Drishti Photography/Collectivitea

My goal for Collectivitea is to widen the focus to the people behind a brand, studio or organization- their journey, why they do what they do- essentially, their story. Today, I want to introduce you to Tania Chatterjee. I first came across her on Instagram. She is a photographer, and runs Drishti Photography that offers everything from portraits, to wedding and event photography. The pictures are rich and evocative of a more elegant and glamorous time; they easily capture the romance between colors and textures. As a photographer myself, I was intrigued, doubly so because of this description, “Tania is a public health geek by day, and a photographer by night. A trained Indian Classical Dancer, Tania has been learning and performing Bharatanatyam, a dance form that originated in Southern India, since she was six. Tania hopes to use her public health training to pursue a career in women’s reproductive health, while keeping up with photography and dance, and pursuing her dreams of world travel.

Tania Chaterjee/Collectivitea
I reached out to Tania to ask her about her photography, and to hear about how she balances her creativity and the academic aspects of her work. Did one energize the other? One of my pet theories is that a training in the sciences and an interest in the creative arts are somehow greatly intertwined. What follows is a fascinating story! Because of the length, I’ve split the article into 2 parts. Here’s part 1 in Tania’s own words where she talks about following a creative path…

“I’ve been creative for as long as I can remember – as a child, I would constantly be drawing, making crafts, and designing things with my ever-growing imagination. Now, as a young adult, the urge to create things hasn’t lessened – in fact, it’s grown into a passion, and my imagination is no less active than it was before! I’ve been so lucky that my parents and family, both of whom have a passion and appreciation for the arts, always nurtured my love for the arts and encouraged me to let that love grow.”

Tania Chatterjee/Photo credit: Shantanu Bagchi

“I started learning Bharatanatyam, a form of Indian Classical Dance, when I was six years old and lived in New Delhi. At first, I just did it just to do it, because all my friends did it. I wasn’t particularly good at it, and always felt like I was left in the shadows as my friends, who were better dancers, danced in the spotlight. But one day, something clicked and there was no looking back from there! In the last several years, following my arangetram, I’ve found a huge passion for choreographing and directing. I love creating something out of nothing – creating a mood with costumes, lighting, set design, choreography, and music. Dance to me is the deepest form of expression – using your whole body, your whole being to tell a story without saying a single word.”

Tania Chaterjee/Collectivitea

“If dance was my first love, photography is my second. I picked up a digital camera in the summer of 2006 on a trip to New York City, and from there it’s been a whirlwind of experiments that eventually turned into a small business. To me, photography is so similar to dance in a the way that you can tell an entire story within one frame, without having to say a word, and your audience can interpret your work with their own imagination and their own story. In this way, photography lives on in endless forms, with endless stories, with the endless beauty of interpretation. I love that with photography, moments that are fleeting, details that might otherwise become muddled in our memories, are preserved forever. I love that photography means chasing the light and finding beauty everywhere – in both ordinary and extraordinary happenings.

Tania Chaterjee/Collectivitea

“As I said before, my imagination is hyperactive, 24/7. At any given moment, I have several ongoing stories in my head (some of which I’ve written down, and who knows maybe I’ll publish them one day!). Whenever I hear a particularly moving piece of music, in my head I’m already choreographing steps to it. I indulge in my creativity in as many ways as possible besides photography and dance – through cooking, fashion and music, through film and art and literature. I love to surround myself with beautiful things, with other creatives, and with work that inspires me. I love exploring and traveling to new places – something that I don’t always get to do, but am working on making a priority in the near future. Oh, and I absolutely LOVE Pinterest – for me, it’s a perfectly curated collection of things that I find beautiful – bold colours, all things desi, textiles, good food, fashion, travel and nature. Whenever I need a visual break from the world, you’ll find me on Pinterest, and somehow seeing all those beautiful things in one place always makes me feel better and recharges my imagination.”

Tania Chatterjee/Drishti Photography/Collectivitea

“From when I was quite young, I’ve said to anyone and everyone who’d listen that when I retire, I’d like to live in India (preferably with several adorable and fluffy dogs) as a photographer + cook + fashion designer. I’d also be a mysterious author writing riveting stories under an appropriately mysterious pseudonym, and of course I’d be traveling the world and photographing exotic and faraway lands. Given my vivid imagination, young adult me hasn’t let go of this dream yet – who knows, maybe it’ll become a reality one day! I would certainly like to think that it will.”

Drishti Photography/Collectivitea

“Outside of my creative endeavors, in the academic world, I focus on sexual and reproductive health, with a particular interest in public health, HIV, and women’s health. My academic life has been a very interesting journey so far, on a path that seemed long and winding – but it all ended up with where I am today, and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve spent the last year working as a certified HIV Counselor, and have been volunteering and working with several reproductive health organizations to further my training and knowledge. This path may seem odd to some people, especially in the desi community – but that just tells me that there is so much work to be done in this field, not just in the desi communities, but worldwide.”- Tania Chatterjee .. to be contd. Stay tuned for Part 2 of Tania’s story! Update: Part 2 is here!

All images are courtesy of Tania Chatterjee. Image credits: 1.,2., 5., 6., and 7. are taken by Tania Chatterjee, Drishti Photography;  3. Shantanu Bagchi; 4. Utpal Dasgupta

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