The sharp and unique illustration of the many facets of the urban world around him captured through his carefully crafted lens not only catches the eye, but captivates the mind to the stark reality of life and things which often is overlooked or goes unnoticed. As he breathes life into the drab and shadows of life, what one can make of his work is originality, simplicity, intensity, strength, brilliance and an underlying sophistication that reflect not only his unmatched skill and experience, but also an all fired-up passion. Perhaps, it is all the result of an “endless process of moving on,” as he puts it candidly, and a lot more.
A photographer, who has taken his creativity into different streams of expression through art, book covers, and experimental projects, Sandeep Biswas, talks about his work, the art of photography, and his evolution from a photographer to the man himself ticking with wit and grit, and shares it all in an exclusive interview to thestatesman.com.
“My work is an endless process of moving on. It is a reaction to the environment around me. I am just busy searching my acceptance or trying to cope up to changes that are taking place rapidly around me,” Sandeep says, revealing the secret behind his work.
While one may wonder about the inspiration behind the genius, every visual medium seems to keep the photographer going better, as he says, “My inspiration is not just photography, but every visual medium that I witnesses. Surrealism and contemporary art practice has been a larger inspiration in my work, and that helps me break out of the reality in my imagery.”
But, it all began with the joy of owning his first camera as a young boy, as the photographer reveals:
“I might have been six or seven when it all began. My father, an artist himself, handed me the Viogtlander – one of the oldest cameras, to fool around with,” Sandeep says, recalling the joy of owing his first camera.
His connection with his father&’s cameras did not end there. “When I turned 14, he decided to give me his precious ‘Asahi Pentax Spotmatic’,” Sandeep says. Since then, he found his passion and as he puts his cards on the table, he confesses his deepest inhibitions and aspects that drew him towards and firmly held him as a creative photographer.
“It was during my Art school days where I was studying applied art that I realized I enjoyed the medium of photography over others,” he says. And after completing his graduation in design from College of Arts in New Delhi, it didn’t take too long for Sandeep to realise he wanted to live his dream of creating and making images.
“Since photography was a tough profession to get into those days, I decided to take up a job as a visualizer in an advertising firm to survive. It took me two years from there to realize how I missed clicking pictures,” he reveals. It was then that he finally decided to take the plunge.
After assisting India&’s top commercial photographer Pradeep Dasgupta, Sandeep went on to become independent. “These years were crucial to me as the training not only helped me evolve with the medium, but also taught me how to survive the field of photography,” he says.
He says, “My dad&’s camera stayed with me functionally even then. As a matter of fact, the pictures that got me four awards during the 90&’s and my first fellowship that took me to Kyoto University of Art and Design were shot with this camera.”
In 1993, he was awarded for photography by Sahitya Kala Parishad and Alliance Francaise de Delhi. The All India Fine Art and Craft also awarded him twice, in 1997 and 1999. In 2001, Japan Foundation sponsored him for a two-person show following which he was awarded the Japan Foundation Fellowship.
He was also awarded the Visual Art Gallery, India Habitat Fellowship in 2005.
He has had five solo shows and has been a part of over 40 group shows in India, France, Germany, UK, Sri Lanka and South Korea with renowned art galleries.
Throwing light on the response from art connoisseurs, and the profits in terms of sales and market, the ace photographer reveals, “There have been some tremendous response from viewers and critics abroad, but the Indian market for me has been better in terms of sale.”
He adds, “Lahore was a great experience in terms of how people and the media took interest. They have some fantastic art critics. The people there too are sensitive to creative arts.”
His connection has been deeply intertwined into other forms of which he says, “It is not always easy to balance between projects that need a completely different mental set up time to time. But that&’s what is challenging being a creative photographer.”
“I have been now documenting for UNICEF since 2002,” he says, adding, “My first assignment was about Polio vaccination in Uttar Pradesh. Since then I have done many documentations of the subject, apart from their other projects like education, sanitation, health etc.”
Moving from the traditional to the present hi-tech scenario, Sandeep talks about the changes and the revelation it has brought about. “I had to shift to this medium overnight around 2004. I had just made myself comfortable with the darkroom process around the same time. I processed my own black and white films and made my own prints. The entry of the digital era then was like a new scary monster eating into my beautiful life as a photographer.”
“Now over a decade later, I have learnt to love the use of digital technology, though some of my process of work still remains from my understanding and discipline of the analog era.”
“The creativity or the vision will always come from one&’s mind and not the gadgets. So digitalization only helps in the different ways you can execute your idea, but that execution still needs an intelligent mind to support it,” he says.
After two decades, Sandeep feels wiser and more comfortable with the medium. “I face success and failure simultaneously as I keep working. It&’s just that I handle myself better and with a bit more maturity today than how I did a few years ago,” he says.
On a note of advice to young and budding photographers, Sandeep thinks three things, sincerity, patience and perseverance, are the key to success. “Originality takes time, but is long lived, an imitation can be a quick success, but can die away equally fast,” Sandeep adds.