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“I follow my feeling” An Interview with Fausto Giaccone

Italian photographer Fausto Giaccone’s works from his beautiful photo book ‘Macondo’ is the centre point of the Sensorium art festival being held at Sunapranta Goa Centre for Arts from December 6. In his book, Fausto has magically revealed Gabriel García Márquez’ literary world by way of photographs I had interviewed him for Navhind Times.

On his photographic process for Macondo
Fausto used a Rollie, a ‘Twin Lens Reflex’ analogue camera for this project. Wrierc Chiaramonte in his essay ‘Memory of Macondo’ writes about Fausto shooting while holding the camera close to his heart.

“It is a very nice interpenetration by Giovanni; however, it is a metaphor.  I started photography in the 60s and at that time the camera was Nikon F.  All my life I have used Nikon, a 35mm camera. The choice of Rollei for Macondo happened because I was trying to find a new photographic language – not that of a photojournalist, because all my life I have been a photo journalist.

“Photojournalists used 35mm cameras and I thought of trying to find a different approach, a different distance. I didn’t want to carry heavy cameras and lenses either. Rollei was perfect in all aspects. I was not interested in wide angles or tele photo lenses.

“Also, when I read ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ the first time I was very young. I remember that I could not place the story in a real world.  I was in South America and at that time had not been out of Europe. I was not able to put it in context.

“At the end of my work I realised that the choice of Rolleiflex and what came out of it probably was appropriate. Because the language I used was not really the language of today; it is not really very contemporary. It had the likeness of historical and classical photography. I am not a very organised photographer, I follow my feeling”, says Fausto

 On following his feeling
“I don’t know if it will work for everyone, but for me, I need to feel first. It is a kind of instinct. I feel when things are all right for me. Then I understand better what is happening around me. Sometimes I change; I adjust my way of working. But feeling is most important. I had worked in Colombia many times, always on precise assignments.  But, for Macondo I wanted to be totally free.

“It was not an assignment, it was just a desire. After almost forty years of work I wanted to do something more important than my professional work; something that spoke about me. Though the work was inspired by Gabo’s writing, this was kind of an outer portrait of mine, which perhaps all personal works of photographers are.

I read his auto biography and biography by Gerard Martin. In the beginning I started to capture the places that reminded me of the ‘100 Years of Solitude’. As I went on everything I saw reminded me of ‘100 years…’ and now all the pictures from the book remind me of the novel.

 On the experience of shooting ‘Macondo’
“The thing that was a big discovery was that everything that Gabo wrote came from a reality, and that it was not a fantasy or magical realism.   I understood it clearly when I went to Aracataca, the place where he was born. Gabo wrote: ‘At that time Macondo was a village of twenty adobe houses, built on the bank of a river that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehistoric eggs.’

“I went looking for it and found that precise spot!  “There were many such instances. It was like discovering a key.”

His thoughts on photography today
“Yes, it has become much easier to take a single image today because of digital photography. The problem is not the shot, but the sequencing.  One must know how to sequence and tell a story, may it be for a book, catalogue or an exhibition. It is difficult, really difficult, to find the right way.”

 On his working style
I work slowly.  I build stories year after year. I have had just four books in forty years.  I like to build and rebuild things; it is important to me. I like to stay for long and find a personal vision. It is very important to find a personal vision. I become friends with the people I photograph, I keep in touch, and I photograph them over time. They become a symbol of the passage of time. For me the most important work is when life – my personal life – and photography fit together.  I like to work in places where it seems there is nothing to see. But I ask, dig deeper and see pictures where apparently there is nothing to be seen. The most difficult thing is to find things when there is nothing. Macondo is not only work; it is my life. Because it is a culture I like, I feel very close to.

Allure of film

Like all my peers, I started shooting on film. In mid 80s in India, B&W was much cheaper than colour and I could process it myself. It was easier to print than colour. Ilford FP-4 was widely available at Rs.20/- per roll if one bought a pack of 10s. Microdol-X was my preferred developer, diluted 1:3. So I shot a lot of B&W and later colour after turning a professional.

{However back then, in the 80s I didn’t ever think that there would be a day when one had to search for film in India, in the same way as I couldn’t imagine then that there would be a day when one can walk into a camera store and buy anything she wanted without paying customs of duty of 250%}

I have now begun to catalogue my work of three decades.  As I look back three decades and, the “Allure of Film’ pulled me in. The images shot on film, negatives especially look beautiful, poetic. There is an enveloping softness, something intangible in those images that tug your heart. Shooting with film teaches you the craft of photography, to visualize and patience.

The images recorded on the modern digital sensor are sharper than a Hattori Hanzo sword. However many of them seem to lack the craft that is required to make an image using film. The revival of film is already underway, with the success of Impossible Project and the efforts to revive other brands of film. Ferrania tried to raise USD250000.00 via their Kickstarter campaign and they already have USD281000.00 with eleven days to go!

The great photographer Eric Meola made a stunning image in Burma that changed his life. It was of a ceremony known as Shinbyu”–where young boys would become Buddh and would be initiated as novice monks.

In a recent Facebook post he said

“It would be several weeks before I saw the image because I was, of course, shooting film. But I realized at that moment that my life had changed and that I had been privileged to witness a precious few moments that also marked a passage in this young boy’s life. I remember opening the box, and spreading the slides onto the lightbox, and looking intensely through a loupe and seeing this image for the first time. That moment of recognition has changed. We glance at our camera’s LCD’s as we would an image on an iPhone–an image flashing a scene for a few seconds. The connection of a “latent” image hidden in the darkness of a film canister, is gone. That sense of something precious and unique is now consumed by the world’s production of imagery. Today, in the single minute it took to open the box of processed film and find this image, 210,000 images have been uploaded to Facebook. In the next 24 hours, another 302,000,000 images will make their way onto Facebook’s servers. Three hundred and two. Million images. In one day. But for that one moment as I looked through the loupe, I knew I had made an image that was important, and that had changed my career and my life, forever”

Copyright : Eric Meola

Copyright : Eric Meola

A winter morning in Laporiya, Rajasthan, 2004. Shot with Kodak colour negative film

A winter morning in Laporiya, Rajasthan, 2004. Shot with Kodak colour negative film

Delhi Photo Festival 2011

It was the first morning of Delhi Photo Festival 2011. I spotted Prashant Panjiar steaming in. I stopped and congratulated him. About a year ago, he had shared the plans for the festival over beer with Dinesh Khanna and Shyam Tekwani (Former India Today photographer who had done pioneering work in Srilanka). “Finally all set Prashant, congratulations” said I. “Set? Nothing is set..everything is falling apart” he huffed, puffed and sped away. I looked around, everything seemed allright to me. It was the first festival of such kind in India and Prashant had a reason to be harried. He didn’t have to worry, the next few days were intensely joyful for us. We saw lots of photographic work, listened many of them speak and exchanged thoughts. However the most cherished moments were sharing thoughts, ideas and our own vulnerabilities with peers over coffee, beer and dinner. This happens only during festivals when one is away from the day to day rigours and when serotonin flows!

Photography today is largely seen as subservient to the written word. When used in the media to illustrate a story, captions are mostly descriptive, they explain the obvious. When we read prose or poetry our minds construct our own personal worlds, but when we see a picture, we demand explanation of everything even the obvious. Till about late 80s photojournalists did great work in India. Iconic images and great photo essays were made and published, though all the action was confined to New Delhi. As the digital revolution advanced the place photography had in the media went out of the window. Yet many young practitioners today are doing wonderful work in India but outlets to exhibit are few. Also the issue with photography is that it is not easily available for people at large to view, interpret and enjoy. It is confined to galleries or expensive photo books, which only enthusiasts and connoisseurs visit. Almost all other art forms are easier to access. We need many public venues for photographers to showcase their work easily. Photo festivals can step in to provide a platform. I hope Delhi Photo Festival and other festivals become conduits to take the power photography to people.

I witnessed the beginnings of the digital revolution in New York city in 1992, everyone in the industry spoke in hushed tones about and looked at it with great trepidation. Ever since then I have felt that we have been in the cusp of change. Today we have crossed the threshold but everyone talks about the demise of photography as we knew it. We talk about lack of budget but there is money. We need to find ne patrons, new avenues to raise money for projects, new ways to take our works to people. I am an eternal optimist – I believe that photography’s new golden age is about dawn. 

Whose City Is It?

This is the essay I wrote for my book Bengaluru/Bangalore – In First Person Singular. The book was published in Feb 2012. It’s available on many brick ‘n mortar online stores.

I visited Bangalore for the first time in 1974 with my mother. We traveled overnight in a ‘luxury bus’ from Mangalore. My uncle picked us up from Ananda Rao Circle and drove us to his home on Hall Road, Richards Town, in the heart of the Cantonment. A few days later we made a trip to the Pété or the Old City to visit my mother’s friends. When we returned, my cousin who was a teenager then, asked if Avenue Road (Arterial road of the Pété) was like she imagined it to be—a treelined boulevard. When my mother told her that it was narrow andcrowded, she was disappointed. My cousin was born and brought up in Bangalore but in the Cantonment. And like the people of the Pété, she had no contact with the ‘other’ side. For the people of the Cantt., Bangalore then was a small area of about 25 sq km. That was their cosmos. But Bangalore has always been a different city for different people, from its founder Kempegowda to the Britishers, from South Bangaloreans to residents of the Cantt. and now the new settlers. And as it happened with my cousin, the city assumes its own character in peoples’ imagination.
Thirty-seven years after my first visit to Bangalore, I found myself at the highest point in the city, the helipad of the World Trade Centre in Yeshawantapura. I stood at 128 m above the city. I could see the sprawl. Aided by the fact that the initial expansion of Bangalore was in the south, the city had continued to stretch southward all the way to Electronics City. In the east, the sleeping suburb of Whitefield had woken up with an International Tech Park. Like a giant amoeba, the city arched along the new arterial ring roads. ‘Have road, will grow’ seems the motto. Looking northwards, I could see more expansion, galloping towards the new airport. The sun set, the city lights came on, on miles and miles around me, and I could see the new areas of the city so clearly.
Circa 1987: Rana my graphic designer friend, complained that the traffic was becoming so heavy that he had to change the gears of his motor bike, riding to work at Vasanta Nagar from his house in Frazer Town, a distance of about 3 km. He didn’t have to do so few years ago, he grumbled.
In the 80s, Bangalore was a wonderful place to live. It had the potential to be a great city. Ramakrishna Hegde, who was the chief minister of the state from 1983-86 was partly responsible for this. He wholeheartedly supported the arts and invited artists to make Bangalore their home. The city soon had a considerable number of highly creative people; society was tolerant and the environment was right for creativity to thrive. Reminiscing, artist S.G. Vasudev says, “The mid 70s were even better. Bangalore was an open society and absorbed everything and everyone.”
The 70s witnessed a renaissance in Kannada literature, theater and film. “This revival of Kannada became Bangalore’s renaissance,” says culture maven Prakash Belawadi. Pratima Nataka Ranga, the theater movement led by P.Lankesh and with the participation of B.V. Karanth, Girish Karnad and Chandrashekara Kambara produced many actors. Bangalore was in the forefront of the production of parallel cinema as well. The trend continued through the 80s.The cultural scene was vibrant. “It is art and culture that shaped Bangalore,” insists S.G Vasudev.
By the mid 80s, however, another revolution had begun to brew. Narayana Murthy and his crew had quietly slipped into Bangalore and set up shop in Jayanagar. Azim Premji’s Wipro began exploring new technology and a young man named Subroto Bagchi had arrived to work for him. These men brought to Bangalore its biggest changemaker, Information Technology (IT).
Circa 1988: I walked into my friend Jayadeva’s studio. He was designing a brochure. “It’s for a company called Infosys,” he said. “The Managing Director is going abroad to market his company.”
As the IT revolution progressed, people migrated to Bangalore from other parts of India. Money poured into the pockets of a section of the society. From the pursuit of arts and humanities, the core value shifted to wealth creation. This led to crass commercialization, land grabbing, and worse, a gaudy display of this new wealth. An entire city went after a piece of the IT pie. This frenzy was not limited to Bangalore but the true growth of the city diminished. A city grows when people grow, when their minds grow; they become creative and the quality of life becomes better across the society. Sadly, the IT revolution didn’t achieve this. The arts that had such a great start withdrew into a dormant mode. The divide in the city was again apparent. Only this time it wasn’t geographic, it was monetary. On the one side, there was money pouring into Bangalore but events like the Jazz Yatra, Bangalore’s quadrennial Jazz festival couldn’t muster any sponsors after the mid-90s.
Our politicians forgot the arts too. Political and business leaders dreamed aloud of converting Bangalore into a Singapore. They said they would bring wide roads, flyovers, tech parks, air conditioned malls and more to Bangalore. And people applauded. No one seemed to understand that Bangalore needed to be Bangalore and not Singapore or Beijing.
Circa 1992: I was in the United States to attend photography workshops, meet photographers and broaden my horizons, so to say “Where are you from,” I’d be asked. “A city called Bangalore in India” I’d reply. It didn’t ring a bell. No one there had heard of Bangalore then. Mumbai and Delhi, yes…Calcutta…hmm…sounded familiar but Bangalore? Not at all! Six years later, I was back. This time, everyone seemed to know about it. “Bangalore,” they’d say, “that’s where the tech park is coming up.”
By the mid-90s Bangalore was already being touted as one of the fastest growing cities in Asia. But the growth was unplanned and exponential. For city authorities, it has been nothing short of a nightmare. A senior official of the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) once confided (unofficially) that the BWSSB is able to take only 30% of the sewage for treatment. The rest, he said, flows into Cauvery or sinks into the ground contaminating the ground water. Even today the city does not have a comprehensive plan to regenerate its water sources and a good waste management plan.
Circa 1999: I was in the office of S.Vishwanath at the Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO). Vishwanath is a pioneering water conservation expert and one of the fewpeople who has been speaking up on mandatory rainwater harvesting in Bangalore. When I met him, Bangalore was
already getting its water from the Cauvery about 120 km away. “We are sitting on a tinderbox” he rued. “This city will soon run out of water if we go on mindlessly spending this scarce resource.” We had two sources of water, two reservoirs, Hesaraghatta and Tippegondanahalli, both created by building check dams across two rivulets, the Arkavathy and Kumudvathy. Both reservoirs were almost dry.
The exponential growth of Bangalore placed an enormous pressure on the basic infrastructure. Roads were clogged. Public transportation was inadequate. Yet, malls and residential apartments mushroomed. People bought cars and motorbikes as if buying peanuts. The pressure was on authorities to widen roads leading to the IT corridors so that traffic would move smoothly. The rest of the city was neglected. The flip side was that neighborhoods and communities were forgotten. There was very little emphasis on the development of human capital. This uni-dimensional growth had other consequences. Many began to feel that their voice would not be heard by the powers that run the city. This perception prevented the emergence of a concerned, strong and caring civil society. The city seemed to belong to no one. There was no unified voice speaking for the city. It seemed as though the many divides in its history had finally become Bangalore’s undoing. Narendar Pani describes it in his essay ‘Imaginations of Bengaluru’
  “All through Bengaluru’s often tumultuous history, the emerging dominant groups have had little reason to celebrate the past. From the cantonment in the early nineteenth century to the public sector in the middle of the twentieth century to the information technology industry in the beginning of the twentyfirst century, the emerging growth centre have always been located outside the boundaries of what was then the city. As the emerging economic powers put their own stamp on the city, they had no reason to celebrate earlier traditions that they were trying to replace…….This absence of an adequate ongoing dialogue between the pastand the present has an overwhelming impact on the way theinhabitants of Bengaluru, and hence others imagine the city.”
Consequently, even before the 21st century set in, many creative people migrated to Mumbai, Delhi and even outside India. Bangalore began to lose its appeal and its vibrancy. Over coffee at Koshy’s, I am in conversation with Aliyeh Rizvi. She is the great grandniece of Sir Mirza Ismail who was the Dewan (Chief Minister) of Mysore State between 1926-1940. He is credited with laying the foundation of modern Bangalore. I ask Aliyeh what she thinks has changed and she says that grace and memories have been lost in the unplanned and sudden growth of the city. Many old Bangaloreans from across the city have echoed the same thought. Their memories are of an organically growing environment where culture had a place, and where the natural and the built could coexist. The loss of such an environment has created a sense of disconnect in an already fragmented city. Urban life has begun to lose its sheen. The debate is not about the old versus the new or art against technology. It is about the lack of creativity and the support system in the society for its growth. I am not the first to think and believe that the arts will provide the change that cities need. Across the globe, where commerce and politics have determined the path of a city, arts and creativity are increasingly stepping in. Artists, writers and architects will play a crucial role in shaping cities and urban environments in only a few more decades. Richards Florida, thought leader, author and urban studies theorist asserts that,
Metropolitan regions with high concentrations of technology workers, artists, musicians, lesbians and gay men—“high bohemians”, exhibit a higher level of economic development. Collectively called as the “creative class” they foster an open, dynamic, personal and professional urban environment. This
environment, in turn, attracts more creative people, as well as businesses and capital. Attracting and retaining highquality talent versus a singular focus on projects such as sports stadiums, iconic buildings, and shopping centers, would be a better primary use of a city’s regeneration of resources for longterm prosperity.
Even as chaos thrived and troubled the old Bangalorean, a lady named Arundhati Nag was quietly laying the foundation for another cultural renaissance. It was the year 2003-04. I remember it as a time when people around me were bored. The IT revolution of the previous decade was no longer a novelty. It had brought money to the city but did not spawn innovation. Our professionals were restless. The question “What do we do on the weekend?” hung in the air, reminding me of the classic “Where shall we eat?” in Douglas Adam’s The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. At this juncture Arundhati Nag set upon building a theatre in the memory of her husband, the actor Shankar Nag. It was evidently a labour of intense love and passion. Almost single-handedly she managed to build a world-class theatre in south Bangalore’s JP Nagar. Arundhati’s Ranga Shankara promised the city a play every evening. Performers could afford its costs and audiences, its tickets. Across the city, several parallel movements began. Suresh Jayaram’s 1 Shanti Road became an artist’s hub. Prakash Belawadi established the Centre for Film and Drama. Archana Prasad’s Jaaga, Creative Common Ground broke new ground as a place for new media and arts. Arundhati and Jagdish Raja built their theatre, Jagriti in Whitefield. Vivek Shanbhag and his friends took up the publication of a Kannada literary journal, Desha Kala. Painters and sculptors prevailed upon the government and brought the National Gallery of Modern Art to Bangalore, and housed it in the beautiful old building, the Manikyavelu Mansion. Almost as though they were emerging from a stupor, dancers, musicians, photographers, painters, sculptors and writers began to make their presence felt. For them to innovate and create, the city needs more, much more, by way of infrastructure. Performance spaces, and spaces to exhibit art are desperately required.
In today’s post-industrial society, however, it is highly qualified and creative people who are the most crucial resource for economic development. To attract and retain such people, cities must offer high quality of life. This includes comfortable, fast and accessible public transportation; wide tree-lined sidewalks; protected bicycle lanes; abundant parks, sports facilities and libraries; and a rich cultural life.” So thought Enrique Peñalosa, former mayor of Bogota. He was one of two mayors who, using unorthodox methods and in less than 10 years turned one of the world’s most dangerous, violent and corrupt capitals into a peaceful model city populated by caring citizens.
 As Jayachandran Palazhi, founder and artistic director of the Attakalari Centre for Movement Arts says, “Culture is as essential as water or air. The need for cultural spaces should sink into our consciousness. They are as important as schools and hospitals.” Centres of higher learning too have the potential to make major contributions to the development of human capital of a city as well. Though Bangalore has several, these centres have remained as self contained islands, rarely interacting with the society at large. The National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), Indian Institute of Management (IIM) and International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) have made small inroads in dialogue with the city but does the city encourage this exchange? As Vijaya Raghavan, Director, NCBS puts it, “the city needs a common watering hole”.
A new era in Bangalore’s history may be in the making as arts and the sciences, IT and the other, the Pété and the Cantt., the old and the new come forward to meet at long last. Great progress can be possible. The impediments in the way of a developed Bangalore are three-fold: physical, social and cultural. The water table of the city is dwindling at great pace. Today water is piped from the Cauvery for almost 140 km into the city at a great cost. Once the fourth phase of the Cauvery water supply is completed, it cannot draw any more water from the river. In the last 25 years, the population of the city has increased by 250%. The total area covered by the city has quadrupled. As I write this, newspapers report on areas in the city that have not had water supply for two months. Where will we get our water from? There are no answers. The second problem of garbage and sewage. Without waste management solutions, garbage is choking the city, its lowlands and waterways. The third area of concern is the rise of cultural jingoism that has reduced the openness and tolerance in the society. The supporters of this jingoism are everywhere, in politics, business and civic authority. Jane Jacobs called them squelchers – people who divert and derail human creative energy, posing roadblocks, acting as gatekeepers and saying ‘No’ to new ideas, regardless of the merit. It will be interesting to see if through these obstacles we can still create a new urban memory, one that connects the natural, the built and the cultural environments. A memory that can be a guide to the future. An hopeful note, all is not lost yet. The arrival of people from across the country and even the world is a positive development. Historically too, it was this ability of Bangalore to invite everyone and allow them to feel at home, that enabled creativity. In fact, one of the city’s founding fathers, Sir Mirza Ismail was of Persian descent. Some of the best-known Kannada writers did not speak Kannada at home. The Alliance Francaise and Goethe Institute have always supported the arts and culture. Today’s youth carry enormous goodwill towards this city, far from the discontent of the previous generation. The IT revolution did open Bangalore’s doors to the entire world, bringing varied exposures and experiences. There can be a resurgence of creativity. But that can happen only when the various divides within the city are bridged. Bangalore can become a melting pot of cultures. And only then will the citizens find their space within the city and a unified voice rise in support of it. And only then can we hope for an open culture to be created once more. But if we don’t act now, the city might just go South.

Copyright : Mahesh Bhat

Re Imagining the People of India

We reached Sadar Bazar in Old Delhi by around 3 pm. My student-assistant Shivya and I took a cycle-rickshaw ride from Chandni Chowk. I called Prem Chand Sonar (a goldsmith) from the entrance of Galli Bharna. “Aap ki dukaan kahaan hai?” (Where is your shop?) I asked. A lady who picked up the call said, “Kalu Ram halwai ke samne hi hai.”  (Right in front of the shop of  Kalu Ram, the halwah maker) “Kalu Ram halwai kahan hai?” (Where is Kalu Ram?)  I asked again. “Arre…chaiwale ke paas main”, ( Right next to the tea stall) came the answer. It was mid-March and I was doing portraits Re-imaging The People of India (1850-2013), a photography exhibition, under the aegis of Neel Dongre Awards/Grants for Excellence in Photography by India Photo Archive Foundation.

A few minutes later, we were in Prem Chand’s shop. It was a village square in the heart of a megapolis. Even as a motley crowd started gathering, a ‘talkative man’ appeared. Clad in a suit jacket, he wanted me to have chai first before initiating my work. I told him I would shoot first and then drink chai. He would have none of it. He bombarded me with questions, asking about the details of my work —why, how, where and when. He was genuinely interested in knowing why I was there shooting pictures. He introduced me to his friends and even they enquired everything about the project. Itwas a truly beautiful village experience, I must say.

The People of India was an 8-volume publication compiled by John Forbes Watson and John William Kaye between 1868 and 1875. Originally conceived by Lord and Lady Canning, it was an early experiment with photography as a documentary medium. The original prints were made using a process called Albumen printing and the good news is that they are still around, very well preserved. The original People of India project was very significant as it was the first photography project combining street and studio.

India Photo Archive Foundation, set up by photographer and photo historian Aditya Arya, asked four photographers, Dileep Prakash, Dinesh Khanna, Sandeep Biswas and yours truly to revisit People of India in modern context. The geographical area was confined to the National Capital Region. We had the freedom to interpret the subject in our own way. I spent five days in New Delhi photographing 10 people. My thought was just to observe and photograph without making a comment. I love doing portraits; it’s like conversing with the subject‘s soul. It was a wonderful project to do some slow photography and formal environmental portraiture.

My first assignment was Shadipur Depot in East Dehi. I went to photograph Sangita, a peformer. Her manager, Prakash Bhatt aka Lakshman master, a performer himself, met us at the metro station and took us to his house. From Rajasthan, they lived in a slum. We had to walk on open sewer that served as a path to reach his house. I learnt that he and his troupe had performed at various festivals of India in Washington DC, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, etc. The living conditions were really bad. After the shoot, I wondered how could we collectively allow our fellow citizens and that too someone who had represented India internationally to live in such miserable conditions.

Dinesh Khanna had a different outlook. “I have had rather confusing thoughts about the caste system. The fact that it defines people as per their professions and vocations seems fine, but that these became shackles, which didn’t just imprison people but also caused social discrimination, is abhorrent. Caste should not dictate a person’s destiny and I wanted to make portraits of my subjects that showed them as individuals, recorded their professions and, most importantly, gave them respect and dignity,” he said. Dileep Prakash used an old wooden field camera, B&W sheet film and slow shutter speed to give an aesthetic treatment similar to the 19th century photographers. “Transposing them from their own reality would be to give them a forced identity. For me, they are not characters or models or ‘types’ – they are people who have their own identity. Their castes are not relevant to me,” said Dileep Prakash. Sandeep Biswas photographed with a small element of humour thrown in. He feels that the project gave him a new dimension towards his work.

The exhibition opened on Wednesday at the India International Centre in New Delhi. It will run till April 26 and showcase the rare Albumen prints of the pictures from the 1850s with the contemporary work. Curator Aditya Arya says the project was inspired by his passion for studying and collecting the images from the early years of photography, especially in the context of Indian subcontinent. It was a deeply fulfilling project for me, where I just observed and made the pictures.

First Published in Bangalore Mirror on 18th April, 2013

Archival picture of street performers

Archival picture of street performers

Sangita, a performer in Lakshman Master’s troupe, photographed at his house in Shadipur Depot

Sangita, a performer in Lakshman Master’s troupe, photographed at his house in Shadipur Depot

The exhibition at India International Centre, New Delhi

The exhibition at India International Centre, New Delhi

The exhibition at India International Centre, New Delhi

The exhibition at India International Centre, New Delhi

The exhibition at India International Centre, New Delhi

The exhibition at India International Centre, New Delhi