Technique

In the last decade there have been dramatic changes in the photographic world as digital media has replaced traditional methods based on film, photographic papers and wet darkrooms. Like many other photographers who started out using film-based tools I have had to adapt and change to the new technology. My early work was inspired by a love for the black & white film medium and an interest in being involved in the full process of creating an image. The images were shot on medium format black & white film, processed and printed in a bathroom darkroom. It was not a rushed experience and often it took months and years to get images from the field to an exhibition or published article. Meanwhile digital photography made giant leaps in image quality and ease of use. Film and paper became virtually impossible to procure where I live and I have switched over to digital while the focus of my work on South Asia’s landscapes, ecology and cultures has stayed the same.

South Asia is often associated with its kaleidoscope of colors something reflected in the work of many contemporary photographers working in India and its neighboring countries. However, I grew up in a world where black & white was used as a medium of deeper artistic expression, both in landscape and social documentation. The landscapes and approaches of Ansel Adam’s work on the American west set a benchmark to aspire to. Henri Cartier Bresson’s work on India in the 1940s still stands out as an incomparable portrait of the country –something effectively conveyed in black & white. Sebastião Salgado’s continuing Genesis work reminds us of the contemporary value of black & white photography. In my formative years I was under the influence of a father and uncle who both had darkrooms in their houses. In Dhaka, where we lived, there was a renaissance of black & white photojournalism being inspired at DRIK by our family friend Shahidul Alam. There was always something special about black and white that made it my preferred means of expression.

For many years I worked principally in medium format. Using a variety of cameras I looked to create images that had exceptional detail. My cameras included a Fujica 6×9, Mamiya 6, Noblex (with a 120 degree rotating lens) and Hasselblad with multiple lenses. Today I principally shoot with a Nikon DSLR using a variety of lenses that have been with me for many years. I continue to use the panoramic format and stitch multiple images instead of shooting images on a single piece of film as I used to do. The editing of the photographs is done with Adobe Photoshop with indispensible plugins from Nik Software. My film darkroom has been mothballed until I can use it again and instead a computer and large monitor is where I spend my time editing and working with images. The process is by no means static and I continue to explore and learn about new ways to showcase images that I have visualized on my journey through South Asia’s landscapes, ecosystems and cultures.

For the most part I prefer black and white to color as an expressive medium. Color prints can potentially overwhelm a viewer with too much information while black and white simplifies things. It highlights nuances and features that one might overlook in a color print. Of course I appreciate color photography and dabble in digital work that I can play with on my computer. Overall I find that my black and white prints express what I see and feel more effectively than color.