Friday, July 17, 2009

Again some vegetables

For the last couple of days I was busy with an assignment work for a Canadian newspaper. I am sorry I could not share the images here. But they have promised me to share a PDF version of their printed magazine. I hope to put it up here for you to see.

For the assignment I used an off-camera flash as my light source. I am pretty happy with the results I was able to produce. So I thought to use the same technique to do some table-top photography. Why again with vegetables? because they are easily available to me. I hope you will like the images I made.

If you are looking for a photographer to do your portfolio, product or editorial shoot, or for any other photography related task please let me know. I believe I can help you within a very reasonable budget.


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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Gaajan/Charak photos on Photojournale

I haven't been out on the streets with my camera for some days now. Sort of a sabbatical from photography; well if clicking the shutter is all that is about photography. However I worked on my photographs that I took during Bengali New Year celebration and published them on Photojournale:
"Rituals to celebrate Bengali New Year are many. Rural agrarian Bengal used to welcome the new year with the festival of Gaajan/Charak. It is a month long celebration that spans through the last month of Bengali calendar, Chaitra."
More text and photos at Photojournale : Photo journal stories and photo documentary from around the world

I am also putting some efforts recently to roll my new blog with Wordpress: Babbles of a deranged mind. This is in most part a text-only blog and in no way related to my photo-projects. I wish to let loose my ideas and opinions about the world around me through words in this place. I would really like to see you all in my new blog and hope you will find it interesting as much as this one.

Thanks for viewing!!

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Still-life: Fruits and Vegetables

Did some still-life photography at home recently. Temperature was well above 40 deg C outside and was feeling too lazy to move out of home. Moreover had to finish working with photographs I made during Gaajan/Charak festival; hope to publish them shortly. My attention turned to the vegetables and fruits at home. Their freshness and bright colours bring relief from the blaze of sun outside. The good news is that the atmosphere is now comfortable after heavy rain for two days.

Light coming through the window was used as the main source of illumination along with one or two reflectors to fill-in shadows. The RAW files for these photos were processed with RAW Therapee. It is a nice FOSS tool, based on dcraw, to work with RAW files from digicams. I am a Lightroom 1.1 user and I am happy with this new tool. Obviously Lightroom is more than just a RAW processor, and you can't find those extended features in RAW Therapee. But it does well what it is supposed to do: RAW file processing, and you can also do simple touch-ups on TIFF and JPEG files with it. I shall try to publish a thorough review of the software later.

I built the slide presentation with a new service on the web: Vuvox. I discovered it recently, and it seems gaining popularity among professional photographers. I am yet to explore its different features thoroughly. It supports popular web albums like Flickr and Picasa, and most probably any photo-sharing website that supports RSS feed.

DISCLAIMER: I am not associated in any means with RAW Therapee or Vuvox; just wanted to share about the nice pieces of software I found on the net recently.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Best wishes on World Dance Day

Dance is an integral part of Human existence. Before people learnt to use verbal languages for communication they used systematic movement of body parts as a form of sign language. Even for a successful hunting expedition it was mandatory to perform the ritualistic magic of hunting dance. Today dance is an important component of rehabilitation efforts and therapies organized for the amelioration of emotionally, psychologically or socially challenged people.

To draw the attention of general people towards the contribution of dance to human history and society and to build up awareness about different forms of dances, International Dance Council CID, UNESCO has specified 29th April of every year to celebrate World Dance Day, in the year 1982. All organizations and individuals associated with dance and dancing are requested to organize activities to reach a broader audience than usual.

I have some photographs of dancing from different festivals, ceremonies and rituals that I was fortunate to witness and thought to share them with you on this occasion. So I created the slideshow attached below. I believe the photographs are evidence of pervasiveness of dancing in our society.

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Summer is approaching...

This is the last month of Bengali calendar, Chaitra. We are at the threshold of the summer season. Well the truth is we are already into it. Report shows persistent temperature rise in the country, and as a result we are having short lived winter, prolong and tiring summer and untimely rain and storms. Not long back there used to be occasional thunder storm and cyclone during this time bringing relief from heat and humidity; even I have seen it in my childhood days. We call this climatic phenomenon Kaalboishakhi. But from the past few years it has become a rare event. So now we are enduring a long and sticky summer season.

Like changes in climatic condition there are changes in cultural horizon also. Chaitra is the witness to a month long observation of some rituals, that in many cases spills over to the first month of the new year Baishakh. We call it Gaajan and mostly the people from lower rung of the society are the participants. This is a folk religious celebration where an aboriginal god is the central deity whose priest is also a member of the participating community though now a days the festival has been related to the Hindu god Shiva and a Brahmin is seen to take up the role of the priest. Likewise the festival has lost its splendor and ferocity of celebration in Kolkata and its suburbs. The original spirit can now only be found within some interior pockets of rural Bengal.

Social scientists and cultural historians have shown the celebration to be a fertility ritual for an agricultural community where people pray for good rain and fertility of their land in the wake of a dry summer season. It has been shown to be a celebration of marriage between the Sun God and the Earth. The Hindi speaking people from Bihar also worship the Sun God during Chaitra which they call "Chaiti Chhat". The purpose seems to be the same, that is to pray for fertility and good harvest.

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Community get-together

"Mela" is a Bengali word whose nearest English expression should be "a get-together". It is an occasion when members of a community, may be people of a religious sect or people from neighbouring villages, come out to meet each other in an open space to exchange pleasantries, to discuss social issues, to take part in trade or just for general merry making and celebrating a special occasion. A "mela" is generally organized to commemorate an event important to the community or as part of some religious celebration. Thus a "mela" plays an important role in community life by helping to maintain unity and fellow-feeling among the members.

Recently I had the opportunity to be present at two "mela" celebrations in the villages of Bengal. One is called "Pir Gorachand Er Mela", that is a mela celebration dedicated to "Pir Gorachand" who is an Islamic saint and another one is "Matua Dharma Mahamela" which is the grandest religious festival of the people of "Matua" sect. Both were organized to celebrate important religious occasions to the respective communities of people.

"Pir Gorachand Er Mela" is the biggest mela celebration at Harua, a village in North 24 Parganas. The three days long celebration commemorates death anniversary of a Muslim saint "Pir Gorachand" and it starts on 11th day of the month Falgun of Bengali Calendar. Both Hindus and Muslims of the village and neighbouring regions participate in this mela to pay homage to the saint. However, according to the historians "Pir Gorachand" is more a mythical character, as no historical evidence can be found about his activities in the region. The stories that run in his name speak about the conflicts and struggles that Islam has to endure during its initial period in India and how people at lower rung of the society embraced Islam to escape torturous hands of uppler class rulers. This year when I got news of the mela celebration the actual three days celebration was already over. But the stalls set up for the mela would be there for the next ten days and I found people still throbbing with enthusiasm to flock to the mela ground.

The next one was held at Thakurnagar in North 24 Parganas. It started on 21st March this year and ran for a week; but the main celebration was on last Tuesday when an estimated 25 Lacs of devotees visited the place. The mela is organised to celebrate birth anniversary of Thakur Harichand (1811 - 1877), the founder of the "Matua" sect, who is considered as an incarnation of Vishnu by his followers. "Matua" is a religious movement in Bengal, in the same spirit of the "Bhakti" movement of Sri Chaitanya. It strives to address the issue of outcastes within the realm of Hinduism and preaches not to discriminate among people on racial ground. The movement soon became popular among the people from the lower strata of the society and it is now one of the important facets of Dalit movement in India. The sect has a huge base of Dalit devotees all throughout India at present. This made the sect quite attractive to the political parties aiming to bank on the huge base of Dalit voters to wrest power.

A "mela" is a living history of a region and of the community as well. The two above mela celebrations made me able to have a closer look at the life and history of common people in my country. Here I shall like to request my readers to let me know about any other interesting mela celebrations, that you become aware of. You can consider posting comments to this article or can reach me in my mailbox at santanu[dot]chakrabarti[@]gmail[dot]com.

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