Where the Streets Have No Name

 

It’s All About Emotion…

It’s very easy and very difficult to photograph kids. To get a nice frame is easy. A special moment, however, is often elusive, a reward for the times when I am truly patient.

It’s very easy and very difficult to photograph kids. To get a nice frame is easy. A special moment, however, is often elusive, a reward for the times when I am truly patient. Photograph/Swarat Ghosh

“Sometimes, I keep talking to people and then miss the moment,” says Swarat Ghosh, “but now I train myself to look through the viewfinder, even while continuing the conversation,” he says, on the sensory experience of his street photography practice.

Wherever we go in India, crowds are bound to follow. But what drives me to shoot on the streets is the unexpected isolated moment in the midst of all the chaos. And for this, gesture is everything. Light and composition are important, sure, but expression and emotion are what I gravitate towards.

On Getting Up Close

There was a time when I would shoot with an ultrawide, but I realised that I was only getting caught up in the shock effect that it offers. Now, I have settled on the 24mm. This focal length is not easy either. It’s after a year of practice that I know exactly how far I must stand and the height at which I should shoot from, to control distortion. To tell a singular story with a 24mm, I need to get closer, one step at a time. If I overstep the line and get too close, I just wait. The subject eventually stops being curious, yeh toh bas timepass ho raha hai, he may think, and go back to what he or she is doing. The closer I get, the more invisible I become.

On Inspiration

My initial heroes were Raghu Rai and Raghubir Singh. More recently, I was greatly moved by the interplay of various elements and mystery and emotion within the daily life captured by Amit Mehra in his book ‘Kashmir’.

Training Oneself to Imagine, Preempt

When I wander into a new lane, I look for an interesting background and wait for the theatre to begin. After all, street photography is nothing but a stage, one where multiple actors interact, spontaneously, without a script. If I sense that there are no actors coming by, I shoot an empty frame of just the setting. Once I’m home, I make a print of that empty, sterile frame and start scribbling. I am visualising, imagining, directing almost. It’s a fun exercise that goes with my visual design background, and keeps me alert the next time I see a potential reenactment of my art-directed imagination.

“Craft is important, but technique can sometimes become trickery. Stay true to the drama of the situation rather than the drama of technique.”

Printing, I have realised, not only gives craft finesse, but also helps one slow down, allowing the work to evolve over time.

Printing, I have realised, not only gives craft finesse, but also helps one slow down, allowing the work to evolve over time. Photograph/Swarat Ghosh

Swarat Ghosh is fascinated by the idea of the old meeting the new, which drives him to seek similar juxtapositions in Hyderabad, where he stays. “Maybe it’s the memories of my hometown Kolkata that make me see this way,” he says. His work can be seen at www.thatslife.in/swarat-ghosh, and on Instagram (@swaratghosh).

(Story continues on the next page.)

Tags: Arindam Thokder, Better Pictures, December 2015, dhruv dhakan, Manu Thomas, Monica Tiwari, Prasad Mahale, Raj Lalwani, Street Photograph, Subrata Biawas, Swapnil Jedhe, Vinay Panjwani, Vinod Babu