an ongoing pursuit and I am hopeful that some day they will change their mind about my chosen photographer.”

When in school, Ashley learnt AutoCAD, a software to create 2D and 3D designs. His parents were hoping that Ashley will work in a related field. But to their disappointment, Ashley soon lost interest in designing and decided to take up photography. “The minute I laid my hands on my first camera, I fell in love with it.” The desire to take better pictures, took him to the National Institute of Photography in Dadar, Mumbai, where he pursued a 7-day photography workshop in 2015. “Even after completing my course, I kept practicing photography and learning more from online videos. But back then I didn’t think of taking it up as a profession,” he adds.

But that changed very soon when a senior in his junior college, Don Bosco Junior College, asked Ashley to assist him in a wedding shoot. “He knew I was interested in photography as I would shoot pictures for many college events, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do this,” says Ashley. “He insisted that I give it a shot and I agreed.”

It’s also when he was faced with his first hurdle. He needed a professional camera to shoot the wedding, which his parents refused to buy as they didn’t want Ashley to pursue photography. They worried that photography will not help Ashley get steady work and income. But Ashley’s grandfather, Epaul Dias (76), supported his decision and bought him a Canon 700D for ₹45,000 in 2016.

Since then, Ashley has shot 50 weddings as an assistant, and a silver jubilee wedding celebration as a lead photographer for which he was paid ₹8,000. “I was thrilled to make so much money in just one day, and my mother was happy that I was earning while studying,” says Ashley.

But his father was still opposed to Ashley’s choice. “My dad had faced several hardships while growing up. If I put myself in his shoes, I probably would have not been happy with my son’s decision either. But my journey had begun and there was no looking back,” he says.

After Class XII, Ashley’s parents insisted that he complete his graduation. So he enrolled for Bachelor of Mass Media (BMM) from Nagindas Khandwala (NK) College in 2017. As luck would have it, in his second year, he got an offer to work for a Mumbai-based production house, Mumbai Talkies.

“They wanted to hire freshers, so they had approached my college. Many students had applied for the post. But after several rounds of interviews, I was the only one to get selected. I was fortunate to get this break,” says Ashley.

An excited Ashley then informed his parents about the job offer but they didn’t take it well. They feared that the job would affect his studies. But Ashley had made up his mind and took up the offer. His mother then met his college principal and professors to discuss his academic performance. “My college was very supportive. My professors assured my mother that my job would not affect my grades; that’s when she was convinced. But the crucial part was convincing my dad.”

He continued to work hard and ensured that his job did not affect his grades.

After graduation, his dad bought him a Canon 80D worth a lakh. “My dad is not as against photography as he was. He has started discussing my career with me, but is not fully convinced yet. Even though I am earning well, he still feels that photography is not a stable profession. My pursuit to change his mind continues and I am hoping that one day he will realise that I have taken the right decision,” Ashley says.

Natasha Rego
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