19th August is celebrated all over as ‘World Photography Day’.
I have no reason to celebrate it though. Let me tell you why.....
In the year 1997, I got myself enrolled for a basic photography course in Kolkata after the Higher Secondary exams were over. My great grandfathers from my maternal side was into photography . They were the owners of the first ever photography studio in Kolkata, : ‘T.N.Sen Studio’.Other than that no one was into photography from my father’s side. Interestingly we had no camera in our home and had never seen any before my father gifted me and my sister a point and shoot camera, Wizzen. That was fully automatic, I am talking about the fag end of the 80’s. That was quite a thing. I used to shoot our family weddings with that. Unknowingly it generated some interest of photography in me. When I was in class VII my class teacher once asked me what do you want to become in the future ? At that time I was dreaming of becoming a TV cameraman who shoots cricket matches , so I said “I want to be a cameraman”. Though I hate to be called a cameraman today. I am a photographer.
After joining the photography course without any camera , I started my mission for procuring my own camera. My father was not sure about my conviction towards photography and so he was reluctant and obviously money was a concern. Everyday I used to nag my mother to get me a camera. Once I had even asked her to sell off her gold jewellery to get me what I craved for.Thank God she didn’t. That was my daily routine. Finally I managed to convince my father to buy me a Nikon FM10 camera worth Rs10000/-.
With a lot of difficulty he managed to take a loan to fulfil my wish. That day I could not understand the pain he had to go through. I was too engrossed with my prized possession.
Initially my parents thought that I was going to take up photography just as a hobby. Since it was an expensive journey ,I never wished to take it merely as a hobby but only as a profession.
That became the main point of conflict. Each and everyone in my family was against this decision of mine.
All of them used to brain wash me to get rid of this bizarre idea I had according to them.But I was a hard nut to crack and finally they had to give in.
I had to initially struggle for seven long years to get a proper freelancing job in The Statesman. That was a proud moment for my parents. My father was really thrilled more than me to see my byline every morning and he used to take note of the number of photographs that were published. He was a big fan of mine, today he is least interested about what is happening around him. Severely ill and bed ridden, he now only keeps to himself.
Back then I shifted my base to Delhi to pursue my dream career and I took it as a challenge. I was determined to never come back to this city.
I was moving fast with a lot of enthusiasm and conviction. A gap of ten months could not deter me too. It was a roller coaster ride where I jumped from Hindustan Times to DNA and again back to HT. Kept relocating from Delhi to Mumbai, and then to Bengaluru.
The ride was rough yet I enjoyed every bit of it. However gradually I found it very difficult to keep myself motivated due to my beloved bosses who had every other agenda in hand except for looking out for good work.
When my biggest fan,once my strength and support was taken ill I decided to come back to my hometown. It was like a now or never call. Many say that it was a wrong decision. In life sometimes there is no right or wrong. For me coming back to Kolkata was like losing a battle that I had started while leaving the city.
2019 June marked a halt to my journey. I was determined to make a come back.
Then came Covid.
In my entire career I have never spent so many days without touching my camera. I never thought that my love for the art will be challenged like this.
This Covid situation has changed a dedicated photographer to a household man. I was scared to go out amid Covid without any assignment. I walked for kilometres to reach my assignments, to avoid public transport. One day I walked up to a flyover (which is prohibited for pedestrians) to shoot a quarantine centre. While returning back it was 7PM by then. Amid lockdown the roads were empty, I was walking all alone feeling a bit scared. Luckily I got a bus for the essential services and the driver allowed me to board. This is all that I did to be a part of this historic disaster. As a photographer I was dying to shoot but my contribution remained restricted.
For the last three months I did all sort of household chores. Dusted and mopped our house and cooked to lend my wife a helping hand. Couldn’t stop paying our maids even when they didn’t come to work.
In all this there was hope. But with time things have changed, I have turned pessi from optimistic.
Now, I forgot to run with my camera since I am busy running after the nurse ( for my father). Now I have forgotten to press the shutter but mastered the art of mopping the floor. I have forgotten to compose my photograph but sharpened my skills to make a perfect roti (handmade bread). I have lost all the patience to wait for my subject but honed the art of sitting idle at home.
Looking at the the current economic situation I wonder will it revive in my life time? Don’t think so. Will I be able to go out with my camera regularly with all that enthusiasm as I did earlier?
When I look at a child, I feel jealous. Most likely they will survive this situation one day but we won’t. At least not as a photographer. Will have to think of diversification. May be by the end of this year I will emerge as a different person altogether in a different profession. I have to, to survive in this world. I will need to bid goodbye to my 'comfort zone'.
All those fights with my parents, against the society, with myself have gone into vain. The pain my father took that day by taking a loan for my camera has become fruitless. Living away from my parents for that many years too have bore no fruits for me.
The love and the dedication for the art has disappeared. The passion for the art has been replaced by infatuation. I am not the only one, there are hundreds like me who are jobless today.
On the occasion of World Photography Day the lights will be missing in every corner of the world, for a photographer to capture the true colours of this world and frame it for life.
Let there be light. AMEN
Photo & Text : ARIJIT SEN
Edited by : RAJASHREE SEN