Nalithakala Akademi is an autonomous cultural organization of the Government of Kerala established in 1962. For the first time, in 2020 – 21, the Akademi has decided to give solo exhibition grants to photographers. This remarkable development didn’t happen overnight. It required the efforts and negotiation of several photographers and historians, and convincing the authorities the potential of photography as an art form. The Akademi earlier organized a few photographers’ camps, mostly promoting event, commercial, and amateur photographers. However, photography had been dealt separately and the exhibition grant reserved for artists and sculptors didn’t include photographers. That way, this is a welcome change, even though further deliberations on different genres, practices and practitioners of photography are required. It definitely is a danger to overlook the nuances of the medium, the politics of its power and other such theoretical perspectives. Nevertheless, it is a promising move for the photography fraternity in Kerala.
One of the first grant recipients include Renjith Madhavan and Devaraj Devan. Renjith’s works titled HYDRART were showcased in Thrissur last month (Jan 2021). Devaraj is a young photographer. He says he became a photographer by chance, some five years ago. But once he has gotten into it, there is no looking back. He is basically a commercial event photographer with an interest in street photography, a well-trodden path introduced by the likes of Henri-Cartier Bresson. The show from the grant, Poojyam (Zero) is opening today, 8th February at Lalithakala Akademi Kozhikode. This would be Devarajan’s first photography exhibition. Here is an exclusive interview with Devarajan Devan.
Hello Devan. Tell us about you?
I am from Cherupallaseery Palakkad, I am into photography by chance, once I understood this world, I took this as my medium of expression. I could connect more with Images. Photography is my expression and art. I am more proficient in street photography and Travel Photography. In my clicks, I connect my emotions, dreams, and my own visual stories. I love people, the street, and different cultures. I am a beginner, technically I don’t have that much knowledge but that’s my success and failure.
Why are you into photography?
Everybody has a visual library in their deep unconscious mind. In my case, I am exploring and bringing that vision into my frames. I now understand the large visual culture space opened before me. An image says a lot. I am researching more vistas of this space. I love being a photographer. I am self-taught. I was a designer and once I was asked to take photographs regarding my job. And after, to avoid my camera getting attacked by fungus I kept on clicking. During my wanderings, I was taking a lot of pics. This manifested a different sense in me. I understood the visual languages and the aesthetics of images. These things shaped me.
What is photography for you?
It is influencing a person with visuals. Anybody can take photographs, but more than that if someone is going through photographs, or scrolling through social media if they pause and take a look at my pics for some time, that’s my success and my meaning of photography. I want my viewers to be thoughtful and in awe at my clicks. More than documentation it’s an attraction.
Devan- I concentrate more on visuals, for me it’s all about giving life to images. I deal with all kinds of visuals. I want them alive, just like a pause button. Complete “originality” that’s my adamant passion for photographs.
Your influences and thoughts about other photographers?
Cartier- Bresson. Actually, I was more influenced by cinema, Directors like Abbas Kiarostami. To be particular, films like 24 frames. I follow some of the veteran photographers in social media and in individual groups. Mostly their independent works inspire me.
Please talk about “Poojyam” your exhibition
It is my first solo exhibition. It is more street photography. I am not that much into documentation photography. I am into images that have life, connection, and curiosity. Just like the word zero, I am still zero in a lot of things. It has an aesthetic meaning. It’s a manifestation of a lot of emotions and thoughts. It’s my Dream in zero.
The show is open at the Akademi Gallery in Kozhikode until 15th February, between 10.00 am to 5.00 pm. All COVID protocols will be strictly adhered. Visitors are encouraged to follow them.