Agence France-Presse

Full Frame: Pilgrimage through India


Full Frame features photo essays and conversations with the photographers in the field.

I was inspired to choose photography growing up around a family friend who took photos on many of our trips together while living in Kenya. As a young adult, I studied photography under O.P. Sharma at Triveni Kala Sangam Photography, New Delhi, India. I then worked in commercial and press photography in New Delhi. A highlight was working with Blossom Kochhar and photographing her models in New Delhi before I moved to the U.S. in 1985.

Having lived for many years in the U.S., Nepal and Africa and as an Indian-American, I feel my citizenship is one that is more global and anthropological. I feel I can often bring a foreign lens or a new perspective to what may be familiar to me culturally. I returned to India after 13 years of being out-of-country in 1998. It was as if I was looking at a previous life experience. India and Nepal fascinate and pull me artistically: I feel like I am looking both from the outside in and the inside out. I discover something new every time I visit my country of origin as each state in India is vastly different in terms of language and customs.

India is rapidly changing. The big cities are looking more and more like the West with new townships, highway flyovers and new airports. I focus on the India that is less affected by these changes, the villages that are ancient and timeless in their beauty. I also photograph parts of culture that are becoming extinct such as the elder women of the Apatani Tribe in Arunachal Pradesh, who are the last generation to have facial tattoos. I have also spent time recently photographing the way of life of the Konyak people in Nagaland, India.

About the photographer:

My photography has focused on the people and landscapes of India, Nepal and the United States. I enjoy the experiential process of photography, which includes getting to know my subjects and spending time with them. I shoot with both 35 mm and medium format black-and-white and color slide film.

I am currently preparing for a solo exhibition on the people of India which will show in early summer 2010 at the Mpls Photo Center in Minneapolis, Minn,. and in India in 2011. Recent awards include the Peggy and Mike Kelly Award of Excellence from the Edina Art Center for the photo "By the Road."

Robi Chakraborty can be reached at

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