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Focusing on lives, one candid frame after another

Photographer Nabarupa Bhattacharjee speaks about photography — which is her first love — being India’s first artist-in-residence for Escapist Art Movement,Texas, and forming an inventory of filmmaker Ritwik Ghatak’s oeuvre.

art and culture Updated: Apr 04, 2019 11:21 IST
Naina Arora
Naina Arora
Hindustan Times
Nabarupa Bhattarjee,Ritwik Ghatak,John Ross Palmer
Nabarupa Bhattacharjee is India’s first artist-in-residence for the Escapist Art Movement in Texas, USA.

Armed with a fancy phone and an active presence on a photo sharing network, anybody can be a photographer these days. But for Kolkata-born Nabarupa Bhattacharjee, it’s all about finding one’s own style of expression.

“Photography is a medium of expression, but then what is your expression?” she asks. “Any young artist or photographer should read about sociology, politics. What’s happening in the world in the artistic and the socio-political spheres? Those areas have stories, and photography is a medium to bring out those stories,” the 30-year-old shares.

Bhattacharjee is India’s first artist-in-residence for Escapist Art Movement, Texas, USA. The residency was life-changing for her as it led to her photo-biographical book on artist and founder of Escapism, John Ross Palmer. The Escapist Mentorship program is free of cost, bridging the gap between the practitioner and the art industry.

Her book on John Ross Palmer, founder of the Escapist Art Movement.

“I’d been following his work for over two years and all this while looking up to him. I was very curious and had applied, although my intention was to document the life of John Palmer. I really wanted to capture the artist, his mission and vision towards art. I thought If I had to do a book on him, I can do within six months. He was bridging the gap between practitioners and art industry. There are now hundred of artists in Texas who have done this and are doing really great. I saw how John helps them, even without taking any money, and provides them the right studio, platform, teaches them how to build your canvas from scratch. He was teaching something that you don’t get
in art universities,” says Bhattacharjee, who is an alumni of Shari Academy, Mumbai, and London College of Communication,UAL.

A picture from her photo series, Tram Travellers of Kolkata.

As a photographer, she loves biographies and human archives and try to combine the two genres.
“I want to take photography in a pre-academic way [where] I will have themed projects based on archives, human stories, biographies — using photography as a medium to amalgamate these things. Over the last ten years, my vision for photography has changed from being a pictorialist to doing research-based photography,” says Bhattacharjee.

For the globetrotting photographer, the foray into the form was “genetic”, she says. “I love travelling, but my photography takes me places. I have many people in my family who are into art and cinema. And Ritwik Ghatak has always been a very big influence since childhood,” she says of the noted Bengali filmmaker who happens to be her granduncle. Indeed, as after coming back to the country, she started working on a photo book named Life After Ritwik Ghatak. The work explored the memories of 90-year-old Surama Devi, wife of the filmmaker.

“I lived with his wife, Surama, looking at the family archives, how they lived together and separately, [capturing] professional and artist journey of Ritwik Ghatak, as his grand niece. I always had this idea in mind that some day I’ll archive my granduncle’s belongings,” says Bhattacharjee, who is currently working on a project on poet Sukumar Ray, and has also formed a multimedia inventory/archive of Ghatak.

Interact with the author on Twitter/@Nainaarora8

First Published: Apr 04, 2019 11:16 IST