Why does a successful painter and graphic artist suddenly decide to toss his paints and brushes and take up photography? Well in the case of Swarup Chatterjee of Mumbai, it was two things – the challenge of expressing his imagination through a light capturing contraption, and pure laziness!
I exaggerate the latter, but he does cite the years of drudgery lugging heavy canvases around and shipping them off and picking them up again if they didn’t sell and paying for the privilege, as definite inspiration. The zero weight of binary code was very attractive to him 8 years ago when he made the switch, not knowing all that much about photographic equipment and that the combined weight of his gear would add up over time. In more ways than one!
Below is a broad selection of 24 Chatterjee images, showing Swarups multi-faceted style and main themes to date. At our request, the photographer has commented on each image as part of the extended captioning we thought would be of interest to Photography Life readers.
In the beginning and even now, Swarup did a lot of experimenting with his image making, which is one of the great luxuries of the digital age. He would take his camera to the streets of Mumbai or Kolkata where he was born, and shoot not what he saw through his lens, as much as what he saw in his painter’s imagination. On canvas he could shape his imagination with a full palette of colors, various brush strokes and smudges, and slowly watch it take form. Working with the camera on the other hand, meant working at light speed with much less precision and a lot more “canvases” to get things just right. Working the whirling energy of the Indian street with a variety of slow shutter techniques requires a lot of patience. It might take 50 or 60 frames to capture something that works, but when it works it works!
“For me – the whirl of the Indian street – is a kind of motion picture flashing frame by frame until it smashes into my imagination and triggers the shutter. And if I am lucky, that whirl is captured in a way that both intrigues the eye and carries a story.”
Swarup didn’t want to do impressionistic photography per se. He wanted to combine elements of impressionism as compliments to his street, documentary and travel work. Art with a purpose beyond eye candy. His loves these kinds of images but only employs goes after them instinctively in a given moment, rather than routinely. He also loves teaching his various techniques to other photographers, whether in his regular workshops in Mumbai or co-leading his annual Luminous India + Holi Festival photo tour with David Lazar.
To further examine his inner approach, we asked Swarup to compare camera and canvas more directly:
“When I was painting the friction of brush against canvas (or charcoal on paper) was where mind met reality and sparked creativity. Once the brush or charcoal did its initial work, I’d get in there with my fingers or thumb and smudge to add depth and/or a sense of movement.
To recreate “smudging” with the camera, I experimented with slow shutter speeds; slow shutter speeds with zooming; and slow shutter speeds with various camera movements. By these techniques you could say the light falling on objects acts as the paint, while the movements act as brush, or thumb doing the smudging. Just another way of looking at it.”
Bio: Swarup Chatterjee is an award winning photographer based in Mumbai, India. He conducts regular workshops in Mumbai and also leads photography tours around India, including Ladakh. To see more of his unique and often provocative style, please visit his website.
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I too paint and do photography also. Started photography in 1995, totally left photography in 2007, switched to painting. Then in 2015 started doing Photography again. I have compared these two mediums and here are my thoughts. These are specific to me because degree of involvement in hobby & perfection varies from person to person.
1) In Photography time spent composing picture(or looking through view finder) is minuscule compared to the time spent on other things (travel, editing, learning new editing tool, learning quirks of camera, testing lenses/filters, AF-tuning of lens, CPU upgrade. List goes on and on.)
In case of Painting most of the time is spent on actual painting. That gives more satisfaction to me because I spend majority of the time on “actual ART” rather than running around and doing accessory tasks.
2) Photography is financially demanding. I have to upgrade body & lens, may need a muscular vehicle if my focus is landscape. Compared to this, Painting can be done without leaving home. Paint tubes come for a long time for me. As person ages, income drops. So once I get old I may just do painting because it is cheaper compared to Photography.
3) Work on a single painting ends once I put Varnish on it. Where as work on photo drags because of editing process & printing. If I want to print, I have to edit it again, to match the printer-profile of printer.
4) Painting resists “instant gratification” because it takes more time to see the result. In my case, I take months to complete a painting. Compared to this, I click picture now and mind is eager post ASAP :-). Hard to resist.
5) When output turns out to be bad, in photography I get to blame camera, AF etc, but in case of painting blame solely rests on me. This gets scary sometime.
Thanks for reading :-)
Painting is equally commercially demanding Ramesh…. It’s gradual though.
But thanks for you kind words.
Amazing stuff, thoroughly enjoyed this!
Thank you – so much.
I’d like to thank you for these wonderful images. You’ve made me feel proud that I’m a photographer based in India.
Have a good time ahead.
I so enjoyed my Luminous India + Holi Festival trip last year. Swarup was generous sharing his vision and expertise and his enthusiasm is infectious. So interesting to read this article and hear more about this talented photographer’s background.
Thanks Roz. Would love to have you in my next trip……….. in case your health permits.
Thank you so much for liking my photographs…
The transition from what is captured by one’s imagination, then the eyes, and subsequently by the lens… is always fascinating ; and this case aesthetically mind blowing.
Thanks Sohini. Grateful that you liked my pics.
To breathe I need both my camera and oxygen. With only one – might be difficult to survive :-)
Awesome pics Swarup ! Great work indeed !
Thanks Raj. Glad you liked my pics.
Each click by Swarup Chatterjee speaks volumes about his skills and talent. Each photo depicts human emotions and life in its various colours so efficiently. Well done, Swarup. Looking forward to more of your masterpieces un the future.
Thanks for your comments Purabi. Glad you liked my pics.
Beautiful!…..I can see many of the images are reminiscence of different painting styles.
Ha ha… yes – When I look through the camera eye-cup, I see an empty canvas. Strangely both are usually rectangular. Thanks for liking.
Wonderful pics, expressing his imaginations through photos. Very inspiring and beautiful 👌
Thanks Amit. Glad you liked my photographs.
Amazing Work , testimony to the passion that is there in your photography.
Thanks for liking.