‘The Fishermen’ who made it to London

Debdatta Chakraborty, the only Indian winner at the Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year 2018, discusses his photograph

Every year, thousands of photographers send in their entries for the prestigious Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year. The panel of judges, comprising eminent people in the fields of food, photography and journalism, sifts through images set in stalls and on tables, shot on fields and near rivers, by bloggers, students and freelancers, to select winners in categories ranging from ‘Food Portraiture’ to ‘Bring home the harvest’.

The 2018 edition saw 8,000 entries, of which two by Kolkata-based Debdatta Chakraborty caught the judges’ eye. His ‘The Rice Mill Workers’, which captured five sari-clad women arranging grains in sand-coloured lines stretching till the edge of the frame, was ‘highly commended’ and made it to the final photo exhibition in London. But it was the green-tinged ‘The Fishermen’ that, in the photographer’s words, “hit the bull’s eye for me”.

The photograph, which won in the ‘Bring home the harvest’ category, shows eight fishermen casting their nets symmetrically into the shallow, green waters of the Silabati river. Shot from a high vantage point, the image looks almost rhythmic, with the floating white circlets that are the fishing nets surrounded by lines of fishermen. It is a glance at the bare basic act of food gathering, rendered unusual and beautiful through the gaze of the camera. For Chakraborty, though, the story is a little bigger than that.

‘The Fishermen’ who made it to London

“The photo was taken in Garbeta, West Midnapur. There, the ravines of Gangani are called the grand canyon of West Bengal,” he informs over phone, “The Silabati is supposed to be a perennial river, and the only source of water in that area. It used to be a favourite spot of mine; I visited it about five to six times in 2012-13.”

The photo was taken during one of his trips in 2013, he says, adding that when he visited the river again in 2014, “it had dried”. The river would be inundated every time waters were released from a nearby dam, but the people living around it sustained themselves on it regardless.

Even when it’s dry, the river — or at least the bed — continues to be a source of food for the local population. “When I went back, I saw that people are now cultivating potatoes on the dry river bed,” informs Chakraborty.

It is stories of this kind that form the body of Chakraborty’s work. “I don’t photograph cities,” he says, “I focus on people whose stories have not been told.”

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Printable version | Feb 24, 2020 4:24:44 AM |

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