What drew you to street photography initially?
Truly speaking I really don’t know. Probably it came naturally on my way. I’m a self taught photographer from Kolkata, India. I started taking pictures in 2012. Initially I used to take all shorts of pictures. Though I wasn’t really happy with my visual expression. Gradually I discovered, my natural inclination towards connecting to the human elements. Maybe, my desire for connecting to people brought me into street photography.
Another reason probably is that my shooting style or approach fits best with street photography. From the very beginning I used to take pictures of candid moments, even when I was not aware of the different genres of photography. My imagination is not very strong. Rather, I always believe that reality can be stranger than what I can think of.
Thus it was a natural process through which I gradually realized that my personal likings and abilities match best with Street Photography.
What do you think is the best way to become a better storyteller – to capture images that tell stories?
I do not know what is the best way to tell a story. I can only share my philosophy and approach on the streets.
As the visual language is my mode of expression, I think it’s important that my photograph tell a story or express a particular emotion which resonates with my heart. Also, sometimes I want my story to remain incomplete or ambiguous so that it becomes subject to interpretations.
I really love to see the small drama of everyday life as it is staged on the streets. Common people are my heroes and heroines who play themselves in this drama. As a storyteller my job here is just to capture the candid, unposed and unguarded moments of this fascinating ‘Real Life’ drama through my own vision.
In most of the situations I use walk-wait-watch technique. While walking on the streets, when I see a possibility, I just wait there. I don’t interrupt or influence the flow of life. I simply remain focused. I think observation and anticipation play a key role here. Sometimes I expect something unexpected to happen and sometimes I create a pre-conceived image on my mind based on the situation. However, I always look for a good composition in my pictures. I think that’s the key factor for me to build a story.
I love this image:
Actually the whole series at this event is lovely. Can you tell me a little about it? What is going on here?
Goverdhan Puja, or Annakut or Annakoot (translated as “a mountain of food”) as it is also known, is a Hindu festival in which devotees prepare and offer a large variety of vegetarian food to the ‘murtis’(idols) of God as a mark of gratitude. For Vaishnavas, this day commemorates the incident in the ‘Bhagavata Puran’ when Lord Krishna lifted Govardhan Hill to provide the villagers of Vrindavan shelter from torrential rains. The incident is seen to represent how God will protect all devotees. Devotees offer a mountain of food, metaphorically representing the Govardhan Hill, to God as a ritual remembrance. The Annakut festival occurs on the first lunar day of ‘Shukla Paksha’ (bright fortnight) in the Hindu calendar month of Kartik, which is the fourth day of Deepawali (Diwali), the Hindu festival of lights.
Here devotees are trying to catch holy rice being thrown from a temple in Kolkata, India during Annakut (“heap of grain”) festival. I was keen to capture the expressions on the faces along with the showering food. Devotees spread their saris and other belongings to collect ‘prasadam’ at Madan Mohan Temple in Kolkata.
You get close! How do you do it?
First thing I’m fortunate that I live in India where going close to the people on the streets is comparatively easy.
Secondly, I think faith, confidence and patience play a vital role here. I have enough faith in people. And it has increased over time. I go close, stay calm, stay positive. I try to remain confident. I believe I’m not doing anything wrong, so people will not feel offended. This peculiar belief gives me confidence. And I go more close. I maintain a low profile on the streets, so that I can better camouflage with people. If I get the picture before I get noticed then well and good. Otherwise if I get noticed, then also I remain composed. I try to maintain a body-language that shows I’m uninterested about what is happening. I try to suppress my curiosity. Sometimes patience is also a key thing. If I see a possibility, I wait for a long time until people start ignoring me. And thus I again become invisible to them.
What has street photography taught you?
For me street photography is more than a genre of photography. It’s how I look at the world around me, it’s how I feel about the place I live in, it’s how my fellow people are living their day-to-day lives. For me it’s a way of life.
Street photography taught me many a things. I have learned how to stay focused and stay positive. I’m otherwise an introvert. But I have learned to talk to people more when I’m on the streets. And I feel happy about it. Street photography has taught me how to connect with the people.
As a street photographer, I do not ask for permission while taking photos on the streets. However, most of the time I have been well accepted by the people who have seen me taking their photos. Every time I experience this, I realize how good and kind-hearted my fellow people are that I hardly face any rejection though I am intruding into their privacy! And thus I feel I personally became more empathetic towards my fellow people.
My subjects are my heroes and heroines. Because of them I got the passion of my life. My love and respect for those unknown people have increased over time. All these credits go to street photography. 🙂
To see more of Saumalya’s work, visit his Flickr photostream.
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