Sai Kallur
Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas

Tommies From Around the Globe: Behind the Camera With Sai Kallur

He’s known to many as simply “that one kid behind the camera.” And that suits Sai Kallur just fine.

Ever since he can remember, Kallur has loved capturing the moment. In high school, he’d wander the streets of Pune, his hometown in Maharashtra, India, always with a camera handy, always on the lookout for the perfect shot and subject.

Now an international student at the University of St. Thomas, much has changed, and yet, much has stayed the same for this passionate photographer.

A digital media arts major, Kallur ’24 still very much enjoys capturing the moment, and someday soon he hopes to make it his career.

“Taking the time to notice those moments that people miss subconsciously, and capturing that on film, that’s just my favorite thing,” Kallur said.

He’s certainly getting a lot of practice. Soon after arriving on campus, Kallur walked into the university’s video production office, taking a job as a student videographer. Working alongside the St. Thomas marketing team, he’s been that “kid behind the camera” at dozens of events, including football games, March Through the Arches and arena announcements.

“Working all the first-year, freshmen events, is a great time of the year, but in the same way, I also love being at graduation,” Kallur said. “You get to watch as those students matured throughout their college career, how their relationships and social circles have formed.”

As a student videographer Kallur has learned the latest editing techniques on the Adobe Creative Cloud editing suite, and of course, uses a variety of digital cameras. But his true love remains still photography, using traditional film.

“Capturing moments on film brings me so much satisfaction that I would not necessarily get with digital because with digital, you can immediately see your pictures and take another,” Kallur said. “With film, it’s slower. You have to take your time.”

Creating images the old-fashioned way has an enduring, authentic appeal for Kallur, one that he forged on the busy streets of Pune.

Sai Kallur
Sai Kallur poses with his film camera on the St. Paul campus. In a moment that Kallur calls “meta,” this photo series was also taken on a film camera by University of St. Thomas Director of Photography Mark Brown.

“Street photography in India taught me a lot. It’s so fast-paced there. People don’t have time to have real conversations,” Kallur said. “To actually take the time to stand there, you see things that others don’t.”

Coming to Minnesota, Kallur certainly noticed differences in culture. He says that Minnesotans are incredibly nice, but that he’s found it more difficult to establish lasting friendships.

“Minnesota nice is definitely a thing. The people are all very welcoming. And I really do like that,” Kallur said. “But I feel like it’s harder for people to make new friends and maintain those friendships versus in India where people are extremely social all the time.”

Another big difference: the food. Kallur is constantly on the hunt for his favorite Indian comfort food: chicken biriyani.

“There are so many different cultures in India, so it’s been hard to find good Indian food that’s specifically from my state, my part of the country,” Kallur said. “That’s something I miss a lot – home-cooked food.”

While at St. Thomas, he’s also discovered a new love: making music. Kallur picked up the hobby while in quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic, and he shares his creations with friends back home in India.

“When I started making beats, I was focused on making tapes,” Kallur said. “But now I’ve been focusing on trying to combine different kinds of music, different cultural styles, trying to make something that’s new, more experimental.”

With one year left at St. Thomas, Kallur is getting ready to embrace his next chapter – hopefully a career in documentary filmmaking or photojournalism. As a teen in India, he once envisioned himself working as a photographer for The New York Times or The Associated Press. Years later, he’s less set on a specific landing pad, ready to take on whatever comes his way.

“Coming to the U.S., I’ve realized that what you expect isn’t always what you get, but it’s sometimes what you need,” Kallur said.

No matter where life takes him, his trusty camera won’t be far away. And he’s not afraid of making mistakes, something his love of photography and film has taught him along the way.

“Just picking up on the energy of people and capturing those moments, I love it,” Kallur said. “You’re bound to make mistakes, but those mistakes are what make the image more unique – they give them character.”