Anurag Banerjee moved to Bombay in 2013 after completing his Bachelor of Media Studies in Pune and hasn’t stopped telling visual stories since then. His ongoing “Love in Bombay” series lends a voyeuristic eye to intimate, unguarded moments shared between couples in the bustling metropolis of Bombay.
Anurag Banerjee's photo essay 'Love in Bombay' tells stories of love, longing and lust in Bombay.
What inspired you to create the Love in Bombay͛ series of photos? Very honestly, this series started off quite by chance. Same time, last year, I was commissioned by a magazine to do a series on love for their February issue. However, even once the assignment was complete, the idea did not quite leave me, and I kept pursuing it. It was only much later that I realized that I was onto something and this could lead somewhere.
What have you learned from this project? My lessons from this project have been more about photography, rather than the subject itself. Questions like if it was wrong to photograph such moments, whether I was violating someone’s privacy, or being voyeuristic, were always on my mind. It has taken a while for me to come to terms with what I was doing to realize that photographing intimacy is not much different from making a candid street portrait. Deliberations, reading, conversations with seniors and mentors, are what led me to that conclusion. I did not want to ignore the people who would think that this project is creepy or that I am being a stalker. I wanted to rather indulge in a conversation with them and get a better understanding of the subject and its perception myself. So, going by that, I would say that it has taught me more about dealing with opinions and criticisms, and also about the kind of photographer I would like to be; one that pays heed to what the people who are viewing think about the work and not be someone who works within the confines of their own mind. What has been really nice to see is that, over time, people seemed to have warmed up to the series. I don’t get called a creep or a stalker any more.
The photo essay is getting rave reviews across India and abroad. How do you feel about that especially being a relative newcomer to the world of photography? Haha! Really? Firstly, I have no idea about this. But, if this were to be true, I would just take it in my stride, soak in the encouragement and
continue working. There is a fair distance to go, for both the series, and myself, as a photographer.
How did you manage to shoot such candid, intimate photographs for Love in Bombay? Describe your creative process. I have shot this series entirely on my phone. Shooting thus gave me the invisibility that I have managed to achieve with some shots. As far as my creative process goes, I do everything I can to be an honest photographer. I would never cook up a story or a quote to better my photograph, though that would be very easy to do. And that has really helped, because honestly, sometimes the simplicity and beauty of what one finds is breathtaking. To adulterate that would be a real shame.
Black and white photography seems to be your trademark style. Why do you think this is and how do you feel about shooting in colour? I am trying to break away from black and white for a while, to be honest. My earliest influences were masters of black and white photography. I have been inspired by Prabuddha Dasgupta͛’s work for the longest time, and I always wanted to (still want to) achieve the mastery that he had over the medium. Also, black and white is a medium that I was very effortlessly drawn to. So over a period of time, it had become almost a reflex action to make a photograph in black and white. Of late, however, I have been making an effort to change that. Especially after seeing works by the likes of Raghubir Singh and Alex Webb, I have realized that one can make some really compelling photographs in colour and I was shutting myself out of that world. When it comes to this, I want to achieve versatility.
What are your thoughts and preferences with respect to digital and analog photography? I don͛t have much of an opinion on this, really. I was introduced to photography at a time when digital has taken over the world. So the thought of doing something concrete with film is something that has not even crossed my mind, even though I did buy myself a film camera. I guess every photographer has their own perspective on this. For me, it was pretty much by default that I shoot digital.
Another thing to consider in this aspect is the advent of the mobile phone camera which I think is simply fantastic. I think what the phone camera does is that it strips all the various formalities that come along with photography and makes it about the very basic essence of it – what the person sees. Not to mention how accessible it has made photography to the masses. We talk about photography being a democratic medium, nothing has done more than the phone camera to help that cause.
After capturing many photographs of couples in Love in Bombay, what do you think is the secret to romance in Mumbai? I have not the faintest idea!