Ever since I had developed an interest in photography I have heard seniors talking about Kumortuli Photo Walk, initially there were very few who ventured out to the lanes and by lanes of Kumortuli but recently this has become the place for photographers to test their skills.
Not knowing what to expect I simply avoided going to Kumortuli and honestly never found a right set of likeminded friends who would come along for a photo walk here.
Off late my new blogger buddies Indrajit Das and Sumit Surai invited me for a Kumortuli Photo Walk on 26th of September 2015. The plan was to start early, this was done to avoid the crowd of photographers who throng to Kumortuli on weekends. We decided to start the walk at around 7 AM since very few would actually come at that time and our group could have a field day.
On the said day I reached Sovabazar Sutanuti Metro Station at around five minutes past 7 and soon was joined by Sumit followed by Indrajit. Got introduced to two more photographers Santanu Pyne and Dipro Jit who are well known to Sumit and Indrajit but were new to me, the best thing about photography is that you do not need to know the other person for long just the reason of photography can make you buddies instantly.
Location of Kumortuli
We reached Bonomali Sarkar Street which was just a ten minute walk from the metro station, the moment you enter this place you are taken aback by the sheer size of this micro industry. Everywhere you look you will find small house with attached studio where potters/artists are carving face from a stack of mud and clay. The more famous artists have a bigger studio whereas the smaller ones have just a shed from where they somehow manage to live and work.
I learnt a funny thing about Kumortuli, this place has been hypothetically divided into two sections, the northern side known as East Bengal Section and the southern side known as Mohunbagan Section. Logically these do not make sense but out here logic is long forgotten in the maze of lanes and by lanes. As a photographer you need to buy a photography permit which can be easily purchased from the local association office, you can buy the day pass or the season pass depending on your requirement. According to the local association office the money received from these photography permits are used for development purpose of the Kumortuli artisans.
Rules for Visiting Kumortuli
The rules are very simple which one needs to follow while photographing here:-
- Ask permission before entering a studio.
- Remember most of these studio also have attached house where the family members stay thus please maintain a decorum once inside a studio.
- Most of the studio have narrow passage thus one needs to be extra careful while moving around, especially if you have a camera backpack you have to be careful.
- Do not use sudden flash on an artist, they might get blinded by the sudden light and can cause distraction.
- Engage in soft conversation with an artist, most of them feel happy if you ask about their forefathers and about their trade.
- If you do not get a verbal response from an artist do not force him, just move on to the next one.
- If you are in a group try to fix a limit of 5 – 6 person per group, anything above that will create commotion and often will not yield any result.
Idol Making at Kumortuli
We were lucky that in our group we had a member who knew a studio well, this was the same studio who delivers the Durga Idol to his locality thus were very well known to him. We could easily go around the studio and follow them painstakingly create a structure out of straw, bamboo and clay.
Kumortuli is more like a labyrinth, sometimes I wonder how they manage to take out the huge idols out of these studio and into the lanes from where they are loaded on to trucks. One thing that struck me were the bottles filled with Ujala (Indigo Blue) and kept outside every door, this according to the locals keeps the dog away from defecating. Surprised but according to them it worked like a charm.
Not only idols but this place is also famous for its sculptures of famous politicians and freedom fighters, all around you will find fiberglass casts of these. Out here the potters/artists use clay, plaster of paris, fiberglass and polystyrene so you will find these various types of artists all around Kumortuli practising their art. The best way to enjoy these creations would be to sit outside a studio and watch these master craftsman in their best form. Make sure you have time in your hand as these take time and lots of patience.
When we were there the idols were in different state of creation, some were almost complete while some were just a bundle of straw wrapped around a bamboo structure and some were in the process of getting a second coat of clay paint.
A photo walk around kumotuli can be very tiring so remember to carry a bottle of water and a sun hat, apart from this what is most needed is tons of patience and a sense of anticipation. I am sure I am now addicted to this place and will keep visiting to see the different stages of creation.
Almost forgot, there are tons of snacks shops all around this place, I will surely recommend puri and sabzi along with hot gulab jamuns. Goodbye for now and keep visiting my blog.