The International Photography Awards or IPA is a prestigious photo contest. I have seen entries to that contest and they are all, undoubtedly, very impressive. So I wanted to test my own photography there. There are two distinct categories, professional and amateur. The criterion, as defined on the website there, is if you earn most of your income through photography then you are a professional. Otherwise you are an amateur. Although, I would like to think that my photos are no worse than most professionals’ (especially in the genre or subcategory I was going to enter), I don’t earn any income from my photography and I am not a professional. Therefore I entered as an amateur. As a side-note let me say that there is a lot of hand-wringing and ill-feeling about the word amateur. People tend to think that amateur means novice or rookie. I vehemently disagree. A novice may not know what she or he is doing but an amateur can be an expert and just as skilled as a professional. It is just so that unlike the professional, the amateur has a different means to earn his/her bread.
I had a series of photos in mind that I wanted to submit for this contest. They were all taken in Calcutta last year (2014). Calcutta, now Kolkata, is the place where I grew up. I haven’t lived there for the last twelve years and I have visited only a handful of times. Not due to lack of willingness, but just due to lack of time and general circumstance. Now, I have seen photos of the city taken by other photographers, both native and foreign, and did not like most of them. It seems to me that foreign photographers who go to India tend to go with a preconceived notion of what the country is like and as a result they seek out and capture those moments and scenes that confirm and bolster the preexisting idea in their head. On the other hand, native photographers have an idea of how they would like to depict India and they in turn seek out and capture the scenes that serve that purpose. I find both approaches to be a bit stiff. I have no agenda to see or show India in any particular fashion. I know the place very intimately, I’ve seen it all and to me there are no secrets. But at the same time distance has lent me detachment. When I took these photos they were not for any contest or for anyone else really. Well, honestly, they were for my family. My wife wanted a few photos of Calcutta that captured the spirit of the city so I walked around and photographed different scenes. Five photos from that set I chose for the contest submission.
I am proud and happy to say that I got an honorable mention at this year’s IPA contest.