At the age of four, he took his father’s DSLR to take a few snaps in Santiniketan. That’s how it all began for the 19-year-old Pubarun Basu, who recently became the Youth Photographer of the Year at Sony World Photography Awards.
The competition, organised by the World Photography Organisation, was meant for the age group of 12 to 19 years.
A South Point High School alumnus, Pubarun won the award for his image No Escape from Reality, clicked inside his bedroom during the lockdown.
In the photo, the shadows of railings projected onto curtains create an illusion of cage bars from behind which a pair of hands are seen as if trying to break through. The illusion of shadows and the gesture of hands convey a sense of entrapment shared by so many in the past year.
“It’s an honour to be adjudged the Youth Photographer of the Year. In the contest, I could see some extraordinary snapshots taken by my fellow competitors from around the world,” said Pubarun, who is pursuing English honours at The Bhawanipur Education Society College.The World Photography Organisation, based in London, has been holding the contest for the last 14 years. There are four categories — Professional, Open, Student and Youth. In the Youth one, the budding shutterbugs can submit one photograph every month from July to December, and the organisation announces a winner at the end of every month. Then all the six winners vie for the Youth Photographer of the Year award that is announced in April the following year. This time, all the four categories received more than three lakh photographs.
Pubarun was never formally trained in photography. His father Pranab Basu is both his teacher and inspiration. “I’m privileged to have a brilliant photographer in my family — my father. He never taught me formally but gave advice regarding exposure, framing, manual settings and so on,” he said.
Incidentally, Basu is a professional photographer. He feels: “It is quite difficult to gain appreciation out of a conceptual body of work. Hence, it fills me with pleasure to see Pubarun’s creativity receiving so much love from all over the world.”
As a tiny tot, Pubarun had once clicked a few photos of kalabou snan, a Durga Puja ritual, at Bagbazar Ghat near his residence. On seeing those, Pranab bought him a point-and-shoot camera. Initially, Pubarun used to take birds’ photos with it.
In school, too, Pubarun used to cover all the events. While studying in Class IX, he got access to his father’s high-end cameras.
Later, he started clicking photos while taking an evening stroll. “There are plenty of subjects to capture — setting sun on the Hooghly river, tramlines, rail tracks, north Calcutta lanes — all fascinating moments,” said Pubarun, who wants to do masters in fine arts abroad.
At 15, Pubarun got an entry into an online National Geographic community. Though it doesn’t allow
anyone below 18 as a member, his case was exceptional. His 13 photographs were selected as Editor’s Favourite in the community in a single year. “It was my first achievement. I was overwhelmed to see my photographs getting selected by a community so esteemed,” he said.
A couple of Pubarun’s photographs were also published in the Daily Dozen, an online forum of National Geographic, in 2018. The BBC also published his photograph online as Reader’s Picture of the Year 2018.