Interview with Award Winning Travel and Documentary Photographer Debdatta Chakraborty

Interview with Award Winning Travel and Documentary Photographer Debdatta Chakraborty

Debdatta Chakraborty is one of the eminent photographers from city of joy Kolkata, India. He has bagged countless national and international prestigious awards. Thanks Debdatta for this interview. Please read on….

Debdatta Chakraborty was first introduced to the world of photography with his father’s Agfa Click III camera. Later an old Ross-Ensign’s Fulvueflex nurtured his interest in the world of chemicals. Since childhood he was fascinated by the process from which a picture slowly became clear from the halide solutions of darkroom. Later on, for travel and documentary photography, he took up the Nikon FM, as 35mm was in vogue, at that time. With the onset of digital photography, he was quick to embrace the modern technology. The first DSLR was a Nikon D90.

He has participated in numerous photography competitions and has won awards both in India and abroad. The first breakthrough came from the Grand prize by the Ministry of External Affairs of the Government of India in their “India Is” photo contest in 2013. He had won accolades from The Royal Society of Biology, London. The China Folklore Photography Organisation and The Unesco conferred him the prestigious Documentary Award in The Humanity Photo Awards(HPA), 2015 at Shangri- La, China. His work was published as an honorary mention in the Wisden Cricket Almanac in 2015. The UNESCO, Asia Pacific region, having its office at Bangkok awarded him in their photo contest at Bangkok in 2016. He has been awarded with the special merit medal award in the prestigious photo contest HIPA 2016 in the portfolio category. He has won third prize in the Nikon photo contest in 2016-2017. And for successive years, on 2018 & 2019,  he has been the category winner in The Pink Lady Food Photographer of The Year.  Presently he is working on the ethnic tribal cultures of India.

How did your photographic journey started?

Initially it was the love for the mountains, which brought me out of the cosy corners of the home. I was a trekker, at a very amateur level, in the Himalayas. I tried to capture the beauty of the mountains which introduced me to the camera. In those days, Gallen Rowell, with his “Mountain Lights”, was a major influencing factor

How you have learned photography ?

I am a self taught photographer. In those days, the internet was not easily available. Nor was money available to buy good books. I spent hours at the book stores to have a look of “The Monsoon”. I made settlements with the pavement magazine sellers who sold old books, to inform me whenever some new consignments arrived. Sometimes they allowed me to see the books without buying them. Those were very hard days, but had their own charms, off course.

Which photographic subjects do you like the most and why?

People are my favourite subject. I try to tell the stories of the numerous faceless people living across the Indian subcontinent. These are the ones whom we meet every day but do not care to have a look at them. They are the common man of India, living in the villages, working in the streets and fields, throughout the day only to earn a single lunch at the end of the day. They gift me a priceless smile when I ask their permission for a picture. Nobody cares for them but its only for these people, what India is all about.

What do you want to express and share through your photographs?

The most important thing that I want to see is the human emotions. The beauty of a smile, the joy of childhood, the curse of untouchability, the plight of poverty, all tell a story to me. I have met with numerous people of different countries, regions and culture. They are totally different from each other but the only similarity that has bound them all is the human emotion. They all smile to an act of gratitude, show affection to their siblings, and get afraid to an unknown danger. It’s the language of emotion that has bound them all.

Your inspiration of Photography ?

To be honest, life is an inspiration by itself, to me. The myriads of cultural diaspora, that I find in Indian subcontinent inspires me to capture the vignettes from their everyday life. Off course, regarding the approach towards this subject, Raghu Rai is a God to me. As is Steve McCurry and Sebastiao Salgado.

What are the challenges you have faced as a photographer and how you overcome them ?

The kind of photography that I practice, there are many on field challenges that I have to face. Sometimes its shooting in a challenging terrain, sometimes there are restrictions from the people as well as the authority. To overcome the challenges, there’s no one copybook rule. You have to go according  to the circumstances. Eventually one gas to have the grit that whatever may be the hurdles, you have to come out as a winner.

Share one of your memorable experience as a photographer .

Regarding experiences, if I write a book, that would be a very big one. But one personal experience was something for which I required a lot of time to overvome. FH Priok of Bangladesh was a very good photographer from Banglasesh and we came in contact through the social media. In 2018, when I went to Dhaka, we first talked with each other. I asked for some help, and the kind of gentleman he was, he described every bit of photographing the subject and later added that he has some urgency as his little daughter was admitted to hospital fir some ailments and was to be released on that day. Otherwise he would have definitely accompanied me. Just a few months later, he went to Nepal for a vacation with his family, and the flight in which he was travelling, crashed. Priok and his daughter both died on spot. I could not believe at first, that such a nice gentleman would end up in such a shocking way.

What kind of equipment and software for post processing you use presently?

Regarding my approach towards photography, I am a minimalist. Presently I am using two Nikon D750 bodies along with the Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 and the Nikkor 16-35mm f/4 lenses. Apart from that, to get a lower depth of field, I sometimes use a 50mm.

 Would you like to give some suggestions to the photography beginners to improve their skills?

Even after almost 15 years into the field of photography, I still consider myself to be a beginner. It’s very difficult for me to teach anything to my fellow counterparts. But as a whole, it can be said that the genre of photography that I am in, i.e. People, here you’ve no shortcut to success. You have to mix with your subjects, be a part of their community and then only you can get the best expressions out of them.


You can find Debdatta Chakraborty on the Web:

All the pictures in this post are copyrighted Debdatta Chakraborty. Their reproduction, even in part, is forbidden without the explicit approval of the rightful owners.

1 Comment

  • Jhuma Datta on September 1, 2019 4:54 pm Reply

    Debdatta, your images tell a story which even million words won’t be able to express. Keep up the good work. God bless.

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