A master of monochrome, photographer Prabuddha Dasgupta raised the accepted limit — both moral and creative — of Indian aesthetics. His collection of nude portraits, an early sampling of which was published in the ’90s in a book titled Women, cemented his position as an artiste who didn’t just think outside the box, but one who refused to ever be put in one. Succumbing to a heart attack on Sunday, Prabuddha’s demise has left the industry in shock, even as accolades start streaming in.
Malaika Arora Khan, an early collaborator, recalls her first encounter with him, saying, “Straight out of college, I was hired to work with him on a shoot. He saw me and said, ‘She’s a child. What am I to do with her?’ But he became instrumental in my career, often calling me his muse.”
Veteran model Noyonika Chatterjee reveals that it was Prabuddha’s belief in her that kick-started her ramp career. “No designer would use models like me in those days,” she admits, adding, “But despite my unorthodox features, he booked me for shoots. Since a well-known photographer like him took me seriously, others did too. I owe him a lot.”
Designer Wendell Rodricks reminisces about one of their early projects together: “It was one of my first big fashion shoots, and we were in Navy Nagar, Mumbai. He took a beautiful photo in low light, and I turned to (couturier) Shahab Durazi and said, ‘He’s a genius.’”
Prabuddha moved to Goa, the designer’s home state a few years ago, and his love for the land reflected in his work. Wendell says, “Whether he was shooting Goan people in their homes, or nudes of urban women, he viewed his work as art. He’s left behind a legacy that other photographers need to carry on.”
Through the looking glass Master photographer Prabuddha Dasgupta passed away unexpectedly at 52. We celebrate some of his most recent work
He never had any formal training in photography. But rather than a handicap, that was perhaps his greatest strength. Arguably India’s greatest fashion photographer till date, Prabuddha Dasgupta never believed in conformity. In February 2010, when asked in an interview by The Telegraph if he missed formal training, he had said, “I read somewhere that anything that can be taught is probably not worth learning.”
The son of famous sculptor Pradosh Das Gupta, he trained as a historian but didn’t become one. Instead, he became a copywriter before turning to photography. His signature was his black-and-white photographs, and his pictures of the female form, which he always managed to capture with a unique perspective. He has shot some of the most famous models in the country, including supermodel Lakshmi Menon, whom he considered his muse, and who was his partner. His last book, Edge of Faith, was a celebration of the fading charm of Catholic Goa.