‘Learning photography is nothing but travelling’

By Shubhangi Shah

“It was Henri Cartier-Bresson,” said professor Parmanand Dalwadi about who was behind his ‘trip to France’ in the 1970s. A National Institute of Design (NID) alumni, Dalwadi (82) accompanied Bresson, the legendary French photographer on his trip to India in the 1960s. In return, Bresson got him to Paris where he spent nine months, capturing France, its people, their lifestyle and society on camera. Among the “plenty of pictures” that Dalwadi took, 50 are being showcased as a part of the exhibition ‘A Trip to France’ at the ongoing Bonjour India 2022. The event is organised by the Embassy of France in India, Institut français India (French Institute in India), Alliance française and the consulates of France. The exhibition is being showcased across 11 cities in India, including Delhi, where it’s open till April 30.

Once in Paris, the now octogenarian photographer explored much of the city on foot. “Walking is the most important thing,” he said. “While walking around, a photographer can spot such common subjects that are interesting, not by their grandiosity, but by themselves,” he added.

On Bresson, who is considered among the greatest photographers of the 20th century, the Indian photographer said,”photography is about that decisive moment. And Bresson was the master of it.” “Observing such a big personality working is the only way you can learn from him,” he added. On how does he know it’s that “decisive moment” to press the shutter button, “it’s practise”. Also, “you’ve to carry your camera at all times you go out,” he added.

Regarding his work being showcased at the Bonjour India 2022 event, the photographer said, “every picture being showcased here is special for me.” Referring to one such picture showcasing a photographer sitting on a pillar amid a protest, he said, he liked it because he captured a photographer in this one and that some day he might have to do something like that. Another interesting picture captured a baby on a leash. “In India, we keep dogs in leashes. Here, it was a baby. I thought it would be interesting to show it to people in India,” he said.

On how the field of photography has evolved over the years, Dalwadi said, it has “improved” a great deal and that digitisation has made the process faster. “Earlier, we had to carry 20 kg camera equipment on our shoulders. Now, with just a 500 kg camera, I can travel anywhere,” he said. “Earlier I was like a coolie,” he quipped.

Regarding photography as a career option, the seasoned photographer said just like earlier it isn’t much encouraged even today. The popularisation of smartphones, which have in-build cameras in them, has aggravated the situation further as “now everyone is a photographer.” Hence, the importance of photography has been hit. “ So, nowadays we are teaching something interesting, which is what to see and how.” On the subjects, Dalwadi said, “as a photographer, you have to capture everything.” In a land of as much diversity as India, where dresses, food and way of life change as you travel, you cannot choose one subject over another. His only tip for the budding photographers is to work hard. “There is no alternative to hard work,” he said. That, and travelling. “Learning photography is nothing but travelling,” the photographer added.