Megha Majumar

Interview by Julia Sokol

Julia Sokol: Tell me about your project.

Megha Majudmar: I started out just doing street photography – I didn’t really have a theme – I just wanted to take pictures of people. But when I looked at the images, I saw that a lot of the ones I was most interested in had a certain feeling of loneliness or solitude, rather than just being regular portraits. So now the project has shaped up to be an observation of loneliness in an urban environment.

JS: Did you have a focus for the project? People, places, etc?

MM: Not exactly. I feel like the editing began even before I took the pictures – I just walked around a lot and took pictures of whatever struck me. I realized that the sense of place was very important – the mood of a place, or the people who pass by in that place and what they do to the place.

JS: How did you pick the places where you went to photograph?

MM: The only criteria I used was “not Harvard square.” So I went to Fresh Pond, Alewife, Central Square, the commuter train station in Porter. I went to Boston as well – the downtown, Beacon Hill, Chinatown areas – but none of those pictures ended up being that interesting, they just didn’t have the feelings that I was looking for.

JS: What is it about those places you went to that have the feeling?

MM: Alewife was very interesting because it was very empty – just an area around a highway, and there was a huge abandoned building. It was very different form Harvard Square, where there are so many people walking around all the time. It just had the sense of something abandoned, like a place that only exists for people in transit. There was nothing joyful or active or animated there. Central Square was different – very lively, lots of people – but people of different kinds, not the type you see in Harvard Square.

JS: Besides the subject, what else did you think about when taking the photos?

MM: I mostly thought about what the photograph will look like afterwards. Because often you see things with your eyes and you think they’re interesting, but after you see the photograph you realize that there is something you couldn’t capture. What you saw has been left behind and you weren’t able to pick it and place it in the picture. So I tried to imagine seeing each scene as a photograph, and to think about how it would affect me later.

JS: What do you expect the viewer to get from the photos?

MM: I hope that the photographs convey some sense of being alone in a city. That they create some place that is quiet and solitary, where you can look at single things, things alone. Sometimes the city is not all just happy bustling – there is a quietness that exists below that.

JS: What was the most important part of the experience of working on this project or photographing in general?

MM: I am glad that I had something that motivated me to ask people on the street to take their pictures. It’s easy to shy away from that and to take photos of them when they’re not looking, or just take photos of objects. Approaching people and asking them to take their picture took a bit of effort for me, but I’m glad I did it.

JS: Why do you like street photography?

MM: It seems important to me to document what people do. When I’m writing I also tend to write about ordinary people doing ordinary everyday things. I prefer to look at unremarkable people and places; it seems to me that later these will be the important things to remember.

JS: Are there any specific photographers whose work you were inspired by?

MM: I really like Henri Cartier-Bresson and Sebastião Salgado; both of them took very effective photographs that resonated with me. But I think that to be inspired by somebody is else means just to feel some sort of envy and desire to create something with a similar effect, rather than having the content of their photos influence my own thinking. It’s just the unspoken thing that is conveyed by the photographer that makes you think “I want to touch people like that.”


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