An Interview with a Travel Photographer –Sandipan Mukherjee

August 19 is celebrated as World Photography Day and so to celebrate, extraordinary and versatile world and culture of photography, we shall celebrate the whole month of August with articles dedicated to Photographers. WeekendTrivia exclusive interviews with as well as a photography contest shall be running on as well as all other social media platforms. So dive into the fest!

A critically acclaimed author and the winner of several prestigious awards, Sandipan Mukherjee has many travel stories in his kitty. He explores and portrays the nooks and corners of the world and essays his visions through his captures. Do get your hands on the copy of “On Broken Trails” and read on to know more about him.

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Instagram – Sandipanmukherjeephotos


P. S. – Copyright of all the captures in the article lies with ©Sandipan Mukherjee

The Man himself- Sandipan Mukherjee

Q1: Would you kindly introduce yourself to our reader? Along with the genre of your photography and on which project are you working currently? What do you consider your greatest achievement?

A: A teacher by profession, I have been a free-lance contributor of photos and articles to The Times of India, The Statesman, The Hindustan Times, The Asian Age and Bhraman. My photographs have featured in several international publications and won awards and recognition from numerous esteemed organizations and events in India and abroad, like Better Photography, Gujarat Lalit Kala Academy, Asian Development Bank, People and Planet (Australia), TNT Magazine (UK), Snowden (Australia), CIWEM (UK), SPIE (USA), Water Integrity Network (Germany) and Sony World Photography Awards (UK).  I have to my credit several national and international group exhibitions, and three solo exhibitions. 

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As the winner of the Wanderlust Travel Photo of the Year Award (UK, 2013), I won a customized 9-day-long Photo Trip for two to Jordan, sponsored entirely by the Jordan Tourism Board. JTB also presented the photos from that trip at a solo exhibition at ICCR, Kolkata. 

My book ‘On Broken Trails’, which took me six years to complete, has been published only recently. It is a critically acclaimed photo-essay on the land and life of Nubra Valley in Ladakh. 

I do have some ideas, but I haven’t finalized on my next project yet.

Q2: What attracts you to your genre? Whose work has influenced you most?

A: I have won awards and recognition for street, travel, landscape, portrait and documentary photography… So I am not sure what ‘my’ genre would be! But I’ve always been fascinated with people.

I am inspired by many of my contemporaries and seniors. When I was starting off, around 2007, I learnt most from studying the works of masters like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Martin Parr and Raghu Rai. If there have been some influence of their work on mine, it’s for the viewers to decide.

Q3: Is it important to have any professional training to be a photographer? Did you have any at the time you set of your journey?  

A: I never had any professional training myself… So I am not really in the position to comment on its importance. 

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On the one hand, I feel that the technicalities of the art and science of photography may be taught, while vision may not be imparted. On the other hand, I have never been a professional photographer myself, so I have no idea whether that would need any special training.

Q4: When you go in one of your photo-shoot which one is your favorite lens and why do you prefer it?

A: I like to keep things simple. I’m not too keen on changing lenses too often and end up missing the moment in the process. For the past 8 years I’ve been using only one lens: Nikkor 16-85mm 3.5-5.6… it generally suffices for all my requirements.

Q5: How do you as a photographer make sure that the thing, person or landscape you want to shoot looks the way you want it to? 

A: I don’t know whether there’s a specific answer to this question. If it’s a thing or a landscape, you may have the time and scope to wait or move about till you get that desired result. While shooting people, it’s trickier and timing is of paramount importance. I believe having a pleasant and warm demeanour might help to put your ‘subject’ at ease and get you that desired feel and look. However, I don’t like to ‘arrange’ my photos.

Q6:Can you explain to the budding photographer what makes the good picture stand out from the average?

A: A good photo communicates emotionally with the viewer through its composition, lighting, mood and subject matter. A bad photo is often a beautiful photo that fails to make that connection.

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Q7: From all the places that you have traveled, which one is your favorite and why?

A: I would say Ladakh. I have been there seven times. I’m absolutely fascinated with the landscape and the people… their warmth, innocence, lifestyle… I love everything about that antique land.

Q8: A “Good Camera can make a Picture perfect” do you believe this myth?

A:  No I don’t. Photography is not a magic art conjured by a wand (or a camera). The best camera in the world cannot make a photographer out of you if you don’t have vision. The best photographer in the world, on the other hand, may do magic with a very ordinary camera. Having said that, I would always prefer a camera that would allow me some manual control over the settings.

 Q9: People usually think without money and exposure they can never be a “travel photographer” what do you think? Does travel means traveling in abroad only or anyone can start by exploring their own city? 

A: I have seldom travelled abroad or to exotic places to shoot travel photos. To be honest, almost all the awards I have got for travel photography were for photos shot in my own city. 

Q10: In a picture is “Digital manipulation” really require to make it perfect? 

A: I shoot RAW which essentially requires some post processing. I don’t know whether one should call that manipulation. As for things like excessive cropping, adding or removing elements, unnaturally boosting saturation, sharpness, etc., I can say this much: I don’t like or do them myself. If some people feel that that they must ‘manipulate’ for that ‘perfect’ look, it’s up to them, I suppose. 

Q11: Which post processing software you use for your pictures? 

A: Adobe Photoshop CS6.

Q12: Many of the photographers ask us where they find out about the salon news or exhibition news. Can you please give them some idea?

A: I never participated in salons. I don’t participate in group exhibitions anymore (unless I’m invited). And I gave up participating in contests in 2013, after winning Wanderlust. I had become tired and felt that I didn’t need to prove myself that way anymore. So you’d do better to ask Google. 

Q13: Name the last photography book/journal that you read.

A: While I was starting out, I read Better Photography regularly. I also learnt a lot from some books by Michael Freeman, John Hedgecoe and Suvomoy Mitra. I’m still an avid reader, but I haven’t read any photography book/journal in the recent past.

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Q14: Nowadays almost everyone has access to devices with which it is possible to take pictures. What do you think is the difference between a professional photographer and any other amateur photographer? 

A: Before I answer this question let’s be clear on this: taking pictures and being a photographer are different things. Anybody can take pictures… be it with a cell phone camera or a D5, if one can afford it. But not everybody can be a photographer, let alone a good one.

Many amateur photographers whom I know own professional gears and I daresay they often take pictures as good as most professionals (in my humble opinion). But being a professional photographer (just like in any other field) would require another level of discipline, dedication and consistency. I have more than once come back from a photography tour without shooting a single photo only because I didn’t feel like shooting. I don’t suppose I could have afforded that luxury had I been a professional photographer. 

Q15: Any quick message for our blog? Wish you a very happy world photography day! Thanks for your time!   

A: You are doing a great job indeed! All the best and a very happy World Photography Day to you, too! The pleasure was absolutely mine. Thanks for having me.

Thank you Sandipan Sir, for your valuable guidelines and sharing your thoughts with us. We look forward to seeing more of your wonderful work..!