Congratulations Saha! You are one of the 11 finalists of the first Exibart Street Contest.
We received thousand of images from more than 100 countries all over the world, it’s an important result! How do you feel about it?
First Street Photography is today something like a fashion, like owning a gadget. If you can snap out your mobile and take a decent photo in a city you are a street photographer and there are tricks of the trade that are flying thick and fast among many websites but among all this bruhaha there still are the purists and serious practitioners of the genre whose photographs reflect themselves and has a tender perspective on humankind and the moments it passes through.
I think Exibart positions itself well to stand out of the crowd. Secondly, the competition base is huge and judges fantastic, so all the more reason to be stoked about being selected as finalist!
So I am genuinely excited.
Can you tell us something about yourself?
I am Soumyendra Narayan Saha, 45, an erstwhile software engineer in the Networking domain. I practice street photography mainly in Kolkata and Varanasi,India.
After a 12 year stint in software development I decided to quit the cubicle job. So with lot of time to spare I decided to shoot the streets one day and that was it – I was hooked. I started watching photographs online, many, and also listened to a lot of Hindustani classical and watched movies at the local cine club. Today after 3 years on the street, I can say there are a few photos which I can show but it is a long way to go still.
What led you to begin doing street photography in the first place?
I have told in many places, it began as a experiment during my boredom when I was out of a job. I think I saw the images of Peter Kool and took out a Nikon D50 lying in my cupboard for years and just went out and shot in the city center. That was it. I got hooked. Close friends on social media also prodded me on after they saw my images. So that was how it started really.
That was 2013.
How would you define your photographic style?
I think my style keeps evolving. At one point I was so keen to picturize entire stories and drama as in movies, then music made me want to depict the lyric in life. Presently though I am thinking more like a documentary photographer.
I would like to make a good body of work that has more humanism and sympathy, probably more so after my daughter went through a near-fatal serious and rare brain disease and her body and mind recovered from the very doldrums right in front of my eyes.
“I think digital is more like consumerism while film is for the conservatives and purists. Also film makes you more disciplined and thoughtful. It forces you to think.”
What kind of equipment do you use and what role, in your opinion, does equipment have in street photography?
My cameras are all second hand cameras bought from used camera forums or shops and they are at least 5 years behind the latest model so I have to pay less. I can identify a decent camera from one that is being sold with a defect to get rid of, so they last a decent 3-4 years with me.
I don’t go for the latest full-frame mirrorless model. Just stick to amateur level APS-C camera with decent color.
Color is something I research a bit and appropriate lenses for the same.
Have you ever studied at a photography school or are you a self-taught artist?
I am essentially self-taught though I did do a couple of two-day street photography workshops when I was beginning more to learn if what I was doing was wrong or not.
“After a 12 year stint in software development I decided to quit the cubicle job. So with lot of time to spare I decided to shoot the streets one day and that was it – I was hooked.”
How important are social media in your work?
I would say it is important but not indispensable. If I take a better than average photo with some potential I definitely feel like sharing it with friends and get their opinions but I have met advocates of total abstinence from social sharing for minimum 10 years to make a mark as a good photographer. So there are extreme views, which to me hold water, but the itch to share remains, you can say.
Which one do you prefer and why?
I think I don’t want to answer that. That totally depends on what kind of friends you make online and totally subjective. My choice and reason for one social media should not bear any meaning and would not strike a chord with another person.
If you had to choose one lens that you would have to be using for the rest of your life, which one would that be and why?
I love kit lenses. I am not a sucker for Leica Summicron or even bulky Canon L-series primes and don’t think I can readily afford them without a steady job. So Canon kit lenses are great for me. Light is everything. If you have great sun, you have great photo. I don’t try to shoot cover page photos in candlelight or dim streetlights, though that is a style as well.
Analog and digital photography. Do you see these as alternatives to one another or the same thing?
They are different. Digital lets you reach your photo far and wide and soon. Analog lets you print great and just see. Not really alternatives. You do each for its own reason.
What, do you think, is the main reason why some photographers opt for film during the digital era we live in?
That is a good question really. I think digital is more like consumerism while film is for the conservatives and purists. Also film makes you more disciplined and thoughtful. It forces you to think.
Black and white and color? How do you decide which one to use?
I love B/W though most of my images are color. Usually I shoot the image with the light structure as its foundation. So in preview I see in B/W and shoot RAW. If the color in an image does not work to its advantage, I convert to B/W. The above two are contradictory statements though. I believe B/W is the soul of an image, color is its clothing. If the clothing is not nice you can bare the soul but if the soul is bad, the image is not worth seeing.
Is there a country or a city that you like to photograph more than others?
Which differences exist between the different countries you visited?
Mainly how people react to you taking photos. Other than that I found the skies in US too blue probably because of its geographical position. When I used a polarizer in US, I could barely see through the deep blue that came in slides.
When you take photos, do you ever have a theme/project in mind?
No. But I need to now.
Are you currently working on any project?
Are there any photographers or artists who inspired you or influenced your way of creating street photography?
I have had many inspirations – photographers, musicians, movie makers, cult movies. It is difficult to name even a few. But Henri-Cartier Bresson introduced me to the poetry that can exist in a photograph.
What advice would you give to someone who is starting to do street photography?
SOUMYENDRA SAHA BIOGRAPHY
Soumyendra Narayan Saha , 45, is an erstwhile software engineer in the Networking domain. He practices Street Photography mainly in Kolkata and Varanasi,India. After a 12 year stint in software development he decided to quit his cubicle job. So with lot of time to spare he decided to shoot the streets one day and that was it – he was hooked. He started watching photographs online, procured many photobooks of the masters ,listened to a lot of Hindustani classical and watched movies at the local cine club. Today after 3 years on the street, he says there are a few photos which I can show but it is a still a long way to go for him.