Richa Maheshwari is an award-winning fashion photographer whose name is in the Limca Book of Records. She set a world record not in the field of photography, but in that other area she is passionate about: fitness. She currently holds the record for completing 46 burpees—a physically demanding combination of pushups and squats—in one minute. The previous record was 38 burpees in a minute.
Speaking to Guardian 20 about this achievement, Maheshwari said, “I am a fitness freak. My trainer believed in me and always pushed me beyond my comfort zone. It is because of him that I thought of attempting a record. He made me practice rigorously and though I wasn’t targeting to outshine the world›s best, it just happened.”
The Delhi-based photographer has a degree in fashion communication from the National Institute of Fashion & Technology. Her interest in photography, too, developed in college. That was when she started taking up freelance photography projects. She said “I got through to NIFT Delhi with AIR [All India Rank] 16 and took up fashion communication. It was a four-year course. While I had tons of options to choose from, I was still deciding on my specialisation. Luckily a professor spotted my talent for capturing photos and encouraged me to hone it. While still being in college I started juggling between freelance photography and college work; spent sleepless nights reading and researching about photography and the use of photographic equipment. By the end of the fourth year, I had a small studio in place.”
As a photographer, “everything” inspires Maheshwari. She closely follows the work of David LaChapelle, the famous American commercial photographer. “An artist looks for inspiration everywhere and that is what lends dynamism to his or her work. I don’t have a single source of inspiration; I get inspired by everything. I am a huge fan of David LaChapelle. His frames are larger than life and have a very solid story weaved into them,” she said.
Maheshwari also teaches photography to visually-impaired children at the National Association for the Blind (NAB). About her association with the NAB, she said, “I have been associated with the NAB for a while now. The kids there have been a source of inspiration for me at various levels; the way they lead their lives without complaining; their zest to learn new things and negating the impossible; how they take up their daily struggles with a smile. I wanted to be a part of their growth, to be of use to them and extend any service which could empower them.”
It has been a year since Maheshwari started teaching photography at the NAB, and she said that she finds the progress her students have made very impressive. She said, “Since my specialisation lies in photography and it was something beyond imagination for anyone to accept that visually-impaired kids could take up photography as a serious subject, I decided to impart to them the basics of photography, to begin with. I got Nikon point-and-shoot cameras sponsored for them, which were handy and did not require a great deal of settings. The kids picked up the rules and the basics really quick. It is mind-boggling to watch their work, the finesse with which they follow the rules and the perfection of their framing…”
Maheshwari has also tried her hand at filmmaking, having made documentaries on issues like blindness and women’s empowerment.
Talking about her journey from photography to films, she said, “Filmmaking is creative graduation of photography, which only deals with still frames. Though I don›t have any professional training in cinema, I am still pruning my filmmaking skills and of course, there is no end to it. The journey, therefore, has been quiet and immersive, experience-laden, and I would love to explore further opportunities in this area.”
But above everything else she does, it is as a fashion photographer that Maheshwari is widely known. Fashion, for her, is not all about clothes. It is a “sense of style” that is reflected in all aspects of an individual’s life. She said, “Fashion to me is an expression and it is very individualistic. That is why it is very difficult to define it in one phrase. I breathe fashion and to me, it is not just about clothes. What you think, what you eat, how you carry yourself and everything else—all of it is either inspired by someone›s or one›s own sense of style.”