Before I became a photographer, I worked full time as a digital creative director in a variety of Ad agencies in London. During the last few years, I noticed how Social Media was becoming increasingly important within the campaign work I was doing. Simultaneously, my personal Instagram account was growing at a steady pace, and I began to get commissioned by some notable brands like Lonely Planet, Jaguar, and Adidas to create images for them. This got me thinking that perhaps one day, I could leave my full-time role in Adland to become a freelance commercial photographer working directly with brands.
So about seven years ago, I quit my job and decided to freelance as a creative director which would then afford me the time and flexibility to see If I could take my photography to the next level. Fast forward two years and I was lucky to be receiving enough commissioned work to make that dream a reality, and I haven’t looked back since.
Filters, editing, post production; whatever you want to call it, play a key role within my image making process. It allows me to inject a level of consistency as it’s very important for me to give my work a visual identity. Over the years, I’ve developed my own editing process using Adobe Lightroom which is constantly evolving to give my images a recognisable ‘Mr Whisper’ look and feel. Which in turn, brands can utilise to give their campaigns a specific look. This deliberate approach has enabled me to work with a great range of clients to name drop a few: Star Wars, Netflix, Leica, Samsung, Channel 4, Lonely Planet, Audi, BMW, Lacoste, Huawei and the Design Museum.
I’m probably best known for my work that documents everyday nightlife in Central London. My street photography is all about documenting the present — the now, but with an artistic approach. In the short-term, when people look at my work, they can relate to the various stories that unfold in the city every day, which evokes a sense of nostalgia. However, more importantly in the long-term, if someone were to see my work in 50, or even 100 years, they should be able to gain some insight into London life in the early 21st century.
I consider London as my studio, and everyday it’s a pure joy to head out onto the streets to capture whatever the city throws at me or catches my attention. Visually, London has so much to offer with its rich melting pot of people and cultures. The city itself is the ultimate backdrop, filled with iconic elements i.e landmarks, taxi’s and historic architecture. Now, let’s throw the infamous British weather into the mix to add a sprinkling of mood. Combine these ingredients together and you’re left with a street photographer's idea of paradise.
During my career, I've found that it’s not always about the money. In the beginning, I always struggled to quote for a project, so my advice for any up and coming photographer would be to work out the personal value of each opportunity or potential project that comes your way. Sometimes the brand association can hold more value to your freelance career in the future. So, try to think in the long-term and consider the bigger picture of the effect a ‘said project’ may have on your portfolio. However, at the same time, never let big brands take advantage of you. The bottom line is that creativity takes time, and time is money, therefore you should always place value on the creative input you are giving to any project and ensure you are happy with what you are receiving in return – be it monetary value or not. You have to weigh in the pros and the cons of each project individually as well as consider your personal financial situation at the time.
MR WHISPER a.k.a BAL BHATLA is a former ad-world director whose passionate about chronicling London’s everyday street life while shooting for a wide variety of global brands. Bal has perfected the art of capturing the dark and mysterious alleyways of London. Leaving his mark through his visually driven street style, Bal unearths the beauty of atmospheric gloomy days; his eye is drawn towards night-goers catching the last train home; and he is known for capturing London’s underground, breathing life into its architecture and creating beauty in the intimate stories that play out. Bal’s career as a photographer and influencer has gained him international recognition through his work.
Shoots with: Fujifilm X-T3