In the latest #AddTheAlt campaign, conceptualised by Schbang for Good, over 100 photographers have pledged to make their photographs accessible to the visually impaired by implementing one simple step: Alt Text. This highly useful functionality launched in 2018 by Instagram reads the description out loud, enabling the visually impaired to listen to an audio description. Leading Indian photographer Rohan Shrestha has joined the #AddTheAlt campaign. Today, he tells us more about it and what is keeping him busy during the ongoing pandemic. By Pallavi Mehra
1. What motivated you to be a part of the #AddTheAlt campaign?
To be fair, ever since I was a kid, my biggest fear was losing my eyesight. This campaign gave me the opportunity to help people who are visually impaired, and since I have personally harboured such an extreme fear of losing my eyesight, I wanted to do something, in any possible way, for them. And when Schbang for Good approached me with this idea, I hopped on.
2. Take us through the process of adding an Alt Text.
While posting any picture on Instagram, if you go to the Advanced Settings option, you can find a tab there which reads ‘Write Alt Text’. All you have to do is click on that option, and describe the picture you are posting in a simple manner. The Alt Text would, then, automatically be added upon posting. It can also be edited after the post goes live.
3. What is the goal of this campaign and how can photographers contribute?
Aren’t the most impactful actions simple gestures of kindness? The goal of this campaign is to make social media inclusive and accessible to the visually impaired, and as photographers, the best we can do is come forward, be a part of this campaign and make our art more accessible. It is important to raise awareness and make Alt Text a mainstream trend.
4. How do you think this campaign will impact the world in a larger scheme of things?
I don’t know about its impact on the world, but it will definitely impact people with vision impairment issues. If we can give them a platform to visualise the world in their minds, we are creating an outlook for them. It is our responsibility, especially as photographers, to help. This platform didn’t exist before, but now that it does, it is our job to raise further awareness about it.
5. How has the pandemic impacted your life and work?
I haven’t been working much during this time. However, I am getting the chance to look at life through a unique lens. I had the time to revisit other passions and hobbies. I started a show based on baseball, and I’m also looking at alternative things to do in my career apart from photography. It’s exciting for me to explore different options and find happiness in the smallest of things.
6. Once travel bans are lifted, where would you like to go?
I just want to get out of the city and find a place that would let me be with nature again. That’s the most important thing for me — to be around nature, say a water body or meadows. I don’t have a specific place in mind per se. At this point, I wouldn’t even mind driving off to Karjat or Pavna, in the outskirts of Mumbai, where I can just be one with nature.
7. Do you have any message for photographers during this difficult period?
Be patient. Broaden your horizons when it comes to your work. Look at alternate styles of photography. Photography is a passion first, career second. The silver lining of this pandemic could be that we’ve become increasingly conscious about the way we spend money. As I have always advocated, it is cost-efficient to rent equipment instead of blocking your money in buying. Furthermore, having taught photography to students earlier, I feel the older generation of photographers has a responsibility towards the younger lot. It’s important to encourage and support them, especially now.