Prabuddha Dasgupta

21 Sep 1956
12 Aug 2012
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Prabuddha Dasgupta (21 September 1956 – 12 August 2012) was a noted fashion and fine-art photographer from India. Known for his iconic black and white imagery, he had an extended career, primarily as a fashion photographer, spanning more than three decades. Amongst his books, he is most known for Women (1996), a collection of portraits and nudes of urban Indian women.

Prabuddha Dasgupta was born in Kolkata in September 1956. His father was noted sculptor, Pradosh Das Gupta., who was the curator of National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), Delhi from 1957 to 1970, and the family stayed within the premises. In the 1970s, his father moved to Jangpura Extension, a well-known artists’ colony in Delhi, where he stayed for most of his career. He graduated in History from Hindu College, University of Delhi, 1973–1975.

Though he was he trained as a historian, he started his career as copywriter with advertising agency Everest, before turning to photography full-time in the late 1980s. During his career as a commercial photographer, which took off with a campaign for Blue Lagoon Jeans, Dasgupta worked with the first generation of Indian supermodels like Madhu Sapre, Feroze Gujral, Shyamolie Verma and Mehr Jesia. According to historian, William Dalrymple, with whom he worked on his book Edge of Faith, “Rohit Khosla and Rohit Bal, along with Prabuddha, invented glamour in India.” A self-taught photographer, he received the Yves Saint Laurent grant for photography in 1991, for his photograph of model Feroze Gujral, shot for designer Suneet Varma.

He shot the first advertisements of KamaSutra condoms in 1991, with models Pooja Bedi and Marc Robinson, which not only became popular, but also turned KS into India’s top-selling condom brand Another controversial ad campaign he shot, was for ‘Tuff Shoes’ in 1995, which featured top models, Milind Soman and Madhu Sapre.

Over the years, Dasgupta worked for several leading magazines, like Vogue, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar and GQ. He published several art books of his photographs, including Women (1996), which got him instant acclaim, Ladakh (2000) featured extensive landscapes of Ladakh, and his 2009 book “Edge of Faith” authored by William Dalrymple, with portraits of the Catholic community in Goa, was published in 2009. His work has been internationally exhibited, in solo and group shows and part of the collections at Museo Ken Damy, Brescia (Italy) and Galleria Carla Sozzani, Milan. His first personal show titled, Longing was held in New York in 2007, and was reviewed by The Paris Review. During his career he also mentored “a generation” of photographers, including Tarun Khiwal and Bharat Sikka, who assisted him in the 1990s.

In his later years, he moved to Goa. He died in Alibaug near Mumbai, following a heart attack on way to Mumbai airport, after a fashion shoot in Alibaug, at the age of 55. A memorial meeting in his honour was held on 25 August 2013 at NGMA, New Delhi, wherein tributes were paid to him by Mira Nair, Raghu Rai, Dayanita Singh amongst others; the gathering ended with audio-visual montage of his works.

As a tribute to him, the theme of the 2nd Delhi Photo Festival (2013) was chosen as “Grace”, inspired by a talk he gave at the 1st edition of the festival in 2011, “I want to have a long string of images, held together by grace, because grace is that undefineable, non-rational, non-linear word that I am looking for….” .

During the last decade of his life he was in a relationship with model Lakshmi Menon whom he had extensively photographed and with whom lived in Goa. However, he never got divorced from his wife, Tania with whom he had two daughters, Aleeya and Amaaya. His elder brother, Pradeep Dasgupta is also a photographer, with whom he has organised a retrospective of his father’s sculptures at Delhi’s Lalit Kala Akademi in April 2012.
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