Retrospective exhibition of Prabuddha Dasgupta’s works

The late fashion photographer was known for his raw and tasteful portrayal of the female body

A retrospective exhibition titled ’Prabuddha Dasgupta: A Journey’ is on display at National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), Vasanth Nagar. 

You will find a black-and-white photo of Prabuddha Dasgupta holding a camera at the entrance, which is probably the way he would have liked to be remembered.  

You will also find a note, a confession of sorts, from him, explaining his love for documenting the female body. 

Born to sculptors Prodosh and Kamala Dasgupta in 1956, Prabuddha Dasgupta spent the better part of his youth at the NGMA in Delhi where his father held the position of director in the 1970s. It is here that he first encountered Amrita Sher-Gil’s paintings. The images of beautiful women, “dark-skinned, with haunting eyes and upturned breasts”, inspired him. After a short attempt at pursuing a career as a historian, he picked up the camera and turned the lens towards women.

He started out as an advertising professional and a fashion photographer. He worked with major brands, supermodels, and glossy magazines. His photos are meant not to titillate, but are sensuous, subtly so, arousing you ever so slightly.  His camera zoomed into the face or other parts of the body and showed women writhing in ecstasy, creating images that are almost voyeuristic. The curves of the nude body, the play of light and shadow, the settings — sometimes the bedroom, a hall, or sometimes the beach — all work together to capture your attention, almost daring you to look away.  His works were bold, not because he captured naked bodies, but because of how he captured them. Pregnant bellies and stretch marks, continue to stand proud in his photos. 

His fashion photography never pushed consumerism down your throat; necklaces used as tiaras, a fisherman holding the catch of the day with a diamond chain, or a Louis Vuitton bag and suitcase against the backdrop of
Jama Masjid, his photos were art, and rarely advertisement. He also photographed Ladakh and Hampi, focusing on the vast expanses of the former, and the ruins of the latter. In the last few years of his life, until his unexpected death in 2012, Dasgupta lived in Goa. He photographed the Portuguese community during his time there. He preferred to work with analogue cameras and black-and-white film, only turning to digital photography much later. Only rarely, largely for his work with magazines, did he opt to shoot in colour.

His works will be displayed till January 15 at the NGMA. 

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