Photo Mail focuses on contemporary photography practitioners, their works, and its aesthetics in the broader context of photographic theory and philosophy.
As part of the ‘Dilli Chalo’ protest called on November 26 and 27, lakhs of farmers, laborers, and small traders decided to march from Punjab, Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and other states towards Delhi. During their attempt to reach Delhi, the farmers faced warlike resistance from the Indian government at two inter-state borders. Protesters occupied several miles of highway with their tractors and trolleys.
During the corona pandemic lockdown, India saw its migrant workers walk in an ardent will to reach the safety of their homes… History repeats itself, they say. Well, not exactly the same situation, but during Indian’s partition, thousands of Muslims and Hindus had to cross over – in search of a new home in unknown terrain. Seen through the photographic eyes of Margaret Bourke-White and Sunil Janah – the horrifying events of Indian Partition 1947 comes alive – once again in the Corona days – much more violent, cruel, and gruesome. It is a stark reminder that even after 70 and odd years of independence, India still has not healed itself of poverty, inequality, and oppression.
What we normally forget is that the lens of a camera sees more than the normal human eye is capable of. The clarity and the depth in a photographic image are taken for granted as we considered the camera as an extension of our eyes though what it sees is an abstracted or unperceivable image for the naked human eye. Seeing more or seeing in detail foregrounds the notion of abstraction because the form captured by the camera is only partially visible and its comprehension, in the normal course of our ways of seeing, is difficult.
Does a photo carry a meaning? Like a memory which has a meaning, photo doesn’t in itself have a meaning. Stills don’t speak but they are not dead as such. They evoke memories and memory evokes the meaning behind the image. - NL Balakrishnan
In Abul Azad’s visual dictionary the word ‘still life’ is elaborated as follows: the objects related to and resulted by a person’s life and these objects are seen arrayed in a certain fashion as providence would suggest and these objects would remain in the same way as if they were caught in and frozen by time. Their stillness shows that the person who has caused such an arrangement is equally still or methodically careless.
Even when a photograph looks unmediated, without human intervention in the realisation of its image and hence signifying authorial absence, the absence itself is a construction. It is a construction at the interface between factuality and artifice or between simulacrum and point of view; and it is not an empirically given precondition of perception. In many of Ramu’s images, as in the Calgary pictures, the rigorously composed optic array within the frame and the randomness which it suggests of the physical disarray outside the frame (both of which are bound by a causal symmetry) create a subtle dualism.
This is the essence of Project 365: each photographer creating according to his or her own desires, yet all working toward a common goal. The mix of approaches is the project’s strength. Variant perspectives give the wider view: from Jiby Charles’ exploratons of the areas ecology, to Dinesh Khanna’s obsession with vibrant colour and how those colours manifest in the faiths and lives of everyday people. M.K. Iqbal is making an intimate study of Tiru’s small Muslim population, while Leo James runs a parallel body of work lovingly portraying the even smaller population of Christians. R. R. Srinivasan is creating an intense “Archeological Mapping of Tiruvannamalai”. Srinivasan’s ambitious approach includes not only photographs, but detailed references to historical texts and written descriptions that read like an archeologist’s probing analysis of each and every image.
Anup Mathew Thomas gives a sense of non-commitment as he does not intent to divulge the personal narratives of these nurses. This series, in a sense stands opposite to what Parthiv Shah had done in his path breaking project titled ‘Figures, Facts, Feelings: Direct Diasporic Dialogue’ (2000). In this project, Parthiv had approached around thirty four Indian people who had settled in the UK for more than three decades. He asked them twenty questions pertaining to their lives. The answers were juxtaposed with the images of these people taken by Parthiv in the locations that they liked most in their habitats.