“Darjeeling is the queen of hills,” says photojournalist Aviraj Adhikary on why he chose the Indian hill station for his Aerochrome series. A martial arts expert who’s currently completing a diploma in photography, he tells us why hill stations are the ultimate destination for creatives like himself.
Passion can really drive us to do things we ordinarily wouldn’t. Film stock is getting more expensive than in recent decades, yet a number of us still buy loads of it. And in some countries, a lot of film stock is hard to come by. Such is the case in parts of India. But, this hasn’t stopped Aviraj from getting a lot of film stock for himself by directly importing it from the manufacturers. But the discontinued, elusive Kodak Aerochrome is still hard to source. At the time of writing this article, I can spot a single roll being sold for $500 USD on eBay. When you factor in shipping and customs handling charges, that amounts to an astronomical amount in Indian Rupees. But, as the heart overrules the mind so often in photography, the passion takes over.
Although Aviraj shoots film (and understands the difficulties getting film roll), for this series he shot his images digitally and processed them to get the false infrared look Aerochrome is so famous for.
The Essential Photography Gear Used by Aviraj Adhikary
Aviraj told us:
My camera gear list is simple and very cheap. A digital Nikon D7200 with two prime & a zoom lens and a film (SLR) Minolta SRT 101 also a prime of 50mm 1.4.
In this digital world, no one thinks that film photography is worth it. But for me, the thing is, film photography takes me to the next level. Everyone clicks the shutter first then they decide whether the picture is good or not. On the other hand, I always try to understand the light, exposure, film speed, and situation, then click the shutter. For me, the camera is not a machine gun to fire rapidly. Yea, of course, for wildlife and sports, that kind of photography is needed. But I’m an artist and capture art, so in this case, films help me a lot. The look and feel which come from films are awesome. This helps me to increase my creative side. Fewer frames, but I get the best ones.
— Aviraj Adhikary
The Phoblographer: Hi Aviraj. Please tell us about yourself and how you got into photography.
Aviraj Adhikary: I’m a journalist based in Kolkata, India. Photography is my passion & my genre of photography is pictorial. I’m pursuing a diploma in photography at PAD (Photographic Association of Dum Dum). I’m also a self-defense trainer and two times national gold medallist in Kalarippayattu (Indian martial art).
The Phoblographer: India is a vast country with lush green landscapes. Where did the idea come from to capture this in Aerochrome?
Aviraj Adhikary: I first saw these pink shade trees in a picture by Irish photographer Richard Mosse. Then I went through some research on it, and then I decided that Darjeeling was the best place to capture the landscape. Why Darjeeling? The answer is very simple – Darjeeling is the queen of hills. The pictures which I needed to take were of a green valley. I think it’s the best place where every artist from Bengal wants to live there and create their art. Also, I’ve visited many places in India, and every place is different than another. Every time I’m experiencing it differently, but for my Aerochrome project, Darjeeling was the place that I was searching for.
The Phoblographer: What’s the main idea you’re portraying with this look? Have you received a lot of questions about your approach to these images?
Aviraj Adhikary: I always try to do different kinds of work. This time I was looking for a different kind of landscape idea that the viewers rarely see. This time is the first time I’ve ever tried the Aerochrome look. So, I needed the place to be unique and easily meet my needs. The pictures portray the usual mornings, evenings, and daylight falling in the nature differently.
The Phoblographer: Is it easy to source film there now? What are some of the challenges you face regarding procurement and development?
Aviraj Adhikary: It is very hard for film photography here. In India, films are very costly and are not so easily available in the stores. So, me and my friends who need film rolls and printing papers, we order this directly from the companies themselves. Developing in my darkroom is easy and reliable because the chemicals are easily available.
The Phoblographer: What’s the biggest challenge when photographing these locations?
Aviraj Adhikary: It’s not so challenging for anyone to photograph these spots. But I went there for a trekking trip. Some of the spots are not so easy to reach for regular visitors. These locations are offbeat places, and they are less crowded, so taking pictures is not as difficult compared to tourist spots.
The Phoblographer: Do you have a personal connection to some of these locations?
Aviraj Adhikary: I’m very enthusiastic about visiting great landscapes like this. Because I like to travel and trek a lot. Hill stations are like my second home. Bengali artists love these places because they are like heaven. Who wouldn’t want to visit heaven on the earth?
The Phoblographer: The forests and hill stations of India are some of the most beautiful on the planet, but can be difficult to access in some areas. What can be done to improve this?
Aviraj Adhikary: Many places are not so good in terms of geographical and geopolitical tensions. But it is up to the person who is passionate about exploring new places. Working out every day is good for the mind and body, and it’ll help you visit more places that aren’t easily accessible.