Interview with the photographer Abhijit Kar Gupta
“The stories wait to unfold in a still frame. We just need to wait and observe with all our sincerity. ”
Can you tell us some words about you?
My area of research and teaching is in Physics. I teach physics to undergraduate and post graduate students in a college. I live in Kolkata. But for my job, I commute to rural area. My passion is photography. I like to carry my camera in my backpack even when I go for my work. Apart from photography, I write rhymes, popular science articles in Bengali. I like to read, ride bicycle and travel wherever I can. As a Bengali person, I love to converse or chat with friends and acquaintances which we call ‘aadda’.
What inspires you to photograph the nature and rural life in West Bengal?
My area of interest is in landscape and people. The life and landscape of Rural West Bengal is something that have been my favourite subjects. I was born in a village and I spent my childhood there. So, my memories of those days, the simple and quiet life over there influence me quite a lot. Even as I live in a big city, I virtually exist in rural landscape.
In which locations do you usually shoot the photos?
I like to carry my camera wherever I go – to a city, a village or to a travel destination. An open landscape, the horizon at far, the setting Sun, the lined trees, beautiful sky, quiet life of people, a cycle passing by, some people walking through the landscape, all that attract me to frame them. When I walk through the narrow lanes of an old part of a city, I also get equally curious to examine the light and shadow, the quietness of life over there.
Everybody knows that India is a very diverse country. What can you tell us about the region of Bengal? What is its geography, climate, seasons, and nature, etc?
Yes, India is a very diverse country in terms of language, food, culture and landscape. West Bengal is at the eastern part of India. The language, culture and food are more common to that of Bangladesh than any other part of India for natural reason. Our language is Bengali (Bangla), we love to eat fish and rice. There are lots of rivers at the southern part of Bengal and then the sea (Bay of Bengal) where the large rivers meet. In between, there exists the largest mangrove forest called Sundarban. At the north of West Bengal, you meet mighty Himalayan Mountain. Darjeeling is one beautiful hill town on Eastern Himalayan range which produces the finest Tea in the World.
In most of the regions, the villages are green and fertile. Varieties of crops are cultivated. But still there are villages which exist in the relatively dry areas and the life is hard enough over there.
Apart from in the part in Himalayan range, the climate is usually hot and humid. However, the life and culture are dependent much on the seasonal variations throughout the year. The winter sets in and stays for a couple of months followed by the spring and the unbearable hot and humid summer. Then the monsoon arrives and sweeps across the state. The rural landscape becomes green, the rivers become full. The cultivation largely depends on the rain waters.
Life of rural people mostly revolve around agriculture, and partly fishing in coastal areas. People are lazy and they love to celebrate life through various festivals throughout the year, the major festival being Durgotsav (Durga Puja festival: It is about the worshiping of beautiful Goddess Durga and her children coming down on Earth in autumn.).
How is the lifestyle of the people who live in villages? Are they still in touch with nature?
Life of people mostly depend on agriculture. West Bengal is a highly populated state of India. Majority of the farmers are either small and marginal and then there are landless farmers. They live in villages next to their cultivated lands. Villages are of course connected to the small towns nearby by road or by train. One may not find lots of trees or forests in most parts of West Bengal, except in some scattered areas and the Himalayan foothills. But in many parts, there are cultivated lands which are fertile and that offer a variety of crops throughout the year.
What is your vision of the world?
In our childhood, we used to play a kind of game. One would start by saying, ‘Can you see what I see?’ Something or some name. The others in the group would be looking around in order to locate that. This game has a philosophical twist. The idea is to show people what I see!
When I look through the camera view finder, I try to frame a piece of reality that exists in front of me. The interaction of landscape and life and the understanding of it can make us realize the magic and sense of reality. The stories wait to unfold in a still frame. We just need to wait and observe with all our sincerity. Can a simple piece of story or a simple frame immortalize a moment? Can a life be treated as a collage of such innumerable frames?
I am sure, the World would be a better place if we observe deeply and begin to understand things the way they are. The art of photography can provide us with that opportunity.