Photojournalism - Interview with Chirodeep Chaudhari
Director: Nisha Vasudevan
Duration: 01:32:50; Aspect Ratio: 1.778:1; Hue: 111.235; Saturation: 0.024; Lightness: 0.300; Volume: 0.232; Cuts per Minute: 1.476; Words per Minute: 146.176
Chirodeep Chaudhari is the photo-editor at TimeOut magazine, the Mumbai edition. He has worked with on the photography teams at the Sunday Observer and the Outlook group of magazines. He has also headed the photography department at traveljini.com
His work is a part of the permanent collections at the Peabody Essex Museum, (Salem, U.S.A.), the Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts (Japan), the Museum of Fine Arts (Houston, U.S.A.), and many private collections in India.
Through this interview, Chirodeep helps us gain insight into ethical dilemmas that confront a photograoher, the subject's consent and invasion of privacy, the chain of information and how it has changed over the period of his 15 year career.
We also discuss the changes, both positive and negative, that digital media and the possibility of digital manipulation have made to the profession.
Does the audience see what the photographer meant for them to see? In the chain, does the message get warped or trivialised or sensationalised? Does the photographer's intent get conveyed or not? Does text change the connotations of a picture, and if so how?
Chirodeep answers these questions and much more, with a lot of reference to his personal work and unpublished archives. To be noted are the following series by him: Mumbai's Suburban Train Graffiti and The One Rupee Entrepreneur.
A lot of his work is based in Mumbai, like the book Bombay Then, Mumbai Now. Chirodeep shows how something as oft photographed as the Victoria Terminus can be shown in a different way, and thus pushes thought towards a whole new world of interpretations and ideas.
Interviewer: Bhanuj Kappal
Cartier-Bresson's The Decisive Moment
Cartier-Bresson's The Decisive Moment
Bhanuj: So how did you get into photojournalism?
Chirodeep: Quite by chance, in the sense...I grew up in Chembur, and this is I'm saying about 20 years back, when I mean, things weren't as exciting in Bombay as they are today. So you kind of made a trip to uh, to South Bombay from there. And a lot time would be spent kind of browsing at those road side book sellers. I mean, all of which are gone now, which is quite a tragedy, I would say...uh, and one day...and I used to kind of have a lot of interest in magazines for some reason. Uh, I think, you know, it was more a (sic) interest in magazine design than you know, magazines as, you know, like reading them or whatever.
Chirodeep: And I used to kind of buy a lot of magazines, I used to get a lot of foreign magazines and things like that, most of which I had never seen before. And one day I happened to come across a magazine there which was Life magazine. Uh, I'd never heard of Life Magazine before, (inaudible), and this was also a kind of an interesting phase which was, uh, you know, this is when, you know, Communism was collapsing, the Eastern Block was collapsing, there was Civil War in Eastern Europe, you know, things like that. A lot of which uh, you know, and this was also the beginnings of satellite television in India, when you, at that point I remember you had four channels, one of which was BBC World.
Chirodeep: And, so if you, I mean, growing up in India of that time, if you had to be clued in to the world, I mean, Doordarshan was the only thing, and suddenly here was BBC World, and they had this thing which was, you know, On The Hour, Every Hour, so this news used to be looping. And suddenly you were hearing of these strange countries like Bosnia and you know, Serbia, and you know all that. And you know, Romania but you didn't know what the hell happened there.
Chirodeep: And this issue of Life magazine which I'd picked up, was a fairly kind of recent issue, and it had like these large photographs of uh...you know, Ceaucescu's palace kind of being taken over by the rebels, and you know, the palace burning and, in the begin - the first couple of pages of the magazine they used to have these large features like this, very picture-driven. And uh, so I picked it up, I mean, you know, I'd never seen something like that and was quite dazzled by the whole thing. And I was coming back home, you know, it was in the evening about two hours to get back home in a bus. And I think in those two hours, I think for the first time ever, I think I made a decision about what I wanted to do as a career. I...I am a commerce graduate so photography is as far away from it as it gets...
Chirodeep: And uh, you know, the more interesting part was the kind of stories that life magazine had in that one issue, I mean, that lovely mix, you know - there was, like really weird stories, I mean there was one I think, the most staid of the lot was, there was a story on the Leaning Tower of Pisa and you know, how they were try - how they had tried to kind of, you know, halt it, kind of, from falling over. Uh, but there were the other stories: which was The Oldest Surfer in America, and The Cutest Baby in America, you know, both of which could be very mushy kind of soppy stories, but I mean, I had never seen anything of that sort, you know.
Chirodeep: But there were a couple of other stories, maybe, I forget the others ones, but I think maybe these large pictures of...you know, of Bosnia and all that, I think that's what really sort of got me charged up. And I think more than...I think it's also coincidence because this thing of satellite television, and the fact that BBC World was there as the only option for you to know about the world and kind of get educated about the world, I think both these things sort of conspired, you know, in a way, kind of getting me interested in photography.
Chirodeep: Because like I...I mean, when I think about it now, I mean, five years older of five years younger, you know...five years older, I mean, I wouldn't have been sitting at home watching BBC, you know. Five years younger, I would probably have been saturated with television, I wouldn't care, you know. So I think it was a very odd kind of timing, all of which kind of led to me getting interested in photojournalism. Before that I had never even heard that there was anything called photojournalism.
Chirodeep: But that was the trigger, so to speak. And you know, after that, I think it was in the way in which most education happens, and I think...in the sense that, you know, say I'm reading the things I read in the magazine which kind of you know led...it excited me enough to you know, want to go back and look for more issues. And that was a time when you could find a lot of old issues of Life Magazine, and I mean really old ones, which were the classics, I mean, which was a whole collection of stuff there. You know, and suddenly, as you are reading, you hear about a photographer and you pick up another issue or another magazine, where you read some more about him and that leads you to another person and I think that's how the education really happened.
Chirodeep: And I think these are uh...interesting things you know, if seen in today's context. You know, you didn't have access to this information in India, so it was really, you were left to your own devices to figure it out. Uh, like today you have Google. If you don't know, you type it in and the whole world pops up for you. So education in that sense, not knowing something cannot be an excuse. So I think that kind of slowly became this kind of mad obsessive kind of thing. I mean, you know, and I had this habit of buying magazines which then kind of became books and photography and you know. So I think that's how the whole thing started.
Chirodeep: You know. I'm actually, nowadays when I think about it, I wonder if, you know, for instance you don't have say, those pavement booksellers. You know, I mean it's such a great resource that has gone out of this city. For young photographers - young people, if they're looking for...A lot of this happens in very serendipitous ways, you know, and I think suddenly an option is cut off. So I think I was very lucky, a lot of things happened at a certain time, and that's how it started.
Bhanuj: So what are the challenges faced as a photojournalist, what are the challenges you faced when you started of, and...now -
Chirodeep: Well, uh, when you started off, I mean, I think the basic problem was that you couldn't get an education, you know. Uh...I mean, I understand the importance of being self-taught. But I also believe there is a huge importance in a formal education, you know, you just cannot disregard that. I mean, even with a formal education, I mean you know, after that comes the effort that you put in - that's the self-learning. So, I think one was that - I mean, you know, that you - I mean, the problem with kind of learning on your own is you don't know if you're kind of goofing up.
Chirodeep: You know, unless you're very very very critical of your own work, and you know what...how well you're absorbing other things, I mean, what is the breadth of uh...knowledge that you are accumulating, I mean, at that kind - you're really left to your own devices in that sense. Uh, so one was that - that you couldn't get trained anywhere. What you could get trained in then that exists even now is that there are photography courses and I think that it is important to make that distinction. One is you are learning the technicalities and the other is you are learning...uh...you know, it's a specialisation, photojournalism is a specialisation, so you're learning how to tell stories.
Chirodeep: And you're kind of going out to become a journalist, you know. So there were no kind of places where you could learn that. Well, there was XIC (Xavier's Institute of Communication), I joined XIC but I think by the time I had joined XIC, I think...and I think I can say this confidently and you know, hopefully my teachers at XIC wouldn't mind it now. Which is I think when I joined there I think I knew more than anybody in the class. I mean, I could have taken class.
Chirodeep: You know, but barring that...so that was one, that you couldn't learn it anywhere. Second was, say when you got into the pro - getting into the profession was a problem then, it still is a problem now. It's changed a little bit now, but I guess that is bound to happen. The problem is that it's a very close-knit community. It's a very small community. So when people leave jobs, you know...so you leave one newspaper and you go the other and you're going because there's a vacancy there and that fellow is joining somewhere else, so it's this kind of dirty cyclical thing. It is not really kind of based on meritocracy. It really is not.
Chirodeep: You know, most newspapers, uh, and magazines, kind of hire photographers because they need a not agree with it, but I think that's the fact. Next, the problem was, say when you're doing work, you get feedback. And even say when you were starting out, when you were going from newspaper office to newspaper office, I mean, you know, people were kind of...people are not very open to giving feedback. And feedback, I mean real feedback. It could also be kind of telling you straight on your face that look, you know, this is not what you're cut out to do. You know, I think that's very valuable information as well.
Chirodeep: Probably sort you out better than anything else. But, uh...so that's another problem, getting feedback. I think that problem exists even now. I think all these problems exist now. There were also lesser options, meaning there were lesser newspapers and magazines to choose from. And naturally, the way we perceive these things, the English language papers were the places you needed to kind of work, and which were fewer, you know, so the thing is I mean, obviously everybody was trying to say, get into an Outlook magazine -
Chirodeep: Or you know, get into a TOI, and things like that, and obviously how many positions could there be, you know? So I think that sort of problems existed. Now once you got in, the kind...the...then you kind of realised, you know, that all these idealistic notions which you kind of had developed after reading about Life magazine therefore photographers and all of that, that this world was very different. You know, in the sense uh...I somehow didn't see a kind of, how does one put it, you know, a kind of, a very real quality consciousness, you know. And I mean, how would that be because I mean you know if photographers are not...I mean, if a certain framework doesn't exist, I mean where do you develop your quality standards? So I mean, who pushes me? You know? So I think that sort of things existed.
Chirodeep: Another problem also was that I think people around you which was, you know, your contemporaries, your friends, they also meaning, your earlier generation also pretty much suffered from the same problems that you were facing. Which was...they had no historical perspective. So what they were looking at - so it was literally like being a frog in the well. You know, so, what are you kind of up against? I mean, you're up against your boss or something like that. Which I think was a very narrow kind of situation to be working in. Uh...and I think these were really the kind of challenges that kind of existed and I think it was...I mean, I think the only way that I mean, you could...uh...really make sense of it was you know if you were self-driven, I mean there was no other way.
Chirodeep: You know? And by self-drive I don't mean just saying ki
(that), "No no, one day I have to be the head of the department." That's hardly anything. But I'm saying really kind of going out and you know, learning things on your own. You know, when I joined the newspaper, I...for instance, didn't have any training meaning even technical knowledge. So I had no sense of aperture, shutterspeed, you know...what came in handy for me, I mean, luckily, was autofocus, meaning, cameras were kind of just coming in. So you know, what today you could very conveniently call you know, the technology for the anaadi
, was kind of just about making it's presence felt.
Chirodeep: So I was the anaadi
then, so I think my backside was saved quite a few occasions, because of the technology. But then I mean you know, if you are sharp and if you're kind of interested then you will crack it. Because end of the day it's about mastering a machine. And I think...so if you're interested you will do that. Uh...this thing of not having an education also manifested itself in other ways. Which was you know, that was when we used to shoot on film. I had some kind of theoretical knowledge about how to make prints. You know, I had no idea how to actually do them. But again, I mean, you know, these are kind of the interesting things that happen in one's career that when you're working with good people.
Chirodeep: So there was a fellow who used to work with me in the dark room. Uh, about my age. And very good printer, you know, and he taught me how to print and I taught him how to shoot. You know, so things like that. So those were like smaller challenges, which if you wanted to overcome then you took the initiative. I mean, most photographers, I mean my generation - most photographers didn't know how to make prints. And I don't think it bothered too many of them you know. The earlier generation, lot of people knew it, you know. Uh, there were also a lot of people who were my seniors who kind of graduated from dark rooms into becoming photographers, so you know, it came very naturally to them.
Chirodeep: In our case, I mean, if you didn't know it was okay because you had dark room people. But I think I mean, it's the equivalent today of not knowing how to do basic Photoshop work. You know. Because I think that has a huge bearing on how you are shooting and how you are exposing your film, and...you know the end product, you know. So I think those were the kind of challenges. And then, I mean, also...everything that kind of comes with the job. I mean, for instance, who would tell you how to go out and...I mean, if there was an odd story which you were working on, and I'm not saying photo story, it's a normal story for which you needed say, a photograph, how do you make sense of what is the correct picture?
Chirodeep: You know, and again those were things which I think...if you are interested you can teach yourself, of course others can help you, but again, I mean, you're back to that situation where even people before you and people who were your peers were all in the same boat, so uh...so those, all those, I mean, having to teach yourself everything about your craft, your profession, was I think the biggest challenge you were kind of facing. You know what I mean? So...
Bhanuj: How do you think digital media has changed the profession?
Chirodeep: Well I think it's changed it hugely...meaning, I think now, every young guy and girl and their uncle and aunty thinks they can be photographers. I mean, that's really the technology for the anaadi
. You know, I meet a huge number of photographers every month who come either to meet me at a personal level to show work or whatever, or you know, approaching TimeOut for a job, or opening, you know, whatever. And it's astonishing how few of them actually know the fundamentals. You know, and I mean, I'm kind of shocked actually, that you know, if not for digital technology, about 75% of - maybe higher - fellows would not have had careers or would not have even attempted, you know.
Chirodeep: So I think in that sense, digital has changed it hugely. Uh...I think there are great advantages to it also, like any new technology is, there's no need to trash the technology at all. I think it's wonderful technology. I just love the technology, meaning, personally it's kind of freed me up in various ways. Uh, I think you know, I was a little averse to shooting colour earlier. Meaning - and I'm saying this from what I did at a personal level. Uh, official work obviously, a magazine needed you to shoot in colour so you went and shot in colour. That's a completely different thing.
Chirodeep: But I'm saying on a more personal level, I was very very very scared to step out of the domain of black and white, into colour. And one of the reasons for that was, you know, you couldn't...when I looked at those prints somehow I never liked what I was seeing. Though I loved looking at my transparencies, you know, and the print was never like that. Whereas your black and whites, I mean you know, you could tinker around and you got what you wanted. Uh...so I think digital suddenly kind of - one, it kind of allows me to look at my prints the way I want to see them.
Chirodeep: Another advantage, which I personally kind of just love, is this thing of white balance. See, earlier what used to happen, you know, when you were shooting on film, you had huge limitations. In the sense, most middle level or the larger newspapers...the smaller newspapers, I mean, bless them, I mean you know, they used to be given I mean Agfa film and things like that. Uh, so say we were given like 400 (inaudible), and you know, I mean, like a newspaper photographer you were doing a variety of shoots, and suddenly in the evening you have to go somewhere, and you are say...shooting a fashion show. You know, and just before you landed up there you were probably indoors or you know, whatever, shooting a kind of portrait where the light was better. Now what do you do?
Chirodeep: So you had to kind of push your film or you know, figure all that out. Uh, if you were shooting colour, God save you , I mean, you know, firsly you were shooting on transparencies...so it was a nightmare having to figure all that out, you know. Today meaning, you know, you start shooting in the morning on 400 ASA, you get into the train, you say, "Oh, light is poor," you know, change to 640, you know, you do all that. Get off, go for your shoot, you're doing all of that. And suddenly in the evening you want to shoot again in the train and you say, "Oh," you know, "tubelight!" so you change the white balance.
Chirodeep: Suddenly it's kind of more flexible. So slowly what the technology has done is taken away any possibility of an excuse from your scheme of things. So I think it's very liberating in that sense. Uh, it also...and the reason I'm talking about this on a more personal level is because I think it suddenly allowed me to kind of do a couple of projects, I'll try and show you some of those...uh, was a series of pictures which I was doing in the local trains which was a series of...the project really was, uh, about how women handle public - how women DEAL with public spaces.
Chirodeep: You know, and the problem in this assignment was that at the core of this issue was: Women feel discomfort in public spaces in India. Okay, and you were trying to deal with an intangible concept like discomfort. Now if it's something intangible, then how do you shoot? Because it's not there. So you find kind of...so it's obviously more interpretive, and metaphorical and all that. And I was staying in Thane and I used to commute to work, and suddenly all of a sudden, I again started noticing lot of the lewd graffiti that was there. And it was probably there somewhere in my head, you know, and I overheard a conversation in the office one day, where some colleague of mine was complaining about something she...she came across.
Chirodeep: And suddenly, things came together and it was like, okay, this I think is a series of pictures on these graffitis I think what would make this work. And I think you know, say about 10 years back, if everything else was the same, I don't think I would have even attempted this project. You know, because you were shooting in these kinds of really fluctuating light situations, like in sometimes in the evening, sometimes, you know, in the middle of the afternoon. So suddenly white balance became a huge advantage. So I find digital very interesting.
Chirodeep: Now another disadvantage is I think is it's made photographers very indisciplined, you know. Hugely indisciplined. And I think it's...I find it interesting, kind of having done both, you know, worked in a situation like that and looking at the newer thing. Uh, which is that you know like now I see photographers going out to do a fairly routine assignment which might be you know, somebody's being interviewed and they have to do a portrait of a guy. And this is not an Amitabh Bachchan for whom you have to shoot a 100 frames, okay, but they'll come back with about 200, you know, and (inaudible), you kind - it's kind of just completely lunatic. I mean, you know, uh, because you're kind of wondering you know, (inaudible), it tells me like, you know, there's no clarity in your head -
Chirodeep: - about what you're chasing, you know. So I think this is one of the problems, you know. It's also very forgiving as technology. I think, you know, the latitudes are more so...like for instance, you know, shooting in the night is kind of great, with digital. On film, on transparency, it would kind of kill you, I mean. You wouldn't get results like this, it's not that people weren't doing it, of course they were doing wonderful results. But you needed to kind of have great grasp of the technology, you know, and it's pros and cons.
Chirodeep: Now, like, I mean, anybody can do anything. So it's interesting what it's done, so you know, it's obviously democratised the medium, so...
Bhanuj: Yeah, and what about digital manipulation: Photoshop.
Bhanuj: Because that sort of muddies up the waters.
Chirodeep: Well you know, no it doesn't. I think it's very kind of I think misunderstood kind of uh...concept. In the sense, look, it's this...you know, say you're kind of shooting a film star for a film publicity. Okay? Why...what's the problem if you're touching it up on Photoshop, no problem. The problem is when you're doing it in journalism. So I think that's where it's a problematic thing. I think what is more problematic is when there is a matter of misrepresentation that is happening. Otherwise I don't think it is a problem.
Chirodeep: You know like for instance, say, in TimeOut magazine, uh, say there's a picture which has been shot uh...and again, I think this issue needs to be understood in the broader context of you know, how photographs are used. You know, where they are used, what kind of magazines, all of these. For instance say there's an exhibition - can I show you uh, you know, this is the new issue...let me try and show you.
Chirodeep: Okay, now you look at this picture here, okay, now that was a horizontal photograph. That's where the picture was. Now, this was at the Bhau Daji Lad Museum. Huge, high cielinged kind of thing. This picture, by extending the green, I don't think there's any great - I've cheated anybody out of anything, you know what I'm saying? So the thing is, I think, it cannot be a blanket kind of application saying, no no no, Photoshop is not something you can do.
Chirodeep: Now again, I mean, there are I think various ifs and buts and all that sort of things in between. Now what Photoshop...part of what Photoshop allows you to do, is what you could do in the dark room. Okay? That's the basic physics of the medium, you know. So...and again, if one understands, I mean digital formats have a thing called where you're shooting on RAW formats. Now, you obviously cannot publish a picture the way it's captured in RAW.
Chirodeep: So you have to kind of - so there has to be the intervention of Photoshop. Now what are you doing there, now are you kind of you know, you're having a, you know, news photograph where you're changing backgrounds. Where you're kind of knocking off people from the frame. Obviously that's kind of problematic because again, that's misrepresentation. But for all other things, you know, I don't see it as a problem.
Chirodeep: So I think, I mean, I think these things need to be understood. I mean, I don't think it's that big a problem, you know, it's kind of made out to be a much bigger problem than it is. I mean, just because some people have had mischievious intentions it's you know, so yeah.
Bhanuj: Can you tell us about your chain of information, as an editor, as a photojournalist, where you get the idea, where you get your news from and -
Chirodeep: Ah...well, you know, see, right now I'm kind of pretty much uh...I don't work as a conventional sort of news photographer. I did that probably for just a few years at the start of my career, which was like I mean, more looking at city news in that sense. I don't think those...those...those sources have changed. Because...you know, in the sense like I remember what we used to do. I wonder if people still do it though. You know in the morning before you're setting out of the house, you would call the police control room, the fire brigade control room, you know, things like that and you know, they would all - they had a fairly standard response, you know -
Chirodeep: - You would tell them like, you know, "I'm a journalist calling," and they would say, "Yeah yeah, shaant aahe
(everything is quiet)." Like you know, or they would tell you like monsoon time, "Haan, udhar</> like ped gir gaya hai, building gir gaya hai (A tree has fallen there or a building has fallen)," and things like that and you would rush. The photographers had a kind of you know, a kind of more interesting network of sources.
Chirodeep: And they would come to know of things sometimes kind of even before the reporters would and all that. Uh, though I think that's probably a...you also need to take this with a bit of...bit of...with a pinch of salt, I mean, the reporters were also good. It's not that the photographers were kind of smarter. Uh, but I mean it happened. I guess, I mean, the reason was because you know, a reporter could take it easy. I'm saying at a relative sense, I mean, it shouldn't be misunderstood. At a relative...this thing...the photographer has to get there. So you know for him his sources were like, I mean, more critical.
Chirodeep: So that was one way in which they got. Well other ways were like, I mean, you know. Bless the PR people, I mean, they would...they would send you press releases and things like that, but those were more soft kind of events. Uh...other stuff was more uh...was I mean say what each magazine or newspaper thought was its own kind of stories. You know, now those were kind of obviously generated through conversation, editorial meetings and things like that.
Chirodeep: I find edit meetings very fascinating. I mean, you know. most newspapers and magazines I don't think photographers sit for edit meetings which I think is...is completely ridiculous. But um, because again, I mean you know, one needs to appreciate this whole, I mean that ideas have a very serendipitous way of getting into our heads. Uh, so now in these kinds of stories, I think I mean, you know, in my case it was, you know I was...usually had very good relations with most of the writers of all the publications.
Chirodeep: Uh...so you know, you're all the time hanging around, you're sitting in the office, chatting, I would very rarely be stuck in my dark room. So you know, as you spoke, I mean what wasn't even uh...conventional, meaning you know a write - you can't expect a writer to give you an idea. You know, because you're trying to do a visual interpretation of it and this is when a lot of the problem arises in the kind of pictures and stuff you see in the paper. They'll tell you a very direct way of doing it and whereas the medium needs you to approach it differently.
Chirodeep: So I think I mean, it's a combination of things. It also I think comes from, you know, how you kind of engage with the world around you. Meaning you know, what is the breadth of interest that you have? It can't just be photography, you know what I'm saying? Meaning are you interested in comic book art, are you interested in music, are you interested in theatre? I mean, you know, in films? And they need not all be kind of visual medium is all, I mean, you could be interested in literature. Uh, so it could be anything, I mean, because you never know as a journalist what kind of story you'd be called up to do. You know?
Chirodeep: So the broader your palette of interests, I think I mean the more sorted out you will be. I mean, and that's one of the things that I see as a huge problem with the photographers. Uh, limited interest, or only looking at photography, which means that what you're churning out is very derivative. You know. So I think these are essentially ways in which ideas really kind of arrive. And I'm putting it very loosely, I mean, there are various other ways in which it happens. Just, very broadly speaking. How, you know, they...
Bhanuj: Okay, like a picture, or photo project you shot that was very close to your heart?
Chirodeep: Well actually, quite a few. You know there's one which is supposed to be out as book. Hopefully by early next year. Uh, which you know, which is actually about my ancestral village in West Bengal. Uh, a place which I, in a sense, chanced upon, I mean through strange circumstances because I'd grown up in Bombay, uh, you know, I would never get the time or vacations during Durga Puja to go home. Uh, you know, so I think when I was about 15-16 was when I first managed to land up there.
Chirodeep: And uh, you know, I mean you'd never seen anything like that before, I mean, it was as exotic as it got, you know. Uh, meaning the Durga Puja which you see in Bombay, and what you see in rural Bengal, I think, very very...completely two different worlds. Uh...I think, so...eventually you know, about 5,6,7 years later when I became a photographer, I think you know, this excitement had - which was there in my head - I mean, doing funny things with it, uh...suddenly kind of made me realise that I should probably start shooting, I mean, uh...and, it carried on for about twelve years, so for twelve years I've been shooting there, I finished work last year.
Chirodeep: You know, and I think you know, in the course of those 12 years, I mean a huge amount of learning happened in photography for me. Uh, like I mean, for instance I didn't know how to kind of do a photo essay, you know, again, because who is there to tell you? Uh, or if they are telling you, they're probably telling you the wrong things. I mean, you know, a mix of both. Uh, so I think I mean that project kind of is personally very close to me because...one because, you know, I've...I invested about probably a quarter of my life on it. Probably a better part of my 15 years in photography.
Chirodeep: Uh, I haven't seen a project like that...I may be a little biased towards it because it's my own. But I mean, that's something which is very close, well there's a lot of others as well, I mean, it's difficult to say which I don't like, I mean...
Nisha: Can we see some of them?
Chirodeep: Well, you know, that one I have to show it to you on my computer.
Chirodeep: Because it's as a PDF you know, as a, as a book, this thing.
Chirodeep: There's another project uh, a fairly recent one, which was, again a kind of very odd thing, where I was photographing you know, one rupee pay phones. Uh...and I think I mean you know, the reason why - I'll tell you why some of these are interesting for me, why they - they're kind of memorable, is I think because certain mental process that kind of went behind it. Uh, or kind of developed as the project progressed, which is I think what is actually exciting, you know, doing the pictures is kind of never the interesting thing -
Chirodeep: - Or rather I don't find that interesting, I mean, I find, you know sitting at home thinking kind of about how to puti t together kind of more fascinating in a way. So, I'll show you some of those pictures, uh, so this was a project again which came out of trying to tackle the similar problem like uh, you know, the graffiti, which was, how do you document an intangible idea which is uh...a sense of enterprise which we all claim is inherent in most Bombayites. So, I think...so it was about, I tihnk went on for about two and a half years that I was you know, walking about, looking at, you know, getting around the city and suddenly chancing upon things like these.
Chirodeep: And kind of making little notes, and then you kind of go on some day and kind of shoot those. Uh...well these are digital prints, you wouldn't get prins like these if you were shooting on film, okay? Um...now what you will see here are these telephones and a juxtaposition with various odd objects. So the idea, so the way in which this whole idea of the enterprise was communicated was: you're showing a core business and you're showing a side business. So the teleph- sorry, the telephone for each of these establishments was a way in which you could make money on the side, okay?
Chirodeep: Um, like this is a chap who's selling coconuts at Parel. uh, that's uh, you know, uh...egg seller at Byculla. That's a butcher shop in Thane. Well that board has disappeared, you don't see it anymore. That's a travel agent in Thane again. You know. Uh, that's a hair cutting salon - and again you know, this sort of thing, I mean you kind of little - I mean in little ways kind of layer your project. When you were connecting it to Bombay. I mean, somebody in Bombay would know these, these kind of things, I mean which say somebody from outside may not really get.
Chirodeep: Yeah. Uh...You can tell me if I'm going fast, slow, if you need...
Nisha: It's fine.
Chirodeep: You know like, again, I mean you know when this work was shown it was interesting, I mean, some people came up to me and asked...uh, you know, did you kind of tamper with the situation? And I found that a kind of very interesting comment, because it also told you I mean how little people actually understand uh, you know, the process in which an image is made in the mind of a photographer. Also the kind of uh...you know, the wrong notions about uh, you know, what is tampering and what - what - so everybody will you, "Oh no no, but you can't kind of move things, you have to leave things there." Now if you look at a picture, I could have shown you any, but I'll show this. Now, you know, this is uh...next to the McDonald's at VT, you know, on that pavement. Uh, you know, I would be walking past, or you're moving around in a cab, and I would see this -
Chirodeep: - And you know, when you're walking past, you kind of look at the telephone and you say, well, I mean, you know, it's probably not kept in this direction, but facing another direction or whatever. And you say, well, I'll come back later, you know. Now the thing is, if you think about it, when you're trying to make a call here, you might move the phone right, and make the call. So for me to take this picture, even if I move the telephone, I don't think it would have been misrepresentation because I am emphasising on that because that's the critical point.
Chirodeep: Now, however, none of these were actually moved. Also because, this is you know, if one understands how street photography happens, meaning, if you know, everything is not right - you were wanting to talk about, you know, the decisive moment - now the moment kind of, I think there's a bigger concept behind it which is of geometry, you know. So the thing is you know, if that geometry is not right within the frame, you wouldn't shoot. So you know, you're walking past this exhibit everyday, and you're not shooting, and you kind of see it one day when it's kind of just right that you shoot.
Chirodeep: So you know, so...it was interesting that people actually brought this kind of thing up. Okay...that's in Thane, that's at Kala Ghoda.
Nisha: One sec, could you go a little slow now? Can I see the previous one?
Chirodeep: Sorry. Yeah. Uh. That I think is somewhere in Girgaum if I'm not mistaken. And you know, the locations are hardly important. That's at Thane.
Chirodeep: I think what's important is the variety that you see, I mean, it doesn't work if you are not seen, you know, the variety of situations that you see the telephone in. You know. And uh, so it's actually a much larger body of work which was some 75-80 pictures, I mean, naturally. But then you kind of get it down, you edit it down, uh...to even just kind of find the most ineresting object where the juxtapositions are you know, working at various levels, I mean, compositionally and so...
Chirodeep: This one's a particularly favourite one of mine...I just love that blue stool, as if he has some little paint left, you know. It's amazing, I mean, how few of these situations are still around. You know, this is outside Byculla station, I come out of this place everyday, and the last two years the telephone isn't there. The bracket is there but the phone isn't there, you know.
Chirodeep: So this is a fairly recent work, I mean, four years, five years back, yeah. And if you want to have a look at -
Nisha: Can we stop for one sec?
Chirodeep: This is you know, that series which I was talking about, on that train graffiti. Uh. So these were all shot in the first class compartment while I would travel from Thane to VT. And this is the kind of graffiti that you would see, scrawled on the walls. Like I said, pardon the lewdness, but it's not my - you know. And all of these kind of in a sense, I mean, this is a fairly harmless one but I mean it just tells you, you know, the kind of, the way I think, they look at women in a way, so...
Chirodeep: And again, you know this was a lot of work earlier. Is what I used to do in black and white. Now these were stuff which - both these, this and the telephones - I mean, they just had to be done in colour. You know, because, the moment you see the green, you know -any Bombay person would know this is Central Railway First Class, you know, so...
Chirodeep: I hope there's no glare on the print, yeah, from the tubelight. So some...it's a kind of mix of, you know, doing these kind of very straightforward documentation of you know, um, what apparently seems like a very low skill kind of thing. And it's kind of mixed up with some people - with people around, I mean, you know...
Chirodeep: And again, most of these were done - a lot of these people pictures were done - in a sense on the sly. Uh, because, at that point I was shooting with my digital SLR, and it was kind of...I don't think most people understood what I was trying to do, I mean, you know. For instance, say the first picture, it was - it was a bit tricky to kind of do that, you would probably get punched in your face if he figured what you were kind of trying to do.
Chirodeep: But again, I don't think one was trying to make a statement about the man. It was a thing more for compositional reasons than anything else. Focus, naturally being on the...
Chirodeep: Now this is what I was saying, I mean, the white balance coming in handy. You just couldn't crack this in the night earlier...I did some other graffiti stuff but not part of the same project. So I shall not bore you with that...
Bhanuj: Okay, so you touched on the topic of consent. How important is the subject's consent, and there are certain situations where it's not really possible to get, consent, so what is the consideration there?
Chirodeep: Uh...well you know, like I think sometime's it's...I...look, I mean, say when you're doing street photography, I mean obviously you can't go around asking people for consent. Again I think you know, the critical thing here is, you know...is the intention of the photographer. Meaning, like I'm saying, I don't think I've done any project in my life - forget project, I don't think I've ever shot a picture in my life where there's even been a little intention of kind of lampooning somebody, or making fun of somebody. And what I mean by that is obviously if you're shooting a crook, I'm not saying kind of show him as God, that's not what I mean.
Chirodeep: But, you know, see it's...now look, I mean this is the kind of...just to give an example. Suppose you're photographing a guy standing on the road and digging his nose, okay, and you say, "Oh," you know, "how funny!" and all that, okay. And you know, doing this picture - or say, maybe even say behind him is like say...um, you know, and a hoarding of somethin, which you know, the juxtaposition is making it very interesting and you're trying to do a picture.
Chirodeep: Now the thing is, the way I would look at it is, now say for instance, if - if the guy who is standing there, now say if it was, it was my father. Would I have done the picture? I probably wouldn't have done it. Okay. Now, what I'm trying to get at is, I think you apply pretty much the same uh...principles there. You know. I think, if that's the way you look at it then I think in your heart you are kind of doing the right thing, and I think that's the important part here.
Chirodeep: There's a project I'm working on now...which I think I was showing you the other day. You know, every day, when I get into the train I do a picture of the guy who is sitting in front of me, okay? Uh...and I'm not kind of asking him like, "Boss can I take a picture of you. But I'm kind of sitting there with my camera, and right in front of my face, it's a little point and shoot camera. But the thing is I'm not trying to conceal it either. So I think, I mean, in that sense I am making my intentions very clear.
Chirodeep: You know, look I'm, you know, sometimes I mean, you know, if again one understands the photographic process, I'm also sitting there and observing this guy. But suddenly there may be an expression which might make the photograph very interesting. But did, you know...so do you just choose it because you know, it makes you look good, you know, "Oh!" you know, "I got something interesting!" or are you kind of more honest to the larger thing that you're to do which suddenly makes this...you know, this picture redundant, you know.
Chirodeep: Like say, this morning, uh..you know, when I got into the train there was a person who was sitting in front of me and this is a guy who had leukoderma, okay? Now this was a choice, I chose not to photograph the guy. I mean, probably even if I did, he wouldn't stand up and object, I mean if we understand the way these things work in India. But the thing is this is a personal kind of thing, you're saying, "No no, I'm not going to take a picture of him."
Chirodeep: You know, however interesting it might look, or whatever. Consent I think, becomes important, again I mean, depending on what kind of work you're doing. You know. And again, like I'm saying, consent doesn't have to always be a verbal thing: "Boss can I take a picture of you?" I think you also make your intentions known in the way you behave, you know. I think people begin to kind of sense it. It's the way like, I mean, say anyone one of us would, I mean, if I'm trying to act funny with you you would know that, you know.
Chirodeep: But if I'm not, I mean if I'm being genuinely interested or curious about what you're doing, I mean, why would you have a problem? You know? So, I think I mean, at the same time, I mean while I'm taking the picture, if somebody objects, I mean, sure I will stop shooting. You know. So, I think it's kind of very basic kind of behaviour, you know. It's basic good behaviour. I don't think there's any special thing required if you're a photographer. So...if you're kind of taking...like I was doing this project at uh...at Parel just outside the Tata Memorial Hospital.
Chirodeep: I'll show you some of those pictures, now when I was working on that, now that's a project where consent was absolutely critical. Yet, what needs to be understood is these were the poorest of the poor that you could - you may be photographing. Who socially, given where they are and where I am, they wouldn't be able to kind of tell me to get lost. You know, so therefore the responsibility is mine, you know, it's not theirs, and this is where it differs in India, you know, in comparison to say what is happening abroad, you know, so they are kind of obsessed about this whole thing of you know, privacy and this and that.
Chirodeep: Here the responsibility is mine. That guy I'm shooting doesn't know what I could do with a picture. You know. I know it. So the responsibility is mine. So I think there it was very very critical that you are kind of working with them as a team. You know. And I mean, you know it happens in strange ways, I mean...uh, let me just try and...it kind of happens in strange ways, I mean, you know, you, you know like when I worked over there for about five months or six months of which I think I shot for about just eleven days, you know -
Chirodeep: - there are just eleven folders on my computer which is Day 1, Day 2...Day 1, so the pictures were shot on eleven days, and you know, the thing is I knew those people very well while I was working, I mean I got to know them. So the thing isI could be spending like hours with them and suddenly there's something which is happening which I've been looking at, I mean you know...happen, or you know, things leading upto something and...
Chirodeep: So then when I kind of suddenly make certain motions of you know trying to take pictures, it's not kind of getting in the way of his life. You know. I'm kind of now part of that scene, if one can ever be, you know, because you are still kind of uh...I mean, I don't think you can ever kind of get in completely, you know. But I think - again like I'm saying, I think you know, so you be as honest as you can, and you know...so you don't uh...and I think things will work, I mean, you know...
Chirodeep: I'll just show you some of these pictures. Uh, but now again these pictures need to really be seen with uh...with the text. Which is like these long kind of case studies of each of these people. You know, which kind of tell you about why this phenomena happens and things like that. Yeah? This is a guy who is incidentally from Bombay, he is from Virar. And you know, once his chemotherapy kind of uh was in progress, I mean, he kind of started getting weaker and weaker, which made it very difficult for him to cross the pedestrian overbridge and catch a train in the morning.
Chirodeep: You know and Virar trains in the morning are quite something. So. So he and his wife...now the problem here was that it affected their livelihood, I mean the wife was...was the working member, she used to kind of loan out mats to people who would go to Gorai or whatever the beach is near Virar...that's a patient who kind of - these are people who could afford you know, the rents...you know the room rents, the daily room rents, if they were staying in any of those hospices.
Chirodeep: But her problem was that I mean she had motion sickness. And so she was very embarassed that she would throw up in the bus. And a lot of these hospices are kind of say, in New Bombay and things like that. So there'd be daily buses coming. So her...this embarassment kind of made them decide that, you know. I mean the problem is, especially for women, I mean you know, the use of toilets and thigns like that, I mean...
Chirodeep: That's another one...this fellow and his brother both kind of came here. His brother was there - that's not his brother, that's a neighbour from his village - so his brother kind of put his studies on hold to kind of come and, you know, be there with him for a while. So...uh, there's a...this one is uh...there's a little NGO kind of thing who kind of work, a lot of little philanthrophic activities which happen. So this is one of those who kind of you know, distribute free food and medicines and things like that. So that's their le - that's their books with all these numbers and things like that, you know. On the basis of the card which is given by the hospital and the patient's number and things like that.
Chirodeep: That's the queue which happens in the morning, so they wake up in the morning and you know, they hold their place. And you can see you know, people will leave little plastic bags, bottles, katoris
(bowls), things like that. So you know, 7:15, when it starts, that's when they actually come and stand there. That's the queue.
Chirodeep: So it begins with a prayer. So that's...
Chirodeep: Like this photograph, you know, for me is particularly interesting. Again, like I'm saying, you know, it's...I think what you remember more is when there's a certain extra mental activity which has gone behind figuring things out. You know, what I figured with - while I used to hang around there was, you know when I approached it and like it would be for most people...I mean you'd think this is just one of those kind of you know, really sad, heavy kind of stories, I mean you know. But what you realise is I mean, you know, uh, but what you realise is I mean, you know, is -
Chirodeep: - say if, if I had...say a brother who had cancer, it's not that I'm going to stop laughing, right? I mean, you know, I could be hanging around with friends and I might laugh at jokes, I mean you know, so life is...just goes on. And I think that was an important aspect to kind of show. Uh. So I needed a picture, something like this, I mean, you know, for these volunteers who would come everyday. For them, I mean, they've probably been dealing with this for years. You know, so they're also very immune, a bit like the doctors.
Chirodeep: You know, And I think I mean, that was important to kind of get across...this is a family from UP. Now this guy's problem was, that I mean, he thought that the food that was distributed wasn't good enough. You know. But it was free and all that, but I mean, they chose to kind of cook their own food and eat and things like that...
Chirodeep: Again, if you look at this, I mean, every pocket, I mean, every group, would have these bottles kind of which they would accumulate, because water was kind of a problem. And there's a chawl just across the road, next to Tata. Uh, those residents kind of are generous enough to kind of you know, allow these people to come. And they have a community tap to kind of come there and fill water and things like that. Now this is the kind of...at a much smaller level kind of philanthrophy which you kind of see there. You know, there's obviously the bigger things - like the hospital itself does a lot, so...
Chirodeep: I find this very interesting, that you know, in the middle of all that, that somebody could kind of you know, think of leaving some milk for a cat. This is the only person whom I never got to know, because this was the very first day, and obviously I mean, you know, I had no uh...you know, and I think this is partly the greed of a photographer, you know, when you see a picture like this, you forget everything else but you still have to go and get the picture so you do the picture, and you say, "Okay, well, I'm gonna probably get information later," and I never got it because I never saw these people again. Or this lady again.
Chirodeep: That's again the same guy, the first one which you saw. This is much later. This is about I think three-four months since that picture was shot. And this is what you would see usually in the afternoons, when you know, some people would go off for their appointments and things like that. And you know, they would leave their belongings there. And a lot of these people would tell you - and that's how you also get a sense of the community that kind of exists, where say if I've gone off for my appointment, I mean, you're going to be there, say you know, "No no, don't worry, I'll take care of it," you know, because you're all on the same boat, you know, in a sense.
Chirodeep: Uh, and you know, for a lot of these people, I mean you know, their biggest fear, say for instance during monsoon and stuff, was not so much if they would get wet, but is if their documents got wet. You know because these reports and all are kind of very expensive. Yeah? So...
Chirodeep: So like, here like I mean, consent was absolutely critical. And I think you know...and that's why I'm saying, if you look at this work as just the pictures I think it has a different kind of uh...effect, I mean, I don't know if effect is the right word. If you look at it, if you read the texts, I think that's where it's kind of...it's I think, I think it works the best because you know, to me if you're just looking at these pictures, of if I had just done the pictures, I would have thought it was - would have been very exploitative, you know.
Chirodeep: Um. But I think I mean, when one is looking at it along with the text, you kind of are able to kind of build up a better portrait of what actually happens on the pavement. And I think, I mean, uh...you know, as a photographer it kind of would make me appear less exploitative. I mean, I don't know if it's possible in situations like this to not thing that you are exploiting it in some way, but I guess, yeah...
Bhanuj: This sort of brings us on to our next question: Um, how do you see the relationship between photographers and editors and is there a tussle between how editors use -
Chirodeep: Well, editors or photo-editors?
Bhanuj: Photo-editors and also as well as like, as in newspapers.
Nisha: The word editors.
Bhanuj: Page editors.
Chirodeep: Uh, well, I mean you know, I think...forget photo-editors for the moment. I think if it's just editors, or, so what we are talking about are the word side of journalism and the visual side. I think it would probably be a bit too much to say that I mean, the word side of journalism understands the visual side. Which also wouldn't be inaccurate to say that I mean the visual side doesn't understand the word side. Uh, which is also a fact but, uh -
Chirodeep: - but the thing is...I think, like I was saying, you know, in most newspapers I mean, it's like, ek
photo chahiye to laga do
(if you want a photo, then put it on the page), you know. Uh. You know, on a more daily, on a more routine level, meaning you could look at say, today's Indian Express. I don't think there's going to be much of a debate that you would expect uh...between, you know, say, you know, the guys who are making the page, the photographers and all that -
Chirodeep: I think, however, that channel needs to be open, or rather remain open at all times, because it depends on what kind of uh...I mean, you know, there could be a moment when I mean you're dealing with some kind of an ethical issue, you know. I think that channel becomes important at that point, I don't think it's important on a more regular basis. I mean like you know, if you look at that picture on the Express Newsline of seagulls or something. I mean, it's hardly worth anything.
Chirodeep: But, uh...you know, but between photo-editors and photographers, well, firstly I think it brings you to a much larger issue which is I don't think in India most publications understand the proper job definition of a picture editor. You know. I mean, the way it works here is
uh...the senior - it's kind of looked at more as a department head, you know the senior-most guy in the photo department. Oh, one day you will be photo-editor. You know.
Chirodeep: Now, you know. One of the most famour picture editors, I mean you know in Life Magazine - he wasn't even a photographer. This is a guy who needs to have a great sense of visual. Meaning, understand photography and how it can - how it works as a communication device. He needs to understand the word side of journalism, meaning how stories are done, I mean you know. He needs to understand design, meaning magazing layout and things like that.
Chirodeep: Anybody who understands these three things well, meaning, and very real terms, I would say, can be a good photo-editor, okay, or so I think. Uh. Now...the thing - so what ends up happening is I think...you know, I don't think between picture editors and photographers, in most cases in magazines, that there is any kind of exchange of ideas. As in, the way it ought to work with say a writer and an editor, you know, so if a writer's done something, the editor kind of is reworking it, and saying no no, can you get this, or what do you mean here, so tweaking is happening.
Chirodeep: I don't think that happens in photography in India in magazines. So, I think the reason for that is primarily because I don't think the position, and what the job entails is understood, you know. Uh, say when I'm work with say my team of photographers at TimeOut, I mean this is something I try and do. Now again, I mean, photographers are kind of particularly prickly animals. Okay, like I mean you tell a photographer - meaning I don't know any photographer who has ever thought that he's done a bad picture.
Chirodeep: You know. I think they kind of tend to take these things very personally, at some level. Uh, and I think I mean, if they're kind of working at the level of ideas, and that's very critical, if you're working at the level of ideas then you start valuing suggestions. But if you're working at the level of only aesthetics and saying "Pretty picture, accha dikhta hai kya, kyon kya hai, galat kya hai,
light accha hai</> (does it look good, why, what is it, what's wrong, the light is good)." that kind of - that's the only level of engagement with the medium.
Chirodeep: Then I mean a picture editor doesn't matter. Meaning, your photographer knows it himself, I mean, you know, beyond a point he can choose a picture and give it, I mean, how does it matter? So I think uh, the photo-editor's position in India is a very misunderstood thing. So I don't think there's any relationship between photographers and photo-editors, you know, uh, so but you know, an interesting thing that I was - I think this was last year, in December -
Chirodeep: - I was working as...on a book, and that book came out last December, this is about three years back, when we started. It was a book on Bombay called Bombay Then, Mumbai Now. And uh...now you know, most people when they look at that proj- that book, uh, I think they look at it as a compilation of pictures. Okay? And say, "Oh, accha
picture hai, mast hai, (oh, it's a nice picture, it's great)
, nice pic," you know? It's just that.
Chirodeep: Now what they're not looking at, for instance, you know there's a...there's a picture there, it's actually one of my pictures, I mean there are various pictures, when I talk about one or two of these, uh...do you want to see the book?
Nisha: I'll just pause it.
Chirodeep: Feels a bit odd, plugging it. Okay so that's the book - Bombay Now, Mumbai Then.
Chirodeep: So it's uh...this is...I mean, just to explain, give an idea of how editing can work. Uh. See, I mean, at a surface level I tink you'd say, "Oh yeah!" have you seen pictures - these are Bombay pictures.
Chirodeep: Now where it gets tricky is...now say for instance, how do you a picture of VT in a book on Bombay, meaning, you have to have it, but what are you trying to say about it? I mean, you're essentially...now you're trying...one of the things which is a fact, now you know - is it's the most photographed structure in Bombay. You know, now that's an interesting thing which you're trying to say. Now you have a picture like this, so eitheryou have a photograph which you're linking to text, or you're somehow - now you have this picture, you somehow find enough data to link it, you know?
Chirodeep: Otherwise, I mean you know, you put up like, I mean, silly captions. So each of these captions are also kind of are (sic) written with a lot of care. Uh, you know, which kind of puts things in a certain context, okay? Okay, now that's the picture, okay? Now again I think what this brings you to - actually a lot of things, which is I mean, also how the mind kind of actually. Meaning, how does a photographer arrive at a photographic situation? Okay? Now one of the things which - a little statistic which kind of has fascinated me endlessly about Bombay, uh, is you know, the sheer number of people who die on the tracks. Which is about 10 a...a day. You know, which is like absurd, I mean, that's a huge number of stupid people, you know what I mean?
Chirodeep: Uh, now, if you're reading a book about Bombay, either you can make it like, you know, "VT hai
, Gateway hai</>, Baanganga hai (There's VT, there's Gateway, there's Baanganga)," you know, that kind of Bollywood ka do photos (a couple of photos of Bollywood), you know, that sort of thing. Or you can make comments. And I think this is one of those comment pictures. There's another one which I'll show you. So this is one of those comment pictures. And I mean, how do you kind of use a picture like this? Now firstly this picture had to exist, okay? Now this was partly luck and I mean how I think photographers, if one understands the concept of how photographers make their own luck and the notion of chance -
Chirodeep: - Now, if I wasn't fascinated by this statistic, the irony of this situation would have been lost on me the way it was, say for anybody else who was standing on the platform next to me, you know, this whole thing of the LIC sign, you know, insure your life and all that, and a man who's about to kind of jump onto the tracks. Okay? Uh, now this is at the basic level of an image, right? Good light, all that kind of stuff.
Chirodeep: Now, there are two things you could have done in the book. You could have used a very gory picture of him or somebody run over by a train, there are lots of pictures like that which exist. But you couldn't possibly use a picture like that given the profile of this book. And the kind of people that it was targetted at. You know? So you use a picture like this, you know, and you're still able to kind of make the same comment, that you were trying to do. You know, now I think this is uh, this I think is the real thing about picture editing in a sense, you know, uh, how do you kind of make sense of a picture, make it relevant in a larger context, you know, so you need to know the context, I mean, you know...
Chirodeep: Uh, well there's, well these are more standard stuff. I'll show you another image which again is a comment. In a sense, now you couldn't do a picture book uh on Bombay and not have the Shiv Sena, you know, because you have to talk about the '92 riots. You know, otherwise I mean, you're kind of playing it safe. Now how do you kind of do that, I mean, you could use a lot of pictures from, you know, the archives of the newspapers - of riots in Bombay.
Chirodeep: Now, again, it's the same thing. You understand the kind of book that this is and you use a picture like this. Now this is, you're making a comment on the man, you know. Uh, now again you know this picture would not have been shot if this comment that you want to make this comment if this wasn't in your head to begin with. You know, so this picture existed and it was about pulling it out and using it, you know, so, yeah. There are various others like that but I think two should suffice. (laughs)
Bhanuj: So uh, what do you think is the role of photojournalism in society today? And how has that changed with internet and it's constant stream of data and images and visuals?
Nisha: And also how does photojournalism, especially when you're placing a picture, or when you're choosing a picture for - to go with a news article, or something like that, you're constructing a sort of reality, so the responsibility that comes with that and keeping in mind that you have to keep it in some context, how does that work, and how do you make sure that's maintained, and can you think of any examples where that's gone wrong, when things have been pulled horribly out of context and -
Chirodeep: Meaning, in my case or in general?
Nisha: No not in your - in general.
Chirodeep: Okay, that's a tricky one, but uh, I mean, to begin with, I mean, what you were asking about uh, the role of photojournalism, I think I mean it's...I think...photojournalism is communication. I mean I think it's the same role that any communication, good communication has. Uh, in our scheme of things, I mean, and I think that's really the responsibility, so it's you know. So one needs to understand that what - we're in the business of communication, you're not in the business of photography.
Chirodeep: So once you understand that, then everything else I mean, falls into place. Ethical dilemmas, all kinds of things, you know, everything falls into place in a certain way, if you understand this broadly. So, uh, so of course I think photojournalism is very relevant, like any form of communication. Uh, sorry what was the next thing that you -
Bhanuj: Uh, how has it been affected by the internet?
Chirodeep: Well, I mean...you know, I think...I don't know if it's - how it's been affected by the internet? Well I think what the internet has done is, I'm not sure whether it's kind of been affected in a bad way or what. Though I think I mean that's the popular perception. Look, you need to understand something which is: earlier, say in mainst - say in print media, okay? Now what is at a premium is space, correct? So all three of us work in a magazine, all three of us are pitching an idea. Your idea is better than mine, and her is better than yours.
Chirodeep: For tomorrow's paper, her story makes it, okay? Now, you and I are shattered, okay, that our idea has been rejected. We pitch again, say, one week later. (inaudible), okay, file it, let's see. Now this happens for a while, and eventually the story dies. Okay? That was the end of it. It would never see the light of day. Today the internet, what it does is, you can put it up, okay, and have the delusion that you know, across the world, people are seeing it - I don't know if across the world, million are seeing it. I mean, sure, some people are seeing it.
Chirodeep: So I think that's an advantage. You know, that uh, your story need not die. Now why stories die are also kind of important to be understood, it could just be that it's a bad story. So you know, so now you have an opportunity to put out a bad work. So that's now good thing about the internet. But, uh, so I think uh, what is has done for photographers is now they're longer kind of necessarily bound by the idiosyncracies of a magazine or a newspaper.
Chirodeep: You know, various other issues that come in you know - suddenly they'll say, "No no, but you're doing a story on homeless kids, but," you know, "I'm kind of..." this, you know, or you know,"We have like five ads from this real estate hotshot company, so we can't run your pics." So now you don't have to deal with that. I mean, you know, you're on your own, so you have your website, you have you know, whatever else.
Chirodeep: So your story, now it can have - now it has a life, I mean, on its, you know. What else it has done for photojournalism, well, I mean, I think...uh...at the level of I think dissemination of knowledge I think it's certainly opened up a lot of things, because like I was saying, when I was starting out, there was a whole lot of resources which weren't available to me. Uh. Now those are available. Uh, I mean, you can tap into like archives, I mean, all kinds of things, I mean, almost, I mean, there's no excuse for not knowing anymore.
Chirodeep: Uh...but I think I mean, you know...another thing that I think is happening is, I mean say photographers for instance are beginning to experiment a little bit. Uh, now which is you know, like lot of people trying this new thing called multimedia and all that. Well, I mean, it's a new thing, everybody's trying out multimedia, it doesn't mean every - that people are doing - producing great stuff there. Some are, I mean, no doubt about that. So I think I mean, again, you need to say look, it's a new medium, so I mean, you know, experiment's happening, I mean, there's never anything wrong with that right?
Chirodeep: So um...so I mean things like that. I don't think it's...it's, you know, people had to think that it's kind of killed photojournalism. It's...I don't think it's killed it, yeah, I mean, you know, it's probably just given you an alternative avenue to show your work, okay? If you're finding it tough to get it published, I mean you can do something here. Uh, so in that sense I think it's a good thing that has happened. You know. I can't really think of anything very drastically bad, you know. But apart from, you know, the amount of trash that's floating about, on the net, yeah. Okay, what were you asking, sorry?
Nisha: The question was, basically, people tend to believe what they see and a photo is something that is the truth, in the sense, because you believe what you see, not too much interpreting as -
Chirodeep: That's uh, that's a very...dangerous area to tread on, that the photograph is the truth.
Nisha: Precisely what I'm getting to, so the way it's places, or the context in which a photograph is represented, in that sense can people take it as the absolute truth. Why not - what are the ways in which it can be manipulated to - are you understanding what I'm saying? (laughs)
Chirodeep: Yeah, yeah. Uh, well see, I think uh...you know, look, in most newspapers and magazines, I'm saying on a more routine level. I don't think this is a...this is a big problem that one is grappling with, okay? Uh...so, so...I...but I can understand that a problem like that might arise, but I'm saying this is again a basic thing, right? In...for journalists, I mean, that you care about accuracy, I mean you know, that you don't misrepresent. So it applies to me as much as it applies to a reporter, I mean, you know, you get your facts right -
Chirodeep: Now this is something I think in the case of photographers is also very...very critical...to know, and therefore, you know - this is where I'm saying formal education kind of helps. Uh. Most photographers, most photojournalists that I'm seeing today, like especially a lot of the young people. One is, I don't think they have too much of a sense of the story. By that, and the reason I'm saying that, I mean a lot of them might hate me for saying this, but the fact remains that, because awareness levels about issues are low, so you are kind of dealing with issues, or photographing issues, at a very superficial level. Or only at the level of aesthetics.
Chirodeep: Now when you're making, now any picture, is a series of aesthetic decisions, right? I mean that you're choosing: should I shoot with a wide angle, or should I kind of uh...do you need something?
Nisha: Can I plug this in? It's dying.
Chirodeep: Yeah yeah, just plug it in there, the wire is long?
Nisha: Yeah, I'll do that, yeah.
Nisha: I think it should reach.
Chirodeep: You can try it from here, try it from here and see, there's a plug point here -
Chirodeep: So, what were we talking about, sorry?
Nisha: Um, you were talking about...
Bhanuj: Photographers not having a sense of story.
Chirodeep: Yeah, so...so what happens is you know, they're immediately chasing aesthetics. Now, the thing is I mean, you might think that what you're kind of doing as a fairly harmless set of actions, is saying, "Oh, no no no, let me kind of, you know, use a wide angle," or kind of say, shoot from down, or, you know, things like that, you know. May actually kind of end up giving a very wrong idea. And I'm kind of - it's very difficult to explain this but you know, I'm saying, photographers need to be aware that because these are kind of a set of choices that are being made, that they could end up making a choice that may not be the correct choice or a kind of uh, choice which may you know, reflect something else.
Chirodeep: It probably happens very rarely, it's very difficult to point an example. Uh...you know, because these are so subjective in a way. But I'm saying, I mean, it's very important for a photographer to be aware of this thing. Because you know, when you're getting into something you get into it with complete knowledge of what you're doing. You know. Uh. So. So I think, I mean, so that's one, and I think context, I mean, well I think is very very critical again, I mean, how do you kind of work without context? I mean, I...it's actually just beyond my understanding, I mean, you would -
Chirodeep: Because I mean again, if one realises the process of how ideas are generated, I mean, context is absolutely fundamental. I mean, if you don't have context, how does the idea kind of get into your head? How does it kind of - it doesn't drop out of the sky, you know? So, and having that context means like you have a fairly good knowledge of what you're doing, you know, different sides of it, different opi - I mean, all of that.
Chirodeep: I mean, otherwise you will end up kind of producing very superficial work, and I mean, which is inconsequential. You know what I mean? I mean. So...I think magazines I mean, I think, I'm not saying I mean, you know, this is something that everybody obsesses about every minute, but I'm saying it's kind of, it's part of the routine, I mean, you know. Meaning it's like when you're interviewing somebody, you get their name right, you get their spelling right. I think it's basic stuff. I mean, so I think as -
Chirodeep: - For instance, I mean, there was a - uh, as a picture editor again, you kind of have to know these things, I maen, you can't just be picking images on the basis of what is good-looking. You know. Uh, I think there has to be kind of a slightly more intelligent reason for doing things, you know, so, yeah.
Nisha: Okay, so that about - any other questions, do you have? That's about it, yeah.
Nisha: Okay, thanks.