The office door creaked open and in walked a gentleman in a pink-purple striped shirt and grey trousers, with his laptop bag hung from over his right shoulder. It was 6:05 pm by the clock.
Shyamal Biswas – the name was synonymous with photography, in the campus. He is an ace photographer with credits from the National Geographic.
“My passion for photography goes back a long way. It accelerated after coming to IIT. I remember I just passed out of my 10th standard, and was awarded a national scholarship of Rs 300. I spent 150 rupees to buy a Snapper camera and it all started from there”.
“I joined Jadavpur University and used to attend all their photography exhibitions. In one such exhibition, I came across a picture which captured a tribal Rajasthani lady smoking a beedi out of a moving bus. That struck me! I knew I could take pictures like these.
Here, around the campus, the Subarnarekha will always be my favourite photography spot”, he said.
“One year, Prof D J Sen, Chairman, Nehru Museum, approached me to capture the flora and fauna of IIT Kharagpur as the annual calendar theme, giving a 15-days deadline. That was the beginning of my pictures getting featured. I started taking birds’ pictures”.
“The genres of my photography kept changing with time. Initially it was general photography. Then it was wildlife that focused mainly on birds. Now I am more inclined towards human character, landscape and most importantly, street photography. This is closest to my heart. Each picture captured, has a story in itself. Either they have motion, or they have some unique subject, or some particular moment. I try to keep a human figure in most of my pictures. Presently, I am exploring subjects like colours of sunset and abstract photography. I do this out of my own satisfaction. I do this because I love doing this. I do this because it keeps me going”
“The best part is when you get recognized for your passion. I consider my greatest achievement when National Geographic featured two of my pictures. Interestingly, one of them was captured on my mobile. I was driving around the campus, when suddenly I came across a structure being constructed. I found the concept fascinating – one person on each step of the structure. I brought out my mobile and captured it. The framing and the context of this picture was what stood out”. I named this picture, ‘Stair to Heaven’.
The second picture featured by Nat Geo, was taken with a high end camera. Titled, ‘The Petal Collector’, the picture was clicked in Satkosia Gorge Sanctuary, Odisha. I randomly took a few shots of birds. It was later while I was going through the pictures back in my camp that I found a petal stuck in the bird’s claws. I was awestruck”. His face lit up with pride as he narrated this.
“Evolution of photography is very interesting” he continued. “People today, are moving over still photography. Point and shoot cameras will no longer exist. What will stay are high-end cameras, lens and mobiles phones. With the coming of digital platforms, photography has gone up by a few notches. In recent future, it will be dominated by mobile cameras. These days, the inclination is more towards video-blogging or Vlogs, than still photography. This is one area that can be developed”.
“Photography is an art”, he continued. “And why do you think people take up such art forms? To share it”. “No matter how much I say that I do not own my pictures, but somewhere deep in my subconscious, if someone likes or comments on my pictures, I feel satisfied, motivated”, he confessed.
“How do you manage all these with your job?’” I asked.
“Very tricky question”, he laughed. “I extract time and just drive off. It gets a bit taxing at times, but they’re worth it. It is my oxygen”, he signed off.