The flavour of Kolkata

The flavour of Kolkata
The city is known for its old alleys. One such is shot by Atanu Pal.

Friday, February 17, 2017

A tete-a-tete with Soumya Shankar Ghosal

An ardent lover of Kolkata like this blogger, Soumya Shankar Ghosal, a management consultant by profession and a photographer by passion, recently made our city proud when he secured the third position in ‘The 20 Most Influential Street Photographers for 2017’ list from across the world derived from a poll on the street photography website His group Streets of Calcutta is perhaps one of the world’s largest street photography archives dedicated to one city. It was nice to engage with him in a conversation which is as follows. The photos in between are handpicked by the ace lensman from his vast body of work.

1. What does this achievement mean to you? How important is this listing?

Achievement is recognition of your efforts. However, saying so, I must reiterate the fact that achievement is not the ultimate goal. Photography is solely pursued for oneself. The next stage is sharing the joy with others. The third stage is the part of recognition. I am a self-taught photographer and didn’t have the privilege of having a master. Hence, recognition in terms of apperception is an acid test that the photograph has passed exam of sharing the joy with the viewer.

The recent listing is sincerely prestigious one. More so because the list features some of the most gifted photographers I look up to and sharing a little space with them is wonderful. I thank each and every one who felt I should be a part of the top 20 out of the 124 photographers nominated from across the world.

2. Going back to where it began. What got you hooked to street photography and when?

I photographed everything that caught my attention but slowly realized that I had developed an inclination towards Street Photography from around 2008. The street is full of surprises. Exploring the same lane at different times will offer different subjects and perspectives. Exploring streets and knowing the unknown Calcutta is always a fun learning experience.

Oh Calcutta! This is what strikes me each time I explore the city. Although, I was born and have lived in this wonderful metropolis for 36 years, I rediscover the city each time I go out on photowalks. I am never bored walking the same alleys over and over again. Calcutta is a city of diversity. Documenting the diversity helps me learn about the city better.


3. Tell us about Streets of Calcutta. How has the experience been so far?

Streets of Calcutta was born out of a passion to create a shared learning platform for a city-based street photography archive. The objective was to enthuse newcomers who love street photography. What started with a single individual has spread to over 20,000 across social media platforms. We don’t consider SOC as a group. Technically, you don’t need to either join or leave. As long as you love photographing Kolkata, we consider you a part of it.

The forum is quit active in terms of the number of posts on the group as well as Instagram. Apart from the offline interactions have done an online review session which had received more than 225 photos in just 1 hour.

The journey has been pretty exciting! Whatever Streets of Calcutta has achieved is because everyone took an ownership of the subject. Friends Indrajit Lahiri, Nilanjan Pathak and Ayanava Sil deserve a special mention. A special ‘Thank you’ to the brilliant photographers who have encouraged us – Mr. Debarshi Duttagupta, Ms. Lopamudra Talukdar, Mr. Bikas Das and Mr. Asis Sanyal.

4. What do you consider a significant achievement of Streets of Calcutta?

The most significant achievement is Streets of Calcutta has been able to bind together like-minded individuals to educate others about street photography. This genre is not documented much. So when the newcomers, the experienced, the good, the better and the best come together, a vast repository of knowledge is created. We believe in the power of shared learning. I am proud to say, Streets of Calcutta has been able to show street photography in a different light in its 2 years of existence.

5. You do photowalks in the city under Streets of Calcutta. What has been your most memorable photowalk experience?

Every walk is memorable. And yet, there is one walk I particularly remember since it was not about numbers but that of sheer passion for photography of my fellow enthusiasts. That was February 2015 and the walk coincided with an India-Pakistan match. And yet 41 participants turned up.

SOC conducted one of its largest photowalks in August 2015 in association with Amazon India at Shovabazar to celebrate World Photography Day. The participation was recorded at 176. Planning was vital and had to be meticulously executed to manage the big turnout efficiently. Team leads were appointed and briefed in advance and group sizes were kept at a suitable number based in the experience of the team leads. The whole program was managed efficiently with the constant support of the leads and the participants.

6. What are the plans of Streets of Calcutta this year?

We have planned a lot for everyone at SOC in 2017. The execution of the same is being worked upon. Mostly this is related to increasing the offline interactive sessions. Last year we had showcased the work of more than 60 individuals at our exhibition ‘Soul of Kolkata’ in association with ITC Sonar and Nikon. This year too we plan to go ahead with its version 2.0 but with a twist.

To check the Street Hunters list ‘‘The 20 Most Influential Street Photographers for 2017’, click here

If you wish to visit Streets of Calcutta, click here
Instagram handle of Streets of Calcutta: streetsofcalcutta
To know Soumya Shankar Ghosal better, visit his website here. 

#interview #streetphotography #StreetsOfCalcutta

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