The Creative Wanderlust – Rachna Shukla

Rachna Shukla image-1

Discovering Fascination for Designs Early On

I am already midway through my life, and if I look back I can say that I am more of a wanderer than a driven entrepreneur. In fact, I find it difficult to identify what drives me and what is it that I am working towards in the larger scheme of things. I guess in past, my goals have been more like a wish or a strong interest at the best, that if does not materialize, I change them anyway. Keeps disappointment away I guess.

I wanted to be an architect when I was very young. Spaces, especially dwellings, fascinated me always. Maybe because as a middle class family we were always trying to optimize the little space we would have, mostly rented, never exactly the way we would want it to be. That too was ever changing - I had moved houses thirteen times till I was twenty one and then twenty one times in last twenty four years.

I remember I created a house layout when I was in grade 5 and showed it to my class teacher. She asked me why I made so many small rooms around the courtyard, to which I explained that they look small on paper but they are actually big - I even gave dimensions to my drawing, though I don’t remember what they were. Photography was the other interest I discovered very early on when my father gave his old camera to me. Shapes, colors, light, shadows, lines and curves  - I could always notice them and find beauty and joy when they would come together to my satisfaction.

Aligning to a different career path

Since I am not naturally a hard working person, I could not make through the intense competition for admissions in architecture college. So being an architect was ruled out right then. Finally I ended up being a software engineer and moved to U.S. soon after, as I wanted to be closer to someone I was getting interested in. It was very easy to get a job in U.S. those days for software engineers. I started my life in U.S. working for a small company in California, near silicon valley. A year or so later, a friend of mine invited me to come to his office to take photographs of the beautifully designed buildings. That office was Oracle’s head quarter, and when I went there, I was totally impressed by the awesome looking buildings and campus. I decided to work in those buildings and found a job in Oracle a few months later. It was really that easy at that time.

About an year later I decided to move to Portland, another town in north west of U.S. as I wanted to live closer to the person I was seeing then. After deciding that I wanted to live and work in Portland, I searched and found that Oracle had a small office in that city. So I looked up the employee directory of Portland, and sent a mail to the first Indian person in that directory. His last name was Atal so he was on top of it. I wrote to him that I am ready to take up a job in Portland office, even if it meant that I do that as a fresher, if my skill set does not match. I anyway found a good job in one of the groups there, with a wonderful person as my boss. I got settled in Portland and later married the person for whom I moved to the city.

Portland office atrium

Discovering the Art of Photography

Luckily my job as a software engineer, and the projects I did throughout my career as engineer, allowed me to get not just intellectual stimulus but also creative satisfaction - although of a very different kind. All the years that I was an engineer, I enjoyed my work completely, especially because I was lucky to always work with very happy and emotionally healthy teams. After few years in U.S., when I started getting dissatisfied with the amateurish photographs I was taking, I decided to start learning photography more seriously and professionally, and decided that I wanted to make photography my profession by the time I am 40.

I started taking evening classes after office in the very old and renowned Pacific College of Northwest and sometimes during weekends. I learned darkroom processing techniques and also took couple of classes on graphic designing and environmental portraits. This introduced me to the amazing world of fine art photography. I got completely taken over by this genre of photography and found something to genuinely strive towards. I believe my photography started improving with that and I decided to seriously pursue it to make my profession. I even started getting a few paid commissions for photographic work and that encouraged me even further. I then registered myself to a documentary movie making class. The more I was learning, the more I was getting pulled to the world of art, and I started feeling guilty of neither giving my full attention, nor time to my current job from where I was drawing salary. That was a gnawing feeling, and I felt dishonest. I started contemplating on quitting my job. But we had to suddenly move back to India due to some family situation, and I found myself on a completely different track in life.

My First venture - A photography studio

Although I got a job in Oracle India, but I had lost interest in my work by now. Alongside some conditions developed that encouraged me to pursue photography and quit job. So that’s what I did few months after moving back to India. Over next few years I established myself as a professional fine art photographer. I was 40 then. I setup my photo studio for portrait and commercial work, and also worked on fine art projects in parallel. I sold quite a few of my fine art images during this time. I had three solo exhibitions in next few years, and also did some commercial work for large and small businesses, ranging from Ernst & Young, Mantri developers, Raymond to jewelry designers, an aspiring magician, a chocolatier. Some of my photographic work can be viewed at my website

  • A day's Work

I also created a fine art book on Gwalior during these years, that puts together my photographic work on ancient architecture in Gwalior, along with its tumultuous history and beautiful folk lore. I hope to publish it someday, more sooner than later, and hope that it will help in bringing more tourism to Gwalior. My exhibition on the images from this project, as well as the other two exhibitions, generated a lot of interest and got great reviews in newspapers - brought me few days of public recognition. Cheap thrills.

Designing The House of My Dreams

Few years down the line, we started planning to move to a larger and better home. We started looking at ready made homes and apartments and I somehow did not like anything that we saw, especially for the price they commanded. So I made a rough design of a house that we could build on a plot of land we owned, and convinced my husband that it would be a better idea to build rather than purchase a house. I then started working on a detailed design.  I had designed two other duplex homes in previous few years that got built and garnered interest and appreciation for its design. In roughly two years, we finally built a house that I am truly proud of, and consider that as one of my best creations so far. I worked on every single design aspect of the house, from large to the smallest details and could finally satisfy my longing to design and build a dwelling that I can consider perfect for the life I have with my family. It has been a deeply satisfying creative endeavor and has been widely praised by people known to me as well  as complete strangers.

And the journey goes on

By the time the house got completed, my brother Mohit founded a software company EQTribe [] and I decided to work with him in making it a success. We started from scratch with a very small fund, and got some monetary help from some angel friends in next few months. We now have a product out in the market that is proving to be of value even in its early stages. This is the most challenging task that I have picked up till now, but will be most fulfilling when it comes to fruition.

And as I said, I am only at midway, and I have plenty of years to follow other interests - ones I currently have, and ones that I will, painting, pottery making, running a cafe, an art objects gallery plus club, learning to dance…!!

Contact Rachna Shukla @ 9663310850



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