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Calcutta through a Lens: Meet the founder of city’s largest Instagram community for photographers

This story is part of the World Photography Day series – Part II

While Photography may mean different things to people, for Sammya Brata Mullick, a Kolkata-based street photographer, it is a form of visual expression. “Often, we run out of words when it comes to the description of a scene or an event or a feeling, photography helps us immensely in such a scenario,” says Sammya.

Falling in love with Photography without even carrying a camera

He has been an aspiring scribbler right from the age of three. Storytelling has been pretty much his forte which has gradually evolved into a riveting pursuit for photo-stories on the Streets of Calcutta.

He fell in love with photography in Meghalaya in 2011 when he wasn’t even carrying his camera. It was the picturesque state he saw with his naked eye that left him mesmerized. He bought a basic camera and started exploring the beautiful landscapes of the city.

Clicked by Sammya Brata Mullick

However, it was a trip to Mawlynnong that changed his perception towards photography completely. It was then that he realized to have a strong inclination towards street photography.

While Sammya was initially inspired by Steve McCurry, he credits his ex-colleague, Prasenjit who allowed him to use his DSLR and also helped him in choosing his first camera, which was Canon 550D in 2014.

Calcutta Instagrammers

Fondly called “Deckle Edge” on social media, Sammya is also the founder of Calcutta’s very first and the largest Instagram community, Calcutta Instagrammers that has conducted hugely successful Instagram-walks and knowledge sharing sessions in the city.

Calcutta Instagrammers

“This community was formed very casually in 2015 as a simple group on Facebook where our friends would share their photographs after a photowalk, since there was no common platform. Also, people back then hesitated to share photographs on renowned platforms due to fear of being judged,” recalls Sammya.

Slowly the community grew in numbers to over a lakh member today across all the social platforms combined. They also recently completed 5 years of existence and are about to touch 1 million uploads on Instagram using their official hashtag #ig_calcutta.


Turning into an author

His contribution to “SoulCity-Inside Stories from Calcutta” is a manifestation of his love, attachment and allegiance towards his city, Calcutta. It is a book that features one of his short stories and some of his memorable photographs.

Sammya Brata Mullick

He has also assisted in the curation of photographs for a recently launched book “The Temporary Calcuttan” and enriched the photo gallery of the recently renovated Metcalfe Hall, a project by the Archeological Survey of India.

Winning the Cannon Marathon India

Sammya won the Cannon Marathon India last year which he considers to be one of the high points in his journey as a photographer. “The selection format was very challenging. It certainly prepares you for some of the toughest challenges that you might face as a professional photographer,” he adds.

On the event day, the participants were given two themes in consecutive halves of the day. They had to go out on the streets, capture images relevant to the themes and submit one best image without any sort of post-processing in that limited time frame.

“It was not just about the skill but the clarity in thought process and decision-making ability that were put to test,” remembers Sammya.

His earlier experience helped immensely since one of his winning frames had a quirky reference to one of my past assignments.


Street Photography and the role of mobile phones as a key element in this genre

Sammya loves the street photography genre because of its unpredictable component. “Very rarely can you plan a shot when it comes to this genre. Of course, you can anticipate action or a possible juxtaposition but in 99 out of 100 occasions, you will be surprised,” says Sammya.

Clicked by Sammya Brata Mullick: Street Photography

He feels that mobile phones which are compact and handy is a key requirement in street photography. During one of his shoots, Sammya realized that even the front camera of mobile devices can be a very powerful tool on the street since one can strategically deceive their subjects and capture a perfect candid moment while pretending to take a selfie.

Clicked by Sammya Brata Mullick: Street Photography

“The smartphones with wide-angle modes are extremely effective on the streets since we often tend to venture out into the narrow lanes in the quest for evocative frames,” reckons Sammya. He also has simple advice for people who often ask him – how to approach your subjects on the street. “Don’t let them know that you are around,” says Sammya.

Clicked by Sammya Brata Mullick: Street Photography

Though there are pro modes or manual modes in many of the newly launched phones, the incorporation of AI has made it increasingly easy for the beginners to extract satisfactory results without tampering too much with the settings. “This is both an advantage as well as a disadvantage because you are perhaps not learning the true essence of photography while using these AI-enabled devices,” says Sammya.  

Clicked by Sammya Brata Mullick: Street Photography

Sammya who has extensively used mobile phones to click some wonderful pictures, says that people falter a lot while achieving crisp focus on their mobile phone images especially in low light situations or while the subject is in motion. He suggests, “Either use a tripod or find a rock-steady surface to rest your phone if you are shooting in such a situation in order to obtain the best results.”

Best Photograph

When asked to pick up one photograph that he considers his best, he admits it is a difficult choice to make. However, he picks his most memorable shot that was clicked at Koley Market, also known as Farmers’ Market in Bowbazar, Kolkata.

Sammya’s Most Memorable Photograph

Recalling this shot, he says, “I was a complete newbie into the world of street photography back then but when I visualized a moment like this, I realized that this genre is all about perspectives.”

He further adds, “A scene might appear to be mundane and uninteresting to one person, but a street photographer does develop an enhanced vision with practice. This is the beauty of this genre.”

Work in Progress

Sammya is working on several projects which are in line with the further development of Calcutta Instagrammers as a one-stop-platform for photography enthusiasts across the country. “We are working towards the development of a unique platform where photographers can sell their work through our website,” he says.

As a photographer, he is also about to complete his “Home Quarantined” series that is an evocative documentary of spending over five months at home during the lockdown period.

Click from Home Quarantined Series

Also Read other travel stories on Unkrate

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