Poulomi Basu New Delhi, India
Alpha coy of 118 women at dawn wait for their training to begin. Khatka Camp, Punjab, June 2009.
Sona Singh and Kamal Dar of the Border Security Armed Force in their barracks, Kharkan, Punjab, July 2009.
A family portrait, few hours before Gurpreet Kaur Walia was leaving for the border. Kharkan Chowk Village, Punjab September 2009.
Photo-frame of Sheila Vishwakarma, a Kashmiri Pundit at her home in Bazpur Uttaranchal. September 2009.
Poulomi Basu is photographer based in New Delhi, India. She is part of the VII Photo Agency Mentor Program.
Poulomi was born and raised in India where she spent most of her growing years between Calcutta and Mumbai.
Her work focuses on under-reported contemporary issues where gender and the formation of identity are often defining characteristics. She is interested in the lives of ordinary people who find themselves in extraordinary circumstance; in those individuals and groups who quietly challenge the prevailing orthodoxies of the world in which they live.
Growing up in India, Poulomi was exposed to a diverse range of languages and an eclectic mix of traditions; as such she is at home in a range of cultures, fluent in English, Hindi, Bengali, Urdu, and Marathi with a understanding of Nepali.
Poulomi divides her time between working on long-term personal projects and assignments for the international media and humanitarian organisations.
Poulomi Basu was chosen by photographer Laura Pannack.
Laatikkomo’s interview with Poulomi Basu April 3rd, 2015.
L: Where are you from? Or what cities, and/or countries have you lived in – what places have influenced you?
PB: I am from India. I have been lucky to have been exposed to a diverse range of cultures and an eclectic mix of traditions.
I was born and raised in the creative city of Calcutta, which has a massive legacy of art, cinema and politics and the birthplace of the Indian new wave. It has obviously had a huge impact on me. I grew up watching Satyajit Ray and Godard on very ordinary evenings at home! I painted, I learned classical dance forms. It was a real potboiler of culture.
I later lived in the economic capital of Bombay, what they call the city of dreams. It taught me how to make it out on my own, and that there was something for everyone there if you work hard enough. Bombay gives you a rare energy. It grabs you by your throat!
I eventually moved to London where I lived for five and a half year and consider it my second home dividing time between there and New Delhi. I had a brief four month stay in New York City as well. New York is photography.
L: What is your first memory of photography?
PB: Family albums and my father taking photos of us on his Pentax camera are my earliest memories. I remember using them as a child in various occasions. I was once also the youngest press photographer in a party event with Cricketers from around the world. I was only 12 then!
When I was 17 my father passed away. I picked up his Pentax once again and started using it and left for Bombay. The rest is history.
L: Your projects are photographed in a vast variety of inhabited environments from rural homes to city nightclubs. How does the environment you photograph in effect the technique you use?
PB: I approach all the situations the same way. I try to be emotionally and intellectually aware to any given situation, regardless of what is happening… how busy or how silent. I am always looking for those moments of stillness in which the subjects reveal themselves to me.
L: I see your work as a series of portraits, even if your images are not always singular images of a person posing, the way you photograph specific subjects makes each project into a portrait of a larger community. Do you have a specific vision of what you will photograph before beginning a project, or is the process of photographing more about a continual discovery?
PB: For me photography is always voyage of discovery and honesty. As mentioned above I always look for moments of stillness and maybe that’s why the portraiture style comes from. I find character driven stories far more engaging with a strong personal element to them. The stories doesn’t have to be about me but needs to be personal, they need to have that connection, the magic, the depth, intimacy.
L: What kind of research is involved in the preparation for and creation of your projects? And how do you choose your subject?
PB: There are certain themes and issues that interest me. Sometimes, I will seek out a story/project. Other times, it will find me. There are very very few things in this world we truly connect to and I believe it is very important to have that connection with work you believe in. However, once I find my project I then proceed to research extensively so as to fully understand the story I am telling.
I feel that one project leads to another, they are intimately connected and perhaps could be viewed as different parts of one long body of work. Almost like a movie with multiple narratives.
L: Most of your work focuses on women and particularly the power or strength of women. Are you interested in bringing awareness to politics specifically involving women in current society?
PB: I am fundamentally interested in issues around identity and self-expression; I come from an extreme patriarchal background and I have witnessed subjugation and violence against women first hand. In this context it is only natural I will look to document and show the strength of women even in these adverse circumstances.
All my work in not about women, although as a feminist these issues are never far away.
L: Your photos carry strong stories with them. You have chosen a camera as a tool to tell these stories. Who is your ideal audience for these stories?
PB: My ideal audience is my mother. If I connect with her I connect with everybody.
L: What interests you most about humanity?
PB: Compassion and kindness. And also the fact that human nature is full of redeeming surprises!
L: Could you list 5 (or more) words that you were thinking about when you made this work (shown in Laatikkomo)?
Thank you so much Poulomi!!