Stories from the Streets
Asian Photography|July 2021
A management consultant turned street photographer, Sammya Brata Mullick has been carving his own niche in the industry with his remarkable visual stories from the street.
Sammya Brata

Sammya began his love affair with photography in 2012 and since then he not only has won numerous accolades but also is the founder of the largest community of social media enthusiasts from Kolkata – Calcutta Instagrammers – a platform for visual artists to showcase their creativity. In an eye-opening talk with Asian Photography, Sammya spoke to us about his photography journey, capturing the limitless possibilities in the streets, crafting compelling stories and much more. Excerpts:

What first drew you to street photography and how did you discover it?

Let me be honest about this, but I’m a street photography enthusiast by chance. I’ve been a late entrant into the world of photography which got a kick-start during my stay at Meghalaya back in 2011. I was working with the Department of Commercial Taxes, Government of Meghalaya as a consultant when I got a chance to explore this picturesque state; I didn’t have a camera back then, but what I saw with my naked eyes was quite incredible.

It wasn’t too long before I realized I should freeze these memories, conserve them, and revisit them at a later stage in life. On my very first fly-back to Calcutta, I bought a Sony Cyber-shot and started exploring the beautiful landscapes of Meghalaya. Though my interest in photography started with shooting landscapes back in 2012, gradually I started developing a soft corner towards capturing evocative stories through single frames.

If I remember correctly, a trip to Mawlynnong changed my perspective about photography entirely, it was then that I realized that I have a strong inclination towards storytelling through candid moments in my frames, which is indeed an integral component of street photography. I also realized that I was enjoying looking at street photographs on various social networking platforms, interpreting those ingrained stories, and reaching out to some of my favorite photographers trying to seek their feedback on my amateurish work. Though my hard disk had a 50-50 share of landscape and street images back then, I was quite sure that the ratio would change drastically soon after.

What is street photography to you?

Street photography, to me, is a tool to paint on a canvas of limitless possibilities. And in this process, I feel that the street photographers develop a unique vision that segregates them from the rest; the beauty of this form of photography is in its potential to unveil astonishing perspectives and interpretations of an otherwise drab and mundane scenario. To begin with, I was unaware of the conventional concepts like “juxtaposition”, “decisive moment” or even the real meaning of the word “candidness”, but then the idea of visual storytelling without words came to me very naturally. Being a full-time consultant, I have always been a “photographer on weekends”; but then whenever I got the opportunity to head out with my camera, the intention was pretty much the same – to compose unique thought-provoking images.

I won’t be overstating if I say that the art of Street Photography has had a positive impact on my nature to a large extent – I have become more observant and analytical in real life, as if in sync with what we do while shooting on the street or decoding a street image. Hence, street photography for me has not just been a genre or a technique, but a driving force towards self-development.

Is it important to have any professional training to be a photographer? Did you have any at the time you set off on your journey?

The art of photography is very personal, to be honest. It’s about how you prefer to look at things. And I strongly believe that the “Art of seeing” needs to be developed first before you jump into the “Art of photographing” – in fact, to me the latter is often inconsequential since an image is first made in your mind while hitting the shutter is just a call to action. Hence, it is important to invest time and effort to polish your skills; whether you do it professionally or you do it on your own is purely your call.

In my opinion, even a God-gifted talent needs that subtle fine-tuning which can only be achieved through application and practice. To be very honest, I’m not a full-time photographer, hence I never felt the requirement of getting enrolled with a photography institute and hone my skills – I must mention that didn’t need a formal degree in photography to earn out of it.

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