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 founder of Just Another Photo Festival (JAPF), the transmedia artist – who began her rendezvous 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 to encourage photographers and enthusiasts to share their most compelling shots to showcase on nationalgeographicyourlens.com, on the TV channel and on social media platforms , Paulomi will select the winner photos along with other well-known photographers
In an exclusive interview with indianexpress.com, the author of Centralie talks about her successful career in a “male dominated profession”, her most rewarding project, her inspiration and the one person she really wants to photograph. Extracts:
When did you start your date with photography and how would you describe your journey?
Photography started for me around the age of 17. When my dad died he left a camera behind (which was his camera) and I just started using it. This is how I started taking pictures. It has come a long way as photography is generally a very male dominated profession and works in India as a female artist, and the photographer has been difficult as India is an exclusively male space. But now I am a transatlantic artist and photographer. I have an international practice. I was able to walk from Alaska in America to the Diomedes Islands to Indonesia. So, it has been an adventurous road.
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 will you look for in the photographs?
I will be looking for a powerful feeling, an emotion and a 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 bombarded with millions and millions of images daily, it is more important that a good photo or even a great photo hits you hard in the guts and that you really feel that sensation deep in your stomach when you see this photo. You get that warm blurry feeling when you look at a magical photo that ignites a feeling inside of you – I want to have that warm blurry feeling when I look at this kind of photo that moves me, shakes me, inspires me and who has everything is magic.
What do you think are the most important qualities in a photographer and how can you develop your skills?
I think the most important quality in a photographer is being a good human. This is the most important quality for any artist or photographer. From a practical standpoint, it’s about the act of seeing, it’s an alignment of how you think, what you see, and what your heart feels.
Every year, World Photography Day is celebrated on August 19. What importance do you give to these days, exhibitions, shows to make known / celebrate this powerful medium?
I do not believe in such a day for nothing. For me, photography is a daily practice like meditation. It is a daily practice to take out my camera and take a walk, reduce and observe the smallest changes in the nature around me or in the community around me from the sky to the huge things that I live during my walk with the camera in my hand. So for me it’s something special that can be celebrated any day or even every day. Why should we have a Mother’s Day, Photography Day, or Women’s Day just once a year? These are the things we need to celebrate and raise awareness about on a daily basis. Photography is essentially an artistic practice and an art that nourishes your soul. So anything that thrives and nourishes your soul should be celebrated on a daily basis.
A photographer has to wait days to get a perfect shot. What was your most stimulating 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 the jungle of Chhattisgarh. Two women are holding machine guns, but they are holding hands. It is therefore a very feminine photograph but also a very fierce photograph which shows different facets of women in a very extraordinary situation in the depths and the heart of India that no one has seen. And I literally took it in minutes and it wasn’t something that took me days to get one of my best shots. Therefore, I wouldn’t say it always takes days to get the best shot. I think everything gets intense in short periods of time and you can get the best photographs in a very short period of time and that magical moment can come very suddenly. You have to be prepared for it when this situation unfolds before you. It’s just an alchemy that a photographer knows. A real photographer will know how to react to this chemistry as it unfolds in front of you and this photograph will magically happen.
Who has been your biggest inspiration all these years?
I think my mom has been my biggest inspiration all these years because she allowed me to leave my home at a very young age and lead a life of exploration and adventure that many women in my family have. had never done in their life before. I come from a very patriarchal family and the freedom to travel and get 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’s part. . So my greatest inspiration and debt goes to my mother for allowing me to live this life of choice and the full range of experiences that many women in our country do not have the opportunity to experience.
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 was realized in India? If not, where do you think we are missing?
No, I don’t think the power has reached its potential. I think this is an evolutionary process. Any art form is an evolutionary process and each generation brings its own awareness and knowledge to it than the previous generation. So there is nowhere where he has reached his potential. It’s actually even more exciting right now in India than it has ever been before. So I think it’s going to get more and more exciting, and the power of photography will continue to evolve as the new generation comes along.
Something / event / person you really want to photograph and why?
I wish to photograph Arundhati Roy if I can. I mean, I met her, she saw my work, my book, etc., but I want to do a whole series on her. Other than that, I would have liked to be there to photograph the collapse of the Berlin Wall, but I was not born then.