Prabuddha Dasgupta (b. 1956; d. 2012)
Considered one of India’s foremost commercial and fine art photographers, Prabuddha Dasgupta is best known for his fashion campaigns and celebrity photoshoots. He is notable for his provocative and artistically innovative imagery, as well as for his instrumental role in inventing an aesthetic of glamour in India during the early 1990s.
Though never formally trained in photography, Dasgupta spent a large part of his childhood around art. From his father, sculptor Prodosh Dashgupta, he gained an appreciation for the classical expressions of the human form in sculpture — mythological figures in Italian marble, Hindu deities cast in stone in Cambodia, and Prodosh’s own studies sculpted using live models. These influences are particularly evident in his photographic studies of nudes. Other major influences included painters Amrita Shergill and Raja Ravi Verma, and their iconic portrayals of the female form.
Dasgupta began his career as a full-time photographer in the 1980s, following a career as a copywriter in an advertising agency. Working with some of the leading models and brands at the time, Dasgupta’s most iconic images come out of his work for advertising. Of these, the most controversial was an image from 1995 for a sneaker campaign, featuring two models, entwined and photographed in the nude, posing in the shoes with a python dangling off their shoulders. The image led to a long-drawn court case. Following the episode, Dasgupta released his first book, Women (1996), a body of work featuring photographs and nudes of urban Indian women brought together to represent the complexities of female sexuality and the collective social response to it.
Vastly different from the glamorous images of advertising and fashion, Dasgupta’s later publications present more intimate facets of his personal work. Ladakh (2000) is a collection of picturesque landscapes and portraits from the region, while Edge of Faith (2007), co-authored with historian William Dalrymple, is an intimate portrait of the Catholic community in Goa. His artistry, as presented through his oeuvre as a fashion photographer, was recognised by the Yves Saint Laurent grant for photography in 1991. He held his first solo show titled Longing in 2007 at the Bodhi Art Gallery, New York, USA.
Dasgupta passed away in Alibaug, Maharashtra in 2012. Inspired by his work, the theme for the Delhi Photo Festival the following year was “Grace.” In 2015, the National Gallery of Modern Art, Bengaluru, held a retrospective on his practice, titled Prabuddha Dasgupta: A Journey.
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Jha, Raj Kamal. “Barely Art.” India Today. April 15, 1996. https://www.indiatoday.in/magazine/society-the-arts/books/story/19960415-book-review-prabuddha-das-gupta-women-833128-1996-04-15.
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Nair, Uma. “Prabuddha Dasgupta: India’s Avedon.” Times of India. August 13, 2012. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/plumage/india-s-avedon/
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Wadhera, Piyush. "Whatever You Do, Don't Become an Artist: Revisiting Prabuddha Dasgupta." The Wire. 28 September, 2015. https://thewire.in/culture/whatever-you-do-dont-become-an-artist-revisiting-prabuddha-dasgupta.