Based out of Mumbai, Ritam has never quite understood the need to create a niche. Shooting extensively across categories—travel, photojournalism, advertising, interiors, portraits, automobiles, fashion, food—he has always sought inspiration and challenge in variety. From training his lens at the blazing dome of the Taj Palace & Tower when Mumbai was under siege in 2008 to documenting the placid course of the middle and lower Ganges, Ritam has framed things as disparate as spas and slums, ketchup and cars. Over the last decade, Ritam has worked with corporates and publications across continents, and has also been associated with the global agency, Getty Images. As a commercial photographer, he has worked with Citigroup, GE, Deloitte, KPMG, DaimlerChrysler AG, Microsoft, Deutsche Bank, Tata Steel, Seagram’s, Enercon, Jet Airways, Clarins,GUESS, Elizabeth Arden, Max Factor, Planning Commission & Ministry of Tourism (Govt. of India) and NGOs like Johns Hopkins University, PETA, Save the Children Foundation, amongst others.
Apart from stills, he shoots commercial AVs, and has recently worked as a cinematographer for a feature film. Ritam has also been in the news for his theme-based calendars and his exhibitions.
How did you get interested in photography and how did you get your first paid assignment?
In 1996, my father quit his job at a Pharmaceutical MNC to take up photography as a full time vocation. In the same year, I left home to study photography at Pune’s Fergusson College. Growing up, introduction to the fascinating world of arts through my father and later, my teacher Dr.RajendraMahamuni’s guidance in college laid my foundation in photography.
My first assignment came to me from the Pune edition of The Times of India. I went and met the editor. She liked my work and gave me an assignment. It got published and I got my cheque of Rs 150. This was in 1997.
What equipment and software do you make use of in your work flow?
I mostly use 35mm DSLRs. Sometimes I use medium-format cameras as well. I love natural light but enjoy playing around with artificial lights too. It all depends on the scale and demands of the projects.
Photoshop has been by my digital darkroom for years. But, I love to dabble with other software too.
How do you compare shooting in the studio to on location – any preference?
I love both. They have their own unique charm. In a studio, I can control the environment and mould it the way I please. Outdoors, the environment controls me and creates opportunities for me to take up the challenge and get the best out of it. I am somewhat partial to the outdoors though.
You seem reluctant to be categorised or bound to a specific genre of photography. So, what is your photographing style?
“The only constant is my engagement with the subject/object. I let it take the lead.”
I never quite understood the need to create a niche or stick to a single genre. The focus should be on the image and not on the type of assignment. This approach has made room for greater freedom and challenges for me and my lens. I love the variety that life has to offer. As for my style, I don’t think I’ve consciously worked on creating one. The only constant is my engagement with the subject/object. I let it take the lead.
Would you consider yourself successful at what you set out to be? How has your journey till now been as a photographer?
“Having said that, from a small town boy with nothing but his wildest dreams for gear to being interviewed by Epson Fotoflock—life has been good to me.”
Success is relative. If I consider myself successful today, what will I do tomorrow? Having said that, from a small town boy with nothing but his wildest dreams for gear to being interviewed by Epson Fotoflock—life has been good to me. Compressing my journey into a single paragraph, therefore, is a tall order. And unfair, perhaps, to the innumerable stories that made my story. But largely, I have enjoyed each of the last sixteen years that transformed my world into an array of faces, objects, moods and silences.
You are among the select few who have managed to be wonderful at being an artist and also as a successful commercial photographer. Tell us on how you found this balance.
“The modes of display keep changing, but my focus and approach is always the same.”
Anything is possible, if you know what you want. I enjoy creating images. I just do that. Sometimes that gets published in a newspaper or a magazine, sometimes it’s splashed on billboards and posters and sometimes it finds its way to the walls of galleries. The modes of display keep changing, but my focus and approach is always the same. I see what I see and try to make it look good.
How does it feel when history defining moments unfold right in front of your eyes and you are there ready to capture it at that perfect time?
“I see what I see and try to make it look good.”
When it’s a happy occasion like shooting Dhoni, Sachin and Yuvraj the Cricket World Cup, it feels great. You feel like you’re a part of it somehow. But, when you have to witness events like the 26/11 terrorist attacks, you’re bound to feel depressed and dejected, like any other person. Perhaps, the difference is that I don’t allow myself to brood or think about it right then and try to get the job done. It hits me harder later.
From capturing Mumbai during the terror siege of 26/11 to India’s cricketing glory of 2011 WC, how important is it as a photographer to subdue the emotions at that moment. How do they affect you in personal life?
“Sometimes it does become difficult to stay calm, almost stoic and do justice to the job at hand of documenting a moment in history.”
Sometimes it does become difficult to stay calm, almost stoic and do justice to the job at hand of documenting a moment in history. When there are bullets flying and building being blown up, there’s physical danger as well. So one has to also think clearly, not only as a professional who has to try and keep his/her emotions aside and stay focused, but also to protect one’s own interests at that point. Having said that, things do affect us—both on the field and later when we revisit the mayhem in the comfort of our living rooms. It’s only human.
Where do you get your creative inspiration from?
People, places and everything in between.
“Nothing is difficult if you want things to happen, if not, everything looks impossible.”
What is the most difficult aspect of professional photography?
Nothing is difficult if you want things to happen, if not, everything looks impossible. Any profession has its challenges; it’s up to you to work your way around it—whether it’s a complicated project, inclement weather or a demanding client. More often than not, I use common sense. Believe it or not, it helps me handle any situation or subject with ease.
What would be your dream project? How soon can we see it materialize?
Dream projects are like milestones in the journey of life. As we progress, as an individual and as a professional, one dream gets accomplished and the next dream is born.
“My dream is very basic and I try to live it each day.”
I always dream of travelling to new destinations, explore and experience the life of people I have been oblivious to. My dream is very basic and I try to live it each day.
Which are the latest projects you are working on? Could you brief us on some of them?
I do commercial, editorial and personal projects simultaneously. I prefer not to talk about them before they are ready though. Watch out for them on my website.
“Photography after all, is all about telling a tale within a frame.”
What is one last impression you want to leave in your photos?
Emotions. Photography after all, is all about telling a tale within a frame.
Do you have any tips for those looking for advice from recognised photographers?
“The only thing that can limit you from growing is your imagination.”
Have fun, study the art, shoot more—keep exploring. One day, inevitably, you’ll know what you enjoy most. Then there won’t be any looking back. The only thing that can limit you from growing is your imagination. And remember the three “P”s of Photography: Patience, Perseverance and Perception. Success is bound to follow.
Where can we hear more from you or see more of your work?
My Website: http://www.ritambanerjee.com/
My Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/RitamBanerjeePage
My YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/ritamphotography/videos
Getty Images Global Assignment website: http://globalassignment.gettyimages.com/Ritam-Banerjee/