Photographer Spotlight: Satyaki Chakrabarti

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Street/People Category December 2020 Winner, taken in Chau Doc, An Giang Province, Vietnam

As ASIAN Geographic’s annual Images of Asia (IOA) 2020 Photo/Videography Competition looms closer, submissions to our IOA Monthly competition – the precursor to our annual event – are pouring in. We have received stunning photos across the categories, and are now featuring our monthly winners in an exclusive interview!

Below is our interview with one of this month’s spotlight, Satyaki Chakrabarti, the IOA Monthly December 2020 Winner in the Street/People Category.

AG: What is the story of your beginning and journey to creating great images?

Satyaki: I bought my first camera in 2008, but my serious attempts at photography took off when I shifted base to Singapore about a decade back. Singapore being such a great hub to explore South East Asia, I started travelling a fair bit across this vibrant region, and in the process saw my interest in travel photography grow. In fact, I look at my photography as a subset of my travels.

AG: How would you define your style and concepts you enjoy exploring?

Satyaki: To me, photography is very much a solo pursuit. I’m not a big fan of photography tours and instead prefer to travel alone. That lets me keep my itinerary pretty loose to allow for a bit of serendipity. Often, these unplanned episodes have rewarded me with some of my most favourite images. I enjoy the process of scouting locations, observing people, watching the light change, and conversations I have with myself while I’m out taking photos. It is almost therapeutic!

I love photographing people. Documenting people going about their lives is my genre if I must pick one.

In these opinionated times where building walls is the “in” thing, travel and photography, if done soulfully, do a wonderful job in dissolving prejudices. Realizing we are more similar than different is one of the great joys of photographing places and cultures alien to me.

AG: What is great photography to you, and are there any photographers you would like to work with?

Satyaki: If a photograph moves me, it is a great photo. It may shock me, make me happy, remind me of a distant memory, but it should in some manner affect me. To that end, I adore the monochrome work of Fan Ho. The way he played with light to create such evocative images of Hong Kong is quite amazing. Steve McCurry’s images of India are also dear to me, because the India he captured evokes memories of my childhood.

Gavin Gough is one photographer I would feel privileged to work with. Viewing his projects for various NGOs across Asia have taught me a lot about documenting daily life. I also love the work of Amlan Sanyal and Pravin Tamang, street photographers from Bengal in India, from where I hail.

AG: What is your preferred imaging gear to work with and why?

Satyaki: I prefer to travel light. So I am a big fan of mirrorless systems. I have a Fujifilm X-Pro2 and a couple of Fujinon lenses in my bag. I also have a tiny little X-100S which I use while exploring a city on foot. It is a fixed lens camera, I love to work with the restrictions it imposes on me. I feel it has helped improve my composition and pre-visualization on the street. It has also forced me to get closer to my subject, which in turn helps me break the ice at times.

AG: What is the next Asian destination you’d like to explore and why?

Satyaki: I love the Himalayas.  Visiting the mountains has been an annual affair for the past few years. If all goes well in terms of international travel, I plan to visit the Khumbu region in Nepal later this year. I am fascinated by the sturdy but humble Sherpa people and wish to explore their quaint villages and way of life.  And of course, a trek to the Everest Base Camp and Gokyo Lakes offers some of the best mountain vistas one can wish for. This trip has been on the cards for some time now, and I hope (don’t we all!!) things improve and we can travel freely again.

AG: Can you share more about your current and upcoming projects?

Satyaki: For most parts of 2020, photography had to take a back seat because of the pandemic-induced disruptions. However, as things start looking up in Singapore, I plan to start work on a uniquely Singaporean subject, the HDBs. I’ve always marvelled at how these housing enclaves are almost a microcosm of the society here.

In the near future, I plan to work on my interest and develop my skills in aerial photography. I find the perspective offered by a drone to be unique and fascinating.

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Congratulations once again to Satyaki Chakrabarti for being the Images of Asia (IOA) Monthly Winner in the Street/People Category! You can check out Satyaki’s Instagram here!

Follow Asian Geographic Instagram for the latest updates.

Love shooting photos of the vast and beautiful Asia? Submit your entries today! More details of Images of Asia Monthly here.

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