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After Hours: Capturing life as it happens – Amrita Dey

To Amrita Dey, Group Head Copy, Isobar, pictures are a means to time travel and look at life through her own unique lens. A travel photographer, Dey says how her life changed when she stumbled upon a few black and white pictures

Amrita Dey

(This is a weekly series on advertising professionals who have enriched their own lives and their audiences as performing musicians, artists, painters, actors, singers, mime artists. We will bring a new adman-performer every Thursday.)

Amrita Dey, Group Head Copy, Isobar, wants to give all the credit for her interest in photography to her father. An avid mountaineer, Dey’s father used to do photography for Hindustan Unilever Limited.

“One day I happened to open the wardrobe and see all these black and white pictures. I asked him who had clicked all those pictures and he said it was him. I was really shocked, to say the least.”

Once Dey discovered the pictures, she started taking photographs by herself on her father’s Olympia camera. But her father did not really take her under his wings and start teaching her until much later.

“When I started showing interest in photography very strongly, he started teaching me about proper framing and composition.”

Dey has not had any formal training in photography and everything she knows, she has learned from her father, her photographer friends and by dabbling with her camera on her own.

“I have a lot of friends who do photography professionally. They help me a lot. Usually I would treat one of them and take them to places like Dhobi Ghat or Sanjay Gandhi National Park for a photography session and in the process learn from them.”

According to Dey, photography enthusiasts have a lot more options to hone their skills now than she had back when she started to take an interest in photography.

“Right now, there are lot of photography clubs which wasn’t the case 10-15 years back. When we were in college there were hardly any photography clubs. Obviously, internet wasn’t a thing back then and it was not easy to buy a lens or even get reviews. One didn’t know where to go and who to speak to. That isn’t the case today. Today, you can just go click search. For example, Nikon takes these classes where they teach people for free.”

A travel photographer, for Dey, travel photography is not restricted by an airplane ticket.

“Travel photography comes a lot more easily to me because one automatically becomes a different person when they travel somewhere. So, when you travel, everything that you see becomes a visual and frame in itself. The pictures turn out a lot better because all of your heart and mind is there and you are not thinking of the life you left behind. Also, you don’t have to try too hard to make travel photography look good because the places are in themselves beautiful,” laughs Dey.

Pablo Bartholomew, Leena Kejriwal and Steve McCurry are some of Dey’s favourite photographers but unlike her idols she doesn’t intend to take up photography as a profession.

“According to me, the day I decide to monetise my love for photography, my thinking will change. I don’t want the commercial viability to come in. I want to keep it as an expression of myself.”

Speaking about the value that her passion for photography brings to advertising, Dey said, “When you are working in advertising and if you have to write about happiness or a mother-daughter relationship, all you have to do is go back to a picture that you have and it instantly transports you back to that time and how you felt at that particular point in time. The incredible ability of a photograph to function as a time machine helps me bring a lot of authenticity to my work.”

Speaking about her favourite click so far, Dey recounts her recent trip to Bhutan and a picture of a Buddha statute she took there.

“Bhutan is such a picturesque country and everywhere you look, there is a frame. A few kilometres from Thimphu there is this huge Buddha statue. It is gigantic and can almost replace a mountain. I really like the picture. I clicked that statue because it always helps me keep calm.”

So, what does photography really mean to you?

“To me photography is beauty. It can replace my collection of poems, it can replace my favourite books and it can replace every other beautiful thing in my house and my life.”

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