The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Chronicler of a picture perfect land

Soumitra Datta

Mountains of sand, veils of water, forest fires in the Andamans and the beaches of the Konkan Coast. Soumitra Datta has captured the beauty of the Indian landscape in his images. The civil engineer’s passion is photography, and making people aware of the undiscovered marvels of the nation’s backwoods is his mission.

With his Nikon or Hasselblad in hand, with the burden of 30 mm, 45 mm and 90 mm lenses on his shoulders, he ventures off into the sunset — or sunrise, as the case may be — and meditates, to become one with nature. It is through this communication with the land around him that he captures the magic of the scenery on camera. Structural forms, play of light, atmospheric influences and pristine landscapes – these are his inspirations.

It all began as a childhood hobby during family holidays. “But I always wanted to make better pictures, because I wasn’t satisfied,” the Jadavpur University graduate explains. It was in Class VIII that his “thirst for photography” reached new heights. “In college, I joined the photography club, where we exhibited our stuff, and held discussions and lectures on the technical aspects. This helped me nurture my skills,” Datta adds.

The 43-year-old’s “first own exhibition” was at the Academy of Fine Arts, in 1985. Since then, he has held numerous more, with awards like the JU All-India Open Saloon and an international Unicef competition in the bag. “It was in 1995 that I first concentrated on landscape photography,” Datta explains. What aided him to achieve his ambition was his job. “It was pure luck actually,” he smiles. “My job, with my own industrial structuring company, takes me to a lot of out-of-the way places. When the job is done, I take out a few days and disappear alone.”

The man from Golf Garden has been to generally undiscovered and often inaccessible areas in West Bengal, Orissa, Assam, Sikkim, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Meghalaya and Rajasthan (his favourite), among others, discovering the magnificence of nature. “I was alone on St Mary Island, near Manipal, where there’s practically no human habitation. And I just sat by the beach, watching the land disappear into the sea, and felt really small in the order of things. It was an amazing experience.”

Despite having published a book with his photographs and having his pictures travel all the way to the erstwhile USSR, his aim remains to raise worldwide awareness about the beauty of the Indian landscape through global exhibitions. Celebrated lensman Raghu Rai inaugurated his exhibition, on at the Academy of Fine Arts on Tuesday. With two daughters who “love photography”, Datta says his life is almost picture perfect.

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