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  • Writer's pictureAbhishek Deb

Goutam Maiti


Photo-Goutam Maiti

Goutam Maiti

A photographer who believes street photography ingrains patience, sympathy, cooperation and respect for others

Street photography is a fascinating art form that captures the essence of urban life. In this series of interviews, we’ll be talking to some of the world’s most talented street photographers, who will share their insights, techniques, and experiences in capturing the beauty and complexity of the streets.


After our first street photographer in this series as Kevin Unger, in this edition, we have an extremely talented one in Goutam Maiti from Kolkata, India. Goutam is also a senior professional in an Indian Edutech Business. We had this insightful and creative conversation with Goutam recently in the month of May 2023 and shall be presenting it as it is, as it happened!


Why and when did street photography become your THE thing? What exactly inspired you?

Goutam: I got into street photography in and around 2016-17. Before that, I was trying my hands on many things from wildlife to landscape. But that satisfaction was not there until I narrowed down to street and daily life photography capturing the slices of life, the never-repeating moments, those successes and those misses all made my mind say to me, this is what I was looking for.


How would you define your style of street photography?

Goutam: To me, a photograph should generally tell some story at least to the viewer to its own interpretation. My photographs should have some elements of interest and surprise, contrasts and similarities, idiosyncracies etc.

Goutam, what is more important to you, the people or the surroundings?

Goutam: Anything and Everything sometime form integral part of a frame. It completely depends on the particular frame under consideration.


What would be your top list of tricks to succeed as a street photographer? Share some tips for people who are starting out on street photography..

Goutam: Advance study of a place, its people, culture, behaviour. Knowing your gears. Patience and persistence. Expect the unexpected to catch the moment.


Tell our readers Goutam, when you look deep within, did street photography change you?

Goutam: It’s needless to say that ever since I had chosen street photography, and started observing people, their culture, beliefs, behavior, and whatever comes in my viewfinder, it changed me a lot as a human being. It taught me to be more patient, sympathetic, cooperative, and respectful to others

Alright! So, for a street photographer, what is beyond that camera?

Goutam: To me, Street photography is not just about taking pictures of people and scenes on the street, but it’s also about capturing the essence of the moment, the emotion, the story, and the culture that is kept for the future as a testimonial of time. Street photographers must have an appreciation for the culture, history, and social issues that surround the places and people they photograph.


Beyond the camera, a street photographer must have an acute sense of observation and an understanding of the human condition. They must be able to read the body language of people, and the dynamics of the environment, and anticipate the unfolding of events. Street photographers must also be able to blend into their surroundings and be comfortable interacting with strangers to capture authentic moments with a mix of his/ her creative thoughts.


Is street photography your primary source of bread & butter?

Goutam: I’m not a professional Photographer as yet and by profession, I’m part of a leadership team of a leading corporate in India. Photography doesn’t bring me bread and butter but what it brings me is fresh air, energy, vigour to continue what I’m right now working in.


Photo - Goutam Maiti

This was shot in the Koley Market, a wholesale vegetable market where standing for a single minute is near to impossible and you will inevitably get pushed on the ground by the vendors . It was just before the evening and the golden light was coming through some of the holes of the ceiling. I wanted to capture some shadows falling on the bodies of others making some complex layers out of it. I had to stand on one leg, or virtually on couple of fingers for 20 odd minutes to get the right shot while withstanding all the pushes and hurls - Goutam Maiti


 

Out of your own work Goutam, Try and pick the top three. Tell us the story behind those shots.

Goutam: First one was shot in the Koley Market, a wholesale vegetable market where standing for a single minute is near to impossible and you will inevitably get pushed on the ground by the vendors . It was just before the evening and the golden light was coming through some of the holes of the ceiling. I wanted to capture some shadows falling on the bodies of others making some complex layers out of it. I had to stand on one leg, or virtually on couple of fingers for 20 odd minutes to get the right shot while withstanding all the pushes and hurls.


Second one, I captured this photograph during Chatt Puja in 2022, as the evening unfolded. A group of devoted women had gathered on the banks of the majestic river Ganga, fervently offering their prayers to the setting sun. The scene was truly remarkable, with the iconic Howrah Bridge serving as a captivating backdrop. The vibrant hues of vermilion adorning the women’s faces stood in stark contrast to the distant glow of neon lights. Inspired by the atmosphere, I decided to experiment with a slow shutter sync technique, focusing on the face of one particular female devotee. The result left me satisfied as her eyes conveyed a myriad of emotions — determination, struggle, unwavering faith, and even a touch of anguish. It was a powerful testament to the strength of her conviction.

The interplay between the vermilion and the trailing streaks of neon light created a captivating sense of motion, symbolizing the unending flow and continuity of life itself. This combination of elements came together beautifully, evoking a profound sense of beauty and meaning.


Inspired by the atmosphere, I decided to experiment with a slow shutter sync technique, focusing on the face of one particular female devotee. The result left me satisfied as her eyes conveyed a myriad of emotions — determination, struggle, unwavering faith, and even a touch of anguish. It was a powerful testament to the strength of her conviction. The interplay between the vermilion and the trailing streaks of neon light created a captivating sense of motion, symbolizing the unending flow and continuity of life itself.


 

The final one, is from a winter morning at Kolkata Maidan that holds a captivating charm, particularly when the vast greenfield is cloaked in a dense veil of fog, casting an air of mystery over the surroundings. Amidst this ethereal scene, some of the ancient trees stand tall, their upper halves obscured by the thick fog. It was during one such morning in December 2022, around 6:17 am, that I captured this photograph, when the area was sparsely populated, allowing me to seek out a frame that exuded a profound sense of solitude.


In my search for the perfect composition, I yearned to convey both a feeling of loneliness and a depiction of the grandeur and atmosphere that enveloped the Maidan. The tree in the image, with its enduring presence, evoked a strong sense of history, as if it had silently witnessed the passage of time. And against this backdrop, the solitary figure passing by symbolized the ceaseless continuity of life.


This photograph encapsulates the juxtaposition of solitude and the connect of human existence. The enigmatic fog adds an element of intrigue, shrouding the landscape in an alluring veil, while the enduring tree and the fleeting presence of the passer by speak to the enduring spirit and the transient nature of our journey.

In essence, this image encapsulates the unique allure of a winter morning at Kolkata Maidan, evoking a sense of wonder, contemplation, and the delicate balance between stillness and movement, past and present.


In my search for the perfect composition, I yearned to convey both a feeling of loneliness and a depiction of the grandeur and atmosphere that enveloped the Maidan. The tree in the image, with its enduring presence, evoked a strong sense of history, as if it had silently witnessed the passage of time. And against this backdrop, the solitary figure passing by symbolized the ceaseless continuity of life.This photograph encapsulates the juxtaposition of solitude and the connect of human existence. The enigmatic fog adds an element of intrigue, shrouding the landscape in an alluring veil, while the enduring tree and the fleeting presence of the passer by speak to the enduring spirit and the transient nature of our journey.In essence, this image encapsulates the unique allure of a winter morning at Kolkata Maidan, evoking a sense of wonder, contemplation, and the delicate balance between stillness and movement, past and present.Goutam talking about his favourite image

Which camera(s) do you use? And what about your lenses and other accessories?

Goutam: At present I use a Fujifilm XT4 Camera with three lens combinations; a 10mm-24mm f4, a 16mm f2.4 Prime and an all purpose 16mm-80mm, f4 lens. Also I use a Canon 80D, and old companion of mine with a quite a number of lense combo. Further, last but not the least, my all time companion iPhone 12 Pro Max is perhaps the saviour in several situations and gave me quite a good number of images that I love to cherish.


Almost all of us do have our own inspirational figures and idols in other photography greats or peers. Which other street photographers’ work inspires you the most?

Goutam: If you are in street photography, you always go back to the works of Henri Cartier-Bresson time and again to find your inspiration. Over the period of time, the works of Vivian Maier have also inspired me a lot. I also admire and get inspired by the works of Fan Ho, Maciej Dakowicz. In Indian context, the works of Raghubir Singh, Raghu Rai are perennially inspiring. And in present days, I follow the works of Vineet Vohra, Prashant Godbole.

Any shot you missed and you must have taken?

Goutam: There are plenty of such moments which I missed in the camera but captured in my eyes and still continue to visualise. Thats what the beauty of street photography to me which drives one to go on for the next uncertain moment to freeze it.


Well, Goutam, what is your word of caution to amateur street photographers?

Goutam: Certain considerations ensure your work as respectful, responsible, and culturally sensitive. Firstly, its always essential to be mindful of one’s personal space and boundaries. Secondly, be aware of the surroundings to avoid any potential risks or hazards. Thirdly, avoid taking pictures that may be offensive or insensitive. Finally, when photographing people from different cultures or communities, be mindful of their social and cultural norms and avoid making disrespectful content.


What NOT TO DO in street photography?

Goutam: To me, Street Photography is all about capturing the fleeting moment. Hence, staging the subject or setting is a big NO NO to me in street photography. Second important thing to me is not to intrude in the privacy of people for the sake of a good photograph.

Do you believe that street photographers are travel photographers too?

Goutam: Street photography and travel photography are two different forms of photography, but they have some similarities. Street photography focuses on capturing candid moments of people and places in public spaces, while travel photography encompasses a wider range of subjects. However, street photographers who travel can also take on the role of travel photographers by capturing the unique essence of a place through their lens.



What is your perspective on the relationship between Street Photography and Street documentary?

Goutam: Street photography and street documentary photography differ in their approach and emphasis. Street photography emphasizes aesthetics and candid moments, while street documentary photography focuses on documenting social and cultural aspects of a place or community, with more context and background information. Some street photographers combine elements of both genres to tell a story and portray the cultural and social context of a place or community.


Do you follow any composition technique by the books?

Goutam: While practicing photography over the years, many of the composition techniques remain at the back of your mind when you put you eye behind the lens. Sometimes those techniques get reflected in your photos, sometimes the candid moment or the story of the photograph compensate for the composition techniques.


Any project that you remember more than everything else?

Goutam: In March 2023, the DOTSO (Day On the Streets Of) Kolkata event took place, bringing together more than 40 photographers from Kolkata and abroad to explore and capture the streets of the city over a 24-hour period. Albeit challenging weather conditions, the photographers persevered and continued to capture the moments and stories of Kolkata. As one of the photographers from Kolkata, it was a memorable experience to push my limits, to showcase the city through my lenses.


Is there any location in particular that you dream to cover next? Or any place that you would want to revisit?

Goutam: Varanasi, is always on the wish-list of any street photographer, which i am not an exception. Over the years, somehow this could not happen and I would definitely break the jinx this year to make it a place for several revisits. Also, I would like to go back to the lanes of Old Delhi time and again.


What makes you say “Wow!” when you see some other street photographers’ work? (and the reverse)

Goutam: Anything that gives me something to learn from, something to get excited, makes me say “Wow”. It may be a superb composition, use of Juxtaposition, decisive moment, amazing layers, or even a great storytelling shot.

As we come to the end of our conversation, we believe that this will stay as a thought-provoking as well as an insightful read for a lot of other street photographer souls who are either into this discipline with full vigour or are trying their hands on it.


 

Goutam Maiti

You can connect with Goutam Maiti on Instagram | Facebook


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