Chitpur Road Neighborhoods is a unique Kolkata Heritage Photo Project. In 2006 21 photographers, then students of the University of Bremen, captured the fading magnificence of the cultural heritage of a unique street. This project was realised under the guidance of Prof. Peter Bialobrzeski.
Chitpur Road is a Neighborhoods project, all the participants are individual photographers but this project itself is not individual based.It's a group project? 1
Yes, because starting with the point that there was not even a book on the Chitpur buildings, it was very clear to me that the project needed a certain kind of aesthetic concept, it made sense as a kind of documentary project. I told the group, it was not about their individuality, it was about the skills they learnt, to put those in something collective. I also made it a condition, because if everybody did, what they wanted, then you have some very diverse ideas; some people do portraits, some photograph in black and white, etc., so I just said we needed to get the lines straight because it was about the architecture and since it was a very lively place I didn't want it to be a cold architectural documentary, I wanted to, in a way sell it like a living space.
So you set the parameters?
Yes, we discussed it but because I am the most experienced one, I showed them some work, from the 19th century, and by other contemporary photographers, who had worked in similar projects and then the group, which later became the “Kolkata Heritage Photo Project” decided that it made sense to do it this way.
Moving on, as a photographer, who has influenced you the most? Why?
I think may be one of the first biggest influence was traditional photo journalist like W Eugene Smith, later Sebastião Salgado, the younger generation of Magnum photographers like Carl De Keyzer, Martin Parr etc., but at the same time because I studied in Essen, the American New Colour photographers and New Topographics were very high on the agenda and in a way I sort of placed myself in between all these influences, there is a certain kind of narrative element in my pictures, but there is also an element of the pictures that is very much based on 19th century photography.
In India, there is a lot desired in terms of appreciation of photography, there is still a lot to be learnt about photography, about photography as an art form. How important is formal education in photography?
I can ask the question, if you want to be a writer how important is it to study literature?
I think it is quite important.
Yes and that is the same with photography, since you are learning the same thing with a group of people but you are looking at it in very different ways. Photography today is not being a camera operator, its developing your own concepts, knowing about the history of photography, since a lot of photographers, especially young photographers are trying to re-invent the wheel, so you need to be aware and it’s much more fun to be in a group which is passionate about it. Also to have an idea and discuss it. It’s not about the formality, I don't care whether somebody has a BA or a MA that doesn't make any sense, the point is that your time spent at art school, at least if it's a good art school is something you can’t get anywhere else.
- 1. The interview was conducted by Amruta Nemivant.
She completed her MA in History of Art from the University of York, UK. Since returning to India, she has worked extensively in the field of Indian Contemporary Art. She is currently working in the Programme Department at Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Mumbai, where she handles Fine Arts exhibitions and projects.
Translation: Claudia Richter
© Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Mumbai
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