Thank you Aniruddha Guha Sakar for being the honorable Guest Mentor of In-Street Monthly Thematic Contest, December 2019.
We are very happy to publish an exclusive interview withAniruddha Guha Sakar to know his view and approach to Photography.
– Please tell us a bit about yourself and How did you start in photography?
[Aniruddha] I live in New Delhi, am an Engineer by education, a part of the top management of an American IT Services company by profession and a learning photo-artist by passion. Having been bored to death by corporate nothingness in various parts of the world for nearly 25 years, I took to the streets with my camera around 5 years back in search of a better meaning.
Like many others of my generation, my initial grooming in street photography was at APF, by its founders, before and during my tenure of more than 3 years (till about a year back) as one of the admins of ‘APF Magazine Street Photography Group’ on facebook.
Having lived with the trends of street photography over the first few years till about a year back (during this time, some of my work got published/ exhibited in various international and national magazines and exhibitions), I felt a growing need that the moments that I express, must come out of deep experience of the time and place that I live in and its socio-political evolution. I am therefore shifting more to street documentaries on social themes these days – in order to be myself.
– What makes street photography so special for you and what according to you makes a good street shot?
[Aniruddha] The question remains valid even though I no longer tag myself as a street photographer (I am a thinking human being who needs to express and photography is the only art form and medium of expression I know to some extent. Having started as a street photographer, the trait has remained in me and I am fine with that).
Street photography is special to me because being candid in nature, it brings out the real human drama without being dressed up and helps us understand life itself.
-These days we are seeing so many great works of current photographers and masters available on the Internet and otherwise. As such, how can we try to be original in our approach?
[Aniruddha] Yes, the opportunity to see and learn from very good bodies of works on the net is immense now and is increasing exponentially. Masters have always been there to inspire us. Besides them, there are so many talented new entrants from around the world now (especially from this part of the world) and their quality of work is astounding.
My answer to your question has become clear and simple to myself of late – I just follow my urge without bothering about if anybody has done the same before – I am in no rat race to come first. The real issue for me is in the content, not in the form – though one cannot live without the other. Form is evolving horizontally through the originality and experimentations of so many talented artists. The need for content remains constant and can only go deeper vertically. If you know your content deeply and If you know how to translate a profound content into its visual form (not easy at all – masters know it, we are just trying to learn the art), there is every likelihood that you will be original as thoughts of every human being is unique.
– Tell us about your approach on the streets.
[Aniruddha] I guess it’s a mix of both the approaches – waiting at a high potential location for the desired moment to come through (most of the times, it doesn’t) and reflex action to a special moment arriving suddenly without any advance notice.
– Projects or single images? If so why?
[Aniruddha] Both, I guess ! I am trying to work on quite a few projects or street documentaries these days and that’s my priority. I am into projects as certain topics make me think and I ‘need’ to express my interpretations of them. Since I am not a kid with a lot of time to experiment and have serious limitations of time, I need to prioritise on what my mind wants and therefore those street documentaries.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to take single images if they offer themselves to me. Since I have serious limitations of time (being in a high pressure job, I get only 3-4 hours a week to shoot), my projects are taking a lot time to come to any maturity (alas, my subject don’t necessarily come alive on a Sunday morning when I have time to shoot !). If single shots come across during those 3-4 hours, I try not to miss them – a compromise formula, you can say !
– The important lesson you’ve learned being a street photographer.
[Aniruddha] Ever since I started with street photography, I see a lot more and therefore, understand a lot more – colours, forms, light, human lives, urban spaces, societies & their histories and so on. Life is a lot more meaningful and joyful from that perspective.
The most important learning however has been not to waste such a great opportunity of getting to depths of so many things by chasing only photos (what I jokingly call ‘photoshopping’ – going out shopping for photos only !) in them instead of going for the experience and understanding of human life as well as art.
– What advice would you offer any aspiring street photographers?
[Aniruddha] Frankly speaking, I understand my own limitations and really don’t think I am great enough to ‘advice’ anybody. What I can and should however do is to share learnings from my continuing failures so that others have a chance to benefit from them:
- ‘Don’t be a photographer’ – the moment you tag yourself as a (street) photographer, you’re narrowing the world for yourself and you are destined to chase photos. Go deep into the topics which interest you and experience them. If your experience is profound enough, photos will automatically follow and they will be good photos. Otherwise, you will produce (what Raghu Rai calls) ‘smart photos’ which will get thousands of ‘likes’, but even the best of them will not live beyond 3-4 years. You can see this phenomenon yourself all around us.
- A good photo or work of art is a fine blend of design, information and emotion. Deep content cannot be sacrificed for deign only and content comes from compassionate understanding of a topic. Just learning the design can take you only to some distance, not beyond !
- No art form is easy, leave alone street photography – beyond a point, it’s like classical music – deep, emotional, intricate and subtle (where every note (or pixel) plays a role). It takes years or decades of understanding, practice and of course, talent. Don’t even imagine instant results.
– Your favourite photographers and any reference books?
[Aniruddha] There are so many! After years of rejection as outdated, I am back to the masters now for learning the art of what I called above the ‘classical music’ – still failing badly ! Beyond the masters, I see so many talented young people coming in who have so many things to teach me – a few from In-street Collective, the young Turks of Delhi (many of whom have been featured on In-street), people like Barry Tallis/ Elissa Toamselli/ Olga Karlovac/ Lopamudra/ Swapnil Jedhe and so many others from India, Bangladesh, Thailand and elsewhere !
But now-a-days, I more keenly follow the works of people who are trying to chart out their own courses focusing on serious content. The list includes people like Avani Rai, K.M Asad, a few from the In-street Collective, Suvomoy Mitra, Indrajit Khambe and so on.
I don’t get much time to read books anymore due to my very demanding job and the need to devote the remaining time to my projects. But I did buy a few recently of Raghubir Singh. The book that I am trying to complete now has nothing directly to do with photography, but is helping me to understand my subjects immensely – ‘India after Gandhiji’ by Ramchandra Guha.