A widely-acclaimed street photographer, Debarchan Chatterjee is a self-learned photojournalist from Kolkata. His photographs focus on narrating what may not be put into words accurately. As a major part of his projects revolve around streets, he manages to pursue his profession and passion at the same time. His viewpoints on street photography reflect great wisdom that's shared in this interview.
1. How you got involved in street photography in the first place?
Street photography or photography as a whole started back in my college days. It was a fun pastime after my studies to shoot with my newly acquired mobile camera. The fun became a serious passion about 6 years back when my father gifted me with a digital camera. Street photography was an unknown term to me back then but I used to shoot everything and anything on the street, especially human interests. I started studying from pictures online and through the millions of clicks, Raghu Rai’s work intrigued me a lot back then. Slowly, I started to understand the clicks I take, and that it belongs to a bigger genre of photographic work called STREET.
2. When did you know street photography could be your field of expertise?
Human interest always attracted me from Day 1 of my work, and I loved capturing spontaneous moments. Before choosing what my heart wanted, I experimented with various other genres but it never struck that chord of satisfaction that I got from shooting on the streets. Hence, I decided that this is my genre of work. I love shooting people and stories on the street, I love telling stories and listening to them also from strangers I came across during my endeavors with the camera. One thing and then another led me to Street Photography.
3. What is street photography for you?
Street photography is a very vast subject and I think I don’t have an exact definition for it. But from what I work and how I do it, street photography for me is about telling the stories of very common things that we come across every day of our life in once own artistic way.
4. What's the most unusual feature of street photography?
The most unusual and attractive feature for me in Street Photography is Spontaneity. A moment once passed in the street can never be brought back and that is what I love about it. The challenge of clicking that perfect moment, that perfect expression, or the perfect placement of the subject in the frame has always excited me in the genre. It’s all about the decisive moment.
5. How important is the originality of work in street photography?
Photography has seen a boom in the last few years, with digital cameras becoming more affordable for the masses, everyone’s getting involved in the art whether as a passion or a profession, it’s really amazing how the art has gained popularity, especially Streets. So, originality in your work is very important to stand out from the masses. It is easy to shoot and be lost in the crowd of clicking the same picture, but the challenge lies in creating your own style and that’s the fun of the art. That’s how a great artist differs from a normal one.
6. How can artists find their independent styles?
Street Photography as an art or as a study cannot happen behind closed doors, and the majority of the work lies on the street and I believe the best way to find your own style is on the field, shooting a thousand pictures, experimenting what suits your way of work.
7. What are the clichés in street photography that you don’t appreciate?
I see many photographers going the easy way by copying the work of other photographers without finding their own style, own frame. Sometimes even exact frame to frame, and this really bores me. The cliché of taking the same frame clicked by someone else really disinteresting and I believe it is better to struggle in finding once own style rather than taking the easy way out.
8. What is your take on social media influence on street photography?
Social media has taken the world of streets to a vast audience. It is easy to access the works of other photographers and learn from them now. Youngsters can now share and showcase their work to the vast world through various social media handles which seemed impossible a decade back and this is what I love about social media.
9. What is the most underrated feature of street photography you wish everyone discussed more about?
Street photography has no set parameters to define it. Hence, I believe there’s a huge scope of experimentation for individuals to find their own way of work in the street photography world. I think it is a less-discussed term in the Street Photography world. Encouraging individuals to find there own style of work rather than shooting on set parameters from the works of others.
10. What differentiates a professional street photographer from the rest?
A professional has his or her own style of work that separates them from the masses.
11. Who are the street photographers whom you look up to and why?
Along with a street photographer, I am a professional photojournalist, and hence, I love studying works of artists who tell stories through pictures. To name first, I really love the works of Raghu Rai, there’s an amazing simplicity yet complex nature in his pictures. Next, I ardently follow the works of Rohit Vohra as there’s a beautiful poetic touch in his frames that I just love. Alan Schaller and Rui Palha’s monochrome has attracted me since day one. Among the females, I really love the work of Debrani Das, Dimpy Bhalotia, Mousumee Jha, and Mou Aysha. Their styles really attract me. Recently I have started to study the works of Kevin Fryer, Ed Kashi, and Reza. A lot can be learned from their style of storytelling.
12. Do you believe readings and studies on this genre does help? Which work you recommend and why?
Yes, it is extremely important to study the works of others and mostly evaluating one’s own work at the end of the shoot. Studying helps with finding one’s own flaws and ways to overcome it. It lends the perspective and blueprints to an artist before his shoot day. I highly recommend following the work of the above-mentioned photographers.
13. Do you take photos for yourself or for others?
On an assignment, I have to shoot pictures that my commissioned agency need. Still among that, I try to find one or few frames for myself, for my own heart’s satisfaction. Hence, I shoot for both, others and myself at the same time.
14. What message would you like to give other practicing street photographers?
Find your own style, create something that can be recognized as YOUR work. Don’t follow the crowd and try to make your own path, own style. There’s fun in it.
To know more about his projects, visit https://www.debarchanchatterjee.com/