A doctoral student of economics, Kolkata-based photographer Saurav Das has been teaching himself the artistic discipline since 2016. Fascinated by the street and documentary style of photography, he found himself drawn towards the themes of uncertainty of life and movement. Relying on his never ending curiosity, and the excess of possibilities the nooks and crannies of Kolkata offer, Saurav continues to explore his art with fervour. Below, he tells us all about his inspiration, the photo series Inheriting Loss and more.
For me, obtaining a particular frame, with all the calculated angles, was never the goal (still isn't). I think capturing, rather, creating a photograph runs much deeper. Sometimes the pixels, aspect ratios and color science are rendered secondary when we happen to find a certain story enmeshed within a composition. Personally, it's all about that story, and a constant search for it, born out of intrigue, curiosity and observation. When it comes to documenting the streets, the flow of life overwhelms us, and it feels empowering to be able to sift through the frantic energies and visible emotions, and find a story in their midst.
Inheriting Loss has been somewhat of an experimental piece, conceived during the lockdown without premeditation, that continued well over six months. For this, I had banked heavily on still-life under natural light. It is a challenging procedure, capturing mere inanimate objects in their perpetual habitat. Here, there's no motion that catches the eye. Everything is enveloped in an apparently disturbing stillness. This series is an attempt to emphasize the mutability of space and identity — and its residue — and how these two facets appear to be mutually reinforcing over time.
At the very heart of it all, is a room. One that lay forgotten and remained locked for over a decade. This, apparently, is a natural thing for us to witness, growing up in an old ancestral home. Being the youngest member of the family, I wasn't aware of the identity of the inhabitants, my relatives, presumably deceased. All that greeted me were abandoned unclaimed memories, contained as relics. Nearly entombed by the unforgiving damp and mould, they somehow stood out as edifices. From this, a part of me wished to know more about them, and I understood that there was nothing I could contribute here, nothing I could hope to add or change, and all that could be done was to attempt a portrayal of this tomb-like stillness as is, hoping that the story will write itself.
To The Audience
I generally try to involve a subjective approach in the compositions. In this regard, I try to invite all possible perspectives when it comes to the audience. Deviating from one absolute perspective, I mostly try to utilise and incorporate ambiguity, as demanded by an intended composition.
It all comes down to the ability and will to express. And the constant search for a ‘subject' feels perpetual. The chase always defines the hunt, I feel. I can't possibly say if the search can ever end, but I can at least hope for it to get more interesting and challenging in the process, for in the end, it's all worth it.
The Pandemic and Beyond
The pandemic has been, in an unprejudiced sense, a turning point in my entire learning curve with respect to this discipline, thereby providing a generous push. Walled-off from the outside world, it enabled me to look and observe my immediate surroundings more closely. Being so engrossed in observing and participating in the outdoor life and motion, I had nearly forgone the finer aspects of my immediate and constant habitat, so this has been one necessary milestone for me. All in all, it provided ample scope and room for uninterrupted practice, trial and error.
Regarding what's coming up next, I would say that it's more in the form of a long term project, broadly revolving around the metaphysics of existence and exploration of spaces, and how they often act as complements.
Text Unnati Saini