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Just As It Is

Award-winning photographer Bikramjit Bose captures that fleeting idea of beauty living in the ordinariness of reality, giving us insights into spaces we are not meant to see and are yet observing, and we discover that the line between the photographer and his image is just as fleeting as it is beautiful. Excerpts from the interview.

A lot of our perceptions can be traced back to our personal experience, chance encounters or conscious influences. Given that, how do you reinterpret and redefine the concept of beauty, knowing that your work too would be absorbed into mainstream thought, possibly influencing consumers of art?
I don’t really feel the need to reinterpret or redefine the concept of beauty – it is something that I simply react to at an instinctive level. Beauty, especially the idea of beauty in photography, is a very subjective one. Every creator and beholder has his/her own take on the matter.

Bikramjit Bose 1 Bikramjit Bose, Lolita, Personal work.

Bikramjit Bose 1 Bikramjit Bose, Lolita, Personal work.

The best I can do is to try and put out something that I can relate to and is in keeping with my aesthetics and sensibilities. Once it is out there, how it is interpreted is entirely up to the audience. What, I suppose, might set that work apart is that it is filtered through my thoughts and influences and experiences as a person. Not in any specific way, but passed through a sort of cumulative filter of all those things. Thus, the whole redefinition and reinterpretation happens at a more subconscious level as opposed to an intentional one. 

Bikramjit Bose 2 Bikramjit Bose, Structured Madness for Verve, India, Styled by Shirin Salwan, Makeup by Avni Rambhia, Hair by Bianca Hartkopf.

Bikramjit Bose 2 Bikramjit Bose, Structured Madness for Verve, India, Styled by Shirin Salwan, Makeup by Avni Rambhia, Hair by Bianca Hartkopf.

From ‘Spring Rebellion’ to ‘Girls’ and ‘Women’, you have captured the female experience through rather diverse and rich perspectives. Looking at these works, one might be tempted to observe that women are often the subject and the target of your insistent, albeit empathetic gaze. And yet works like ‘Changing Lanes’ and ‘Ungender’ dispute the fact. For you, how do gender norms affect the perception and assimilation of beauty?

My intent is not to necessarily capture beauty. Beauty, I feel, is a by-product of what I do, but seldom the intention. The intention is to create an image or put forth an idea through an image or series of images that resonate with me. The inspiration could come from anywhere – an image, a film, a passage in a book, a recurring thought, or a nagging feeling. It is just a need to put it out there. Photography, for better or for worse, is the only way I know how to communicate that.

Bikramjit Bose 3 Bikramjit Bose, From the photo essay Cmon Charlie Cmon, Personal Work.

Bikramjit Bose 3 Bikramjit Bose, From the photo essay Cmon Charlie Cmon, Personal Work.

So, I simply assimilate the elements that best communicate that idea in a visual form – sometimes within the realm of fashion, sometimes via portraiture and sometimes just through a sequence of images. What I’m trying to say is that gender is merely one of those elements, a part of a bigger picture, as it were, to try and bring an idea to fruition. It is like casting for a film – you take actors that you feel are best suited for the role, actors who you feel would do justice to the characters you want to create. But within that, the gaze of which you speak is something that is purely instinctive and not ruled by the gender of the subject, but the idea of the subject. 

Bikramjit Bose 4 Bikramjit Bose, Changing Lanes for the ‘Mastered’ course with Nick Knight, Styled by Rahul Vijay, Hair and Makeup by Santwana Vishwakarma and Anand Kaira.

Bikramjit Bose 4 Bikramjit Bose, Changing Lanes for the ‘Mastered’ course with Nick Knight, Styled by Rahul Vijay, Hair and Makeup by Santwana Vishwakarma and Anand Kaira.

Your works display a marked inclination towards black and white as a medium. Do you choose this intuitively – as and when you feel it is the best way to capture an image? Or is it intentional? What I mean is: is the choice part of the process; or is there no choice at all? You just know it when you see the subject?
Although I am more inclined towards black and white as a medium, it is something I decide depending on what I’m doing. For portraits, I usually prefer doing them in black and white. I feel colour distracts the eye when the focus of the image is a person. Colour, for me, sometimes gets in the way of what I want to say and how I want to say it. I like using colour only when the colours add to the story I want to tell, or the story demands the use of a certain colour palette. 
Is there a particular subject that inspires you? And if you had to break down that inspiration, would you find a sense of ‘beauty’, however you define it, at the heart of it?

Bikramjit Bose 5 Bikramjit Bose, From the story Almost Famous for Grazia, India, Styled by Ekta Rajani, Makeup by Rosario Belmonte, Hair by Keiichiro Hirano

Bikramjit Bose 5 Bikramjit Bose, From the story Almost Famous for Grazia, India, Styled by Ekta Rajani, Makeup by Rosario Belmonte, Hair by Keiichiro Hirano

There is no one particular subject that inspires me – but if there is that one thing that I somehow keep going back to, over and over again, it is spaces. Old world spaces from a bygone era, often left in ruins, abandoned, dilapidated and derelict – a ghost of its erstwhile grandeur. I find an immense sense of beauty and romance in such spaces and they never fail to inspire me. There is often a lingering sense of melancholia in these places that I find so beautiful.

Vani Sriranganayaki is the Subeditor of Arts Illustrated. To read the full story, click here.

Read More: Picture Of Return

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