Saturday, May 21, 2011

Obituary: Tribute to a True Photo-Artist: Benu Sen, MFIAP, FRPS, ESFIAP


Benu Sen,


Born in 1932, and trained to be a ground engineer, Benu Sen’s association with the viewfinder happened by a sheer play of chance. It was August 15, 1954, when Sen accompanied a camera-lugging friend to an Independence Day celebration. The device sparked off his curiosity and he was keen to have a look at the new equipment with his friend, who however turned down the request on the ground that his tampering might damage the camera. That came as a blow to his pride which took him the very next day to a junk market in Kolkata – to look for lenses, tin and other scrap materials to assemble his very own camera. The success of this attempt triggered a spurt of diverse experimentation in camera mechanics and darkroom techniques. Not surprisingly, engineering took a backseat. Hereafter the endless voyage of creativity began.

In 1957, Benu Sen, along with like-minded friends, established the Photographic Association of Dumdum to practice, propagate and discuss the nuances of this art form. Another remarkable contribution of Sen is his initiative in setting up a state-of-the-art photography department in the Indian Museum Kolkata. Established in 1963, it was the first of this kind in India.

However, the most notable milestone for this septuagenarian photo artist was perhaps the starting of free photographic courses under the wings of the Photographic Association of Dumdum. Since the launch of the course in 1969, this association has blossomed into a full-fledged institute for systematic schooling in photography, totally free of cost. With an expert faculty, all of whom are engaged voluntarily; it offers a one-year certificate course and a subsequent two-year diploma to aspirants, irrespective of age and academic qualifications. Many of his students are well placed in senior level positions in the Government Establishments (Including Rashtrapati Bhawan, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Ministry of Defense, Department of Culture, and Department of Science etc.), public sector and autonomous organizations, private sectors and individual entrepreneurship.

He was the 3rd man in the world to have received the rare honor of ‘Master of Photography’ (M.F.I.A.P.) from the Federation International de L’ Art Photographique, a body under the recognition of UNESCO. He was conferred the Fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain (F.R.P.S.) in 1975, EFIAP in 1960, ESFIAP in 1972 and number Honorary fellowships like Hon F.J.I.A.P. (Japan), F.N.P.A.S. (Sri Lanka), Hon. F.P.B.S. (Bangladesh), Hon. F.P.A.D (India), Hon. F.C.O.S (Romania), Hon. P.A.B, Hon. S.O.P etc. for his contribution to pictorial photography.

Photo Division of Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Govt. of India launched the National Photography Awards for the first time in 2010 in order to commemorate its Golden Jubilee Celebration. Among the four recipients of these awards, Benu Sen was one of them.

His other remarkable contribution to photography is the BS4 formula, an extra ordinary fine grain developer for tropical countries. Moreover, he introduced colour photogram and colour separation from Black & White Negatives in India.

During his lifetime, he organized 7 International Photographic Conferences, 12 All India Seminars, 48 international Salons and several local exhibitions to promote and propagate photography throughout the world. He organized a number of Solo Exhibitions and Group Shows. Mr. Sen presented a number of papers. Many of them had been published in reputed journals. He delivered talks on T.V & Radio t on photography. He was former Vice President and founder member of India International Photographic Council, New Delhi and Former Vice President, Calcutta Photo Club Coordination Center. He served as Jury in a number of national and International Salons, both in India and abroad during the last 50 years. He had written a few books as well. One of his most valuable publications was “Art of Photography” (1979). He was co-author of the most important books, “Experimental Photography” and “Learn Photography”.

Benu Sen retired from the Indian Museum as photo Officer in 1990. During his service period, he contributed a lot both in the field of Social & Cultural Anthropology and allied Museum Photography.

As an artist, he had enormous exhibits in different Salons throughout the world and won several awards at international level. He was adjudged the best Indian Pictorialist by the Camera World International, Australia for his peculiarly imaginative photographs. He was honoured by the Harvard Scenetic Museum, Harvard University, for his outstanding contribution to museum photography. To crown all, he had been conferred the Honorary Excellence of the ‘Federation International de L’ Art Photographique’ the highest International body of photography, in the world. Government of India honoured him with lifetime achievement award in 2010 for his valuable contribution in the field of creative photography.

He was the Secretary General, Federation of Indian Photography and President of Photographic Association of Dum Dum.

Passing away of Mr. Benu Sen is a big loss to the world of creativity. His valuable services to the field of art-photography and his cooperative nature will always be remembered.

(Courtesy: Mr. Debatosh Sengupta, Director, Photo Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Govt. of India, Delhi; Prof. Bistwatosh Sengupta, Hony. Secretary, Photographic Association of Dum Dum, Kolkata; Mr. Shyamal Kumar Roy, Kolkata and Official Website of Photographic Association of Dum Dum)


  1. Thanks for nice tribute to Great Master

    Godavari Vallabh Niwas
    Makarana Mohalla,
    Jodhpur - 342002
    Tel. 91-291-2641577
    Mobile No : 09166211205

  2. May Benu Da's "Pure Soul" rest in eternal peace.

    Thanks Dr. Sharma. You are in true service of art. I'm proud of you. May God bless you.

    (Soumitra Roy)

  3. It's Indeed a great loss to the art world. But as one sais, "an artist never dies", he always remains alive with in his/her art work. People like Shri. Benu Sen will remain with us and will keep guiding us through his work.
    May god rest 'Benu da's soul rest in eternal peace. Ameeen!

    And Dr. Pankaj Sharma ji this is a real tribute and thanks you give us chance to express our deficit and damage.

  4. Thanks..

    Biswatosh Sengupta, Kolkata

  5. It is a great loss to the World of Photography with the exit of the Great Master. May his Soul Rest in Peace.

  6. It is a great loss to photography.

    Thanks for the tribute.

  7. ************ R.I.P BENUDA *************

    vinay parelkar
    mumbai - 28

  8. It was shocking beyond description, the sad demise of Benu Da causes a void in photography, which can not be filled.

    He was a master artist, philosopher, guide and above all an excellent human being.

    We pray the Lord to rest his soul in peace and give you all family members strength to bear this great loss.

    Anil Risal Singh, LUCKNOW

  9. it is a great loss to the photography world.He will be forever with us through his masterpieces images.
    may Benu Da's soul rest in peace.
    Thanks lot for the tribute pankaj ji.

    chandan d.n.gaonkar

  10. Respected Benu Sen was the most popular and widely used name among the different stages of photographers. I never met him, but I had a chance to speak to him over phone here from Delhi regarding some photographic matters. The thing which attracted me the most was his dedication and his high end of soft spoken nature. I realised that if I would have met him,the nature of attraction would have escalated at a much higher graph line. Hon Benu Sen's demise had created a vacuum ih the photographic field which is really hard to fill up. My condolences to his breaved family and may his eternal soul rest in peace.

  11. Rest in peace....sad to hear this story but this the really that we end up to death.