By Shubhangi Shah
“It was Henri Cartier-Bresson,” said Professor Parmanand Dalwadi of who was behind his “trip to France” in the 1970s. A graduate of the National Institute of Design (NID), Dalwadi (82) accompanied Bresson, the legendary French photographer, during his trip to India in the 1960s. In return, Bresson took him to Paris where he spent nine months, capturing France, its people, their way of life and the society before the camera. Among the “many photos” taken by Dalwadi, 50 are presented as part of the exhibition “A trip to France” during the Bonjour India 2022 exhibition. The event is organized by the French Embassy in India, the Institute français India (French Institute in India), the Alliance française and the French consulates. The exhibition is on display in 11 Indian cities, including Delhi, where it is open until April 30.
Once in Paris, the now octogenarian photographer explored much of the city on foot. “Walking is the most important thing,” he said. “Walking around, a photographer can spot common subjects that are interesting, not by their grandeur, but by themselves,” he added.
Of Bresson, who is considered one of the greatest photographers of the 20th century, the Indian photographer said: “Photography is about that decisive moment. And Bresson was the master. “Watching such a great personality work is the only way to learn from him,” he added. On how does he know it’s that “decisive moment” to press the shutter, “that’s the practice.” Plus, “you have to carry your camera every time you go out,” he added.
Regarding his work featured at the Bonjour India 2022 event, the photographer said, “Every photo featured here is special to me.” Referring to one such photo showing a photographer sitting on a pillar in the middle of a protest, he said he liked it because he captured a photographer in it and one day he might have to do something like that. Another interesting image captured a baby on a leash. “In India, we keep dogs on a leash. Here 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 lot and that digitization has accelerated the process. “Previously, we had to carry 20 kg of camera equipment on our shoulders. Now, with only a 500 kg camera, I can travel anywhere,” he said. “I used to be like a coolie,” he joked.
When it comes to photography as a career option, the seasoned photographer said, like earlier, that it’s not much encouraged even today. The popularization of smartphones, which incorporate cameras, has further aggravated the situation because “now everyone is a photographer”. Therefore, the importance of photography has been touched. “So nowadays we teach something interesting, which is what to see and how.” On the subjects, Dalwadi said, “As a photographer, you have to capture everything.” In a country as diverse as India, where clothes, food and lifestyle change as you travel, you can’t choose one topic over another. His only advice for budding photographers is to work hard. “There is no alternative to hard work,” he said. That, and travel. “Learning photography is nothing more than traveling,” added the photographer.