Exclusive Q&A With : Kounteya Sinha, Explorer, story teller and photographer
Updated on: 22 Jun 2016
Kounteya Sinha, an unparalleled weaver of celluloid tales, would like to remind the world of the latent connection shared through space, time and humanity. He revels in being the intrepid traveller in search of stories concealed in the farthest corners of the earth; and his incessant journeys wherever have allowed him to indulge in a sense of adventurous documentation of stories hidden inside people and landscapes that would have missed the known world's fascination had they not been exposed via his perspective. Critics on the one hand call him the Van Gogh of Bengal for his tremendous use of colour while on the other he is fast earning the reputation of being the next big artist emerging from Bengal.
Sinha's work provides an insight into his ongoing investigation of seeing humanity, history and culture in continuum. His narratives embody the complexity of the human experience and simultaneously translate visual information for the viewer that creates the subject for his travels.
His first show in Kolkata, 6262, an exhibition held in January 2015, unravelled the remarkable story of Rabindranath Tagore's profound impact on the Lithuanian struggle for freedom and daily life through photographs taken over six days on the road, covering 1,110 km. His 6262 was a photographic journey where his discovery of how Lithuanians employed non-violence that they soaked up from India's bountiful trough of philosophy was highlighted. For Sinha, the desire to explore seems relational, a story emerging as a result of the fragments collected along the road.
An attempt to make visible or delve into what one can hear rather than see is what engages him. The stories he captures and explores are his attempt at making visible the clandestine bonds we all share. Through the primacy of photography, his work assimilates the experience of surroundings, space and people. Hiraeth, an exhibition held in November 2015, had over 50 photographs where he tried to lay bare the psyche of an urban nomad – a swelling new club of 21st century travellers for whom home is an eternal search. He concurrently works with landscapes and abstract banal surroundings but what is overlooked in plain sight leads to other ways of looking and engaging.
Sinha, who has travelled to over 60 countries taking photographs, will soon unveil in Kolkata his major Summer 2016 collection, "Stone – being and becoming", before it travels to the UK and Manhattan on the 25 June 2016 at the Harrington Street Arts Centre. Excerpts from an interview: Q How did photography happen and how has the journey been?
They say an apple never falls too far from the tree. My father was a brilliant photographer but never took it up professionally. He had a sense of impeccable timing and his photographs were witty beyond measure. He also had a brilliant third eye that made him see the world differently from everyone else. For me, childhood was all about seeing his stunning pictures and the élan with which he held a camera.
Strangely, taking a serious picture came much later in my youth. The thrill of capturing a moment that will never repeat itself consumed me. This world around us is the most brilliant artist creating, every second, images that will leave you in awe. It should be our duty to document it and not a luxury. I have been taking pictures for the past 15 years now but it is something I did for myself, almost embarrassed to show anyone. I spent all my money between 2000 and 2010 buying Kodak films, clicking photographs and printing them. That is when my best friend gifted me a digital Nikon camera. Since then there has been no looking back. The journey has been tremendously overwhelming and fulfilling. Travelling helps us connect with the world in the most intimate of ways and taking photographs through this journey freezes the journey forever. It therefore never ends. It is, however, the present ambassador of Lithuania to India, Laimonas Talat Kelpsa, who dragged my work out from the dungeons of carton boxes and hard drives and presented it to the world. It was actually his idea to have a show of my photographs in Delhi two years back. I had just returned from an incredible road journey from Lithuania, over six days covering 1,200 km. When he saw the photographs I took during that time, he pushed me into agreeing to show them to the world and hosted the first show in the embassy premises. Every diplomat who came that evening wanted me thereafter to visit their country and document it in a similar fashion. The show became such a massive hit that we brought it to Kolkata. Today, I am three shows old and I always unveil a new repertoire in Kolkata first – the city of my birth and my muse. Every show is my homage to this incredible city, to its warm and extremely creative people and above all to my father.
Q How difficult is it to travel across the globe and at the same time persistently continue with your passion for people, their stories, taking photographs and documenting them?