Indirapuram's very own nature photographer
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Indirapuram's very own nature photographer

Pankaj Kumar Datta, a GC Centrum resident, always had an eye for patterns and designs in nature. But it was only when his son gifted him a camera that he discovered his passion and talent.

Indirapuram's very own nature photographer Pankaj Kumar Datta at home, in front of a collection of his framed photos

We may not be living in the Renaissance period, but there is no dearth of talent in the world today. It's just that they take a back seat in the rat race. There are a lucky few, however, who choose to swim against the tide. Pankaj Kumar Datta, a resident of GC Centrum in Ahinsa Khand II, Indirapuram, is one of them.

A retired employee of Steel Authority of India (SAIL), he is a nature photographer and has more than 50 framed photographs in his repertoire.

We spoke to him about his passion for patterns and pictures.

What inspired you to take up photography?

I used to take a chartered bus to the SAIL office in Dwarka, and I always used to occupy the third-row window seat. From there I used to watch the world go by, observing patterns and designs in nature that I otherwise wouldn't have. That was when I started to look at nature more closely. But it was only when my son bought me my first camera, a shiny Sony Cyber-Shot, eight years ago that my photography started to take shape. Many of my pictures have been clicked on this route.

How do you decide on a location or an angle for your photograph?

If a particular formation or a pattern in nature caught my eye, I would note down its location. I waited for the day I got my first camera, and went on a road trip with my family to click pictures of these. Many times I have even found a new angle after developing the picture.

How are your photographs different from those clicked by others?

Photographs can do various things — some tell stories, some make you think and some are just illusions. But my pictures do none of these things. They are just representations of life and emotions. One does not necessarily have to think about these images; one can just feel them.

Tell us about the first photograph you took.

One of my earliest pictures was an abstract that I had taken on a family trip. My wife and kids wondered what was going on in my head, but gradually they, too, started to see things like I did.


A few images from Pankaj Kumar Datta's collection


Can your images be classified or grouped?

They can. I have broadly divided them into Bhakti Rasa, which deals with religion and spirituality; Khajuraho, which depicts womanhood, expressions and animals; and Lighting Delights, which is mainly a collection of images shot at night.

How many images do you have in your collection?

I have more than 50 framed shots, which I have shown in a few exhibitions. There are many more others on my computer hard drive.

Are phone cameras any good for clicking nature images? 

Nowadays, everyone has access to phone cameras, which are often pretty high-quality. But they have mainly become tools for self-admiration, not a means to capture nature's beauty. 

Do you face any challenges as a photographer?

Developing pictures and making them presentable is a huge challenge. From printing to framing, each shot can cost about Rs 700. It's a huge expense, given that it is not a primary source of income for me.


APJ Abdul Kalam's message (left page) on Datta's visitor book


What are the achievements you are particularly proud of? 

There are two incidents I'm going to remember fondly for my whole life. First, receiving appreciation from former president of India APJ Abdul Kalam. He wrote very generous words in my visitor book — it was a matter of great pride and honour for me. Secondly, I remember this one time at an exhibition where a woman actually prayed in front of the image of a tree I had clicked that resembled Lord Ganesha. 

Which camera do you use now?

I recently graduated from my point-and-shoot Cyber-Shot to a Nikon D3100 DSLR.

Did you take any photography courses?

No, but I still have a lot to learn. I am still figuring out how to handle my DSLR.

Since some of your pictures can come across as a little abstract, have you ever felt that not everyone can understand them?

Everybody who takes a close look at my photographs takes away a different meaning from them. There are, of course, some who don't care about what the images may represent. That's it — and that's the beauty of abstract art. It means different things for different people. I have seen, however, that children are the most keen observers. They can imagine and see a lot of things that adults don't.