Could you describe your initiation into photography?
As a child, I remember using roll cameras and clicking everything that interested me. When I grew, photography became my passion and I wanted to make a career in the same. But, my parents wanted me to be an engineer. So after I completed computer engineering, I decided to take the plunge into photography. But as I did not have clarity over which branch of photography to be involved in, I decided to travel India with my camera and explore my field of interest in photography. By the end of 2011, I found my calling in photojournalism. I interned at Agence France Presse (AFP) under Findlay Kember and understood the importance of photo features. So this was the beginning of my journey as a photojournalist.
Your projects, Daima, Under a Flyover and Maids of Gurgaon have strong socio-political undertones. How socially responsible do you feel as a photographer?
All of my projects have always had an inclination towards documentary and photojournalism rather than art. I don’t think I know how to make artsy pictures. All I know is how to document and put the image for the viewer to make them think about the lives of others too. I think the social responsibility for me as a photographer came the day I chose this field to do my bit towards changing the society.
How was shooting in rural Bengal like for the project, Daima (Life on The Edge)?
I started this project in August 2012; with a preconceived negative notion, but during fieldwork, I realised that Midwives & the RMPs (commonly known as quacks) are indispensible in these villages. Without them many rural families would be left without any healthcare.
Do your subjects treat you differently based on your gender? Is being a woman photographer in India still a novelty?
Being a woman photographer has its perks. I have always been able to gain access to situations for my stories where a man might have found it difficult. I would like to recount, in this context, the experience of my first workshop in Kolkata. I was roaming around the streets of the Nakhoda Masjid area of old Kolkata when I chanced upon a woman and asked her randomly if I could follow her back to her home. I’m sure she would have refused if I were a man. Had I not been a woman photographer, gaining access to childbirths at home by midwives wouldn’t have been possible either. I think people feel safer and more comfortable with women photographers; it might be due to subjects/stories that I choose. I don’t know.