Documentary

Canal Fishery in West Bengal

Katatola, West Bengal- February 2017. A dull and foggy morning inside the fishery complex.
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Katatola, West Bengal- February 2017. A dull and foggy morning inside the fishery complex.

Canal Fishery in West Bengal
by Ritesh Roychowdhury


West Bengal, a state of India, is commonly known for fishing and agriculture. Here fish cultivation is done on a larger scale, compared to the other coastal states of India. The huge variety of fishes cultivated here opens the gate of export to foreign markets as well.

There are many places in West Bengal, where man made big canals and ponds are constructed and made compatible for harvesting and cultivating variety of fishes. The costs of establishment and maintenance of such water bodies are pretty high. This is a proprietorship business, often handled by a single authority, assisted by one chief assistant and a group of workers. These fish harvesting grounds are locally termed as “Bherri”.

The business faces stern obstacles due to storms, water pollution, excessive rainfall, labor management issues and scanty finance. In such cases loss becomes unavoidable and high. Some have the strength to fight these hindrances and continue for the next season while others pack up and set for other jobs.

The hardest part of this job is going into the dead cold water in the winter mornings. Even the strongest man may fall sick by the contact of such icy cold water. The risk is further increased by the chances of fatal snake bites. The only survival strategy in these situations is sharp vision and deep inner instincts. Being continuously in water also troubles the fishermen with skin diseases.

I have tried to document their activities during a wintry morning when working in the dense fog and chilling cold is a stark pain for any human being! I plan to go again to continue this project.

A boy walking down to the workplace of fishery.
Canals and passages in between canals.
Fishery boats in mid water picking up fishes.
Workers engaged in catching and sorting fishes.
Some of the big Catches for the day.
Preparing to be sold in the local market.
The Manual Weighing system still used in the process.
Another group of workers get ready with their bicycles and big delivery pots.
Packing up for the day.
Time to go to the local market for selling.
A meeting for the next day.

Ritesh Roychowdhury
I discovered my love for the shutter-art in the year of 2012; since then I have been capturing moments of life, special or commonplace, to discover new stories. My mentor Mr Joydeep Mukherjee, one of the finest exponents of this field in Kolkata, have been guiding and training me on where, when and why to press the shutter! Precisely, that is the art of photography and that is why it fascinates me. A very common thing or common expression can make a grand frame, just because of the timing; it is the magic of a moment! I do not believe that one needs to stick to the conventional rules of creation, or to focus on making something grand to become a photographer. Trying to be special is a vice for this art, or any kind of art in the world. It is the spontaneity of the human heart that can make a great creation, a David out of a stone. This is why I stick to my feelings, not to the rules. When Nature sparks up my instinct, I click. I do not click because everyone around me is clicking!

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