Recently, a photographic exhibition titled “Kolkata “Les Yeux Dans Les Yeux” (The eyes within the eyes ) by the French-Costarican photographer Juan Carlos Rodriguez (Pector) was held in the city. It is a visual essay conceived and curated by Pector as personal regard within the everyday life of the people living in the state of West Bengal. And overall in the city of Kolkata. Throughout a compendium of 48 images captured in different cities of the state, the photographer aims to portray the beauty of the everyday life of the Bengali people while performing their daily activities. The event was organised by Prabha Khaitan Foundation in collaboration with Alliance Française du Bengale .
Please tell us how did the idea for your research work “The 4 corners of India” come about?
Four corners of India is photographic research that I have been developing since my arrival in Kolkata in 2019. The idea started months before my arrival in India after exchanging with my own country fellow people about India and realizing that everyone in Costa Rica was fascinated about India but didn’t know much about it. Worst yet, the information the costaricans had about India was full of stereotypes and cliches that had nothing to do with India and its people. So the idea of 4 corners of India was born as an initiative to show the complexity of the real face of India and the richness one can find in this country.
You have had the pleasure of visiting India and photographing people all over the country. What amazed you the most during your stay in India?
I had already visited India some years ago and lived in Delhi for 3 months. Back then as a newcomer, I had a glimpse of the overwhelming variety of ethos, religions, and languages that you find here in India and I got hooked on this country willing to see more and learn more about India. This second time in the country satisfied this will and allowed me to see deeper into the complexity of a country with so much diversity. I suppose after all this time what really amazes me about this country is the capacity of its people of keeping this country together in unity. I know there are problems, rivalries, and differences between the different ethnic groups and religious communities but in spite of all of that, India continues to be a solid, tolerant multi-ethnic state.
How important is it for a photographer to “connect” with his subjects to bring out their true self?
It’s an interesting question. Much of it depends on what you are attempting to photograph. There is a big difference between photographing a scene of life and photographing an individual. For example, if I’m shooting people at a festival or in a religious ceremony. I will try to make myself “invisible”, limiting the interactions with the people to the bare minimum. This is to preserve the natural flow of the scene happening before my eyes. There is a true soul in the everyday activities of human interactions and the sole presence of a camera could easily disrupt and keep people from showing their true selves.
On the contrary, if I’m photographing someone, the interaction is very important, at least in the very first few seconds. One needs to engage with the people in a positive manner, making the subject confident with the situation and breaking the ice through human interaction. Humans react positively to humans and cameras are foreign objects that trigger strange unexpected reactions so the key is to make the camera the least relevant possible.
What is the one thing you hope your viewers walk away with after seeing your work?
The goal when I decided to put together this exhibition was to make people aware of the beauty in the everyday life that surrounds us. One could easily become oblivious in the rush of everyday life. We get used to the people and the situations that surround us to the point that they become part of our daily routine and nothing else. So if any of my viewers could make a pause and appreciate the aesthetics of the ordinary that would be more than enough for me.
In the world of Instagram and filters, what differentiates the photographer from the masses?
To respond to this question I guess it’s valid to (more or less) quote what Sebastiao Salgado mentioned during an interview on photography and new technologies. According to him, photography is not the act we do every day with our cellphones when capturing the photo of whatever we are eating for breakfast to show it off to our friends on Instagram. This is social interaction, not photography. And I cannot agree more. From my own personal perspective, A photographer is a visual communicator, a visual creator with a clear project in mind. Each successful capture accomplished by the photographer is going to be treated (by him) with the utmost respect and veneration. Likewise, it’s going to be carefully stored in a collection as a subject for further study or simply to print later on. None of this happens in today’s social media. The selfie that I took this morning for my Facebook page is going to be deleted tomorrow without any further remorse. To put it in a simple example: both, a poem written by Rabindra Tagore and the grocery list I need to buy next weekend share one thing in common: Both. were written on a piece of paper but this is the only thing they will have in common.
What is your message or piece of advice for those young aspiring individuals, who want to make photography a career full-time?
Photography as any other discipline requires commitment and discipline you cannot be a photographer or a gardener if you are not on the field practicing and developing skills. Some people tend to believe that being a photographer is equal to having an expensive camera. So they just go and spend 5 lakhs buying a piece of equipment that is not gonna do anything unless you take it out to practice. It is important to seek your own personal language (style) and for this one needs to be in contact with other fellow photographers in order to learn from them, to be inspired by them. Social media is quite good for this purpose. There are tons of talented photographers, including some of the masters on Instagram and you could learn a lot from them just by looking at their pictures. Every day’s movies and tv shows are also great sources of inspiration. Sometimes I get amazed at the visual quality of some Netflix productions available to everyone. The colours used, the framing composed to convey a desired message, the light chosen for a particular scene. Its simply mind blowing the talent of the people behind those productions.