Meet the Dreamcatcher: A Photographer Who Connected 365 People with Their Dreams in One Year!

Meet Siddhartha Joshi, the dream catcher, photographer and travel blogger who has collected more than 365 dreams since 2015 under his unique project – ‘Tell Me Your Dream’.

Imagine meeting a complete stranger on the street, saying hi with a broad smile, talking to him or her for some time, and ending the conversation with an extremely personal question – ‘What is your dream?’

Sounds difficult, doesn’t it?

But for 34-year-old Siddhartha Joshi from Pune, this is something that comes very naturally. A product designer by profession, and a travel blogger and photographer by passion – Siddhartha started a project called ‘Tell Me Your Dream’ in 2015. Beginning December 31, 2014, Siddhartha approached 365 people, over the course of the following year, and asked them the very same question.

By December 31, 2015, he had a beautiful collection of pictures of people from across the world. He had also been sharing his work on Facebook and Instagram.

#TellMeYourDream2015 What is your dream? . “I have everything already, and all I want is wellness for my family. I hope they get good food, and stay together always…” . Suvarna is our first feature and works as a maid at homes and offices. I know her for close to two years now and despite the language barrier, we get along rather well. She blushed and laughed uncontrollably when I asked her my question. Or maybe she just laughed at my weird ponytail! —————— This is a part of a project that I have started to collect dreams this year. It’s an open initiative and everyone is welcome to share a portrait with a story for a feature here. The portrait could be yours or a stranger. You can mail me at [email protected] Or simply tag me to an image and we can take it forward from there. 1st January 2015

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“I did not think of it as a big project in the beginning. I have always been interested in taking pictures of people. I have been doing it for a long time now. But last year I realised something was missing in the pictures. In most of them, I did not even know the name of the people I was clicking. There was a gap between what I was doing and what I was more interested in – and that was learning about people. So I thought of doing something that would help me look beyond the pictures I was taking,” he says.

Siddhartha also thought it would be a better idea to try and understand the different places he visits with the help of the people living in those areas.

“I travel a lot. So I felt it would be good to understand a place, city, town, or village through its people, rather than reading about those places. I was also new to Pune and wanted to make a personal connection with the city,” he says.

This was the beginning of his quest to know more about the world around him – through the people he approached with the questioning curiosity of a child.

#TellMeYourDream2015 What is your dream? . “My dream is to build a house for myself and my mother in our village. My father was a village goon and died in an accident right after I was born, and since then my mother has been living with my maternal grandmother. However after my grandmother dies, my uncles will not let us stay there and we will have to move out. So I need a house as soon as possible.” . Raja Yadav lived a very protected life at home, playing Cricket most of the time and not doing much for studies. He is 22 but yet to appear for his std 12th exams and it didn’t seem to be a priority. He moved from Satna (Madhya Pradesh) to Pune only a few months back as his friends from village were already here and currently works as a security guard. He earns little and actually needs more money from his village every month to sustain the expensive city life. However, his dream is a huge challenge. His father was one of the three brothers and now the elder one has three sons, and the youngest one had one son. When the ancestral land and home gets divided, he will get a third but the other brothers will get much smaller parts and this irks them already. And it’s a very likely scenario that he will be killed for this reason if he goes near his father’s village. His plan is to take some males from his mother’s family and go with the sarpanch for division. The other brothers are also goons, like his father was, so his plan can also fail. ———- This is a part of an project that I have started to collect dreams. I call it ‘Tell me your Dream’. One dream, each day. It’s an open initiative and everyone is welcome to share a portrait with a story for a feature here. The portrait could be yours or a stranger. You can mail me at [email protected] Or tag me in an image and we can take it forward from there. 9th January 2015

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In the beginning, it was the neighbourhood grocer, garbage collectors, shopkeepers, etc. But soon, listening to innocent ambitions and flights of fancy had him looking to widen his circle. As he became more passionate about the subject, the number of pictures increased and his following gained momentum on social media.

Every day in 2015, he would go out and approach strangers. He would first make them comfortable, not broaching the subject of dreams or taking pictures. Each interview would last 30-45 minutes; what he shared in the end was only a short snippet of the entire conversation. “Photography is the last part of it. I make people comfortable before introducing the subject of dreams or photography,” says Siddhartha. He believes dreaming is a very positive experience and most people are happy talking about their dreams. In the first few weeks he would also talk to the people he knew – his parents and friends. But slowly, he became more interested in speaking to people he did not know at all.

Siddhartha was born in Bihar but his family kept moving because of his father’s transferable job. From Bihar to UP, Gujarat, Bengaluru, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Delhi, and then Pune,“there was no permanent home for us. We have always moved around for work.” This is one of the reasons why travel comes so naturally to him. And photography entered his life because of a DSLR camera that his father owned.

“My dad had a DLSR when I was 7-8 years old, and he was quite comfortable giving me the camera and letting me click pictures. He used to take a lot of pictures and I used to imitate him and follow him around. I always had access to a good camera. That was how I got interested in taking pictures of people,” he remembers.

After completing mechanical engineering, Siddhartha studied design and is currently working as a product designer with a non-profit organisation. Other than that, he loves to write for his own blog and sometimes also writes for different magazines, newspapers, etc. The ‘Tell Me Your Dream’ project is a collection of pictures from about six countries. Though the project is over, he still makes it a point to talk to people whenever he visits new places, and shares their stories. He travels mostly over the weekends and also whenever he gets some time off from work.

Siddhartha says something he learned early on in his project was that people’s dreams are similar and connected.

#TellMeYourDream2015 What is your dream? . “I dream of working in the area of education for children, especially children in the rural parts of the country. I would actually start from Uttar Pradesh as that is the state that I understand the best. I will start it with a pilot project in one village with my own funds and then see how to take it forward. I think I will be ready with a plan and also initial funds by the time I am fourty.” . Sonakshi has lived a comfortable life most of her life, but there was one phase when her dad was without salary for one whole year. Her mother was completely dependent on her father for financial support, and during this time she and her needs suffered the most. It was at this time that Sonakshi’s mother told her to be an independent woman, especially financially. Now she works as a designer making products that is feels deeply committed and connected to. She loves the independence that money has given her, and makes sure that her mother also gets to be a part of it. ———- This is a part of an project that I have started to collect dreams. I call it ‘Tell me your Dream’. One dream, each day. It’s an open initiative and everyone is welcome to share a portrait with a story for a feature here. The portrait could be yours or a stranger. You can mail me at [email protected] Or tag me in an image and we can take it forward from there. 13th January 2015

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“Talking to people across countries made me realise that we are so close to each other, even if our lives might be completely different. That was the reason behind sharing these pictures too. I felt that something like this brings people very close to each other.”

Siddhartha also opened up the project for others to contribute. He asked people to click pictures of strangers, ask about their dreams, and share what they learned with him. Many people responded and he shared their pictures too.

Of the 365 people he talked to, some left a mark on Siddhartha much more than others.

#TellMeYourDream2015 What is your dream? . “I dream of opening another big shop for which the construction work will start soon. Once the shop is ready I will quit cutting hair and just sit and manage the business. My son Akshay is already trained at this and he will work at the shop.” . Hemant Rout was born and brought up in the Shurkawar Peth area of Pune. His father had opened a small hair cutting salon almost sixty years back and when he was in grade six, he also started learning the tricks of the trade. He left school aftrr grade tenth and joined the family business. His business suffered major setback in the mid-nineties but since then things have been smooth. He has one son who helps him in the shop after his morning classes at the Commerce college, and a daughter who is younger and has already finished college. ———- This is a part of a 365 days project to collect dreams and I call it ‘Tell me your Dream’. One dream, each day. It’s an open initiative and everyone is welcome to share a portrait with a story for a feature here. The portrait could be yours or a stranger. You can mail me at [email protected] Or tag me in an image and we can take it forward from there. 20th February 2015

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“Some people are so positive. There is a young guy outside my office who comes and collects the garbage every day. He comes every month and takes Rs. 100. One day I looked at him and wondered why I’m not talking to him. So, we sat down and had a very nice chat. It was so interesting to hear about his dreams and aspirations. All he wanted in life was to become a doctor, and the way he talked about it was so inspirational. Then I met many people who are change makers in different communities. In Pune, I met this woman who works with children of those working in red light areas, and takes care of their education. Her story was also very special.”

Along the way, he also met some people who refused to talk to him and it was difficult to convince them to share their dreams. “The trick was to start in a friendly way with a big smile,” he says.

But what is the dream of the person who goes around asking everybody about theirs?

“I dream of a borderless world. I think all these boundaries are man-made. I dream that someday in my life I will get a chance to go back to that time when we could live in such a world,” he smiles.

Siddhartha loves the work he is doing. He feels that it is not social work but a very powerful way of impacting society. Brandon Stanton, the face behind the ‘Humans of New York’ Facebook page, and other such photographers, have always been an inspiration to him although he has developed his own unique style.

Take a look at some of his brilliant work here:

#TellMeYourDream2015 What is your dream? . “I have a constant dream for almost the last thirty five years – to build a Child and Maternal Health Institute in Gujarat. Multiple times in the past it almost came true, but something or the other stopped it from happening. The best place for doing this would be VS hospital in Ahmedabad.” . For a doctor, Dr Vani has lived the life of a complete superstar. She comes from a Gujarati family which shifted to Tamil Nadu about 300 years back. She did medicine there and then got married and shifted to Ahmedabad with her doctor husband in 1963-64. Once here she got involved in a big way in community healthcare. She led very many initiatives especially in the field of vaccination for kids and recounted many adventures to me. Once she was even cornered in a village when she was doing a camp because the villagers thought vaccination was for sterilization. She persuasion skills worked and later they became champions of her work. At times to convince the villagers to come for these health camps she even did small movie shows in villages – Upkar, Anand and a few more. This strategy worked extremely well in those days. This and many more innovative initiatives have always been part of her work. Now she has retired but still works almost twenty four hours in the day. She visits villages, meets healthcare workers, mothers and families and does everything possible to make their lives better. Though she has been in Gujarat for long, she still misses Tamil Nadu, especially for its music and culture. ———- This is a part of a 365 days project to collect dreams and I call it ‘Tell me your Dream’. One dream, each day. It’s an open initiative and everyone is welcome to share a portrait with a story for a feature here. The portrait could be yours or a stranger. You can mail me at [email protected] Or tag me in an image and we can take it forward from there. 19th February 2015

A photo posted by Siddhartha Joshi (@siddharthajoshi) on

#TellMeYourDream2015 What is your dream? . “I really like auto-rickshaw and want to work in a shop where they are repaired. I have already spoken to a garage owner in Solapur and he has promised to teach me all the skills needed for this. He won’t pay me anything for the first eight days, but after that I will get a salary also.” . Farid is fourteen years old and is currently visiting his aunt in Pune for a few days so that he can see the city life also. He has seven brothers and two sisters. His father used to make ‘mandaps’ for wedding etc and died a few years back when he fell from a pole while making a mandap. Now his two eldest brothers earn and run the family. He also works – currently he packs onions into bags at the vegetable market. Farid has never been to school and can’t read or write at all. He is unsure if any of his elder siblings have been to school either. He also has no desire to go to one. ———- This is a part of a 365 days project to collect dreams and I call it ‘Tell me your Dream’. One dream, each day. It’s an open initiative and everyone is welcome to share a portrait with a story for a feature here. The portrait could be yours or a stranger. You can mail me at [email protected] Or tag me in an image and we can take it forward from there. 30th March 2015

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#TellMeYourDream2015 What is your dream? . “I dream of doing something more in life, not just do what I am doing right now. If given a choice, I would love to work in a hotel.” . Rajesh works as a Behrupiya in the peth areas of Pune. In Pune he lives with a few more Behrupiya in a small house and spends the entire day walking around and asking for money. Behrupiyas were fairly common in the Indian sub-continent a few decades back, but now they are just the last few caretakers of this dying art. In the olden days Behrupiya would impersonate someone and visit a social ceremony and create commotion. If caught to be impersonating, they won’t get rewards, and if not they would get a ‘baksheesh’. Rajesh is fifteen and comes from Karnataka which is where his family also lives. He has also studied till seventh grade and uses his education to keep account of his daily earnings. ———- This is a part of a 365 days project to collect dreams and I call it ‘Tell me your Dream’. One dream, each day. It’s an open initiative and everyone is welcome to share a portrait with a story for a feature here. The portrait could be yours or a stranger. You can mail me at [email protected] Or tag me in an image and we can take it forward from there. 28th April 2015

A photo posted by Siddhartha Joshi (@siddharthajoshi) on

@Regrann from @siddharthajoshi: #TellMeYourDream2015 What is your dream? . “My dream is what my husband dreams of. He wants a house, so I also want one.” . Renuka’s day starts at 4am everyday when she gets up and starts the work to make the order of ‘Paper sweet’ for the day at the break of dawn. In the morning hours only the family members participate, later other women from the village also join in. She is married for 15 years and has one young son who goes to school. In the evenings she also helps him with the homework. When Renuka has time, she loves visiting the village temple with other women. She also stitches cloths for the family at home itself on her own sewing machine. ———- This is a part of a 365 days project to collect dreams and I call it ‘Tell me your Dream’. One dream, each day. It’s an open initiative and everyone is welcome to share a portrait with a story for a feature here. The portrait could be yours or a stranger. You can mail me at [email protected] Or tag me in an image and we can take it forward from there. 16th November 2015 – via #Regrann

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#TellMeYourDream2015 What is your dream? . “My dream is to stay in Srirangam, improve my business further and make it large scale.” . Seventy-two years ago Rajasekhar was born in Salem. After his marriage he came to Srirangam to start his own business and has been running ‘Mani’s Café’ for the last thirty years. The café serves not just for but also South Indian meals. The work starts early morning at 7 am and the shop closes at 7.30 pm. The cooks start even earlier at 4 am. The café is named after his father-in-law to honor him. He has two sons and both are currently studying. Most likely they will take up jobs after college and not come and work at the café. ———- This is a part of a 365 days project to collect dreams and I call it ‘Tell me your Dream’. One dream, each day. It’s an open initiative and everyone is welcome to share a portrait with a story for a feature here. The portrait could be yours or a stranger. You can mail me at [email protected] Or tag me in an image and we can take it forward from there. 8th June 2015

A photo posted by Siddhartha Joshi (@siddharthajoshi) on

#TellMeYourDream2015 What is your dream? . “I dream of living in a happy place where people are appreciated for their talents and paid for it. Where it’s ok to be laid back and relaxed and not be aggressively ambitious. I want a design utopia in India.” . Maithli Kabre is a Mumbai based jewelry designer who recently shot to fame when Aishwarya Rai bought her designs and wore them as well. She has been designing for a few years but the kind of appreciation and visibility she got from this was unparalleled. However, her story with jewelry design started when she was in her third year of architecture at JJ college in Mumbai. She used to make beaded jewelry and also managed to earn from selling those. Later she learnt more about the field during her design days at NID, the years that were pivotal for both her personal and professional life. She married her Bengali batchmate after NID and soon after started her own jewelry line. Her journey after that has been an exciting one where she experimented with different styles and materials, including acrylic which worked well on the ramps. Her plans for future are ambitious but she wants to do it her own way. She’s knows the world is wide open for her and she needs to excel at the business part of design to conquer it. ———- This is a part of a 365 days project to collect dreams and I call it ‘Tell me your Dream’. One dream, each day. It’s an open initiative and everyone is welcome to share a portrait with a story for a feature here. The portrait could be yours or a stranger. You can mail me at [email protected] Or tag me in an image and we can take it forward from there. 24th May 2015

A photo posted by Siddhartha Joshi (@siddharthajoshi) on

You can contact Siddhartha by writing to him at [email protected].

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