Roads are where Dilip Banerjee finds his muse. He’s no Beat writer like Jack Kerouac, but the seasoned lensman likes to call himself a street photographer. On the Road, Kerouac’s path-breaking novel on his trips across mid-century America, could have well fuelled Banerjee’s imagination for the exhibition, Song of the Road, which opens on Monday.
“Kerouac as well as Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay’s Pather Panchali (song of the road, in Bengali) inspired me,” he says. Banerjee’s viewfinder runs through the streets of Kolkata, the highways of India’s Northeast and Afghanistan’s troubled terrain. “Streets are where people are at their most natural,” says the photographer.
So, along Harrison Road in the City of Joy, he finds islands of life — the railway station at Sealdah, the hallowed Presidency College and the bustling Burra Bazaar.
The former photo editor of India Today started photography as a hobby. “It became a passion listening to filmmakers such as Mrinal Sen, Mani Kaul and theatre veteran Habib Tanvir during a film appreciation course I took in Kolkata’s Chitravani,” he says.
No wonder, Banerjee’s portraits have a fluid, movie-like quality. Travelling on the Stillwell Road that goes from Ledo in Assam to Kunming in China’s Yunnan district for his forthcoming book, Banerjee came across a woman bathing her three-day-old child. “A mother’s care and the infant’s fragility came through beautifully.”
That such flashes of humanity can only be found on the street is his credo.
Song of the Road, an exhibition of Banerjee’s photographs, is on at Delhi’s Lalit Kala Akademi from February 8-14, 11 am to 7 pm