Geeshan Bandara the Story of an Award – Winning Photojournalist
From Issue 51…
Geeshan Bandara can often be found lying flat on the ground in an awkward position, balancing on a precipice or camouflaged in a bush – all in the interest of capturing your wedding photographs! Known to be one of the most coveted professionals to tell stories through images, this man is a celebrated wedding photojournalist – Both nationally and globally! From being inspired by a war photographer to ending up in the wedding warzone, Geeshan is that man behind the lens you would immediately befriend. And, we think the credit goes to his amicable nature and advanced wit that’s bound to make you question your own sense of humour! So, here’s a quick read about this multiple-award winning expert in the field of wedding photojournalism – an area that is quick to turn heads owing to its novelty, here in Sri Lanka…
Let’s begin with your entry into the career. How did you get drawn into the world of cameras?
It seems like photography and I have always been so entwined that my natural way of seeing the world felt like a sixth sense. I discovered photography while observing my father’s love and curiosity for the subject as an amateur photographer.
I grew up outside Sri Lanka – In the Middle East and Canada. I studied Engineering, following in the footsteps of my father, like so many other South Asian kids. Ending up in the IT field, I felt aimless and unsatisfied.
One summer I saw a TED Talk by renowned war photographer, James Nachtwey, that both moved and haunted me. That was the moment I knew I wanted to be a photojournalist.
I was drawn towards the world where I believed I could shape my own and other’s perceptions through storytelling. I studied the subject and graduated from the Western Academy of Photography on Vancouver Island.
You’ve bagged many prestigious awards and have quite an impressive number of accomplishments under your belt. Tell us how it all
That’s very kind of you. I would say that you’re only as good as the bar that you set for yourself, and I wanted the biggest challenge I could find when I beganmy career. I discovered a wonderful community of wedding photographers and was deeply influenced by them.
I’ve won 6 Fearless Awards, 6 This is Reportage (TiR) Awards, 12 awards from the International Society of Professional Wedding Photographers (ISPWP), 16 awards from Wedding Photojournalists Association (WPJA) and over 60 from the Professional Wedding Photographers of Canada (PWPC).
In 2019, I was amongst the Top 100 in ISPWP and TiR, as well as amongst the Top 50 in Fearless Photographers and Top 3 in PWPC. I’ve also had the privilege of judging one of the award competitions held by Fearless Photographers -a truly incredible and insightful experience.
One particular moment stands out, though. I was on holiday in Berlin with Ruwani, my partner. After a day at the Germany Historical Museum, she was scrolling through Facebook and admiring an inappropriate picture she had tagged me in, as usual. She then saw a comment from a Hungarian colleague, which read – “Someone tell that guy that he’s just won three Fearless Awards”.
That moment brought my total awards from Fearless Photographers – one of the most respected organizations for Wedding Photographers to five. I did win another one later that year. I would never be able to forget the journey I had taken to get there, and how it felt when I stood freezing on that Berlin pavement shell-shocked, waiting for the news to sink in, while Ruwani danced around in joy.
Being a part of the community and reinforcing each other has been one of my greatest strengths. I have had the honour of being trained by the best in the industry, such as Two Mann Studios. And, I will always be enthused to attend workshops and be a part of forums and circles where I am continuously critiqued and motivated to improve.
You’re known to be an extraordinary wedding photojournalist. How different is it when compared to a photographer?
We’re all photographers, but a wedding photojournalist’s work is to produce an unposed and unscripted story of a wedding day. This means that we’re always looking for the ‘moments’ – That’s the gold we mine for.
In Sri Lanka, although the concept is still fresh, we’re getting there and there’s certainly an appreciative clientele. They’re usually the adventurous couples. The journey of working together also brings something out in the couple – With me, they’re free to be playful, spontaneous and most importantly, themselves.
Where do you draw your inspirations from?
Art, film, music. Anything, that I see in the day can inspire me, really. I’m always absorbing the world around me and that quality is always exhibited through my pictures. Moreover, other photographers act as an enormous inspiration as well.
What’s your signature style?
I dislike being defined by a ‘style’. There’s a saying in the industry – “We shoot in colour, but we feel in black and white.” I’m always compelled by light and shadow while I seek to create depth in my images. If I’ve developed a signature style, it would simply be that my images tell a story and make you feel.
We’re pretty sure you faced a handful of obstacles before being known as one of the finest wedding photojournalists. Tell us a little about your challenges back then and now…
Starting out as a photojournalist at a time the craft was not well understood took me on a rocky road. It required time and commitment to build my market and position myself correctly. Every year we have new challenges as a small team, but we stay true to our passion and focus.
What do you love the most about being a wedding photojournalist?
More than anything I love being able to connect with all the couples I photograph and tell their story through the pictures I create. No two weddings I have ever shot has looked alike and to date I still get the question of how I do this despite shooting in most of the same locations throughout the country.
The answer is simple. Every couple has a unique story that’s their own and I find that they’re also quite adventurous – even the ones who are shy at first. We get to see them be their real selves; raw, unfiltered and beautiful.
The wedding day is intensely and physically demanding. Hence, my team and I need to be in good, physical shape – We work out, eat well and get as much sleep as we can because the day is usually 15-18 hours long. We have to manage our energy and adrenaline during the day along with everything else we encounter – Equipment, curious children and inquiring relatives. We’re always conscious that it’s the most important day in the couple’s lives and we manage the shoot with a small, yet highly experienced and trained team.
What do you think makes you stand out from the rest?
The dedication to getting shots that outside the ordinary, the depth and creativity of the images we provide and the client experience is something that our team excels in. One thing couples always tell me that has stuck with me is how calm I make them feel and that they didn’t even realize I was taking photographs.
How can a couple approach you if they want to book you for their wedding?
I’m available through e-mail, phone or WhatsApp. Our Team Manager, Dilmy, loves to answer questions and arrange meetings. I don’t have a particular lead time for booking. If the team is available on the day and the couple wish to book me, I’m there.
What’s your approach to capturing the perfect pictures at a wedding? There are many things that go into capturing great photos, and one aspect is timing and patience. Almost every photograph we create is not staged, which means wemust anticipate and wait for the right moments.
What are some of the memorable weddings you have captured and why?
The wedding of Mukesh Ambani’s daughter in India was the grandest and most elaborate wedding I’ve shot – Multiple locations, multiple photography teams, thousands of guests along with hundreds of dignitaries and celebrities. We witnessed performances by Beyonce, Zakir Hussein and Joe Walsh of the Eagles. It was a surreal time, and the entire team of top Indian Wedding Photojournalists, which I was thrilled to be a part of, still relive it.
So far, we’ve heard about your life as a photographer. Tell us a little about who you are when you don’t have a camera in hand!
One of my interests outside of photography includes running. My partner and I run pretty much every day now and it’s become somewhat of an obsession. We’re actually training for our first marathon, so that takes up most of our free time. We also love to travel. It’s often very difficult for both of us to get time off at the same time, but when we do, we make sure we go to corners in the world we haven’t seen before.
Would you like to spill the tea on what you’re planning for the future?
We do have something exciting planned for the summer, but we’re keeping it under wraps for now. There’s some travel lined up for this year as my work takes me outside Sri Lanka at times as well as some great collaborations on the way too!