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‘In the Road of Dreams’ – Introducing Mala Mukerjee

October 19, 2013

I often use the camera instinctively. I love photographing things that please my eyes and my mind. I have no particular preferences for color or for forms, be they abstract or figurative. I let my fancy lead me, as long as the subjects appeal to my senses – Mala Mukerjee

Mala Mukerjee entered professional photography quite by chance, although she has been taking photographs since she was a child with her father’s Leica. Now it’s been 50 years and her journey continues. Mala Mukerjee, internally and externally is a kind of photographer who is carefree and happily living her dreams with her ideology. Since the day I met her, she is a guardian figure for me and a kindhearted being who is enthusiastic  to realize the inner realm of an artistic world. I am in wonder of her capability of being enabled to balance her career, dream and life. Beside her seniority her caring character earns respect and to me she is the very much respected Maladi. Whenever I or my photographer friends visit India, Maladi welcomes us at her place. Her superiority on making someone comfortable makes me understand it is very important attribute for a photographer to be able to mix with others with compassion. I am pleased to get the chance to pen about mentor Mala Mukerjee who amazingly keeps contributing to the photography era. Her interview will be an eye opener for my students and fellow companions who are a hiatus in the road of photography.

Mala Mukerjee01

GMB Akash: Please share the greatest challenge/s you faced in your early career as a photographer. Is there any struggle that you overcame and has helped to transform you eternally?

Mala Mukerjee:

Greatest challenges faced in my career as a photographer

I developed a very keen interest in Photography at a very young age more than 50 years ago. I fell in love with it. It became my major hobby. Music and Rifle shooting were my other hobbies. I pursued all three with as much seriousness as possible. Studies, of course, occupied the top priority.

UNDERSTANDING LIGHT

When I first set my hand on a camera, that was the only instrument available to me. There were no exposure meters, no focusing aid. Nothing was automatic or programmed. Understanding light was the greatest challenge. It had to be done by trial and error. And then, gradually, I began to understand the mysteries of light and learn how to control light to get the pictures I wanted.

Then I got married. Looking after a house and raising a family became top priority. Guns dropped out from my life, but photography held its place, thanks to my passion for it. Making a career in photography did not enter my thoughts then.

Colour posed other hurdles. Getting the right colour on transparencies was simple enough, but not on prints. I had to learn it before I started printing my own colour prints.

TEACHING PHOTOGRAPHY

It was only when my son grew up that I started spending more time on photography. A well known school wanted me to teach Photography. Being a self-taught photographer who had never been a formal student of the subject, it was a big challenge. But I did delve into the subject very seriously, put in a lot of work and, I think, emerged much stronger as a photographer.

As I came to know more people in the profession, offers of work started coming my way. I had a bit of luck when a work of mine got wide publicity in papers and magazines. It made me better known. That is when my career as a professional photographer began.

It was my passion for photography that sustained my interest in it. Profession came along the way slowly to add to the passion.

SURVIVING AS A PROFESSIONAL

And that is when I faced other challenges. I found that money in photography was poor. You needed to do lots of work to make a living. You also needed the right connections to get industrial assignments. That meant looking for work in the market place and finding clients. I did not have those skills, nor the taste for it.

So I chose a different way. I started holding exhibitions of my work and selling them through them. Instead of going to the market to look for work, Luckily, art critics wrote well of my work. Slowly, I was able to make a name for myself.

I continued to do professional assignment. But exhibitions became my main vehicle.

THE BLUE WALL

PEER PRESSURE

I got a chance to go abroad soon after. I wanted to learn colour processing. And so enrolled myself in a course at one of the Universities in London. I had to compete with photographers from many countries. The pressure to produce work that was different from what others did or from what I did earlier, was great. I had to experiment and struggle to bring freshness and originality in my work.

I learned a great deal, thanks to an enlightened academic atmosphere and the presence of talented photographers as my peers. The challenge was to take criticism from teachers and peers and to learn from them.

DIGITAL REVOLUTION

Another challenge was waiting for me as the new millennium arrived. That was the digital revolution. Having spent so long in mastering the film Camera, I was reluctant to throw away all that and learn a new technology all over. But my doubts did not last long. I made the change-over to the digital age successfully. It needed a lot of study and experimentation before I figured out how to control the new digital toy. I do most of my work these days digitally.

This was a considerable challenge. It is not just coping with the Digital camera,  handling digital files, computer software, scanning old negatives and slides and digital printing not only need training and practice, they are extremely demanding. I spend hours every week attending to them. What makes it more challenging is the fact that technology is changing very fast.

Handling negatives was much easier than handling soft picture files that you cannot touch, nor see them with the naked eye. You need computers, and  they too keep changing all the time. Keeping pace with technology is the hardest challenge for all photographers.  Even printing technology has changed radically.

Tear Drops

IN THE COMPANY OF INTERNATIONAL PHOTOGRAPHERS

Possibly the greatest challenge I faced was in China in 2006 when The Chinese Government invited me to take part in a two  weeks photo tour in Xinjiang province with 13 other international and also many famous Chinese photographers. For a full fortnight, I travelled through China’s North Western deserts in a bus for 12 hrs daily with famous photographers from all over the world who were carrying the most expensive equipments compared to my modest NIKON F90 X film camera and a NIKON D100 digital. In the end, I found the Chinese Govt displaying my work along with the best photographers in the tour party.

CHALLENGES NEVER END

For a professional, the challenge to sell will never end. I continue to sell my work through exhibitions. But I have taken advantage of the digital age to float galleries in the air, so to speak. I have several galleries on the web where I hold exhibitions of my work all the year round. I sell through them as well.

If you are in a profession, challenges will never end. You have to be ready for them and deal with them in accordance with your skills and preferences.

For those who do not choose to work on social issues (journalism), industrial work or fashion photography, the challenge of surviving in a fiercely competitive world is never easy.

THE LATEST CHALLENGE

Now the new challenge for me is to find lighter equipment to suit my weakening shoulders. Will technology come to my aid? Let me hope so.

Mala Mukerjee02

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2 Comments
  1. Amir permalink

    Respect to her! Thank you for this excellent piece. Keep sharing. Want to learn lot from you Akash Bhai.

  2. Anonymous permalink

    Really inspiring from her being with the First light… thanx Guru jee

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