This Photographer Quit Johns Hopkins to Capture the Female Experience

In a four-part series 'Behind Her Lens', we look at photographers whose creativity spills out in different directions. Our first photographer Shreya Sen also works towards women’s empowerment.

The female experience has been a sacred space in Shreya Sen’s photography. Inspired by valiant women role models in her hometown Mumbai and boarding school in Bengaluru, she eventually made it the filter through which she focused her lens.

Specializing in maternity and wedding photography, capturing emotions – notably love and vulnerability – has been the cornerstone of her oeuvre.

Shreya-Sen-Photography-3.jpgShreya initially explored the academics of psychology through her graduation from York University, Canada, and the beginning of her Master’s from Johns Hopkins University, US.

Shreya Sen

But the desire to immerse herself in the practical workings of the subject led her to quit college and take up photography.

She worked under top fashion photographer R Burman in 2010, and then started out on her own. “I’ve watched strong women juggle various roles in their personal lives as well as work, and still find a balance with grace and strength. Yet they are often not recognised as world leaders or given accolades for what they do, even though I see them as the ones taking care of the world,” she says of her decision to shoot real women, not celebrities.

She pioneered maternity photography in India in 2012 when the concept was unheard of, “but it was the beginning of my journey to celebrate the strength of women.”

Shreya-Sen-Photography-4Shreya met her husband through an online matrimonial site – a concept she did not believe in! When her dad put up her profile online two years ago, she’d “screamed and yelled” that she wasn’t meant for “the arranged marriage setup”.

“But I guess you never know what might pour in when you open up doors,” she shrugs, adding that her husband is a consultant in the corporate field.

Shreya-Sen-Photography-2.jpgThe 33-year-old has just completed a film for an NGO working towards girls’ health in public schools, and is creating presentations for women’s organisations. One of them is on the importance of vulnerability in creativity.

“In the age of social media and in my industry, there is an obsession with ‘perfectionism’, which often can be crippling and make us feel like failures,” she says, explaining how opening up about her personal experiences has added an element of empathy to her photography.

Shreya-Sen-Photography-5.jpgShreya cherishes the fact that she gets to be part of memories that people treasure for life:“I get to make women feel beautiful. I get to capture love that is unconditional and not scripted. Moments that are fleeting, warm, real, innocent.”

She adds, “Coming from a broken home, I also get to fill a hole in my life of losing family, and giving it back to people with my photography. That’s all that matters in this lifetime, our family and the laughter and love we share with them.”

First published in the March 2018 issue of eShe magazine. Read it for free here.

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