Vicky Roy – The Journey From Rag picker to Acclaimed Photographer

Pursuing photography as a hobby or profession is a costly affair by any standards. But here is a story of a boy Vicky Roy who was into rag picking on streets of Delhi in his childhood days and was destined to be a young internationally acclaimed photographer. Thanks to two of mentors who came in his life and transformed his life as an accomplished professional photographer. This story of Vicky Roy can definitely inspire Bollywood directors to make a movie.

Beginning of Journey

Vicky Roy was born in a low-income family in West Bengal with six more siblings. Vicky decided to run away from his parents and boarded a train at Purulia station in West Bengal which took him to Delhi. He was found crying in Delhi station and admitted him to Salaam Balaak Trust (SBT) where he found a shelter but without any freedom. Being a free soul, Vicky wanted to escape from the four walls of SBT. One fine morning while milk-man was delivering milk to the shelter home, Vicky escaped and reunited with his friends on railway platform and streets. He happily took the profession of rag picking and would sell used water bottles for Rs.5/-. Getting beaten up by goons in railway station who also used to steal their hard-earned money was a common scenario. Further, he joined as a dishwasher and waiter in a roadside restaurant in Ajmeri Gate. The Delhi winter was not easy for this boy to withstand. One day a customer at Restaurant who advised him to learn new skills instead of concentrating on earning peanuts as an attendant at the hotel.

Back to Salaam Baalak Trust Folds

Salaam Baalak Trust was envisioned to provide shelter to street boys inspired by the success of Mira Nair’s Hindi Movie ‘Salaam Bombay’. Vicky got admitted to Apna Ghar, which is a subsidiary of SBT and started schooling.  He was an average student at academics and with a lot of efforts was able to score meager 48% in his 10th exams. His teachers grasped that persuading this boy for formal education was not a good option and advised him to join National Institute of Open Schooling to learn vocational courses.

Meets Benjamin as the First Photography Mentor

At National Institute of Open Schooling, Vicky came across few of his friends who were practicing photography and had visited nations like Indonesia and Sri Lanka. He started developing an aptitude for Photography and to hammer the nail on its head, Mr Benjamin, a professional photographer, visited SBT campus to shoot a documentary movie on this trust. Vicky with his broken English developed a good rapport with Benjamin and soon earned a position as assistant to him. Though Benjamin couldn’t converse in Hindi, he taught Vicky the fundamentals of photography and soon Vicky was well-versed in handling SLR camera.

PC: flickr.com

Meets Anay Maan as Second Mentor

Having learned basics of photography skills from Benjamin, Vicky was eager to explore intricacies of the trade. By now he had turned 18, and SBT allowed him to stay independently outside the shelter home. He was provided with basic amenities like Mattress and stove to set up his own living place. Vicky came to know about Anay Maan, a professional portrait photographer and approached him for an assistantship. Anay Maan welcomed him to his team and thus the second mentor entered in the life of Vicky Roy. But Anay Maan was a strict mentor who took an undertaking from Vicky to stay with him for minimum three years of duration. Vicky accepted the terms and conditions, and it turned out to be an invaluable experience as his mentor would teach him the tricks and tips of the trade from scratch. Anay Maan used to draw pencil sketches to explain the basics of depth of the field and lighting effects. By now he got the opportunity to travel various places with his mentor and browse important photography books. He started travelling abroad and staying in luxury hotels too. He took a loan of Rs.28000/- from SBT to purchase a NIKON F80 camera. He even managed to repay the loan in the form of Rs.500/- EMI to his shelter home.

Formal Education in Photography

Along with real-time apprenticeship from two of his mentors, Vicky Roy has completed formal training in photography in the form of a Short-term course in Documentary photography from International Center of Photography (ICP), New York. And also he completed his Diploma in Photography from Triveni Kala Sangam, New Delhi

Dreams took wings    

Having worked with Anay Maan nurtured Vicky as a good photographer, and he realrealized has his own story to narrate with camera lenses. His debutant project was based on Street Children below 18 years. Obviously, it was his favourite subject as he had experienced that life first handed. His first exhibition called ‘Street Dreams’ was organised in 2007 and was sponsored by British Commission and DFID. He took the exhibition to London and South Africa too. The taste of initial success had created a type of attitude in this boy. His Mentor Anay Maan observed this change in his ward and advised him to be down to earth and humble. Vicky has accepted this advice seriously and never allows success to overrun him.

Vicky Roy of Salaam Baalak Trust presents his photo exhibition “WTC: Now” to Ambassador Roemer.
PC: photos.state.gov

Gallery of Achievements

Vicky Roy’s important publications are:

  • The World Atlas of Street Photography Published by Yale University Press—The year 2014
  • Monograph called HOME.STREET.HOME released by Nazar Foundation—The year 2013
  • ‘Where Three Dreams Cross: 150 Years of Photography from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh’— Published by Steidl Verlag; Bilingual edition—The year 2010
  • Book titled ‘Click !’, Contemporary Photography in India. Published by Vadehra Art Gallery—The year 2008

Giving Back to Society

Vicky Roy has not forgotten his roots as rag picker and upbringing at SBT Apna Ghar. He brought out a Photography book to commemorate the 25th year of Apna Ghar with title ‘Home. Street. Home’ in collaboration with Editor Sanjiv Shaith and was also showcased in Delhi Book Festival in the year 2011.

In association with another photographer, Chandan Gomes Vicky has initiated a photo library by name ‘Rang’. He has donated around 500 photography Books to this organisation. It organises photography workshops for children in schools and shelters and tries to motivate them to develop an interest in photography.

Nostalgia of Parents & Home

Though Vicky Roy, tasted success by running away from home in childhood, he doesn’t recommend young children to run away from homes to realise something big. He makes it a point to clarify that he was blessed to get two mentors who transformed his life and not every boy who runs away from home will be lucky to reach better positions. Today he has reunited with his family and has bought a plot at hometown Purulia and is dreaming of building a home for his family members.

Awards & Recognitions

  • Year- 2016: Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list
  • Year- 2014: MIT Media Lab Fellowship
  • Year-2013: National Geographic Mission Cover shot TV Show
  • Year-2011: TEDx-Speaker at TEDx Delhi University
  • Year- 2011 Jury Member, Awaaz Do photo contest organised by UNICEF, New Delhi.
  • Year-2009: Selected for Wilhelm & Karl Maybach Foundation’s WTC Documentary Arts Project for documenting the construction of World Trade Center in New York, under the mentorship of Joe Woolhead.
  • Year-2004: Gold Medallist, International Award for Young People India (IAYP).

Vicky Roy has tasted success at a very young age overcoming all hurdles posed by life, and Kalam Fan Club wishes him to reach the pinnacle of success in coming years.

A glimpse of Vicky Roy’s amazing work can be obtained at his web portal: https://vickyroy.in

One Response

  1. Sunil August 22, 2017

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