Noted photographer Mala Mukerjee is currently having a show of her photographs at IIC. The online exhibition is on view August 8. It has a mix of colour and abstract compositions, each of which is special to her. “Those of you who are familiar with my work will know that my quest has always been to capture the fleeting footprints of light on objects, no matter how ordinary they may be. The works on display on this show are a continuation of that search,” she says. “I enjoy playing with light and exploring the limits of form, colour and texture, for light is a master painter. Objects get transformed by its magical touch. I try to capture those moments for you,” she adds. In a free-wheeling chat with Life And More, Mukerjee tells us more:
Who do you owe your photography skills?
My dad. An industrialist, he was fond of photography. I had access to the best of cameras of the day at a very young age due to him. Further, I grew up in a family where I was exposed to good quality photographs. There were several people in the family (and extended family) who were enthusiastic about photography Both my dad and my nanaji were into it. I remember my mother often used to tease me saying, Do not waste money in photography like your father did. What’s more, I did not have television, computer, mobile, not even many toys. Camera was my favourite toy, and slowly it became a part of me. I became the unofficial photographer of all school events, picnics etc, and later in college, as a matter of course, without being aware of it, and I relished the role.
“It is not an easy line to make a living from. But if you love photography, you will have a lot of fun and satisfaction. So, do make sure you have a passion for photography. Learn about the art and then get yourself properly trained in the physics of light and in the intricacies of the camera. Make camera your best friend. A good photograph gives you tremendous joy and satisfaction.”
Please share your professional journey with us?
I started to work on commercial projects only after my son entered adolescence and I had time on my hands. I would collaborate with journalists in newspapers and magazines, and got a lot of encouragement from family.
The push to bring my work out and display it to the public came from my teachers at the university in London where I studied art and photography. There I was taught never to compromise on originality. My first ever exhibition was held in London. And that was on Jantar Mantar with photographs I had taken in Delhi before going to London. When I returned to India, it became a way of life. I must have participated in more than 90 exhibitions so far, group and solo taken together, in India and elsewhere.
How is Kolkata for your professional growth?
I left Kolkata while I was in university and returned to the city in 2000 after three decades. So, Kolkata had very little to do with my being a professional photographer. But the city had nurtured my interest in the art from a very early age. It was here that I honed my skills and learned the fundamentals.
For me, professional photography began in Chennai and has continued ever since in London, Mumbai, Kolkata etc. I hold exhibitions of my work wherever I am invited, in India and abroad. Art is no longer city or country bound.
But it is not easy to make a living out of photography as a freelance photographer, as I have been all my life. No matter where you are. More so in Kolkata.
Who do you consider your ideal?
I am an admirer of many photographers, sculptors and painters. However, I am fond of Cartier Bresson, Matisse and Van Gogh’s paintings and of sculptures of Rodin, Henry Moore, Camille Claudet and in India, of Sarbari Roychowdhury
What are your other interests, hobbies? What do you do in free time?
I used to spend a lot of time on music once upon a time. No longer, though. I have collaborated in three books on Kolkata’s heritage over the last 12 years. Hopefully, more will follow. Photography keeps me busy over and I have my responsibilities as a homemaker.