Kolkata-Based Photographer Wins Sony's Youth Photographer of the Year 2021 | Nat Geo Traveller India

Kolkata-Based Photographer Wins Sony’s Youth Photographer of the Year 2021

Pubarun Basu’s “No Escape from Reality” led him to become the first Indian to win this title.  
Kolkata-Based Photographer Wins Sony’s Youth Photographer of the Year 2021
Pubarun Basu’s “No Escape From Reality” won him the title of Youth Photographer of the Year 2021 at the Sony World Photography Awards. Photo courtesy: Pubarun Basu

For 20-year-old Pubarun Basu, the lockdown months were spent in search of the perfect photograph. Enrolling in the Sony World Photography Awards 2021, the Kolkata-based photographer set out—figuratively—for the best frame. Incidentally, he found it within his ‘safe space’ itself.

Basu’s photograph, titled “No Escape from Reality”—an apt descriptor for the uncertainty wrought by the pandemic—won him the laurel “Youth Photographer of the Year 2021”, making him the first Indian to win this title.

The theme for that month of the Awards was “Composition & Design”. However for Basu, most solid photographs have good composition and design. He wanted to capture something that would make an impact.

“One sunny afternoon last July, I was loitering around in my parents’ room, when I suddenly noticed that shadows of parallel sunbeams projecting onto the swaying currents. I was reading a lot of philosophy at the time and this frame seemed to justify a certain school of thought—nothing is as it seems and everything is a copy of a copy of a copy,” Basu laughs.

The shot was hand-held. “I asked my mother to stand behind the curtains so I could capture the silhouette of her hands on them. I wanted to frame that moment because to me it portrayed the sense of entrapment that we were (and are still) facing during the lockdown.”

Basu shot the frame through his father’s full-frame camera, a Nikon D800e and used a 16-35mm f4 lens. Like for every artist, the inspiration for the title “No Escape from Reality” came from a place familiar—in this case the lyrics to Queen’s classic: Bohemian Rhapsody.

Living in Baghbazar, one of North Kolkata’s prime and historic neighbourhoods, Basu is treated with a river-side view from his rooftop. A lot of the lockdown months were spent documenting the city at a standstill outside his window, especially after he undertook an intensive course in art photography—“Seeing Through Photographs” from the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). “I’ve never studied for a course this intensely, not even for my boards!” Basu laughs. “It taught me so much, especially the concept that photography came about as a fine art discipline.”

Check out Basu’s work on his instagram page here.


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  • Sanjana Ray is a writer, and also an unwarranted tour guide that people groan about on trips. When she isn't geeking out on travel and history, she can be found walking around the streets, crying for Bengali food.

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