Ritam Banerjee is an Indian photographer based in Mumbai. He likes to take pictures of the world around him, being it spas, slums, ketchup or cars. We met at the poolside of the Taj Mahal Palace and I was fascinated – he showed a different face of India. Comabative, ambitious, dreamer, visionary.
Ritam Banerjee是孟买的一位印度摄影师。他喜欢给身边的这个世界拍照，水疗中心，贫民窟，番茄酱，还有汽车。我们在泰姬陵旁的水池边见面，他给我看了不同面貌的印度 –充满斗志的，充满梦想的，充满远见的，我完全被迷住了。
How is the fashion scene in Mumbai?
The scene is here is vibrant, people are full of life, enthusiastic and willing to work hard to make things happen. People come to this city from all over India and they all dream big. Mumbai has always been a city of opportunities – for a photographer, in particular, it is definitely the place to be. I found it the perfect place to grow both professionally and economically.
Have you always wanted to be a photographer?
Yes – but I studied physics incidentally 15 years ago [laugh]. According to Indian society, photography is not something you make a living out – parents want their sons to be doctors, engineers, lawyers. I am from a small city and I was not able to fight this environment. So I signed up at university, graduated and started working in Mumbai. Very soon I realised the cubicle-life was not for me – I went through a life crisis moment, quit, got out of there and started taking pictures. It was an adventurous time, a few jobs here and there, not enough money. More food for thought than for the belly. But I never gave up, and I still don’t.
是的 – 但是我却学了15年的物理（笑）。在印度的社会里，摄影是不能用来谋生的 – 父母希望自己的儿子成为医生，工程师和律师。我来自一个小地方，我不能反抗这个大环境。于是我进入了大学，毕业，然后开始在孟买工作。很快我意识到，这种办公室格子里的生活并不适合我 – 我经历了人生的危机，辞职，离开那里，然后开始摄影。那是段充满未知的时光，零零碎碎的几份工作，没有足够的钱。画饼充饥。但是我从来不放弃，现在也不会。
Which are the milestones in your career?
I still feel I haven’t made it to the top yet. But that’s good – otherwise what would I do tomorrow? At the beginning of my career, it was really difficult to get a nice assignment and to work with reknown photographers. Back then, people would ask me: “Who did you work for?”. This would make me extremely angry and feel helpless. One day started contacting all the most professional people in my environment to offer my collaboration. Some things worked out, some other didn’t. But I guess that day was a very important day, it meant the beginning of a new era. After that I’ve been working with Korean and British Vogue among the others and shot as a photojournalist for many international publications.
我仍然觉得我还没有达到职业的顶峰。但这是件好事 – 不然我明天该做什么呢？在我职业的开始，真的很难找到一份好的合约并和知名的摄影师合作。那时，人们会问我：“你之前跟谁合作过？”。这让我特别气愤和无助。有一天，我开始联系我身边所有的最专业的人，希望他们能提供我工作的机会。有些有回应，有些则没有。但我觉得那天非常重要，这代表着一个新时代的开始。从那开始，我开始跟韩国和英国的VOGUE合作，并开始作为一个摄影记者为很多国际刊物拍片。
Is it easy for a photographer-to-be to pursue a proper education in India?
Not really. Even today, there are not professional photography schools, so it’s impossible to start developing your talent from a young age. I guess this is also a result of the very traditional Indian society: they push you to think about your ‘career’ first. Abroad is different. There are fantastic schools in London, NY, Tokyo, where learning is a life-changing experience. At the moment I’m teaching photography in various university all over the world – I give students insights about my experiences, and I encourage them not to give up. This is what I would have loved to hear when I was younger, without a stable job and uncertain about my future.
并不是的。直到今天，也没有非常专业的摄影学校，所以想在你年少时就开始发掘天赋是很难的。我认为这也是非常传统的印度社会所导致的结果：他们逼你先考虑你的“职业发展”。国外的环境是不同的。在伦敦，纽约和东京，有很多非常棒的学校，在那里学习是一件能改变命运的事情。现在我在世界各地的多所大学教授摄影 – 我告诉学生我的经历，并且鼓励他们永不放弃。这是我在年轻时希望听到的见解，在我没有一份稳定的工作和对未来充满迷惑时。
Which is the biggest challenge you are facing right now?
After having worked with clients like Jimmy Choo and Mercedes and publications like Vogue, the big challenge is to visualise what’s coming next. I’ve recently start doing films, and I actually got international awards for the best cinematography. The problem at the moment is visual training and education – I don’t have those and there are not education institutions in this field. This makes it even more difficult in India to dream big.
跟Jimmy Choo,奔驰和Vogue这样的刊物和客户合作以后，最大的挑战是想想接下来会发生什么。我最近开始做电影，而且我居然得到了最佳摄影的国际大奖。现在的问题是视觉培训和教育 – 我没接受过这方面的教育，而且这个领域也没有专业的培训机构。这让在印度拥有一个大胆的梦想变得更难。
Do you have a muse?
I’ve always dreamed to find my Monnalisa, a person close to me that I can photograph as much as I want, in different moments of the day and in different location, in different moods. I would follow her closely, to bring out the beauty that’s in her. I would challenge her, push her out of her confort zone and photograph the reaction. It would be comforting for me to have such a person in my life, she would be my rock. Unfortunately I haven’t found her yet – but I’m sure she is out there. I’ll just keep looking for her.
我一直梦想找到自己的蒙娜丽莎，一个在我身边的人，我可以想拍摄多少就拍摄多少，在一天中的不同时刻，不同的地点，不同的心情。我会紧紧地跟随她，把她最美的一面拍摄出来。我也会挑战她，让她走出自己的安逸区，来拍摄她不同的一面。如果在我的生活中能有这样一个人就太好了，她会是我的磐石。但是不幸的是，我还没有找到她 – 但我确信她就在那里。我会继续找寻她。
Has the relationship between women and photographers’ cameras changed in the last few years?
I think we can say there was a revolution. Thanks to the globalisation and the opening of foreign markets, Indians had to open up and Indian models had, among the other things, to face the fierce competition. They had to wear bikinis in front of the camera, show their body, play with the photographer in a way it wouldn’t have been possible only 10 years ago. In this process, something of our culture is obviously getting lost, but I feel it’s a natural and necessary evolution.
Ritam and I took some fun shots after our interview. The light was not the best, the staff were chasing us, and we were both tired after a long day. But I think these shots tell one story, which is common to both of us. Life is a journey. And you’d better have your camera ready. To photograph the scenery and people who are traveling with you.
Ritam Banerjee e’ un fotografo indiano con base a Mumbai. Ha una luce speciale negli occhi, che racconta di un’infanzia in un piccolo centro, della necessita’ di pensare alla carriera prima che a sviluppare il suo talento dietro ad una macchina fotografica, di una crisi che lo ha portato a rivoluzionare la sua vita, di una passione che lo consuma. Il tutto accompagnato da una grazia e un’eleganza estremamente sofisticata.
For the chat with Ritam Banerjee at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel I was delighted to wear:
Dress 裙子: Sandro.
Orange sandals 橙色凉拖: Fausto Santini
Earrings 耳环: Angela Caputi
The pictures at the Taj Mahal Palace were taken by Ritam Banerjee with his Canon EOS 5D Mark III.
泰姬陵的照片由Ritam Banerjee拍摄 Canon EOS 5D Mark III。
For all the other pictures, special thanks to Ritam Banerjee.
Chinese translation by Vivian Zhou.
中文翻译由Vivian Zhou 完成.