Hope, Honesty, Power to the People

Abir Choudhury

Abir Choudhury’s work is photography that teems with joy and hope and power of the people of his nation. Whether it is children enjoying Holi Festival or men bonding during daily working life, Choudhury’s images all speak to the heart. Cliché is never a thought that comes to mind viewing Abir’s work. It is fresh, uplifting, and downright stunning.

I am a street photographer from Konnagar, India. For me, street photography is a way of life because every day, every moment of life, is different. Capturing a new day filled with hope continually draws me to street photography. Abir Choudhury

Kujaja: Describe your photographic style. How did you develop your style?
AC: My photography style is the true movement of life. I like hardworking people very much, those who are spending the majority of their time in daily work. Through them, I develop myself. Every day I spend my time with them. Basically they are my developers. Every angle and every color of nature and everyday people are my teachers.

Kujaja: What is the most challenging part about being a photographer?
AC: At the time I began my photography, I was facing a lot of financial difficulties. But I never gave up hope. Every day I faced challenges. I had to decide if the life of a photographer was worth the challenges I faced. I am now beginning to realize successes in photography.

Kujaja: Who inspires you other than photographers (artists, writers, music, architects, and philosophers)?
AC: My mother always inspired me. She is the first person who had a great role in my life. From childhood I liked painting, especially oil paint. At that time I used brushes. Oil and color I now paint with my camera, so painting had inspired me also.

Kujaja: Have you ever had formal training?
AC: No, I’ve never had any training. Nature, people, and the street are my teachers.

Kujaja: Is there any particular genre/style of photography you would like to learn about and try?
AC: I like Steve McCurry's style and I always try to learn from him through his photography.

Kujaja: How has photography changed you as a person?
AC: Photography has changed me a lot. I have far more confidence. The previous level was zero. Now I can communicate with people I don’t know easily.

Kujaja: What are your photography weaknesses?
AC: My weakness in fashion photography. I still struggle communicating with female models.

Kujaja: What do you consider your greatest photographic accomplishment?
AC: My greatest accomplishment is the second anniversary of National Geographic selecting my photography.

Kujaja: Do you think a photographer must have ‘natural talent’ to become a great photographer?
AC: Not only is natural talent required to become a great photographer, but also hard work, dedication and honesty.

Kujaja: What is your opinion regarding film vs. digital photography?
AC: Film is totally manual. I have to calculate everything: exposure, aperture, shutter etc. Digital is far more user friendly. Nearly everything is automatically controlled.

Kujaja: Locations and weather conditions seem to be a crucial aspect to a successful picture. How do you handle these unpredictable factors?
AC: Yes, this is a very important matter for a photographer. Every situation is a very unpredictable. At these times, I have to convert to that 'weather'. As an example, I want to photograph the Ruler Festival, but because of local agitation the location is not safe. In these moments, I will try to catch the ‘power of the people’ image.

Kujaja: How does black and white vs. color play into your work? Do you find them to be totally separate beasts—or complementary?
AC: For my best shots, I use black & white. I believe that black & white images open up avenues for creativity. At times, the image subject matter is not conveyed well in color. If I need clarity for a specific shot, then I will choose only black and white.

Kujaja: What does ‘street photography’ mean to you?
AC: Street photography is the motion of life and the variety of movements of the people. When I go out shooting street photography, I often find an open window to my mind.

Kujaja: What do you think makes a memorable street photograph?
AC: During the last rainy season when I went out shooting one hard rainy day In Kolkata, I imagined a blue ocean in the streets of Kolkata. Some kids were playing in the street in the water. It was really beautiful to look at the smiles of all the children. It was a really memorable day for me.

Kujaja: What were the difficulties you encountered first starting street photography?
AC: In the beginning, I faced a lot of problems because, at that time, I didn't have a mentor to guide me. When I took street photos then, the street people were angry with me. After some time, slowly, I began to understand the feelings of the street people. After a few months, they understood that I would never harm them. This transition was a great experience and also beautiful.

Kujaja: What are some tips/advice you would give to yourself if you started street photography all over again?
AC: First, I would research the subject, then try to reach the minds of the people and try to communicate with them. Also, I must understand that I need strong financial support.

Kujaja: What advice can you offer for those who want to get into photography but maybe can’t afford equipment?
AC: My advice to anyone who is interested in photography is to, first, communicate your interest to those who can help and guide you. Then, never let go of the dream because one day your dream may come true.

Kujaja: Thank you for this interview Abir.

Abir Choudhury at World-Street Photography (click)