Meet Stephen Styris - Guwahati's own Ashtrophotographer, who aims to set an Astro-Village for the people of Assam
Dipankar Bhagawati, popularly known as Stephen Styris, is a photography and astronomy enthusiast based out of Guwahati. Astrophotographer Stephen Styris has always been fascinated by the mysteries of the night skies and passionate about photography, even as a child.
Born in Guwahati, Dipankar was brought up in Bongaigaon where he did his schooling from Bongaigaon High School and later shifted to Guwahati to study higher secondary from Hindustan Kendriya Vidyalaya Guwahati. He then went on to pursue TDC in English Major from Bongaigaon College and Masters in Mass Communication & Journalism from Tezpur University. Currently, he’s pursuing PhD from Gauhati University.
Speaking to G Plus about developing an interest in the field of photography and deciding to take it up as a profession, Dipankar said, “As a child, I remember being fascinated by the camera and writing essays on photography as a hobby during school days. During those days, my family owned a basic camera and it was used only during occasions. Later, I started using my friends’ phone cameras in college before my brother and I were able to convince our parents to buy a camera phone for us. So began my journey as a photographer with a VGA camera.” Dipankar’s professional journey began when he was pursuing mass communication and he was gifted his first camera.
This self taught photographer is also trained in film and documentary making and has worked with many national as well as international filmmakers including the likes of Green Oscar winner Mike Pandey and national award winner Gautam Bora. He has also worked with multiple news channels, newspapers, North Carolina State University and has been a freelancer for WWF (World Wildlife Fund) and WTI (Wildlife Trust of India).
Dipankar started his entrepreneurial venture, Little Hands Production (LHP), which focuses on creative and candid wedding photography along with Jikirani Mahanta, who was his junior during university years and is now his wife. Talking about LHP, Dipankar said, “Little Hands Production is a photography and filmmaking firm which conducts various workshops in the name of Cam-Era and also believes in social contribution in the form of Little Hands Infinity, where we do astronomy outreach among the mass.”
The duo has been invited to various places and institutions as a resource person to conduct photography workshops and talks, which include IIT Guwahati, Gauhati University, Tezpur University, Dibrugarh University, Guwahati Planetarium and Assam Valley School, to name a few. Although Jikirani is not associated with LHP anymore, Dipankar is working on various documentary and corporate film projects in association with UNICEF, Akshay Patra Foundation, etc.
Dipankar started capturing stars sometime around 2010 when astrophotography was yet to gain popularity in the northeast region. During his beginning years, he relied on online forums and groups to learn the nuances of the subject. Later, he made friends with people outside India who were involved in the field to learn and grow. Speaking to G Plus about his childhood days and developing a fascination for stars and astronomy, Dipankar recalls, “When I was a kid and load shedding of electricity occurred, my mom used to take my brother and me outside; we would sit under the sky, stare at the Milky Way galaxy and count the stars. Mom would introduce us to some of the popular stars and constellations and also tell folk tales.”
Based out of Guwahati where the weather is unpredictable and the sky is light and polluted, Dipankar has faced many challenges and obstacles in his endeavour so far. “My astrophotography journey so far has been incredible. It’s a journey where you get to learn about yourself and your craft, as well as the night sky above. Although astrophotography is very challenging, I thoroughly enjoy it,” he says.
He wishes to make an observatory for the public and an astro-village where locals can explore the universe and astro-tourism can be boosted. He dreams of spreading the knowledge of astronomy to the masses and wants ‘astronomy for all.’
While framing, composition and other technical aspects are all important to capture a good picture, Dipankar says that it’s the emotion, the moment and the feeling trapped in the frame that makes the picture stand out. He’s optimistic about unexpected weathers leading to unexpectedly good shots and believes in bringing the best out of whatever is available.
For all the aspiring photographers, Dipankar’s advice is, “In life, there are no shortcuts. Dedication is the key to achieving all goals. As a beginner, an understanding of the subject is the most important. Equipment will matter only after the basics are mastered, both in terms of understanding and practice.”