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Inspiro India Official

Blog | Photography

30 May 2017

Portraits Of Punjab | Photo Series by Samar Singh Virdi

Samar Singh Virdi is a freelance photographer from Chandigarh. He is a young creative head who has just finished school and is in the process of getting a college admission. Samar considers himself to be an artist who doesn’t restrict himself to a particular medium as he believes a story should be told in a format which can be justified the best in.

Virdi is the mind the behind Portraits of Punjab which is a collection of personal stories of people across Chandigarh and Punjab. The stories are both intra-personal and interpersonal. His thought process behind the series is to give a piece of his own thoughts and philosophies through his photographs. His true intention behind the project is to work against the Drug Abuse in Punjab. Virdi has been extensively working with Drug Addicts in Rehabilitation centres in Chandigarh and surrounding areas.

The pictures of his highly commendable project will be released soon and he sincerely hopes that the project develops to be powerful enough to bring a change among the youth of the state. He usually shoots his work with his Iphone 6s when he is on impromptu schedules. For high end shoots, he uses his Sony a58 camera. He says it is easier to carry his phone and also believes that his subjects won’t get intimidated by a big camera. He finds it easier to make them feel comfortable with a phone camera.

Samar gets his inspiration from the beauty of life and workings of the universe. He tries to include similar thoughts in his stories that there is nothing greater than the working of the universe. He gives attention to everything that is around him while he is on shoot, everyone who he encounters and all the little surprises he finds on the way. He believes there is no destination but just the journey as he states that he never worries about getting the perfect picture but stays happy with whatever he shoots.

Words by Arvind Vairavan


What if you found out that there is no purpose to life ? Would then the destination be as much important as it is now ? Or would the journey become more meaningful ? This thought stuck in my mind when I was shooting the streets of Batala. This particular photograph symbolizes the different stages of a man. An old man sits peacefully, retired from his duties enjoying the small things on the streets. A middle aged man walks through the street on the way to his own commitments and entanglements. A younger man pulls his cart in the sun, working hard towards his desires. Lastly followed by a kid happily dancing and striking a pose in his own rhythm. It is important not to make your dreams and desires a destination but just stations in your journey. Batala may have been my destination but this photograph compelled me to think otherwise.
– Samar Singh Virdi

“It’s all about the business, It really doesn’t matter how I look,” says Suresh. I met him in a local vegetable market and told him how I loved his ultramarine blue jacket, it went well with the cadmium yellow bananas stocked on his cart. He smiled but said he really didn’t care, selling bananas was more important. Talking to Suresh taught me that only those people appreciate fashion who have the resources to do so!
– Samar Singh Virdi


The Chaos Theory in fractal mathematics explains how an initially insignificant change in a chaotic system can develop and organize the system itself. A similar theory in the sociological sense is the butterfly effect. I witnessed this when I photographed this particular image. When shooting at the Chandigarh Railway Station, a boy rapidly climbed a bogie and glanced from the other side to communicate with his friend. Little did he know that I noticed his action and advanced to shoot. When I shot the image I realized that how systematically the colors in the photographs were arranged in an alternating pattern of blue and yellow. Surprisingly the color of the boy’s shirt was also blue that matched the train itself. The boy hadn’t realized it but I was lucky enough to witness the little games the universe plays with us. Bringing order from chaos. This was not something I had expected in the chaotic rush hour in the evening!
– Samar Singh Virdi

“I am a fakeer, I don’t have a permanent residence I keep on travelling.” He replied when I asked his name. He was very happy after seeing his photograph he gave me his blessings. The life of a Sadhu or a Fakeer who sacrifice their materialistic life and relations seems very tough for an average human. But it is for the sake of discipline that they choose to do so which further guides them on their spiritual journeys. Fakeers have almost no belongings with them and this is why I thought about how tough it must be for them to survive especially in this monetary system. The ticket of the train seat he was sitting in was only possible because of generosity and kindness of some people!
– Samar Singh Virdi

“My village is far from here, I come to this traffic signal everyday just to play,” says Shankar a Sarangi player. Sarangi is a special instrument as it imitates the human voice. We came across Shankar and told him to sit in our car because the signal turned green. He played a few compositions for us and even sang. Shankar comes to the Kurali traffic signal and boards random buses which stop. He continues to play for the people onboard. He was sincerely happy from the compliments we gave him. Post meeting, I wondered about the subjectivity of happiness. For Shankar, happiness was about making people smile with his music and touch their souls forever, he doesn’t aim to get into bigger music productions. His art is his satisfaction and not what he gets from his art. It is hard to find people like him but I hope everyone reading this finds his/her happiness in life.
– Samar Singh Virdi

Just 10 meters from the National Highway and a 100 meters from a Police Lock up, Sahil (name changed), 21, and Rishabh (name changed), 19, struggle for their daily high. When I thought about addicts and their hideouts I never thought that everything happened within the city itself. In contradiction, their hideout was in a place so unexpected, I could see balconies of houses. Rishabh told me about how it has been difficult to procure some stuff in the previous days. I asked if it was because of the shift in Punjab’s government, he immediately laughed my question off and told me that the government doesn’t matter, there is never a shortage of supply it is only the price that keeps fluctuating. Every April the price surges only because of the Annual reports that the Police Departments have to submit mentioning all the seizes. They become surprisingly strict after a whole year of co-existence. Later while talking to Rishabh (name changed) I found out that the syringe (last post) used is an insulin unit, not something you can find at a chemist. He told me that I should have picked up the syringe for him, they have been in shortage recently. But immediately rejected the advice telling me that of course he would never put that in him as if talking to himself. He then narrated an incident how he had recently visited a chemist in Zirakpur, just to buy one insulin injection. The chemist had him waiting for 45 minutes and then told him that he had to buy the whole pack of injections instead of just one. Rishabh abused profoundly narrating the incident and also rested his case by explaining how helpless he was, neither could he fight with the chemist as they had a bigger network of people at their expense nor could he inform the police! He returned unsuccessful that day. In this photograph, Rishabh is rubbing cannabis leaves on his hands hoping to get some extract to smoke in the evening.
– Samar Singh Virdi

“I have been admitted into three drug de-addiction centers, including the best ones in chandigarh. No one could keep me! I ran away from two of them, the third time I had to complete for name’s sake.” Says Sahil (name changed) recalling his rehabilitation phase. “You have no idea how smart I am.” He stopped walking turned around and put his hand over my shoulder, ” I went to the local park and collected urine of a boy playing in the ground, gave that to the doctors for my daily dope test. They couldn’t find a trace.” It was evident that Sahil was very proud of his move. Unfortunately the drug de-addiction center could not rehabilitate Sahil, even though it was Chandigarh’s most prominent and successful center. Sahil resorted to cannabis while his treatment and relapsed to harder drugs in a months time. In this photograph Sahil is peeling off the cannabis extract he rubbed from the leaves.
– Samar Singh Virdi

Vicky (name changed), An 18 year old addict retires for the day, enjoying his high in the broken remains of the truck. Vicky and Sahil (name changed) both tell me how tiring their day’s activity was. “It is not easy to rub cannabis leaves, the rubbing heats the blood in our body and makes it unhealthy. My arms are paining a lot now, I won’t be able to repeat this for another week.” Said Sahil, I asked him if it was worth the struggle to undergo such physical strain just for some substance, Sahil started laughing and replied that this wasn’t what he wanted but what he has to do, he doesn’t have money like the other rich kids to afford whatever he wants. This is my last photograph from my first segment of my series on the Drug Abuse of Punjab. Will be resuming the series after some time.
– Samar Singh Virdi

Checkout more from this series here #portraitsofpunjab

Photo Series by ©Samar Singh Virdi

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