He is well-known as one of the managing team which kick-started the popular band “Alobo Naga and The Band (ANTB)”. During this time, he was also dabbling in his creative passion in the art of photography. Today, he is making a mark and is known as one of the best lifestyle photographers in Nagaland. He also owns and runs “The Republic of Hiyo”, a Cafe in Dimapur.
His aerial images of the WW II Kohima Cemetery went viral with more than 50 thousand viewers liking and sharing it online. His wedding photographs have been featured in online sites- Wedding Sutra and Big Indian Wedding. He has worked with the best artists in the country today. He has also covered an amazing 100 plus weddings in five years.
Betoka describes himself as a Sumi Naga brought up in small town Satakha district of Nagaland. The “Indigenous Culture of Nagaland” is what inspires him and it is also one of the central themes not only in his photography but also his own life. He explains, “My culture defines me. What I’m doing today is to create a difference in my society with the skill I have”.
Betoka is a self-taught photographer. He says that it was never a conscious career choice but that he came upon it by chance. It all began with his first ever exhibition at the Indian Habitat Centre, Delhi in 2000 after he completed his studies, which gave him a boost and helped his self-discovery towards the art. He also adds that his passion and sense of responsibility towards his people also inspired him towards becoming a photographer.
Initially it was a love-hate relationship with photography, Betoka shares, because the thought of making a livelihood through this art medium was not a surety. But again, it is this uncertainty, which inspired him and drove him to work harder every single day towards success.
This photographer is not into expensive camera gears. He uses 5 D Mark II with few lenses as possible, since he prefers using natural light. He also chooses on location assignments to studio. “I try keeping my art in a very minimalist way and getting closer to nature inspires me a lot,” he says.
For his post processing, he is constantly keeping himself updated with applications. He chooses to work alone editing and creating originals, but also tries to imitate works of his mentors. Finally, he sends his work for print to the finest labs in the country. When he is free from assignments, this photographer spends time experimenting with his phone and creating backgrounds and settings.
Beyond excellent photography techniques, Betoka is a great story-teller. He has an eye for capturing off-beat moments through his lenses. He also has a knack for giving really good narratives for each of his photographs. To this, he responds, “Story telling is one thing that makes an image more interesting. I’m very poor in defining my pictures with words, so I use minimal words. I’m trying to improve on it”.
As a newly discovered niche, there are many who feel that wedding photography in Nagaland is getting to be an expensive affair. Sharing his thoughts, Betoka says that he does not agree much on this, because there is a lot of branding and service involved which the photographer offers to his clients. He explains that, just like any other business, the client always has the option to go for exactly the kind of service they need. And if wedding photography in Nagaland is expensive, it is because it is a massive affair and not just about the bride and the groom but the photographers are expected to cover the entire arrangement, from food to dresses and flowers etc.
However, as an art form, photography should not just be limited to weddings. Betoka reveals that the Nagaland Photographer’s Forum share the same feeling and often discuss that it is something we need to open or create a ways so that our lifestyle is showcased in many ways than being limited to a few genres.
To photography beginners, Betoka offers advice to ‘keep it simple’. “Get basic gears but keep your eyes open. Remember it’s the right timing and moment you should be looking for,” he shares.
16 years since his first exhibition in Delhi, this young man has utilised the best years of his youth immersed in art, music and entrepreneurship. The passion still remains and is only getting stronger. Betoka looks forward to a future where he is working towards creating more images to showcase Naga culture in a very creative way. This is one talented photographer and a proud Naga!