JUPC - My El Dorado
Updated: Sep 1, 2019
I still remember clearly when I met Sil Da in the staff canteen after a week's exchange over Facebook messenger and he took me to AC Canteen's first floor. That was the first day when I entered JUPC. Little did I know that place would be my most favourite place and my second home for the next four years.
I had just gotten my first DSLR soon after WBJEE results and was looking for a place to learn photography. And just then JU happened and so did JUPC. I had heard about the club from a family friend of mine who was a year senior to me studying in JU. So I was excited to say the least. On came the first BTS class, the boring theory one, that too in the stuffy OPT hall but the Sunday mornings were refreshing. They were reserved for practical classes. Victoria Memorial grounds were the first destination for us. Rabindra Sarovar, Alipore Zoo, and a village named Gourdaha were to follow. We were divided into groups from the very start and I was put into Siddhartha Da's group. The other mentors were Priyanka Di and Amiyajit Da. Siddhartha Da, nicknamed Mr.Club, was one helluva mentor- witty, smart and funny--just the right person to guide you through the basics. I still can't forget the enthusiasm with which he kept on repeating the same old basics over and over again, even after the class is over. And those exposure sums. Me and Divyanshu were running out of energy in the heat of Gourdaha but not Mr. Club. Priyanka Di was the quintessential Bengali didi who was strict and sweet at the same time. Amiyajit da was the fakibaj senior who was the complete opposite of Siddhartha da. BTS was rigorous, the review classes extended even after 8:30! But I was taking it all in. That pinik to go to the club didn't leave me till the last day. Photography occupied me slowly and that was solely due to JUPC and a few other people. As I said that pinik didn't leave me but turned into a habit. Arijit Da, who went on to become the CFO of the club in his final year, used to stay in a PG near the university just so that he can stay in the club till late. That was the dedication of a JUPC member. Just after the BTS was the INTRA. Now INTRA is the annual members' exhibition of JUPC. That year we didn't participate as we were novices. We also have a JUPC fresher's quiz following the BTS. To be honest, I didn't do well in the quiz. Partha was the winner. In the meantime the prep for Montage 2016 had begun. Meetings after meetings took place and the fervour with which Indranil Da was working for Montage '16 was intoxicating as well as inspiring. We used to rummage through all the photography groups sending invitation to anyone and everyone for participating in our contest cum exhibition. Montage that year was going international with people from Bangladesh given a chance to participate. So the pressure was real. Amidst this prep came the Convocation in the month of Dec after our first sem ended. 24th Dec is THE most important day for JUPC every year as its Convocation Day in JU. JUPC is entrusted with the responsibility of taking photographs of all the degree recipients and cover the entire event. This has been going on for years and is one of the primary sources of earning for the club. We started training for the event right after our odd sem ended. Those mock drills of convocation were always fun and I never found it boring throughout my four years. I remember Sil Da saying that JUPC will teach you about a lot of other things besides photography and event management is one of them. I understood how true those words were over the years. My first experience of a major event was the Convocation day and I saw how a team of 40 worked tirelessly from 7 in the morning to 9 at night. 24th Dec was one of the busiest days of each of my four years. The final year's one was the ultimate with the onus with me and Rohan, the two position holders of the club for last year. And after a tiring day, we used to go for the sleepover. The whole JUPC team in one of the member's house. Anindya Da and Tommy's house have been the places where all those sleepovers, adda and khilli happened. We even cut a cake to celebrate 25th Dec. Soon after the return from the winter break, planning for JUPC picnic started. Now JUPC picnic was something that was totally organized by the 1st years. In terms of place, the picnic spot must have a water body nearby. This was of utmost importance because it almost had turned into a ritual that everyone would be thrown into a pond or any other water body and we would spend quite a lot of time playing polo in the pond. In our 1st yr, it was Ankit's ancestral home. The journey itself was super fun changing several modes of transport. From fulko loochi with aloor dum in the breakfast to cricket, football and all that happens in a picnic happened in JUPC picnics, pinnacle of which was the session in the pond. Came March and came our annual event, not short of the fervor of Durga Pujo, Montage. Montage was a three day event held at ICCR. Apart from the photo exhibition we had put up a photobook exhibition and a vintage camera exhibition. We also had talks and interestingly just when the last day's talk was about to end, in walked Prasanth Panjiar, the veteran photojournalist. The man was in the town and got news of our exhibition through his friend Swapan Nayek who was giving the closing talk that day. Now, that evening's talk with Prasanth changed a lot of things for us. That evening were laid the seeds of an idea which would ultimately culminate into JUPC's biggest event thus far, JUPF. A half-an-hour interaction with the founder of Delhi Photo Fest opened up our horizons and gave us courage to think big. The idea was primarily to do something out of the confined space of a gallery and utilize the open space of the campus.
Meanwhile a change in the basic philosophy of club about making images was taking place slowly. The club was in a transitory phase in which the emphasis shifted from single image to making a cohesive body of work. Some of us were going through works of a lot of photographers, both at home and abroad and started reading about the history of the medium. As our view about a lot of things regarding photography kept on changing drastically so did our own practice. We started experimenting and exploring more, which got reflected in the panel boards of the club. Panel boards are where we put up our pictures at the start of every session. If one sees the panel boards now one could totally see the stark difference between the kind of images there now compared to the pictures say a couple of years back. So other than Prasanth’s inspiring words that evening in March 2016, the major reason to come up with the idea of organizing Eastern India’s first photo festival JUPF was this constant urge to better our understanding of the medium. JUPF was a 10-day event, the biggest event in the history of the club till date. We worked day in, day out for months, going over all our contacts to invite photographers, collect sponsors, and doing a gazillion other things to put up this 10 day long show. We got VMH and JU due to just one phone call from our respected VC Suranjan Das to the director of VMH. Yes, it might seem to be too easy but it wasn’t. Basita Di, the finance lead for that year and the event, knows how many sleepless nights she had spent writing emails to potential sponsors, attending sponsor pitches and getting rejected. We were fortunate enough to get Goethe-Institut, Kolkata on board at the very end. Harsha Vadlamani was the curator. He did a great job of picking ten very interesting works pertaining to our festival theme that was ‘Home’. Till then, JUPC was a college club known to people in and around Kolkata and a few nationally but with JUPF the club’s reputation spread worldwide. We had photogs and photography enthusiasts pouring in from different parts of the world--Germany, Spain, Bangladesh--u name it. And for us, it was a roller coaster ride all along. We took everything in from having dinner with our fav photogs to setting up the installation with Harsha. When I look back now, it was much more worth than those sleepless nights, fights, and stressed days. It was the biggest event which I have been part of in life till date.
Just as Hok Kolorob was a harbinger of a new era in the history of Jadavpur University, JUPF did the same for JUPC. We are yet to witness another event of such magnitude and importance. My third year in the uni and in the club saw the Foundry Photojournalism Workshops taking place here in our uni and JUPC was the co-organizer. Again, a host of professionals and amateurs flocked to the campus for a week long extravaganza of rigorous workshops, talks and it culminated into the participants showcasing their works. I was one of them. Third year was also the year for me developing my own body of work. A yearning and fantasy for living the hostel life instigated me to go to the main hostel at night and stay there. I took several photographs of my friends, the space and anything and everything that caught my eye. I had been shooting since my second year and shot till the end of my stay in Kolkata. As a part of the Foundry workshops, I did a part of the hostel work in color which is I guess is still on display on the club’s panel board. Another notable thing that happened in the far end of the third year was my first long Ramble, i.e. the photographic tour we embark upon each year. That was also my first trek, a 7 day journey to Sar Pass and back. That was one hell of an experience to say the least. The fourth year saw a few more changes in the ways we interacted with the medium. We started with picking up texts, essays and books of critical writing on photography. The reading sessions, an in-house thing, were fruitful with pushing people to talk about a lot of issues that they wouldn’t have talked about otherwise, let alone in a session about photography. We also started going back to the early initiations of photography, exploring the alternate forms of photography that mostly developed during the initial years of the medium. We restored our dark rooms, repaired our analog cameras which were collecting dust in the corner of the shelves and started shooting film again. We even had Arpan Mukherjee, a faculty of the printmaking dept in Visvabharati University and a specialist in these alternate processes, come to our club premises for a session.
As time progresses, JUPC is spreading its wings and exploring the medium in different possible ways. It ages but at the same time interestingly, it becomes younger just as it goes back to the roots of the medium. My heart swells up with pride as I’m writing this essay sitting here in faraway Bangalore to see the exciting things happening in the club everyday. A new batch would come in a few days time and be a part of our cherished JUPC family with the same urge for creating new images, with the unending curiosity and a love for the medium carrying forward the legacy of the club. Oh how much I miss being a part of those brainstorming sessions around the grand old table in the club ghor, or those early morning outings, or those birthday celebrations and the frenzy during the post-convocation duty. I miss my JUPC every damn day.