Mrs. Lopamudra Talukdar (Lopa’di as she is popularly known) was fascinated by the world of photography ever since she was a kid but never thought of taking it up seriously until she was gifted a Canon 5D Mark II as recently as 2010. It changed the world around her. She started looking at the world through a different set of eyes and with accolades and exhibition opportunities coming her way from far and near, it also changed how the world looked at her.
She is a resident of Kolkata, is still trying out different genres of photography but by her own admission Street Photography fascinates her the most, especially because of the challenges and uniqueness it provides. It also helps that she is a mini globe trotter of sorts, travelling from Serengeti to Slovenia and bringing back some fascinating images in the process. She is particularly fascinated by the diversity of Indian culture and how different it can be from Nagaland to Nagpur!
Thank you for your time to Judge the Second Street Photography Competition. Here is an exclusive interview (Adda) with Lopa’di.
1. You have traveled across the globe. How different is Kolkata in terms of Street Photography compared to the rest of the world?
Different and not so different, depending on where you are shooting. Kolkata is of course a treasure trove for street photographers with its myriad moods and people not giving it a second thought about being photographed. It’s a lot more challenging in Europe where photographing people in public places is frowned upon. I have been asked on a number of occasions what and why I was photographing. However, I love the light in the higher latitudes creating lovely shadows and some of the cobbled streets of older European cities. As for similarities, I remember shooting on the ghettos of Balat in Istanbul and I was transported to the by lanes of North Kolkata. Old men chatting over a cup of tea with a newspaper in hand, street vendors pushing hand drawn carts. So it is different and not so different!
2. Travel and Street Photography is often mixed, but since you pursue both Travel and Street Photography, where would you draw a line between them?
Yes, it is often a thin line which divides the two but in Street Photography I usually look for a strong human presence, something to connect in the form of a story. Street is not often visually appealing. But in Travel Photography, apart from the usual monuments and landmarks, I look to include something that is peculiar to that place. It may be a horse drawn carriage or some local delicacy. In my mind, I am usually quite clear when I shoot Street or Travel or both. I don’t really have a problem, switching from one to another.
3. Being a home maker it is not easy to pursue photography. How do you manage time?
Yes being a home maker and a mother, managing time is not easy. I do have to sacrifice certain events due to my preoccupation. But at the same time, as my husband shares the passion for photography, being a home maker has never been a hindrance as far as my photography is concerned.
4. Please share an interesting / difficult incident you faced while pursuing Street Photography.
I would rather share an interesting experience. This comes from Uzbekistan. I was there in 2014 and this country along the ancient Silk Route will fascinate any street photographer. But I had no idea that the Uzbeks held the Indians in such high respect, thanks to Bollywood, that we would be bombarded with photo requests from people of all ages. Throughout our stay, we were treated like celebrities and I can guarantee this is the only place where I was photographed on more occasions than what I myself managed to photograph.
5. We draw inspiration from Photographers around the globe. Please share a few photographers who have influenced you.
I don’t want to sound pompous, but I have not followed any photographer or photography style in particular. It’s probably because I have never had any formal training in photography and I started off quite late, in the digital era, so to speak and the internet has been my teacher. There was a time when I used to browse through photographs by the hundreds, most of them belonging to unknown names but I learnt something from each of them.
6. You are truly passionate about Photography. You had a torn ligament and in spite of bed rest advice you travelled to Europe and presented us with terrific memories. Tell us about that painful experience.
Yes, I tore the main knee ligament on my tour to Uzbekistan and had to be hospitalized there for a few days. Then had a surgery on my return back to Kolkata. I had plans to go to Scotland in two months time and was determined to make it. I doubled my exercise regimen, worked hard at my fitness and still was only 60% fit when I landed in Edinburgh. I do not know how I made it through in one piece but Scotland will always remain special for its undiluted beauty.
7. Please advice amateur photographers who are planning to pursue Street Photography?
Street Photography is all about passion, you either have it or you don’t. Remember you are in one of the toughest and most challenging genres of photography. Don’t expect anything in return, don’t be moved by Facebook likes and comments, just live the passion. Don’t imitate, think original. That’s all I can say.
8. “Staging in Street Photography” – your thoughts on the same.
My thoughts are simple and straight forward. Staging and Street Photography doesn’t go hand in hand. Street is all about candid moments. If you create ‘staged candidness’ and try to pass that off as Street Photography, then you are fooling no one but yourself. It is not that I do not take staged photos, I do often. I just do not categorize them as street photographs.
9. Kolkata is blessed with talented photographers, but unfortunately a handful of women practices photography. Please share a few words of encouragement.
Being a female photographer has its usual pros and cons. I won’t deny the fact, that many of my achievements have been slighted with “Oh, only because she’s a woman..” kind of remarks. Over the years, I have learnt to take such comments in my stride. Women, by nature, have an artistic bent of mind and it is easy for them to adept to photography. But, one has to be prepared to compete on equal terms, ask for no special favor, put in the hard work, be passionate about it and I am sure results will follow. Compared to when I started off my photography career in 2010-11, there are far more women photographers in Kolkata these days and I am happy to see that they are a growing breed.
10. Please share a few words on the project “Streets of Calcutta”.
It is indeed an wonderful initiative which deserves to be applauded. The streets of Kolkata have been explored by some of the brightest names in world photography and now an opportunity is being provided to the new generation of photographers to roam the same streets and explore an original frame. And the same is being showcased by “Streets of Calcutta” bringing them both accolades and recognition.
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