Photograph: Fabien Charuau
Simple, pure and haunting are words that echo out of Prabuddha Dasgupta’s images. Each one communicates an expression, an interpretation, and shares a conversation without words. Each elucidates an indefinable moment and lures a sense of awareness. Be it the overwhelming scenes of the solemn Goan Community or the silent beauty of Ladakh or even the sensual contours of a body, the creations captured from his lens leaves an impact and lingering thoughts…
Originally from Kolkata, Prabuddha was born a visual visionary. History in college did not hold his interest as he hoped it would, reason being the switch to something creative. Copy writing for adverts was a creative outlet, however it did not justify the constant visual eye of Prabuddha. A chance advertisement that he photographed for Blue Lagoon, a jeans company presented him with accolades and notice. Since then his eye has not moved from the lens and his finger has not stopped clicking. A wanderer...a creator, Prabuddha observes moments with a shutter attached to his eye.
In an interview with Prabuddha Dasgupta, Platform discovers his thoughts on photography as an art form, the impact of the digital age, his chosen subjects, and life through and past the lens.
You are known to bring down every aspect of a subject to ‘The basic elementary’, which is evident through the minimalist simplicity of your work. Please Comment.
If my work appears minimalist, maybe that’s a reflection of whom I am. The superficial does not interest me, whether in a person, a conversation, a relationship... whatever. I am interested in the essence of things and I use the simplest method of getting there. Direct—with no stopovers. Maybe that’s what shows up in my work.
“The superficial does not interest me, whether in a person, a conversation, a relationship... whatever. I am interested in the essence of things and I use the simplest method of getting there.”
From Nudes to Ladakh, how do you select your subjects?
Between Nudes and Ladakh there have been many subjects too, the latest being a portrait of the Catholic Goan community, which is currently being exhibited in various cities in India and abroad. I’ve never actually chosen a subject consciously; I do things in all directions without thinking too much about it, just working from the gut. Something propels me in a particular direction and I follow my instincts and suddenly a project is born which has certain cohesiveness. So I’m not really fussy about what the subject is. I just put my sensibility out there and deal with it.
It seems you prefer black and white to colour, why is that?
Black and white is a language I feel comfortable with. I love colour when it’s done by someone who understands colour. It’s like two musicians, one plays sitar and the other plays saxophone, but both play music. Also black and white suits my minimalist approach. It avoids the surface prettiness of colour and distils the essence of the subject.
What type of assignments do you enjoy most and why? And at times does commissioned work rob you of your expression?
I enjoy any assignment that gives me the freedom to interpret something in my own way. Fortunately for me, over the years people who have worked with me have only come to me for that reason. Of course sometimes the new ones are not too happy and I never see them again which is good because I don’t want to waste my time. Commissioned work by its very nature is limiting because it has to serve a particular agenda. I don’t have a problem with that and I am perfectly willing to work within the given parameters, but it has to be an interpretation, otherwise it’s difficult for me to justify to myself the fat fees that I charge!
“Now what makes a photographers work important is not the technical quality, but a uniqueness of vision, an understanding of the language, and the ability to articulate that vision with the help of photography.”
Does geography play an important role? If yes, how does it affect your work?
Where you are physically obviously affects your life, and my life and work are no exception. If I wasn’t in Goa I would never have got interested in the Catholic community and I would not have done the body of work that I have. Also being a sort of a loner, I gravitate towards places that allow me my solitude. And that in turn finds its way into my work.
You have worked with negatives for the longest time and now the digital age is taking over. Has this radical change affected your photographs/photography?
I think the digital revolution has impacted photography hugely and positively. It has democratized the medium by making it so much easier for all. With the new idiot-proof cameras, everyone can take technically perfect pictures, including the family dog. So now what makes a photographers work important is not the technical quality, but a uniqueness of vision, an understanding of the language, and the ability to articulate that vision with the help of photography. I’m a complete convert to digital, and that too despite years of honing my craft with film. For me the means is not so important. If I can at the end of the day look at a print and be blown away by it, I don’t care whether it was done on film, or digitally or by using coffee beans.
With art prices reaching the roof, collectors now days are concentrating on photography. Indian Contemporary photography is on a rise and photography is developing. Please comment.
It’s about time. I see no reason why photography should not be viewed and valued in the same way as paintings and sculptures. And curiously it took the art world a long time to arrive at the same conclusion; that photography is just a medium like the others, and it’s not the medium that determines the integrity of artistic expression, but the expression itself. Painting is not an art by itself, but Matisse was an artist. Photography is not an art but Josef Koudelka is an artist. The medium is not art. Art is determined by who is using the medium and with what intent. The argument used by sceptics that photography, because of its possibility of multiple reproductions, cannot be viewed the same way, to my mind does not cut any ice, because the same can be said about many conventional art forms, like a bronze sculpture which uses moulds and can be re- produced as many times. Just as the value of a piece of sculpture is determined vis-à-vis the number of reproductions, so too should be the case in photography.
To my mind the awakening of the art community to the potential artistic value of photography is a fantastic thing. Today, in every city three out of ten art shows are photographic, galleries are mush- rooming, and unknown, but talented photographers are getting a platform to showcase and sell their work, without having to turn to commercial jobs. I think the next five years will determine the quality of our photographic wealth, in terms of its real artistic value.