An Amazing Interview with Indian Photographer
A teacher by profession, Sandipan Mukherjee has been a free-lance contributor to The Times of India, The Statesman, The Hindustan Times, The Asian Age and Bhraman. His photographs have won recognition and awards from numerous prestigious organizations and events in India and abroad, like Better Photography, Gujarat Lalit Kala Academy, Asian Development Bank, People and Planet (Australia), TNT Magazine (UK), Snowden (Australia), CIWEM (EPOTY), SPIE (USA) and the Sony World Photography Awards. As the winner of the prestigious Wanderlust Travel Photo of the Year 2013 (People) Contest organized by the Wanderlust Magazine, UK, Mukherjee earned a 9-day-long customized Photo Trip for two to Jordan, sponsored entirely by the Jordan Tourism Board, who also presented the photos from that tour in a widely acclaimed solo exhibition at ICCR, Kolkata. He has to his credit several national and international group exhibitions, and two other solo exhibitions.
Tell us about yourself.
I am a teacher by profession, but by passion many things. I feel passionately about books, films, theatre, music, sports, trekking, long drives and rides... the list is endless. Sometimes I have felt that perhaps I am too curious in too many things to excel in one.
What photography means to you...
Somebody once said that freezing a moment in a photograph reveals how rich reality truly is. Photography for me is a way to interpret that reality according to my perceptions of it.
How did you come into the world of photography?
Discovered it suddenly during a trek to Kedartal in 2007. As it often happens with me, I became obsessed with the medium, shot photos whenever and wherever I had a chance, went through whichever book which I could lay my hands on, looked up the works of old and modern masters... and to my utter surprise and delight ended up winning national and international recognitions within a year.
Is photography your passion or profession?
It’s my passion. Opportunities to become a professional photographer came my way, but I have always been contented in my profession of training young minds.
Which genre do you prefer in photography and why?
I would say landscape and people... one allows me to be lonely and the other to be among my fellow citizens of the world. Perhaps also because I have never had the proper gadgets to shoot birds or insects.
If you were not a photographer what you would be doing?
I have been a teacher, a photographer, a freelance journalist... but at heart I have always been a wanderer.
According to you what is Vision?
From the photographer’s perspective... it is the ability to see what is invisible to the others.
What are your future projects?
I have a few ideas and ongoing projects, but nothing to talk about at this moment.
Tell me about your family and friends... those who left significant impact in your photographic journey
My photographic journey, like all great journeys, is a very personal one. But I could embark on that journey only because my family and friends have been there to watch my back.
Tell us about your upcoming book “On Broken Trails”
'On Broken Trails' is a photo-essay on the Nubra Valley in Ladakh. It is neither a photo-album filled with some colourful travel photos, nor it is a mere coffee-table book intended for casual reading. The result of extensive research work and six visits in as many years, it showcases the land and life of the remote cold desert. The narrative strings 90 images spanning across diverse photographic genres, and deals with, among other subjects, the history, geography, environment, lifestyle and military affairs of the region.
Did you face any difficulties in pursuing Photography?
Sometimes I am not left with the time or energy to pursue it... other than that, nothing.
You definitely need decent gear... particularly if you are shooting wildlife or macro. But that said, I think gear is overrated. When I started out I carried three lenses. Then I sold them and settled for one. I couldn’t shoot the distant bird on the tree anymore, but I could concentrate better on the sights at hand. I was no more fumbling with the ‘right lens’ for the occasion and missing the moment.
Maybe I have been wrong in doing so, but since 2011, I have stuck with one camera – Nikon D300s and one lens – Nikkor 16-85mm. My entire book has been shot with these. Never felt the need to upgrade to a full-frame or 50 megapixel camera. If you ask me, I would always put my money on a good photographer with average gear rather than on an average photographer with great gear.
Message for young talents
Great equipment does not necessarily make great images. You do. Learn to see first. Invest more time in studying the past and contemporary masters of the art, and less in editing average images you can’t let go and counting social media likes. Expand your horizon... read good books, listen to good music, watch good films, be good and responsible citizens of the world.
Who is Sandipan when no one is looking at you?
Myself... I am often most happy when I am alone and the most comfortable when no one is looking at me.
Share your experiences with your past works/exhibitions and tell us about your upcoming exhibitions.
Between 2008 and 2013 I won numerous awards and recognition from all over the world. As the winner of the prestigious Wanderlust Travel Photo of the Year 2013 Contest organized by the Wanderlust Magazine, UK, I earned a 9-day-long customized Photo Trip for myself and my wife to Jordan, sponsored entirely by the Jordan Tourism Board who also presented the photos from that tour in a widely acclaimed solo exhibition at ICCR, Kolkata. It may seem strange to many, but that was the last time I participated in any contest. In the last few years I became busy in other things and took up the camera only when I travelled. But I have managed to finish the project I started in 2012. The result is the book ‘On Broken Trails’ which is going to be launched at ICCR on 22ndDecember. The photo exhibition of the same name – my 3rd solo exhibition – will continue for 7 days, till the 28th, and the book will also remain in display the entire duration.
Do you want to share any interesting story with us?
I had this great shot of a pilgrim from Chhattisgarh, taking the holy dip at Gangasagar... the light was tremendous and his posture was perfect. I checked the image on the LCD and then looked at him again. But by now he was shaking and weeping uncontrollably... he couldn’t find his people on coming out of the freezing water. And he wouldn’t accept the fact that his own family had deserted him there... pennyless, half-naked... for he had outlived his utility in the household. I erased that image from the memory card. Couldn’t erase it from my memory.
What is your views about World Photographic Forum?
With close to a quarter of a million members, WPF is a world in itself. It is a great platform for the budding photographers as well as the well-established... people can see the work of the others and also showcase their own. I love the way you arrange events, organize contests and publish the profiles of established photographers.
Messages for the members of WPF:
The success of your group is a testament to the tremendous work you are doing. Wish you all the best for the future.