Photo Mail remembers photographers and their contributions, as well as tunes into the historical perspectives that influence contemporary photographic practice and its aesthetics
The artist community from around the world is deeply shocked by dance maestro Astad Deboo's sudden demise. Tributes have been pouring in. He has been a source of inspiration for many. Astad was also a good friend and mentor, always reachable and welcoming. A photographer mentioned that the last message he had received from Astad a week ago was a note of thank you. "Thank you for Photographing me all these years", Astad had said in that personal message. In fact, it is our privilege that we get to see these remarkable photographic visuals. Each one of us is indebted to these known and unknown photographers for these living pictures. As we mourn the loss of India's cultural treasure, PhotoMail brings together select photographs of Astad Deboo. Astad Deboo will live forever, in loving memory.
Punalur Rajan was an enigma – a mystery that requires further unfolding. He was an important person in the history of contemporary Kerala. In the time to come, we will be forced to look back to his photographs – for his contribution is something that knows no bounds. He will live through the slices of history he has left behind. No words could ever fully represent the politics and ideology to which he dedicated his life. I leave my pranaams to this remarkable person with the question – what are we going to do now?
John Abraham joined the Odessa group that comprised of 75 members, using the money collected from the people, travel from Wayanad to Kochi and Amma Ariyan develops, parallel to the political history of Kerala. The public, apart from giving money, were also involved in the film production. They did it voluntarily, with a lot of enthusiasm. The screenplay and dialogues were written then and there, and shot. Commercial actors didn’t play a major role in this movie.
Victor George looked for meaning in rain, not formal beauty or abstraction. Instances of abstraction are sporadically seen in his photographs – such as a massive raincloud which looks like a wash of purple-grey – but are always marred by a concrete, meaningful, identifiable figure – in the aforementioned case, a flying bird occupies the centre of attention of the image, and discernible clouds are seen in the background, giving the image concreteness.
Zachariah D’Cruz is not an oft-mentioned name in the context of Indian photography, and his images circulate in India, especially Kerala, without his name being mentioned as the author. It is easiest to describe him as a government photographer of the Travancore kingdom, whose most popular and most visible work today consists of a collection of 76 images titled “Album of South Indian Views”, which was gifted to Lord Curzon1 on his visit to Travancore, and which is now in the possession of the British Library.
Krishna Reddy’s engagements and activism during his youth was informed by a compulsion to overturn the established order. The Indian struggle for independence was gaining momentum during this period, with Mahatma Gandhi calling for the complete end to British rule in India – and Reddy joined the protests. Following Reddy’s involvement with the Quit India Movement, for which he printed hundreds of posters and was jailed a couple of times, he moved to Santiniketan – where, under the tutelage of Nandalal Bose, Benode Behari Mukherjee, and Ramkinkar Baij, he studied sculpture and water colour.
Razak Kottakal’s photographs of Basheer is almost as famous as Basheer himself; anybody who is familiar to a minimum extent with Modern Malayalam literature would have encountered at least a few of Razak’s portraits of literary figures, without knowing the name of the photographer – mostly because the photographer is considered secondary to the subject in such cases. Different aspects of Razak’s life have entered public record, through interviews of his contemporaries, family, colleagues, and subjects. Yet, for all the wealth of information that such records provide, they are hard reminders that photographers are barely understood beyond superficial labels.
In 1930,PRS Mani Iyer became the first official photographer of Ramana. His portrait of Ramana, commonly known as “Mani Bust”, became the most popular photo, widely circulated and worshiped by millions from across the world. Very little is known about this master photographer and his other photographs that he had taken while he was working as an Executive photographer at Modern Theaters, Salem.
In the Early Historic (Sangam Age) Tamil country (comprising modern Tamil Nadu and Kerala), numerous developments, including the composition of Tamil texts and the emergence of port towns along the coast . The Early Historic period is placed between third century BCE and third century CE. MuchiRi or MusiRi was an Early Historic port town on the Kerala coast of India, and the town was under the control of the Chera vEntars (a political power) .
Such a photographic mapping, done with the awareness of our history and culture, would be valuable in many ways including its political and cultural aspects of our contemporaneity. The concept of EtP, ancient India in contemporary times, is counter posing our past and present in a new perspective. The blend of history and art is not in vogue in our ego driven market world of art and culture. It is in this situation that the project marks its significance in the photographic history of South Asia.