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.


Full story...

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!!

Full story...

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.

Full story...

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.

Full story...

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.

Full story...

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.

Full story...

Friday, March 13, 2009

Emotion in animals

Do animals have emotions, as human beings understand it? It is a debatable topic. Different people have different ideas and they put forth reasons supporting their views. I personally would like to believe that emotional feelings is also a feature of animal mind, at least it should be there in higher mammals. The scientific reason behind this being that emotions arise in limbic system which humans share with other mammals as well. Recent scientific experiments also suggest that in case of primates and canines only emotion can explain certain behavioral traits. However it is hard to resolve the ambiguity completely as we can neither obtain spoken answers, nor assume anthropomorphism.

Whether animals have emotions or not, they are used, in many cases now-a-days, as emotional supports for humans, therapeutically. Animals have, for long, been known to provide physical and emotional aid to disabled people. However, these days physicians are actually prescribing pets like dogs, cats, birds, etc. to help with a variety of ailments. It is believed that pet's ownership makes a person more active, increasing physical activity on a daily basis thus reducing stress, blood pressure, lowering cholesterol etc. as physical benefits. Moreover, pets' unconditional love and acceptance solve many societal issues for people living alone or who don't have any close relative with them.

Events like pet-shows act as a platform where pet owners, breeders and other businesses related to the pets get the chance to know each other. In Kolkata during December and January different kennel clubs arrange for dog shows and this years on 18th January I had the chance to be present in one such dog show organized by Calcutta Kennel Club. I am not a knowledgeable person about dogs and their different breeds. But I enjoyed being there, amidst so many different types of dogs. I enjoyed observing the expressions on their faces and took photographs of some of those expressive faces. One cannot miss to recognize the emotions painted on those faces.

I hope you will enjoy the photographs from the dog show in my Picasa album.

Full story...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Varanasi: City on the Trident of Shiva

It was well past midnight when I got down from the train, at last, at Varanasi station. The train was eight hours late just to bring us from Allahabad to Varanasi. General compartment of the train was packed with pilgrims and their baggages so no place to sit or move around, just on feet all through. It was a special day for bathing and a huge crowd flocked to Allahabad to take a dip. The boarders were just a fraction of the folk who decided to return home that night.

Where to go at this late hour? All the telephone numbers I had with me just kept ringing with no one to attend them. Luckily the second class waiting room appeared to be a nice place to spend the night sitting there. It had a cafeteria too and I filled up my stomach with a steaming "masala dosa" quickly. I decided to leave the station at 5 O'clock in the morning and expected the darkness to start fading by then.

When it was just a few minutes left for 5 in the morning, I looked through the windows of the rest room and in my eagerness to be at the ghats of Varanasi I took the bright light of the floods outside as the cracking of the dawn. But I was soon put to reality as I was out looking for a rickshaw to take me to Dashashwamedh ghat. And then began the journey which I can't forget for my life. It was pitch-black with thick fog and save the area of the railway station there was no street light. One could not see just a few paces away and I could not make out if I am passing through a jungle or a residential place. Only a few illuminated windows assured me that there were buildings on both sides of the street. The rickshaw-puller was driving quite fast. I could not feel the cold in excitement; did I take a wrong decision? No one could save us if somebody attacked us, no one could even know what had happened before it was pretty late in the morning.

It was only after a twenty or twenty-five minutes ride that I first heard human voices, a group of devotees singing the praise of God Shiva. We passed them shortly after and I was assured that we were heading towards the right direction. After a few more minutes the rickshaw-puller brought me near a tea-shop, "We have reached the ghat, Sir".
"Where is it?"
"Just a few paces away from this place. You see the pilgrims are coming for bathing."

True he was; these pilgrims seemed to be the ones returning home from Allahabad, at least some of them. The tea-shop was also full with customers. I paid the rickshaw-puller and followed the pilgrims towards the Dashashwamedh ghat. During that dark hours the place appeared like a dreamland. There was no light except a neon lamp high above, but the light could not penetrate thick fog. The place was crowded with pilgrims and priests, shadowy human figures. Oil lamps were burning under the umbrellas and sometimes sudden burst of light from hand-held torches. People were moving hastily, may be to ward off cold. I was seated by the steps watching the activities and enjoying the place. The bells in the nearby temples started chiming by then.

I was waiting for the morning light. I had to arrange for a safe place to stay and keep my luggage, then I could come down to the ghat again to shoot in the fog...

And afterward it was all a usual story for a newcomer in Varanasi.

PS: To see more photographs on Varanasi please visit my web-album.

Full story...

Friday, February 6, 2009

Muharram this year and other titbits...

The January was a particularly eventful month. There were lots of events to photograph and there were lots of good and bad in my own life. Well life can never be without events. But some of them I shall like to remember always. I met Michal and Ilona for the first time at Kolkata, and we spent lots of time shooting together, eating, chatting or simply passing away time together. Thank you Michal and Ilona!! I met Anamitra also for the first time on the day I left for Allahabad. And yes I went to Allahabad to shoot at Magh Mela and on my way back home stayed at Varanasi for two days.

This year I actually wanted to visit Sagar island during Sagar Mela. Previously it was planned that I, Jonathan, Michal and Ilona, all four will start for Sagar on 12 January. And I met Jonathan again after an year at Kolkata. But unfortunately the plan couldn't be realized and I couldn't go to Sagar. Later my luck took me to Allahabad instead.

8 January was Muharram this year. It was a grand festival among the Muslims of the city that spans through two days: 7 and 8 January this year. We went through the streets of Kolkata to capture the mood of the celebration. I made the slideshow below with the photographs that I took.

Full story...

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy 2009!!

Whistles, screams and crowd; the mood for new year's eve celebration condenses as the clock ticks toward the midnight. Traditionally it is the Park Street/New Market area that pulls most of the crowd in Kolkata. During the British rule it was called "Saaheb paaraa" meaning the neighbourhood of the Britishers and was the epicentre of celebration of the year ending festivals from Christmas. In general psyche the locality is able to maintain its past image even to this age. Although now different sponsored parties, music performances by local bands and other such events are being arranged in different shopping complexes and multiplexes throughout Kolkata, and they also pull huge crowd.

A rock music show was arranged by NIFD students near their campus at New Market to welcome 2009. NIFD is a fashion design school. It was a street-side show and open to all. So the crowd was of mixed nature; from the serious looking elders to the most enthusiastic adolescents, whoever was passing by the place stopped to get a feel of it.

Full story...