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Constructing a masterful artist: ASU grad finds inspiration behind the lens

Graduate student Ashish Rajapuram in his element -- camera in hand.

Graduate student Ashish Rajapuram in his element: camera in hand. Photo courtesy of Ashish Rajapuram

May 09, 2024

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2024 graduates.

The right place, and the right time. It’s a concept that mystifies many but often holds true in life. It’s something that Ashish Rajapuram, a May 2024 Master of Science in construction management and technology graduate, is quite familiar with. 

Rajapuram, an international student from Khammam, India, describes his time in Tempe, Arizona, as a a stark contrast from his hometown.

“It has a lot of greenery all around — farms around the city,” he said. “My friends and I always used to wake up early in the morning and go watch the sunset on some random farm. Sometimes, we don’t even have a destination, we just go somewhere, watch the sunset or the sunrise. There are also a lot of lakes where we go and just sit and enjoy the peace.”

Rajapuram left Khammam after he turned 18 to move to Hyderabad, India, where he attended Chaitanya Bharathi Institute of Technology (CBIT) and obtained his Bachelor of Engineering in civil engineering in 2022. 

However, Rajapuram’s time at CBIT engineered something even he didn’t expect: his love for photography.

“Doing my undergrad there, it opened up a lot of opportunities and possibilities for me — at least, maybe not in terms of civil engineering,” he said.

Those opportunities revolved around him becoming heavily involved with CBIT’s film club, where he started as a member, then became head of cinematography, then the eventual president. His experience with the film club even opened doors with the media elite — meeting and connecting with celebrities like Tharun Bhascker Dhaassyam, a renowned Indian film director and writer. 

“I was so low at one point, I was so low in my life and then (the CBIT Film Club) asked me to (shoot a trailer) for them. I don’t know why they even asked me; I was just like, ‘OK, why not?’” Rajapuram said. “I went and shot something, edited that, and they posted it on the CBIT YouTube channel. Right after posting it, we got like 10,000 views in four or five hours.”

It was after this that Rajapuram’s passion for visual storytelling was ignited — which is a lot for someone who didn’t have an extensive background in the field and self-taught himself the intricacies of photography and videography. 

“I didn’t know how to use the specific camera we shot with, but I told them I knew how to use that camera,” he said with a laugh. “They got me the camera, and then I Googled and learned (how to use) the camera in like five to 10 minutes.” 

At the time, Rajapuram didn’t know that his first video was going to take off the way that it did. He didn’t know that he was going to fall in love with the craft, but it’s something he was glad he did anyway. 

“When you can, take any opportunity, run with it and learn as much as you can,” Rajapuram said. 

It’s this philosophy that pushed him to move halfway across the world and continue his graduate studies at ASU. 

“We saw ASU as a top college from (Khammam),” he said. “ASU opened up a lot of possibilities, and beyond the academic things, it's more about the opportunities it gives you and I think it's worth every penny.”

Rajapuram became a photographer for ASU Student Life — where he was able to exercise his love for the craft more. 

“I feel like every person has a different interest; it’s just about when they find it and how much time they want to spend on it,” Rajapuram said. 

And he spent a lot of time, attending and covering a variety of Sun Devil games, musical performances, student organization events, fairs, ceremonies — any opportunity he had to take pictures and video, he was there. 

“I feel like photography and filmmaking is something — unlike my other interests — is something that I really want to spend time on,” he said. 

He says last fall’s InfernoFest with A$AP Ferg was one of his favorite projects he worked on with Student Life. He hallmarked his work with the manipulation of colors and subject placement and utilizing techniques like leading lines and the rule of thirds.

It was through his time with ASU and Student Life that Rajapuram developed his more nuanced self-perception. 

“I don’t see myself as (just) a photographer; I see myself as an artist first,” he said. “I got the chance to show my art for a lot larger audience. If I just post any of my work on my page, it’s going to have less of an audience. But when I post on ASU Student Life? It opens the doors for larger audiences, and that’s what every artist looks for.” 

Now entering post-graduate life, Rajapuram looks to find a job in engineering, but he knows where his heart is. 

“I will achieve (financial stability) first, then in 10,15 years leave my money to whoever is responsible for that — maybe my kids or something, or maybe I might donate it,” he said. “I feel like even construction and everything is just for my financial livelihood; photography is for my inner self, it's for the soul.” 

When asked what his biggest takeaway from his collegiate life was, he gave all college students a piece of parting advice. 

“I feel like you should take every opportunity that's in front of you, even if it's not so pleasing for you. It will really give a different perspective in your life,” Rajapuram said. “I think it’s what happened to me and photography.” 

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