An interview with the amazing Documentary and Street Photographer, Lopamudra Talukdar
1) What are you doing these days? Since you are into Street, Travel, and Documentary photography, we imagine that you must have documented something to showcase how people are affected or coping up during the pandemic?
To be honest, I never thought this COVID situation will last this long. I had a packed schedule this year with a number of tours already confirmed. At first, it was a waiting game, when this will be over and I can travel again and then when I realized I will have to cancel all my travel plans for the year, I was a bit heartbroken, to be honest. But then the photographer in me refused to die. I would make it a point to carry my camera whenever I went out, sometime on a road trip across the length and breadth of my state, once on a domestic flight, and I tried to capture in my own way, how Corona has changed the life and people around us. I also used the time to take up two different projects, for which I did not have to step out of my home. One was a selfie project, photographing myself, at home, in isolation, in different moods. I really enjoyed doing this. I also love to cook and took up food photography on an experimental basis, capturing photos of the dishes I cooked, not in studio conditions but in natural light. I strongly believe in the saying, where there is a will there is a way, you just need to look for it and utilize it. Think positive and be positive.
2) Has this lockdown impacted your work in any way? Business-wise?
As I said, I had a number of tours and workshops planned this year, which obviously had to be shelved. But no regrets on that front. Human lives matter a lot more than a few tours. I am sure dark days will be gone and we will once again have a lot of opportunities to travel and share experiences.
3) What is photography to you? How did you end up being a travel/street/documentary photographer?
Photography is an integral part of myself. And so is travel. In fact, I was a traveler first and photographer next. So travel photography came naturally to me. As I delved deeper into the different genres of photography, i found my calling in street and documentation.
4) Is there any other form of art or any other photography genre you would like to try your hand on beside Street, Travel, and Documenting?
I respect each and every genre of photography. They all have their finer nuances and challenges. Nothing comes easy. I have explored other genres of photography as well and one which gave me huge self-satisfaction was covering the FIFA World Cup Football 2018 in Russia as a FIFA accredited Sports Photographer.
5) Tell us some tips for young photographers wanting to get into Street/Travel/Documentary.
Simple tips: Don’t run after expensive gears, use the equipment you have. Instead concentrate on composition skills, choosing the right subject, the right story, and learning to capture that right ‘decisive’ moment. Look at what established photographers are doing, learn from them, but do not imitate them. Try to develop your own signature style. I know it is easier said than done, but that is the challenge.
6) What is the difference between Street, Travel, and Documentary photography?
There is a fine line of divide between each but at the same time, there are points of overlap as well.
Street: It is all about candid photography, as a photographer, you are like a fly on the wall, capturing each passing moment without others being aware / intimidated by your presence. The emphasis is often on capturing a unique moment, something which will probably not be repeated.
Travel: While shooting Travel photography, my judgment is simple. To lure the viewer into thinking, I wish could travel to this place - it is so beautiful and attractive. So essentially you need to make a place a look good. Show its beautiful side. It does not essentially mean only sunrise or sunset shots, or beautiful architecture but also showing local customs, local cuisine, etc.
Documentary Photography: Has a very wide scope. It is like working on a storyboard. Sometimes it is a short project like a short story or a long drawn one like a novel. It involves a lot of research and unlike travel, you show the reality, not only the good side but the ugly side as well.
7) You capture a lot of topics that generally do not get bigger media attention. How do you choose which story to cover?
It depends. Sometimes I read something and that gives me an initial idea to explore photography. Some ideas are rejected after a couple of months, some click and I go on. It also happens, that I shoot something randomly, and then when I go back and see those images, it suddenly strikes me that I can do a longer project, documentation.
8) Can you tell us about the first story you covered that changed your perspective on how to create an impactful story?
It was one of the first professional assignments I got and it was from the prestigious National Geographic Traveller magazine. They already had the story ready which was on the Sweets of Bengal and they needed me to do the photographs independently. The Photo Editor explained to me how I should think about developing the story, the dimensions it involved, to cover all possible bases. It was great satisfaction when my work was not only accepted but appreciated.
9) Tell us about the current story/project you are working on?
I am currently working on a number of projects. Two of them which are very close to my heart are: documenting the life of Changpa Tribals of Ladakh and documenting the LGBT community around the world.
10) When you publish your work, do you see any change in the attitude of people towards those subjects?
Photo stories on sensitive subjects, published in the right manner, definitely acts as opinion-makers. It helps create awareness.
11) Can you talk about the equipment you use? Do you use mobile for capturing photos? How do you think Mobile Photography has changed the world?
I have used a number of brands but for the last couple of years, I have been a FujiFilm mentor it has been my pleasure to use Fujifilm cameras. I have got excellent support in terms of equipment support from FujiFilm India.
I use my iPhone more to capture videos and short clips, rather than still images. Mobile photography has definitely improved by leaps and bounds and what it has done is, putting a good enough camera in the hands of a person who may have been a non-photographer, to begin with. Instigating that interest has transformed many a mobile photographer to the photography profession recently.
12) In the end, we would like to know your thought on how powerful photography is? How just 1 image can change the world?
Photography is a very powerful medium. It helps create opinions, awareness. It helps in documenting the world much like thousand of years ago, early humans documented through cave paintings. We are leaving something behind for our future generations to ponder over. Photographs do have the ability to change the world. Two photographs come to mind: One of the Napalm Girl, a young Vietnamese girl running naked down a road, screaming after a napalm (chemical) attack on her village. The picture went on to win the Pulitzer Prize and formed a strong opinion in the USA against the atrocities in the Vietnam war. Another photograph, more recent, of a 3-year Syrian boy, washed ashore dead on the sea coast while trying to flee the war back home, moved the world.