Photo Mail presents a panoramic view of the art of photography’s interaction and interrelation with other art mediums such as literature
architecture, and other visual media
Most of the Indian photographers learned from their foreign masters and hence, their styles continued to dominate Indian photography. They were either voyeuristic visual trophies that professed, “I had been there, seen that, met him”, or a tool that propagated “top-down let’s-look-at-the-suffering” sort of charity or propaganda of the photographer/client.
Mattancherry has been a microcosm of authentic cosmopolitanism, many ethnicities and faiths coexisting together, with its beautiful contrasts and combinations. I grew up there, in one of its small boroughs called Kochangadi. This Muslim dominated waterfront settlement had – and still has – a few Jewish, Ezhava and Christian families. Apart from a synagogue and a few churches, there are several small and big mosques that belong to different ethnic groups or factions of Muslims.
Our family name is Pattanam, an acronym for the Tamil word Patthanathukarar (which means ‘hailing from a port town’). We could have been from one of the earliest seaports of Tamilakam (the region corresponding to the present South India) such as Kaveripoompatanam (Chola Port Pukar) or Kayalpattanam (Pandyan Port Korkai). Trading took my forefathers to different parts of Tamilakam and they eventually settled in Mattancherry.
Sighting is always accidental and definitely at times eagerly waited for. Examples could be taken from two different types of star gazing; one from astronomy and the other from the film world. Crazy fans of both astronomy and film stars do wait for the sighting of their focus of interest and the knowledge about their appearance is limited and vague. In the former’s case precision spotting is possible now with technological advancements but in the latter case the information of a star’s arrival is pretty vague and it is not even necessary that he/she appears in the expected point of entry. In both the cases there is a long and patient waiting. But among the innumerable images captured by the crazy fans or amateur photographers none qualifies as a ‘citable’ image. The citable images are those clicked and distributed selectively or ‘officially’ by the authorities.
The lone boot is rather a disturbing image; much pain inducing than the aggressive and cautious posture of the freedom fighters backed up by the Indian Army (definitely Kishore Parekh is on the winning side as he was taken to the combat zone by an Indian army General in his vehicle). A closer look reveals that the boot does not belong to the fighters. They wear rubber slippers and are not in combat fatigue. The image tells something more; the Indian army gives the backup and ammunition to the native freedom fighters but does not fight from the front.
The location is Rabindra Bhavan, Mandi House, New Delhi, the seat of three academies (Fine Arts, Music, and Literature). It also has a three storey gallery designed by Habib Rahman, an erstwhile PWD Engineer, and father of noted photographer and activist, Ram Rahman, where hopeful artists come from faraway places to make it big in the art scene.
Indian photography hasn’t seen many such explorations that interact and intersect with other media such as light art. But this has started to change in the last couple of years, with a few photographers trying to do light painting; and it is in this context that Joyel K Pious and Gaurav Rachamalla’s collaborative photo project becomes striking. Although this style is popular in the west, this collaborative project stands tall and distinctive amidst the usual Indian street and documentary photographs. It probes the philosophical underpinnings that are intrinsic to the medium itself as well as pose several questions related to urbanisation.
It is the sheer absurdity of the sculptures created and photographed by Ajith that hits the viewer right from the off – juxtapositions (reminiscent of the Dadaists and Surrealists) in which materials and the forms they are used to create are often in conflict with each other and, at other times, are self-referential in a darkly humorous manner.
The existence of Manigramam (Manikkiramam) in Pukar, in this context, is an important surviving evidence of our shared lineage. As literary sources attest, Pukar was one of the gateways through which the Afro-Arabian traders entered Southern India. This simple board points to three thousand and odd years of cultural exchange that happened across borders.
Controversy surrounds the origin of Brahmin clans, which is divided into ‘gotras’, and as such mutually opposing thoughts and evidences – both scriptural and historical – are put forth by the differing factions. As far as South India is concerned, the Tamil Brahmins and their Vedic ideas started spreading during the period when Buddhism and Jainism was gaining popularity (around 5th century BCE).
In South India, coconut palm and palmyra tapping was practiced by the indigenous population who, later during the process of class/caste consolidation, were called the Shanars (Channars). These early settlers considered Palmyra as the single most miraculous tree and were the largest consumers of its products. Scaling a Palmyra, which can grow up to 100 feet, is a rather specialized job done by the men.
In this photograph, the farmer is not the one who is gazed upon. He is actually returning the gaze. There is an act of seeing and being seen. He becomes more present with an unspoken communication that is transpiring between the photographer and himself. There is a connection, an intimate relation between them.
The life of fishermen has a certain rhythm and the timings are in tune with nature – the weather, the water current, the movement and the life cycle of fishes. They all go and return at different times - the modern day ‘nine to five routine’ is not applicable here. For example, the crab catchers usually go during the late evening to spread their nets. They would go back again in the early morning to collect their catch.
River Cauvery - the lifeline of South India – that traverses through all the four states and Puducherry Union territory is personified as a goddess/woman. Several rituals, along her course, have been practiced since pre-historic times. The most important amongst them are the ones conducted at the mouth where the river merges with the infinite ocean – the end of a journey often analogized with the journey of a human life.
As the tradition dictates, this stucco sculpture is not ‘signed’ by anybody either, even though it is not that old. Stucco techniques have been known to sculptors for millennia. Some historians opine that the pyramids were plastered white. The Greeks and Romans are known to have used stucco in constructions and sculptures. It must be during this period that Sangam era Tamils (the predecessors of modern south Indians) learned this technique, through maritime traders.
Tamil people are familiar with this scene from the Classical period epic Silappathikaram. They are aware of the background of Kannaki, the lady in the pretty saree, and Kovalan, her husband, who is receiving the anklet. The scene depicts a pivotal moment in which the once wealthy and now penniless merchant Kovalan is returning to his wife, after a brief, passionate affair with a dancer and courtesan, Matavi.