As we close out 2015, our five-year-anniversary in our rearview mirror, we wanted to introduce you to another one of our early customers. Manik Rathee owns one of the most beautifully broken-in Union Street messengers we’ve ever seen, and it makes sense after you learn he picked up his bag nearly five years ago and has carried it almost daily since then.
Manik’s Union Street has seen him through a variety of high-profile roles — he’s currently a UX engineer at Google working on Nest Labs and also managed user experience for several redesigns of BarackObama.com for the president’s 2012 campaign. Nor surprisingly, he’s also a talented photographer with an eye for color and texture.
Manik carries the Union Street in smoke.
ONA: How did you get into photography?
MR: I was always fascinated with creating art — by training yourself to see things that few others can. While I was in college, I freelanced for web design and landed a project that paid a little more than my usual ones. Naturally, I bought my first camera instead of food or clothing. From that moment on, I always carried a camera with me.
ONA: What camera do you shoot with? What is your “go to” lens of choice?
MR: My 5D Mark II is effectively a limb at this point but I’m considering an upgrade to the Mark III. My 50mm 1.2L is definitely my go to lens — it’s always the first lens I shoot with. For the last few months, I have also leaned heavily into my iPhone with the wide-angle Moment lens.
ONA: What sort of project drives your creativity? And what is your dream project?
MR: I really enjoy working on projects with open guidelines–something where I can choose the location and time to properly reflect the tone I’m trying to achieve. It’s a lot more work and certainly more challenging, but there’s always a payoff in the final images. Earlier this year, my wife started her fashion blog, LovelySunday – it has become my dream project because it has the open guidelines that I crave and I get to work with the intersection of fashion and photography. Plus, she’s my favorite person in the world, so that’s a nice bonus.
ONA: What is the hardest thing about being a photographer?
MR: Staying fresh and creative is really tough. When you’re shooting every few days, it can be very challenging to keep your shoots feeling unique and new. It’s really important to balance your output from shoots with input from photographers and sources of inspiration.
ONA: Describe your style of shooting.
MR: I’m a sucker for symmetry. I’ll regularly shoot wide open and play with the textures and lines in the background. I especially enjoy shooting directly into the light and playing with more dramatic ranges of light and color.
ONA: In one sentence, what advice would you give to a photographer just starting out?
MR: Keep shooting — once you learn the fundamentals, constantly challenging yourself is the only way to improve.
ONA: How did you hear about us?
MR: Back in 2011, I was searching for a new bag that could properly carry and protect my camera gear, while also being a good everyday bag. I stumbled onto ONA and fell in love. I think I bought the Union Street the same night.