It has been two years since the world was startled by the advent of the Coronavirus and our lives plunged into an abyss of shock and confusion.
Forced confinement within walls does not conform with either our physical or mental wellness. Nonetheless, that was how we were.
For people like me, photography is a way of life, our daily fodder for the mind and soul. It is our lifestyle, our life. Being denied this was like having our souls sucked out.
Yet we endured.
Speaking of education, while we, who teach photography, found alternative methods in the form of online classes, they were never enough. It was merely sustenance.
With the subsidence of the pandemic, we rushed out like giddy schoolboys, onto the open to relive nature, to relive society.
The opportunity came up when Nikon India invited me to conduct and mentor an outdoor photography workshop in the magnificent and serene greenery of Eco Park.
Though the number of participants had to be limited, I was told that the seats filled up within minutes of the announcement. This only shows how desperately people had been waiting for such an event.
Upon arrival at the venue, I was greeted by a group of eager students whose ages ranged from the twenties to the late sixties.
We started the workshop at 3pm and explored the Seven Wonders area for about two hours in course of which I passionately sharing my insights and experience on street photography. I had pre-selected that particular area of the park considering the monuments gave the beginners a steady background to work with.
Of course, my focus, as always, was on the photography of people. One of the biggest challenges newcomers face is the hesitation in shooting people in the streets. I directed my instructions and advice mostly towards how to overcome this inhibition.
Also, I tried to give an overview of creative and intuitive contemporary photography, since most photographers, I notice, are inclined towards the old pictorial forms. The participants, I felt, were truly enjoying the freshness of this style and genre.
The most important suggestion I gave to the participants was to be confident of oneself when shooting people and try to overcome inhibitions and shyness.
Also, photographs should be original, creative and fresh. Ideas and shots done by other photographers should not be repeated. Pre-planning shots is the biggest failure in street photography and is against creativity. So be spontaneous. Feel the essence of the moment and enjoy the experience.
With cameras being easily accessible nowadays, everyone has one, whether a DSLR or on their mobiles. And with easier access to thousands of tutorials online, almost everyone self-teaches photography.
With further access to exhibiting platforms like social media, one is under a quick impression of being a “photographer”. But this cannot be any further from the truth.
Photography, like any other art or sport, requires organised, structured, and disciplined training. Overall, it requires commitment.
People with their busy lifestyles, often lack time although their interest in such arts may be very keen. This is where the broad genre of street photography may be said to be the most feasible to learn and practice. Street photography does not require one to travel to particular destinations, nor does it require one to arrange studio setups. It can be practised anywhere and everywhere. Photos can be taken while commuting to the office or while touring out with friends and family. All that a person really needs is an addiction to this hobby.
Street photography has evolved through the years. Fifty years ago, beauty was considered the main attraction in images. With the advent of contemporary photography, they have changed from more graphic interests to trendy intelligent frames such as juxtapositioned shots. The importance of understanding moments has become of paramount importance. Arranged and planned shots are now considered outdated and old style. Of course, a majority of shooters still prefer the old, and there would be a never-ending debate if one would challenge the other over their styles. But art is not math. There can never be a fixed answer. One can never be right or wrong.
Award-winning lensman Sounak Banerjee, who counts the icon Raghu Rai as his mentor, is a resident of Rosedale Gardens, New Town, and runs the Calcutta School of Contemporary Photography at City Centre