Capturing life through her lens
Aruna Chandaraju, Apr 22 2017, 0:18 IST
bold Prathibha Polapragada
Prathibha Polapragada is a Washington DC-based award-winning entrepreneur and a much-admired photographer in the niche field of newborn and maternity photography.
She holds a master’s degree in Engineering Management, is a director in a management consulting firm, a part-time classical Kuchipudi dancer, and is mother to three lovely kids.
Born and schooled in Kakinada, Prathibha graduated in mechanical engineering from GITAM University, Visakhapatnam, in 2000. She then went to the USA for higher studies. “Ours was a modern yet conservative family. And my lawyer father and homemaker mother were very encouraging of their children’s dreams. So, they allowed me to go abroad,” says Prathibha.
She shone in her academic pursuit there, acquiring a master's degree in Engineering Management from George Washington University, where she studied on a National Science Foundation Scholarship. By the time she turned 25, she was married to Vamsimohan Pulugurtha, whom she fell in love with during graduate school, and settled down in the suburbs of Washington DC. She lovingly recollects that it was he who inspired her by saying that success must become a habit.
Prathibha started her career at a business intelligence start-up. She says, “It was a rewarding job with professional satisfaction, travel opportunities to exotic places, and I was enjoying the best any career would offer in 2006. But then, I had my first baby. When I went back to work after maternity leave, it was overwhelming to handle the separation from my newborn. I lasted two weeks and eventually broke away from corporate America.”
With a four-month-old baby at her hip, Prathibha then began research on how to start a company of her own. With seed money from family, and a lot of encouragement and thought leadership from her husband, she founded her own company MyPicTales.
She reveals: “The idea of starting a publishing company was not out of the box, frankly. The memories market has been hot as ever. And, this is the age of self expression after all. With digital cameras, social network sites, microblogging, and blogging on the rise, everyone has something to say, shoot or cherish. I wanted to service that concept. So, what I created in MyPicTales was a simple way for users to publish tangible coffee-table books, personal cards that one can hold, calendars and posters that people can stick to walls, by scooping their digital stuff like photos, blogs etc.
I took pains to make the process and website user-friendly. Within a year of starting the business, we had a full return on investment, and went on to grow with two more rounds of funding. In the second year, MyPicTales won a prestigious international industry award, held by Xerox for printing excellence and innovation called PIXI, and later that year, Best of the Best award.”
The company stood first in many international print expos and trade shows for pioneering work in print and publishing. It also won first place in the prestigious online Top Ten Awards for five consecutive years. She says: “I gave it my best. Finally, after seven years, I was able to successfully exit the company as it got acquired.”
Back to the pavilion
Since that and three kids later, Prathibha went back to corporate America and served in different roles at companies that sought her expertise in social media
marketing, digital strategy and business architecture. Alongside all this, her passion for photography was taking another exciting route. She chose an unusual and challenging field — maternity and newborn photography. Today, after four years in the field, she is considered one of the very few Indian-origin photographers to produce high-quality work noted for its creativity and perfection. She has won a few industry awards for these photographs – Best in Category, Mentor’s Choice.
Why is maternity and baby photogrpahy so difficult? She replies: “I love the challenge of making a woman feel adorable when she least feels it, in their third trimester, ready to pop. I reinforce a lot of body positivity and energise my shoots with music, light and movement. It is a very intimate yet liberating experience where my clients are pampered to feel like divas.
They glow! As for newborn photography, each baby has a unique personality. Each shoot is unpredictable, no matter how much we prepare. The thrill I get from being able to harness that much variance and still produce consistent results in the art cannot equate to anything else I have ever done. Creativity gives me a high”.
“What inspires me in life is happiness. And I strongly believe that the true path to creating inspiring work comes from self-discovery. For me, the work that I pursue through my creative dream fulfills that purpose of my life, and brings me joy,” she puts it simply.
And what is her advice to other women-dreamers out there? She says:
Your problems are also your powernFear is a liar nKnow that it is a difficult and lonely process
And finally, I would like to sign off saying this – skill needs patience. Trust that you may lose a lot before something clicks.