I was born in 1965 in Kathmandu, Nepal to an artist caste(* In lieu of the recent massive earthquake in Nepal, please donate what you can. I was in Kathmandu when the earthquake hit and the whole country and it’s people are devastated). My last name, ‘Chitrakar’ means image-maker in Sanskrit. Although my immediate family stopped being artists, I had/have close relatives who are painters, sculptors and photographers. So I was exposed to art from an early age.
I got my BA from The University of Maine in 1995.I majored in Painting. I traveled for several years and ended up settling down in Portland, Oregon, USA. It is in Portland, that I started to seriously pursue photography.
How and when did you become interested in photography?
As a child, I was interested in photography but never pursued it until much later. I studied Painting in college and did paintings for a few years afterwards. In my thirties, I traveled a lot and it was too cumbersome to carry paint supplies around, so I stopped painting. But my artistic self was not happy. In order to find my joy again, I took up photography, since it is more conducive than painting for travel. I took a job at a commercial photography printing shop. We did mostly color prints. One day, someone brought in a few rolls of black and white film. When I was done developing them, I viewed the negatives and I was blown away by the tonality and clarity of black and white film. That was about 10 years ago. Since then, I have focused on black and white film for my work and haven’t looked back.
Is there any artist/photographer who inspired your art?
There are many artists/photographers that I admire and inspire me. Among photographers, Edward Weston is my favorite.
Why do you work in black and white rather than colour?
Aha, the million dollar question! Black and white is more soulful than color. Let’s leave it at that. 🙂
How much preparation do you put into taking a photograph/series of photographs?
Since I shoot film there is quite a bit of prep that goes even before I leave the house; all the way from defrosting the film, to loading and cleaning and checking the camera equipment. I subscribe to the idea of “Pre-visualization”, so if I see something interesting, I first study it for a bit to figure out what is possible. If I think and feel that there is a worthwhile image than I set up my camera and take the photograph. I work in various formats; 35mm, MF, 4 x 5 and 8 x10. As the formats progress from 35 mm to 8 x 10, the prep work and time/effort it takes to set up the camera grows exponentially.
I develop my own film because I can control how what happens with the contrast, brightness and sharpness of the photograph, plus it is cheaper to do it myself than taking it to a commercial lab. I also do most of my own printing in the darkroom On occasion, I have had my negatives professionally drum-scanned and digitally printed.
Where is your photography going? What projects would you like to accomplish?
That is a very interesting question for me right now. I just got back from a 6 month tour of Asia. I hardly did any photography while I was there. This was a conscious decision on my part. The reason for that is because I was/am interested in seeing whether I would get new insights and a different perspective by only absorbing and not taking photographs. I am just recently back from the trip and am still processing and not able to clarify what is on my mind.