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‘Photography is essentially an artistic practice that feeds your soul’: Poulomi Basu

"Photography is magic… it's is only going to get more and more exciting, and the power of photography will continue to evolve as the new generation comes forward," she said

An award-winning photographer and activist, Poulomi Basu is well-known for her powerful clicks that speak volumes when it comes to advocating for social change and women’s rights. Also the founder of Just Another Photo Festival (JAPF), the transmedia artist — who began her tryst with photography at the age of 17 — says her journey has been an “adventurous road”.

Now, as part of National Geographic’s ‘Your Lens’, an initiative that aims to encourage photographers and enthusiasts to share their most captivating shots to be featured across nationalgeographicyourlens.com, on the television channel and social media platforms, Paulomi will be selecting the winning photos along with other well-known photographers

In an exclusive interview with indianexpress.com, the author of Centralia talks about her successful career in a “male-dominated profession”, her most rewarding project, her inspiration and the one person she really wishes to photograph. Excerpts:

When did your tryst with photography begin, and how would you describe your journey?

Photography began for me when I was around 17 years old. When my dad died, he left a camera behind (which was his camera) and I just started using it. So that’s how I started taking photos. It’s been a long road because photography is typically a very male-dominated profession and working in India as a female artist, and photographer has been tough as India is an exclusively male space. But now, I am a transatlantic artist and photographer. I have an international practice. I have been able to walk all from Alaska in America to the Diomede islands to all the way to Indonesia. So, it’s been an adventurous road.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B9kGy4hnTu3/

 

 

A post shared by Poulomi Basu (@poulomi07)

If you had to describe photography and its many facets in one sentence, what would you say?

Photography is magic.

As part of your collaboration with ‘Your Lens’, what is it that you will be looking for in the photographs?

I will be looking for a powerful feeling, emotion and magic that a single photograph can instill in me and the power to make me travel in my mind when I look at the work. Because we are being bombarded with millions and millions of images on a daily basis, it’s more important that a good photograph or even a great photograph hits you hard in the gut and you really get that feeling inside deep inside your stomach when you see that picture. You get that warm fuzzy feeling when you look at a magical photo that ignites a feeling inside you – I want to get that warm fuzzy feeling when I will look at that kind of photo that moves me, shakes me, inspires me and that has all its magic.

What according to you are the most important qualities in a photographer — and how can one develop their skills?

I think the most important quality in a photographer is to be a good human. That’s the most important quality for any artist or any photographer. From a practice perspective, it’s about the act of seeing, it’s an alignment of how you’re thinking, what you’re seeing and what your heart is feeling.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CABEwJ7HvW0/

 

 

A post shared by Poulomi Basu (@poulomi07)

Every year, World Photography Day is celebrated on August 19. How important do you feel such days, exhibitions, shows are when it comes to creating awareness/celebrating this powerful medium?

I don’t believe in any such day for anything. For me, photography is a daily practice like meditation. It is a daily practice of taking my camera out and going for a walk, narrowing down and observing from the smallest changes in the nature around me or in the community around me from the sky to even the enormous things that I’m experiencing during my walk with camera in my hand. So, for me, it’s something special that can be celebrated any day or even all days. Why should we have one day for Mother’s Day, Photography Day or Woman’s Day just once a year? These are the things that we should celebrate and bring awareness to on a daily basis. Photography is essentially an artistic practice and art that feeds your soul. So, anything that thrives and feeds your soul should be celebrated on a daily basis.

A photographer has to wait days to get a perfect shot. Which has been your most challenging and rewarding experience?

Well, I didn’t have to wait for days to get one of my perfect shots. Recently, one of my favorite photos is of two female Guerrilla fighters in a jungle in Chhattisgarh. Two women are holding machine guns, but they’re holding their hands together. So, it’s a very feminine photograph but also a very fierce photograph that shows different facets of women in a very extraordinary situation in the depths and the heartland of India that no one has seen. And I took it literally in just a few minutes and it was not something that took me days to get one of my best shots. Hence, I wouldn’t say that you always need days to get the best shot. I think everything becomes intense in short boxes of time and you can get some of the best photography in a very short time and that magical moment can happen very suddenly. You must be ready for it when that situation is unfolding in front of you. It’s just a chemistry that a photographer knows. A real photographer will know how to respond to that chemistry when it’s unfolding in front of you and that photograph will happen just like magic.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B_Ph1ykng29/

 

 

A post shared by Poulomi Basu (@poulomi07)

Who has been your biggest inspiration all these years?

I think my mother has been my greatest inspiration all these years because she allowed me to leave my house at a very young age and take the life of exploring and adventure that many women from my family had never done in their life before. I come from a very patriarchal family and the freedom of travelling and getting to know your country at a young age with a camera was something very special for me and it was also a sacrifice on my mother part. So, my greatest inspiration and debt goes to my mother for allowing me to live that life of choices, and the full breadth of experiences that many women in our country don’t get to do.

Some tips and tricks for a photography enthusiast.

Be a good human, always smile and think with your heart, not too much with your head.

Would you say the power of photography has been realised in India? If not, where do you think we lack?

No, I don’t think the power has reached its potential. I think this is an evolving process. Any form of art is an evolving process and every generation brings its own awareness and knowledge to it than the previous generation. So, there is nowhere that it has reached its potential. It’s in fact, even more exciting right now in India than it has ever been before. So, I think it’s only going to get more and more exciting, and the power of photography will continue to evolve as the new generation comes forward.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CGR5nf7HkzD/

 

 

A post shared by Poulomi Basu (@poulomi07)

One thing/event/person you really wish to photograph and why?

I wish to photograph Arundhati Roy if I can. I mean, I’ve met her, she has seen my work, my book, etc., but I wish to do a whole series on her. Apart from this, I wish I was there to photograph the Berlin Wall collapse, but I wasn’t born then.

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