Known for his brilliant approach towards photography, Chanchal Mahmood is one of the prominent faces in the photography industry of Bangladesh. He is best known for Model photography, but he prefers to introduce himself as a photographer, teacher and a journalist the most. He recently talked about his childhood, career in photography and many more in an exclusive interview with The Design Magazine. The excerpt of the interview is as follow:
How did you enter the world of photography?
I was born on 13 March in 1958. I had two brothers who died at their young age. I was a very curious child. There was an incident I can remember. I always used to wonder where the sounds came from while listening to radio. One day when my parents were not home, I dismantled the radio dashboard to find the source of the sounds. I was grounded by my father for this later.
I used to dismantle my toy cars often brought by my father when he returned to Bangladesh from abroad. My father locked those cars because of that.
So one day I got angry. I told my father that what was the use of those toys if I could not play with them or dismantle them to see what was inside? I said, ‘I don’t need them’!
Then I grow my liking for drawing. In fact, I wanted to be a painter. But my father did not let me do so. Incidentally, Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin was my father’s childhood friend. Baba wanted me to be an engineer. All parents at that time used to think that one of their two children would be an engineer and another- a doctor! Students joined in fine arts faculty of Dhaka University after passing Secondary School Certificate (SSC) exam at the time. One of my friends advised me to perform poorly in the admission test of Dhaka College so that I could opt for fine arts which would be the only option left for me.
I scored poorly in the admission test but to no avail. My elder brother was clever enough to find what exactly happened. He informed my father about it and my father then talked to a teacher of the fine arts and requested him that I could not get the admission in the institution. The teacher then asked me what we used to paint. I replied, we used colour. He then asked me to paint with lights. He meant camera.
I was fortunate that I met a lot of creative people in my life. I was very creative since my childhood. And the obstacle in studying painting is another reason I opted for Photography. Photography is a prestigious profession. For instance, I used to buy jhalmuri (local snacks) from a street vendor daily. He, one day, ran to hug me as he saw me on a TV programme. He didn’t know I was a photographer. Photography brings changes to people’s life and society. I have been living my life in this world of lens and lights for 64 years. You can reveal a story of hundred pages through one single image.
Tell us about your first camera…
It was a Yashica. I bought in 1968. It is still with me.
How do you define photography?
Photography is the bridge that connects the world.
What is your advice for an upcoming photographer?
Youngsters these days are very fortunate that their parents ask them about their passions and desired professions. The picture wasn’t the same at our time. Many young people come to me and say they want to be professional photographers.
My advice to them is to be disciplined first. I see youngsters often sit in computers late night. It must stop. There are many graduate students who do part-time job. Photography is not an odd job. You cannot lose hope or be jealous while doing photography.
Which genre of photography you like the most?
People know me for model photography. But, I do not want to be limited in one category though. There are many types of photography, such as, advertising, fashion, photo journalism, commercial photography, aerial photography, industrial photography and many many more. I want to and I do explore in all of them.
Who is your favourite photographer?
My teacher Manzoor Alam Beg, Anwar Hossain and Raghu Rai.
What do you like other than photography?
There are many. Music, painting, long drive, street food, soup, sea food and what not. I am a happy man, you can say. I had to go through a lot to live this life. We have a very poised life. Simple and poised, you see!