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PharmaPhotography

From Pharma to Photography – the Journey of Kalpana of Kapu Patel Photography

Tell us how you got started in the Pharma industry and how did you know it was for you?  

For me, it was a cultural thing. I was the eldest grandchild and I distinctly remember how my grandmother would always introduce me. Ever since I was little she would say, “this my eldest grandchild and she’s going to be a doctor.” It was a given that I would be a doctor—it was an expectation. I always measured my success by ranking #1 academically and being very focused on it. In India, you’re ranked and based on that rank you were allowed to choose a medical school. On the day of my medical school interview, I selected a school, but I also had a technology school interview and I thought I might choose technology because it was an option for me. Since I didn’t choose medical school, at the time my dad was a little disappointed. After I graduated, I decided to continue my education in the US. I attended Duquesne University and after spending six months there I knew it wasn’t a good fit for me—even still I stuck it out and I finished my masters and eventually my PhD at the University of Iowa.  In between my education, I also got married to my childhood sweetheart, Jatin.

My career in big pharma was supposed to afford me the opportunity to make money, but my silent passion was always photography. Whenever I could I would pick up the camera and take any free dark room classes at the university. While in school my husband and I were still a young struggling couple, but he still found the funds to buy me a Minolta Max SLR film camera. Back in the day, you could get the film processed as a ‘double copy’ and we would keep one set and mail the other version out to our friends and family around the world. We would mail it to them and say, “This is our life.” Pictures were a way to keep in touch with our roots. Eventually however, photography was put on the back burner. It just became subdued a passion for me.

What kind of work did you do after your PhD?

I started in America Home on the consumer side and then at Johnson & Johnson, as a research scientist and shortly   went to the managerial side. When I started at Johnson & Johnson my daughter was born and at 6 weeks I was already traveling quite a bit. When my son was born about 6 years later, I decided to take a few months off, and my  job was reorganized while I was on maternity, and when I came back while my new job was interesting I didn’t really enjoy it—at this point I realized, career-wise, I wasn’t in a place that I wanted to be.. A friend of mine was starting his own company, for me it wasn’t about money, because money is never enough, for me it was about finding my passion and my challenge. I took the leap and joined my friend’s company.

We did everything as a team of two. I managed the alliances and research and he had oversight of the business operations—we were a great fit. It was a great foray into entrepreneurship.

The assets got licensed out and I took stock of what I really wanted to do with my career. I went back to my first love—photography. This was always my passion. After being a photographer for more than three years I have finally built brand awareness in my town and surrounding area.

What would you say to women who try to achieve a work/life balance? How did you manage it?

With my first child I didn’t management it well. I wish I had spent more time with her. At the end of the day, that one email you don’t send tonight isn’t going to change the productivity of the company. I had failed to see that. The second time around I did make major changes.  Its finding what is important today that matters. If there isn’t a great dinner cooked and you have soup and a sandwich because you have to focus on your child or if the laundry piles up – it’s ok. Done is better than perfection. Seek perfection in the imperfect.

How did you decide photography was the thing you enjoyed the most?

I think it’s life that got me here.  Once the company was sold, I started as a consultant and at the same time my dad health was failing. My client work did not offer me the first thing I wanted in this change.  A work life balance where I could focus on my ailing parents. I didn’t want to have to decide between my aging parents and work. My husband was very supportive of this idea. My son was at an age where he needed me as well and I found that my daughter was taking care of my son for me while my dad was dying. That’s when I picked up the camera and started taking pictures again. I was always landscape photographer selling my prints for charitable causes. I expanded to photographing people in the aftermath of hurricane Sandy. Much to my surprise I actually loved photographing people. My people portrait journey started with photographing Yogis and Prom Portraits. But I found that every day woman was not comfortable in front of a professional camera. I knew I had found my passion and that was to show people how beautiful they truly are and empower them int eh process, so I started studying photography.  First it was posing with beauty photographer Sue Bryce, then it was lighting, getting to know my gear, finding my tribe of photographer buddies around the world and somewhere along that journey I also completed my yoga teacher training.  Today, I use my yoga learnings to portrait photography and empower people on the journey of self-acceptance and self-love through my YouShine Movement.

What sort of photography do you like to do?

Self-acceptance, self-confidence and ultimately empowerment is what I enjoy creating. In my subjects whether it is human or landscape.

Your value is based on how you see yourself—My mission is to show people how they truly shine from the inside out.  My YouShine sessions start with journaling and end up heirloom legacy portraits. I have only one goal, knowing who I have serve that day and how do I show up to serve them well.  All else falls into place. My clients come to me for their legacy portraits that they can pass down as heirlooms. I capture the small moments that have a big place in your heart. I also believe that there is forgotten generation when it comes to portraits.  Most of us have digital copies of us which may or may not survive technology but we do take pictures.  There are those in their 70s and 80s who do not take selfies. Who is capturing them? I would like to create beautiful portraits of them and show them in all their glory. In a life lived with pride and joy.  However, you dream to be photographed, I want to photograph you that way.

Tell me about your proudest moment

  1. I have too many proud moments that it’s hard to pick just one. As a mother, my proudest moment is when my children give me advice on the value of a moment and value of self-worth so when I’m not in the right mindset they remind me of how to get there. It makes me happy that they have good values.
  2. The second is vulnerability. During a large photography conferences, I asked a question about something I was struggling with. I did not want to stand up there and be exposed to 1000s of people worldwide. But I did make myself vulnerable and many people reached out to me to offer their help. These people became my community and support system. I am proud of making myself vulnerable that day.

I want people to feel empowered when they see my photos. I want to bring the ‘you out of you.’ That’s why my business logo is a lotus—just as a lotus flower emerges from the murky water and becomes a beautiful plant, I want my clients to see their inner beauty shine in their photos.

In 20 words or less what would you tell a high school student entering college today?

Nothing is set in stone.  Explore the big world out there.  Focus on your educational major but find time to take classes and hang out with people who are not in the same discipline as you. Take a few months off and go work somewhere at the other end of the world.

In 20 words or less what would tell a graduating college student?

Spend time getting to know your company’s mission first and foremost. Find work that aligns with your value.  Find a sponsor, someone who values your unique skills and can be your champion behind closed doors. If an opportunity arises, if it speaks to you

2 comments
  1. Sheila Rosenbaum

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  2. Sheila Rosenbaum

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