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At the end of the day, I think every photograph is a form of storytelling, and while some may be dull, others are exciting....
Suvam Saha is a Kolkata-based street photographer with a degree in Electronics Engineering. Suvam's work has been published and displayed on various platforms, including Natgeotraveller India, Gettyimages, Chiiz Magazine, 121 Clicks.com, Camerena, Kolkata International Photo Festival 2018, Vogue Italia, and many more.
We had the chance to make interview him and learn more about his work.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background in photography?
My name is Suvam Saha, and I am a resident of Kolkata, India. I hold a degree in Electronics Engineering and a post-graduate degree in Marketing and Finance. I worked in the private sector for a few years before joining my family business. Initially, I bought my first camera, a Canon 700d, to shoot product photographs. It was a friend who introduced me to street photography, and I began taking pictures of people, events, festivals, and more. I have a talent for painting and realistic sketching, which I think has also helped me in my photography. My work has been published and displayed in various platforms such as Natgeotraveller India, Gettyimages, Chiiz Magazine, 121 Clicks.com, Camerena, Kolkata International Photo Festival 2018, Vogue Italia, and many more.
How did u develop an interest in street photography?
I believe that street photography is an incredibly realistic genre, as we cannot manipulate or stage our subjects. This is precisely why I love it so much. In my early days, I used to roam the streets of Kolkata with my camera, hoping to capture some great images. I also joined many street photography groups such as Apf, Street Photography Vivian Maier, Street Photography Challenge, etc. It is very challenging to capture new and unique images. To improve my skills, I began studying the work of other renowned street photographers, paying particular attention to composition, patterns, light, and shadows. I must admit that I'm not entirely sure when I became addicted to this art form.
Can you walk us through your creative process when capturing street scenes?
When I visit a new place, I always take 15 to 20 minutes to observe every detail. No matter how many times you visit a place, you can always discover something new. I firmly believe that you can never replicate a good street shot, which is why I remain mindful of my surroundings and take note of even the smallest things. I always prefer using manual mode on my DSLR camera to adjust the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO settings based on the available light.
Your work has been published in National Geographic Traveller, how did that come about?
In 2017, I visited Benaras for the first time, and while there, I took a picture of a monk in the early morning. He was using his hands to shield his face from the sunlight. I loved the overall atmosphere, the interplay of light and shadow, and decided to take the shot. Little did I know that this photograph would be selected for publication in Natgeotraveller India. In street photography, you never know when you will capture your next memorable shot.
Can you discuss a particularly memorable moment or project in your photography career?
Yes, I was working on a night project in Kolkata for the last two years, and during one of my walks, I visited some slum areas at night. Unfortunately, a notorious individual followed me and threatened me to leave the area. Since then, I have not revisited that location.
How does your engineering background influence your approach to street photography?
As someone with a background in science and engineering, I tend to look for geometric shapes and patterns in my subjects. I try to find a good composition within the chaos of human elements, as well as interesting angles in the interplay of light and shadows.
Can you talk about the role of storytelling in your photography and how you aim to capture moments that tell a story?
I believe that every photograph should tell a story, and without a story, a photograph is not considered good. Whenever I take a picture, I always think about what's happening behind the scene and why I am clicking the shutter. I consider the subject's facial expressions, background color, lighting, and shadows, as they all play a crucial role in storytelling. Emotions such as happiness, sadness, boredom, anger, or frustration make the subject more interesting. At the end of the day, I think every photograph is a form of storytelling, and while some may be dull, others are exciting.
Can you share with us your favorite image that you have captured and why it holds a special place in your heart?
I walked to my nearest rail station during winter, and it is my favorite spot. On that particular night, it was foggy, and I witnessed a boy on a bicycle crossing the railway tracks. The atmosphere, lighting, and surroundings looked incredibly dreamy due to the fog. This moment is also a part of my night project.
How do you approach capturing candid moments in a respectful manner?
As a street photographer, I prefer capturing raw and unstaged moments. However, if I come across a candid portrait or shot that catches my eye, I always make it a point to ask the subject if they are comfortable with me taking their photograph. I refrain from capturing images of impoverished or handicapped individuals because I believe it can perpetuate negative stereotypes about them. I feel at ease when photographing children because they are often unselfconscious and simply enjoy being themselves.
Can you discuss your experience photographing in India and how the country has influenced your work?
As I mentioned earlier, I live in Kolkata, which is often referred to as the paradise of photography. My city is incredibly vibrant and diverse, with people of various religions and cultures coexisting in harmony. My favorite places for photography are Kolkata and Benaras. I have never felt threatened while photographing people, as they generally enjoy being clicked.
All photos belong to @Suvam Saha