Rishi Oswal was a college graduate from UC San Diego starting out on his career when he realized something:
He wasn’t happy.
“There’s nothing wrong with a job, but I just wasn’t feeling it to be meaningful,” said Oswal, who describes himself as an introvert who struggled to connect with people. “I was feeling lonely and unhappy. So I decided to follow my feelings and quit my job, and went to India for six months to explore my roots.”
It was during this 2009 trip and over the following years that Oswal, who goes by the name Rishió, discovered his passion — photography — and the beauty of a simple life.
Today, Rishió lives in a white Ford van — by choice. Everything that he owns fits in a grey Tom Bihn backpack — clothes, a wallet, basic toiletries, glasses, a sarong, a water bottle, his iPhone and a lavaliere microphone. He also carries three harmonicas — he learned to play two years ago in India and it has become a newfound passion.
He takes stunning photographs of his travels, and records conversations with random people he meets during his travel — deep conversations that help mold and shape his world view.
And he’s happier than he’s ever been.
“Everything is really well-thought-out, Rishió said. “I never feel like I’m missing something. It’s not about being minimal, it’s about clarity, focus, being rid of all of the clutter. And I cannot go back.”
Rishió’ is making his gallery debut this month at Culture Brewing Co. in Encinitas, where his photos and videos are being displayed. The installation runs through July 31, with a reception from 5 to 9 p.m. July 19.
He said the gallery experience and feedback he’s received has been “overwhelming,” in a good way.
“The response has been really positive,” Rishió said. “I put a lot of effort into it, and people have been really receptive to it, and saying nice things. I am, well, really excited about Thursday.”
The photos are from his most recent trip back to India and Nepal, between 2015 and 2016 — “it’s all jumbled up, I don’t really think of time,” he said.
They reflect the three things that he said are most important to him: his relationship with himself, with nature and with other people.
“That is why I love photography,” he said. “It gives me permission to connect deeply with people.”
He also connects through his conversations, which he says are 30 minutes, and range on a variety of topics. He condenses the conversations into one-minute “little pieces of wisdom,” vignettes that he stores on an iPad. Those videos will also be on display during the gallery.
Rishió said the July 19 reception also serves as a springboard into his next project, which he plans to begin next spring: a cross-country trip in his van, taking photos and interviewing the people he meets along the way.
He will have a map of the U.S. on display during the reception, and will ask people to stick pins in places where they would recommend that he visit.
“The best way to travel is not to hit all of the touristy places,” said Rishió, who said he likes to travel places off-season to enjoy them more. “It’s by talking to people and asking them where to go.”
He also plans on launching a fundraising campaign to help fund his trip, which will be the inspiration for his next gallery upon his return.
“This is the way that I live,” Rishió said. “It’s not just a short-term thing. I want my work to be my life.”
Rishio’s work can also be seen on his Instagram page, @rishiomedia