Soumita Bhattacharya’s ”Body/CityScape’ series was shortlisted for the 2013 edition of the TFA Photography prize, sponsored by Tasveer. To find out more about the TFA, and the wonderful job they’re doing to recognize and support young creative talent in India, you can visit their website here: http://totofundsthearts.
The idea of ‘Body/CityScape’ took shape during a workshop on “Choreo-photo-graphy” at the Max Mueller Bhawan, New Delhi in February of 2011. The workshop was lead by David Berge, a young dance photographer from Brussles and Trajal Harrell, a choreographer from New York City. During the workshop, dancers/choreographers and photographers in the city came together to develop new body of work that speaks to the innovative streaks of the resulting collaborations.
As a photographer my subject has been primarily performing arts. Over the past few years, I have seen the process in which a choreographer gives shape to a complete piece with dancers offering their skill and dexterity, while lighting design and stage design teams help create the setting for the performance. I contemplated about how life is also a stage and that our surroundings do influence how we move and behave. We are thrown several sensory inputs in the form of sights, sounds and touch, and we respond to each one. So perhaps, on a much larger setting, life is the stage, and the city with all it has to throw at its inhabitants, is the choreographer. I was interested to see how the interaction between a dancer and her choreographer pans out when there is no yardstick on what to expect. The project begins with the questioning of classical notions of photography and choreography. It aims to deny the idea of dance and to search for new ways of intending the ‘choreographic’ as a moving sign in the space/time of daily life.
I proposed the idea to a fellow workshop mate Elena Catalano – an Italian dancer and researcher. With her endless enthusiasm and energy as the Body/dancer for the project, we embarked on a creative journey giving shape to our idea of Body-/CityScape, the City/choreographer being Delhi.
A bit about Elena, she is currently doing her PhD in Ethnomusicology in Durham University, her thesis is on “Shaping Experience and Meaning through the Dancing Body”, she focuses on Odissi, an Indian classical dance form, to investigate this. For the past 2 years Elena has been coming to Delhi to learn Odissi and for her research and our project has grown from the first set of images we shot for the workshop. We have together explored different spaces in Delhi, where she interacts with the people and spaces in the city. The result has been of visual estrangement, where the choreographic body of the performer merges and at the same time stands out within the scattered environment of an Indian metropolis.
The project continues along with each new body and location. The process as well as the inference keeps evolving with more performers and other cities and I have decided to not limit the project to a defined set of circumstances, as the true spirit of the project enshrines a universal stage, and a performer can be anyone among us. My travails, and the people I meet along the way, will guide the future progress of Body/CityScape.
– Soumita Bhattacharya
Soumita is a freelance photographer and prefers to work on the subject of performing arts. She has always appreciated dance and theatre as a connoisseur. An encounter of two of her passions – photography and dance led to her professional calling. Before plunging in full-time, she dabbled in photography as a pastime, alongside her job as a biotechnology research associate.
She developed a deep understanding of her subject through performance attendances, meeting and speaking with dancers, dance workshops, and journals. Eventually she started working on artist portfolios and projects that involve working closely with dancers, understanding their vision and weaving in her ideas and expertise. She likes to photograph dance forms from different cultures, something that stems from her interest in travel, and a curious eye. She prefers to abstract away from the complexity the modern digital workflow presents, and instead focus on the nuances of her subject, never letting the camera get in the way.
She is currently working on creating photo stories, questioning classical notions of photography, documentary, and choreography juxtaposed against day-to-day visual elements. She lives and works in Gurgaon.