My art flourished in isolation: Jharkhand photographer

By Madhusree Chatterjee, IANS,

Jamshedpur : For veteran artist-cum-photographer Bhudev Bhagat, the winner of 350 national and international awards in photography, geography may have been a constraint in reaching out, but the “relative isolation from urban glare has helped” his photography scale new heights.

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Tucked away in a corner of steel city Jamshedpur, flanked by green hills and the Subarnarekha river, Bhagat feels that “he is better off than many renowned lensmen in the country honing his camera work with digital manipulations and fusing shots with aspects of fine art or manual drawing in the seclusion of Jharkhand.

“It may be difficult to host solo exhibitions in Delhi and Mumbai frequently, but I have never been short of subjects and inspiration in this region, so rich in natural splendour and ethnic diversity. The state offers me wide open spaces and natural landscapes to shoot and I have the time to experiment,” Bhagat told IANS at his residence.

Bhagat has been honoured by Unesco, Unicef and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting for his iconic compositions, “Down Memory Lane”, “Affectionate Ties” and “Victims”, that are enduring images of human relationships and suffering in the tribal-dominated state of Jharkhand.

“All my shots are outdoor compositions. While ‘Down Memory Lane’ shows an old and wrinkled tribal woman with a child — a reflection of the woman’s own childhood, ‘Affectionate Tie’ shows two children. ‘Victims’ is my most famous photograph of a horse, which has collapsed on the road under the burden of its weight and cart,” Bhagat said.

The photographer has an archive of 1,000 prize shots, which have either been awarded or have won international mention and citations.

Bhagat, who has trained more than 50 award-winning lensmen in Bihar and Jharkhand, is now experimenting with the digital medium.

“I am using photoshop to touch up my photographs and using my skill as a trained student of applied art to innovate. I am trying to create new manual textures in pencil for my photographs to give them an artistic finish. Digitisation of photography allows me more room for innovation. Earlier, it was difficult to correct photographs in the darkroom and I was dependent on the quality of films,” the photographer said.

Bhagat, who retired as assistant director at the Jamshedpur-based National Metallurgical Laboratory, feels “one of the primary reasons why photography has not taken off in Jharkhand is because most of the photographers are amateurs”.

Another reason why the region failed to produce “talented lensmen” was that “the new generation of photographers lacked training”, he added.

“They were too focused on the trivia rather than the subject. This, however, applies to all new photographers across the country,” Bhagat said.

The photographer has chronicled “50 years of his career” in a book “Faded Postcards: Colours of My Memoirs”.

“I got my first camera as a birthday gift from my father when I was seven years old. It was an Agfa. Later, I enrolled at the Government Art College in 1962 and graduated with a master’s degree in arts five years later, but photography was my first love. My frequent interactions with filmmaker Satyajit Ray as a student also helped me develop my skill,” the 65-year-old photographer said.

“I love black-and-white photographs more than colour because of the depth and variety of tonalities,” he maintained.

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at [email protected])