Two or three months before Durga Puja begins, every photographer worth his/her salt in Kolkata rushes to Kumortuli, to shoot photos of the goddess as she is shaped by the many idol-makers who live and work here.


Photographing ‘living Durgas’ — young women who dress and do up their faces like the goddess — has also caught on in recent years.


As a photographer, I wondered though, why the Durga figure was in the foreground in these images. I say this because in real life of course, you never see the Goddess; by the same measure, Durga could be anyone.


I had the glimmerings of an idea for a photo series in which Durga herself would not be the main subject in my images. I began to think over how I would depict this.


Another thought that guided this series was — why do we only worship Durga in pandals and temples? The Goddess, after all, is everywhere.


When I began to script the idea, a few friends asked me how I would translate this idea into the photos. In photography, when you have a subject in the foreground, what is in the background is not in focus. The focus isn’t on the object or figure in the background, but just because they’re out of focus, doesn’t mean they aren’t there.


I decided to implement the same concept in my series: so you’ll notice that the figure of Durga is out of focus in the photos. What does that mean? That she is there, but we couldn’t see her. The goddess is not in our focus, but she is present.


She is present our busy everyday lives, she is present at the tea-seller’s stall. She is present by the Ganga ghat, and she is present by the temple.


This is how the theme for the series took on its final dimensions.


This series was shot in North Kolkata right in the midst of the Durga Puja frenzy. We started the shoot early in the morning — at about 5.30 am.


The idea may have been simple, but the picturisation was not. Mainly, because we haven’t staged anything — whatever you see has been shot along with the ongoing ebb and flow of daily life.


For instance, for one of the images we waited for a half hour for a garbage collection cart to come by; we waited for the person who has the job of dumping the trash. When he appeared, we took the shot.


The response to the project has been amazing — several thousand people have shared on social media. I am hoping too, to extend this project in the future, by chronicling people’s real-life experiences with the goddess Durga.


The series may take a year or two to finish, but I hope to find some compelling stories.

Follow more of Sourodip Ghosh's work on Instagram.