Faces and lives through photojournalist Dilip Banerjee’s lens


New Delhi : The man who documents lives, politics, faces and situations through his lens both in India and abroad is holding an exhibition here.

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Photographer Dilip Banerjee’s show, which began Feb 8, is on at the Lalit Kala Akademi.

The photographer was on his way from Little Rann in Gujarat to Ahmedabad when he spotted a few white shapes floating down the highway.

“I thought they were birds. But as I came closer, I realised the amorphous shapes were a group of young Jain nuns journeying somewhere down the highway. I wanted to click their picture and prayed that one of them would turn around to look at me – the one who had not yet renounced the world completely. And one did. I caught her face, along with the rest of the group,” recalled Banerjee, pointing to a photograph captioned “I Know You Stranger…”.

The colour photograph is one of the 85 frames on display at the exhibition, “Song of the Road”. It covers more than two decades of the photographer’s works.

Banerjee, who models himself on Henry Cartier Bresson, had earlier photographed a series on child labour which was exhibited in New Delhi in 1995 and in Berkeley in 2005.

“The photographs span the course of my assignments from 1980-1981 till date. I prefer to document human expression, behaviour, ambience, place, character and communities,” Banerjee told IANS.

The photographer describes his works as snapshots from “Amtala to Afghanistan” and “from Surajkund to San Francisco”.

“I am basically a street photographer. I like photographing everyday moments in the course of my travel. I have often wondered what it would be like to string together these pieces in a narrative. I have been thinking about it since 2008. I let it travel in my head for a while, but every voyage has a destination. Mine too ended in these prints,” Banerjee said.

The photographer’s fondness for children is reflected in a black-and-white frame, “Monsoon Wedding”, shot on a water-logged street in Kolkata. It focuses on a group of urchins accompanying a lonely groom on a horse to his bride’s home. The children with laughing faces come across as bright spots in the gloom – which is heightened by the interplay of light and shade on the water, the bodies of the children and the forlorn man.

“I like photographing in black-and-white because it allows me to capture more textures, though not always the character. The fact that I belong to Kolkata gives my Kolkata frames a more intense feel. The city is full of diversity. If you walk down from Sealdah to Howrah – crossing Mahatma Gandhi Road – you can see the whole character of the road change. It is a photographer’s dream,” Banerjee said.

The photographer is working on two projects – a pictorial documentation of the Stillwell Road from the days of the Second World War from Ledo in Arunachal Pradesh to China and a book on insurgency in the northeast since 1984.