(Los Angeles, CA, April 1, 2017, Photos of the gallery and Mr. Kravitz by Cirina Catania) Visiting the newly-opened Perfect Exposure Gallery in Los Angeles, I was treated to a tour of Kolkata through the lens of an incredibly talented photographer, Louis Kravitz. He’s made numerous visits to India in the last eight years and this latest exhibit is entitled, “Kolkata Morning.” Most of the photographs in the show were created between sunrise and eight a.m. in the city of Kolkata, the capital of India’s West Bengal on the east bank of the Hooghly River.
Portraits, cityscapes and memorable moments captured from his trusty Leica and printed, mostly in black and white, challenge our imagination but also have a way of making us feel like we already know the men, women, and children featured in his images.
Prior to becoming a photographer, Kravitz worked for over 45 years as an actuary. He founded an actuarial consulting firm in 1977 to help corporations establish and administer retirement programs. The company, Kravitz Inc., is the largest such firm headquartered in California and employs about 80 people nationwide. His oldest son, Daniel, has day-to-day responsibility for the company as the President while Kravitz serves as the Chairman.
Gazing at the collection of photographs, we see that Kravitz obviously enjoys studying people and specializes in capturing small moments with great emotional impact. It might be two little girls arm-in-arm walking down the street, river-bathers shaving at sunrise, aerial views of sparsely-populated streets that normally would be teeming with crowded humanity or the unwavering gaze of curiosity and familiarity aimed directly at the viewer.
In Kravitz’ words, it is the “irresistible appeal of its people” that drew him to Kolkata, and we thank him for it.
Here’s the Q&A with Louis:
Cirina Catania: Why do you do this?
Louis Kravitz: I enjoy meeting and interacting with people. As a photographer my images are often about a person’s reaction to me as I try to capture a moment when they are reveling something of their character, maybe what’s unique, or the energy they bring to their environment. I also enjoy traveling and seeing other cultures. My photographs attempt to show our common humanity: the themes most people share as they move through their lives — the joys and fears of childhood, the love and pride of parents, the intensity of people working, playing, cooking, buying, selling and worshiping. And, sometimes, the courage people bring just to living.
Cirina Catania: Why do you want to tell stories?
Louis Kravitz: I need to know why I am photographing in order to capture meaningful images as opposed to snapshots. I need a purpose. A story, like what it’s like to see the city of Kolkata awaken, helps me to stay focused and possibly inspired.
Cirina Catania: What about India attracts you?
Louis Kravitz: India is the perfect place for me to photograph. It is a diverse country with many different cultural communities. It offers the possibility to tell many different stories. I find the people curious, open and friendly – lacking the self-consciousness of Westerners. That allows me to approach them, interact, and photograph. This is generally true of other Southeast Asia countries as well. Hindu and Buddhist societies are generally more tolerant than monotheistic societies. I am more comfortable in that environment.
Cirina Catania: They say that images reflect the photographer’s inner thoughts as much as those of the people he is photographing. How do your images reflect you?
Louis Kravitz: I try to use my photography skills to help nonprofit organizations such as Justice in Aging and The Compton Initiative. I taught photography at the Children’s Goodwill Center in Sihanoukville, Cambodia and helped create a photography program at Variety Boys & Girls Club in Boyle Heights, CA. A joyful experience is seeing a person’s face in my viewfinder and watching it change as we interact.
The exhibit also features the beautiful work of Ron Veto and runs through the April 27th at the Perfect Exposure Gallery, 1125 Crenshaw Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90019. Call 213-381-1137 for information about this and other upcoming events.
Kravitz has previously published two photography books: “Lifting Spirits at Freedom Barbershop” and “Kolkata Morning.” His work has received recognition in various exhibitions and was published in LensWork Magazine #108, 2013.
Kravitz’ latest book, featuring photos from the exhibit is entitled, “Kolkata Morning,” and can be purchased on Blurb’s site here.