Who are you, and what do you do?
My name is Harpreet Singh. I am a farmer by soul and photography is my first love. I have always been fascinated by the flora & fauna and culture of Punjab. I try to capture the everyday life of its people, their concerns and the causes of Punjab and time-freeze them into everlasting memories. My goal is to store as many as of these fading visions of organic and folk Punjab for generations to see what we lost in the fight to become a developed nation.
What is your story?
An engineer by education, I have found peace being behind the lens. The idea of capturing smiles and being the messenger of the plights of the people I care about is much more enticing when compared to being a code monkey in a cubicle. I consider myself a pro-amateur. After I graduated with a degree in computer science, I picked up a camera few years ago and taught myself to shoot pictures and used internet as the best critique I know of. So far, it has been an interesting ride.
Tell us about your work/passion.
I have grave concerns about the degradation of soil and water due to large amount of poisons in the form of insecticides and pesticides being added in today’s farming practices. I fear most of the Punjab that we envision - the diversity of plants, the fertility of soil, the ab in Punjab - is vanishing at an alarming rate. I use photography as a medium to exhibit what is at stake.
What are some things you like and cherish about your community?
I love The Sikh concept of Nā ko bairī nahī bigānā sagal sang ham kao ban āī. ||1|| - SGGS(Page 1299, Line 14) (No one is my enemy, and no one is a stranger. I get along with everyone.). The wisdom of Sri Guru Granth Sahib is timeless - love for humanity without boundaries, beyond the ranks of social class or status.
Our community has some of the world’s most corrupt politicians and highly tarnished religious leaders who have led us into darkness on the name of being the torch-bearers. The need of the hour can be summed in three words - education, education, education. And by education I mean opening up our minds to uneasy ideas and bringing at-least some to practice. Change comes to those who recognize it when it knocks on our doors.
Rational thinking can bring spring in the souls and minds of human beings. Spread what you know by sharing it with others. Create something of what you already know, rather than waiting to know everything. Change will follow.
What is your advice for youngsters who want to follow your profession?
I consider agriculture a profession for the educated, cultured and enlighten souls. It is pretty much in contrast of the conventional thought which considers farming as a profession left for uneducated and village-folk. We have been losing the battle as we have constantly relied on someone else’s education - may it be that of seed companies, of corrupt politicians, of broken farming system and practices, and of an outdated culture - to give us the solutions. Without education there is no culture. I think there is a vast untapped potential in both farming and business/professions based on farming. As a proof of concept I’m experimenting a fusion of farming and photography, which are not even distant cousins.
Any books/films/resources you want to share…
Sri Guru Granth Sahib, The essential Rumi, Khilre Hoey Varkey by Paash
High Spirit(Charadi kala), knowledge in mind, daati (sickle) in hand, camera on shoulder - these are indispensable tools for me.