In Conversation with Mushroom the Photograper’s Circle

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Images are much more than a simple record. Photography allows us to express ourselves through an art form. We notice a beautiful landscape or children playing and we want to capture it. Each of us has a different reason to do so but, essentially, we want to create something. Photos can express joy and sorrow, wonder and sympathy. Every human emotion can be encapsulated in photography. Millions of people sharing their images on photo-sharing sites and social media is the testimony of the power that photography beholds. This has paved way for different photography clubs who have increasingly proven that photography can be one of the best forms to discover one ownself. The opportunity to meet and network with many like-minded people makes these clubs unique and special. One such photography club is Bhubaneswar-based ‘Mushroom The Photographer’s Circle.’ Set up in 2013, the club serves a multitude of purposes- conducting photography workshops, seminars, exhibitions, theme-based competitions, photowalks and interact with experienced shutterbugs. Now it has become an institution by itself having already completed five successful years in the industry. As a passionate and ambitious photography club, Mushroom aims to make photography accessible to everyone in the state and outside.

It all started when four like-minded friends decided to form a photography club with an objective to unite both novice and experienced photographers and promote photography as a hobby and profession across the state. “Though we all previously belonged to different professions, the love for camera brought us together. Several photography clubs thrived in the city but they were mostly scattered. There was a need to form a professional club that dedicatedly worked towards photography. Thus Mushroom Photographer’s Circle took shape in 2013 with the efforts of Sanjit Pattnaik, Jitendra Pati, Madhumay Mallick and I,” reminisces Sumon Sinha.

Subsequently the club grew and new members joined in. What started off with only four members currently boasts of over 80 novice and experienced photographers. “Initially we had our own share of challenges. Many thought ours was just like any other ordinary photography club. But nobody knew that we had an objective, a vision, a dream- to promote photography as a creative form of art. So it took us time to create awareness and we are glad that we have succeeded in our efforts,” said Sanjit Pattnaik.

Behind the photography club is a team of accomplished professionals who are highly passionate about not only photography but also popular in their  respectives genres of photography. Between them they carry decades of experience and they use it to realize the objective of the club. While some are hugely active in weddings and wildlife photoshoots, others are nationally acclaimed photographers. “The diversity in the team is our biggest strength. This helps us to know about each others work very well,” says Mr. Pattnaik.

“We are a very multicultural group and wholeheartedly welcome every individual having a passion for photography. Probably this is the only criteria to get inducted in our team. (Laughs) The members get an opportunity to interact with photographers with varied experiences and thereby grow as a photographer themselves,” says Jitendra Pati, adding that there are several members in the team who have left their jobs only to pursue photography.

“We usually do not endorse the process of classroom teaching in photography here. Rather we believe in the power of sharing and exchange of knowledge and ideas. This has motivated us to regularly organize workshops wherein the participants get an opportunity to interact with the whos-who of the industry,” says Mr. Pattnaik. The photography club also organizes monthly photowalks and outings from the past five years with a purpose to unite the photographers from across the city and thereby capture the unexplored. Photography competitions on varied themes are held every month to encourage the amateur and professional photographers both.

Notably, the photography club organizes one of the biggest photography exhibitions of the state, Drishtiraaga. The event is held every year with an objective to promote photography as an art form, exchange and share knowledge and techniques of photography, conduct competitions, workshops, photowalks and many more. During the exhibition, the photos on varied themes like nature, wildlife, street, portraits, etc. that are captured by the shutterbugs are displayed for public view. Interestingly, several photographers of national and international repute are also invited to impart technical sessions to amateur photographers and hone their skills. The event has grown from strength to strength over the last five years drawing scores of photographers, photo-journalists, photo-enthusiasts and general public. There are plans to include a separate segment for videographers too in the future.

Every year, the photography club celebrates World Photography Day by visiting orphanages and spending quality time with the disadvantaged. Seminars and workshops on photography are also organized at different educational institutions in a bid to bring youngsters closer to the world of photography.

The photography club should be credited for the growing popularity for photography among youngsters in the state. “It gives us immense pleasure when we see that our efforts have directly or indirectly spurred the wave of photography in the city and outside. Today everyone is passionate about photography. It doesn’t matter whether you are an amateur or a pro in photography, capturing the best moments and keeping it treasured forever remains the top priority for everyone. It is interesting to see how the young shutterbugs are weaving stories through their photos which is truly satisfying! I believe this has been the outcome of our constant hard work, dedication and commitment for the past five years,” Mr. Sinha quoted.

One of the active members, Siddharth says, “I joined the photography club in 2014 after one of my friend who was already a member of  Mushroom, insisted me to join. Though I owned a DSLR camera, I never used it frequently due to my professional assignments. After joining Mushroom, I found that I have not only evolved as a photographer but my skills have been sharpened. Inspired by this development, I decided to quit my profession in 2016 and since then I have been doing photography professionally.”

It is pertinent to mention here that Mushroom has been able to build a strong network of photographers from across the country. This has helped the photography club to reach every nook and corner and promote their activities aggressively. The club members have come up with a novel thought of uploading small videos on photography on their website and different social channels to create awareness on Mushroom and its member’s activities.

Mr. Sinha feels the camaraderie among the members and a strong determination to promote photography in the state has got the club this far. “People still get confused how our club has survived in the age of digital media. Though we have witnessed the shutting down of several photography clubs, ours has always sailed through the tide of hardships and struggles. This itself is a huge milestone for us,” he said adding that during the initial days people confused our club with a mushroom production company. (Laughs) “We used to get flooded with calls and inquiries on mushrooms, their rate chart and sale. It seemed funny to us back then but with time we took it as a challenge and worked very hard to discard the wrong perceptions that people had about our club,”said he.

While woman photographers have been shattering the glass ceiling today, the photography club hopes to inspire many young woman take up photography. “Initially we had a few women photographers in our team but their numbers never really grew. This was a disturbing trend for us. In the coming days, we would like to have many young female photographers in our club as they bring more diversity to photohraphy,” says Mr. Pati. He also pointed out regarding the turmoil that photographers have gone through over the last few years. He said the meteoric rise of digital media has certainly benefited the world of photography but the photographers have always been the soft target. Despite any ill intentions they are either trolled or brought under the purview of law unnecessarily. On the other hand he expressed happiness that in many incidents certain pictures have united the people for a cause.

The photographer quartet rues the declining popularity of tourism in the state among the tourists. Given the depth of tourism potential the state has, they feel the government has a vital role to play here. “Photography and tourism go hand in hand. Unless and until the photographers are not encouraged to capture the beauty of innumerable tourists spots of Odisha, the tourism sector will never see an upward trend. Today travellers go online to plan their holidays, destinations or accommodations. Security is also a major factor. Many photographers do not even dare to risk their lives fearing attack by the locals. In that case the government should involve the photographers and provide them all-possible support to promote tourism,” Mr. Pattnaik said.

The photography club members sounded ambitious when asked regarding their future plans. “Our ultimate aim is to promote photography in the state as much as possible. But before that we would certainly like to see our members to get recognized nationally and internationally and we are striving every day to achieve that goal. There are several other pioneering initiatives that we would like to undertake in the interest of photography in the near future. We envision Mushroom- The Photographer’s Circle emerging as the leader in the world of photography in the country in future,” Mr.Sinha signs off.

By Subhojit Panda

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