Life of a Librarian

J Jayaraman, a resident of Sri Ramana Ashram has been documenting his own life as part of Project 365 – the PUBLIC PHOTO ART project initiated by EtP. JJ is born in a South Indian Brahmin family. JJ is passionate about music and art right from his childhood. He fondly recollects his mother singing the catchy songs of Tayumanavar, Pattinathar, Arunagirinathar, which used to be a common practice in every family in our culture. He didn’t learn music but was initiated into the world through a direct exploration of the Octave. He plays several instruments, all of them palm-holdable and single-pitched, like the mouth-harp, didgeridoo, gopichand ektar, tambourine, taal, shakers. He is a ready enthusiast of any music, and chants. Jayaraman did his B.Tech from IIT, Chennai. Immediately after his graduation he joined IBM. Part of his working-life also took him to nearby Baroda. A voracious reader ‘JJ’ was a frequent visitor to an East West Book House. That’s when he read about Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi in the book ‘Talks with Maharshi’ written by Osborne. After that he visited the ashram and since 1975 he started visiting Tiruvannamalai and the Ashram every year. In the year 1985 he quit his fancy job and became an inmate of the ashram, given the responsibility of being Librarian to its archivally unique Sri Ramana Centenary Library now [shifted into ashram area,] named Ramana Granthalayam. He had an early interest in observing photos. The long processing delay between Karma and Phala prevented him from exploring photography. In the year 2008, he started using smart phone to capture images of his daily life. When he discovered Facebook, it became his ‘real-time extension to share his mundane life images, unedited. To him, photography opened his eyes to light and to help him explore the connection with the sublime and eternal through the romance between darkness and light. JJ expressed his interest to be part project 365 and EtP was equally keen to have him part of the team. As an inmate of the ashram, JJ had more access to the ashram and was bound to bring out interesting visuals of the ashram and its surrounding.

J Jayaraman / Project 365 photographer / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / EtP Archives
J Jayaraman / Project 365 photographer / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / EtP Archives

In this project 365, JJ has sharing images of his own life in the ashram. He understands photography to be a two dimensional capture of a three-dimensional ‘frame’ flying past in pixels of 5-quanta [=sense-organ flow] then by adding metrical text ‘on the go’ to it, he adds a ‘third’ dimension to his unconventional images. And unconventional they tend to be, given his obsessive compulsive pattern-recognition. This autobiographical project brings us the protean maverick life of JJ to the light. It is appropriate to quote his words, “I entered my professional ‘ride’ when Woodstock was upon all. The ‘opting out’ was a strategy successfully demonstrated to himself by Henry David Thoreau, but would not suit a social movement like Hippyism, that need to find a structure so as not to be labeled parasite. It took time for me to realize that our own tradition allowed such a practice derived from the roots of individual temperament, and the universally present process of spiritual maturing. It has been a round trip for the Tenth Bull.”

Life of a librarian - Image (C) J Jayaraman - Project 365 public archives
Life of a librarian – Image (C) J Jayaraman – Project 365 public archives
Life of a librarian - Image (C) J Jayaraman - Project 365 public archives
Life of a librarian – Image (C) J Jayaraman – Project 365 public archives
Life of a librarian - Image (C) J Jayaraman - Project 365 public archives
Life of a librarian – Image (C) J Jayaraman – Project 365 public archives

JJ says, “The mind of a librarian who is primarily an engineer and a musician tends to gravitate towards super sets in classification and accommodation of knowledge within wholesome experience. So, much of the content of a library, its spectrum of knowledge, in some way reflects the persona of the librarian. There has been an openness in accepting all and any points of view. This fits in with Ramana Maharishi’s approach saying that, if the knower is apprehended, all else is known and if that is not done, no amount of knowledge is useful. And in the style of living accorded through him, which he called athyasrama (meaning beyond conventional human classifications), his followers and devotees are accorded a wide field for them to engage upon, should destiny move things that way for them. In my case, the invitation from Ekalokam Trust to be one of the photographers recording an aspect of Project 365 for the Arunachala, namely my life in the ashram, as a librarian, has indeed given me immense scope to capture in the visual and document the events in verse, that usually demands a revisit. The never tiring scenes of Nature’s beauty, manifest through its beings, moving and the unmoving, flying, creeping, and swimming and seeking through the verticals and the horizontals have been available to me in plenty day after day. There is an unchanging that connects all in any given theme that is captured. Put in reverse, any thing or any series that is captured can, contemplated upon sufficiently, reveal a theme. I daresay I find the subject practically inexhaustible in detail, but capable of manifesting a sturdy monotone of reality as it is, reality as it is suggested and reality as it is desired. Asti. Bhati. Priyam.”

Life of a librarian - Image (C) J Jayaraman - Project 365 public archives
Life of a librarian – Image (C) J Jayaraman – Project 365 public archives
Life of a librarian - Image (C) J Jayaraman - Project 365 public archives
Life of a librarian – Image (C) J Jayaraman – Project 365 public archives
Life of a librarian - Image (C) J Jayaraman - Project 365 public archives
Life of a librarian – Image (C) J Jayaraman – Project 365 public archives
Life of a librarian - Image (C) J Jayaraman - Project 365 public archives
Life of a librarian – Image (C) J Jayaraman – Project 365 public archives
Life of a librarian - Image (C) J Jayaraman - Project 365 public archives
Life of a librarian – Image (C) J Jayaraman – Project 365 public archives
Life of a librarian - Image (C) J Jayaraman - Project 365 public archives
Life of a librarian – Image (C) J Jayaraman – Project 365 public archives

(to be continued…)

Director’s Anecdote I

Draupadi’s horse

Draupadi's Horse  / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Director's Anecdote / Project 365 PUBLIC archives
Draupadi’s Horse / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Director’s Anecdote / Project 365 PUBLIC archives

White horses (which are rarer than other colours of horse) have a special significance in the mythologies of cultures around the world. They are often associated with the sun chariot, with warrior-heroes, with fertility (in both mare and stallion manifestations), or with an end-of-time saviour, but other interpretations exist as well. Both truly white horses and the more common grey horse, with completely white hair coats, were identified as “white” by various religious and cultural traditions. From earliest times white horses have been mythologized as possessing exceptional properties, transcending the normal world by having wings (e.g. Pegasus from Greek mythology), or having horns (the unicorn). As part of its legendary dimension, the white horse in myth may be depicted with seven heads (Uchaishravas) or eight feet (Sleipnir), sometimes in groups or singly. There are also white horses which are divinatory, who prophesy or warn of danger. The Book of Zechariah twice mentions colored horses; in the first passage there are three colors (red, dappled, and white), and in the second there are four teams of horses (red, black, white, and finally dappled) pulling chariots. The second set of horses are referred to as “the four spirits of heaven, going out from standing in the presence of the Lord of the whole world.” They are described as patrolling the earth and keeping it peaceful. Islamic culture tells of a white horse named Al-Buraq who brought Muhammead to Hannah during the Night Journey. In the New Testament, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse include one seated on a white horse and one on a pale horse – the “white” horse carried the rider Conquest (traditionally, Pestilence) while the “pale” horse carried the rider, Death. However, the Greek word chloros, translated as pale, is often interpreted as sickly green or ashen grey rather than white. Later in the Book of Reveleation, Christ rides a white horse out of heaven at the head of the armies of heaven to judge and make war upon the earth. White horses appear many times in Hindu mythology. The Vedic horse sacrifice or Ashvamedha was a fertility and kingship ritual involving the sacrifice of a sacred gray or white stallion. The Ashvamedha is described in detail in the Yajurveda and the pertaining commentary in the Shatapatha Brahmana. The Rigveda does have descriptions of horse sacrifice, known as aśvamedha, but does not allude to the full ritual according to the Yajurveda. As per Brahma Vairvarta Purana, the Ashvamedha is one of five rites forbidden in the Kali Yuga, the present age. The Ashvamedha could only be conducted by a king. Its object was the acquisition of power and glory, the sovereignty over neighbouring provinces, and general prosperity of the kingdom. A historically documented performance of the Ashvamedha is during the reign of Samudragupta I (died 380), the father of Chandragupta II. Special coins were minted to commemorate the Ashvamedha and the king took on the title of Maharajadhiraja after successful completion of the sacrifice. There were a few later performances, one by Raja of Kannauj Jai Chandra Rathod in the 12th century, unsuccessfully, as Prithiviraj Chauhan thwarted his attempt and later married Rathod’s daughter. The last known instance seems to be in 1716 CE, by Jai Singh II of Amber, of Jaipur. Performances of the Ashvamedha feature in the epics Ramayana and Mahabharat. In the Mahabharata, the sacrifice is performed by Yudhistira, his brothers guarding the horse as it roamed into neighbouring kingdoms. Arujuna defeats all challengers. The Mahabharata says that the Ashvamedha as performed by Yudhishtira adhered to the letter of the Vedic prescriptions. After the horse was cut into parts, Draupadi had to sit beside the parts of the horse. Similar rituals may have taken place among Roman, Celtic and Norse people, but the descriptions are not so complete.

This photograph of Draupadi with her horse vahana (vehicle) is taken in the ancient Draupadi temple, Tiruvannamalai. Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Project 365 public archives / 2014.

Photographer Abul Kalam Azad is one of the foremost exponents of art photography in India. He started photography at a very young age. He is noted for his maverick, protean approach to photography and his experimental photography works are widely discussed. His works have been exhibited in India and abroad. He predominantly uses analog photography. During the past ten years, he has been digital technique as well. He lives and works in Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu. He is the Director of Project 365 –  a PUBLIC PHOTO ART project that takes art to the rural India. In Director’s anecdote, Abul Kalam Azad contributes visual anecdotes that forms part of Project 365.

Project 365 is a PUBLIC PHOTOGRAPHIC ART PROJECT initiated by EtP to photo-document the fast changing ancient culture and contemporary lifestyle of the ancient Tamilakam territory. During the first phase, forty photographers will be documenting the multi-cultural aspects of #Tiruvannamalai, South Indian heritage town over a year period (Aug 2014 – July 2015). This Project is led by contemporary Indian photographer Abul Kalam Azad. FOR MORE PROJECT 365 IMAGES, see #etpproject365 In the next five years, EtP will document the Sangam period ports Muziris, Tindis, Korkai and the Cauvery basin culture and lifestyle.

Disclaimer: All rights reserved. All the images published in this blog is copyrighted property of the author and belongs to PROJECT 365 PUBLIC ARCHIVES. Text (C) Tulsi Swarna Lakshmi / EtP. Reprinting / publishing rights reserved by the author and EtP (PROJECT 365 public archives). Prior permission is required for reproduction / re-publishing. For more information about Project 365, contact EtP at {0}4175 237405 / {0}94879 56405 / ekalokam@gmail.com / FACEBOOK – Project 365

 

Taking photo-art to rural india

Art events in contemporary India often get diluted into art houses and galleries that are situated in urban settings. The larger rural audience is often excluded from contemporary art initiatives. Even the most modern and democratic medium like photography, which has the inherent quality to express art to public in a simple, honest, everyday manner, is being capitalized. A prolonged effort is required to re-inculcate the interest of rural public in contemporary art. Taking art to rural India and rejuvenating traditional analog medium is the vision behind EtP’s Project 365.

EtP is set-up in the outskirts of Tiruvannamalai town, amidst rural settings. EtP has established Kalai Illam, a village space for art and organises several events targeted to attract the rural population. Week end ‘meet the artist’ gatherings, establishing photo-art clubs and organizing outreach photo presentations / art activities in schools and colleges; initiating poster campaigns; conducting photography and art workshops / seminars; ‘photography and beyond’ – year-long exhibition series, etc. are few of the activities under taken as part of Project 365. Due to this regular interaction, the public is getting interested in contemporary photography and art practices. Slowly and steadily, the number of people enjoying the exhibitions and participating in the week-end interactions is increasing.

19th October 2014, meet-the-artist event was organised. The special guest for the event was Sri. R. R. Srinivasan, photographer and activist. He presented his body of photographic works. R.R. Srinivasan has been actively involved in film appreciation movement in Tamil Nadu through film society movement and alternative film journals. He emerged from Kanchanai film society in Thirunelveli. Kanchanai film society has played a key role in bringing serious cinema to a non-metropolitan audience. He guest lecturers on film, literature and photography in universities and colleges. He has directed and produced several documentary movies on social issues including 28 documentary films on folk art tradition of Tamil Nadu. He has done several television interviews on artists and writers. His photographs have been exhibited n different parts of Tamil Nadu. He has published a photo book on Narikoravas, nomadic tribes of India. RR is one of the leading photographers in Project 365

'Meet the artist' / Photographer and activist R R Srinivasan / Image (C) Arnav Rastogi / EtP Archives
‘Meet the artist’ / Photographer and activist R R Srinivasan / Image (C) Arnav Rastogi / EtP Archives
'Meet the artist' / Photographer and activist R R Srinivasan / Image (C) Arnav Rastogi / EtP Archives
‘Meet the artist’ / Photographer and activist R R Srinivasan / Image (C) Arnav Rastogi / EtP Archives
'Meet the artist' / Photographer and activist R R Srinivasan / Image (C) Arnav Rastogi / EtP Archives
‘Meet the artist’ / Photographer and activist R R Srinivasan / Image (C) Arnav Rastogi / EtP Archives
'Meet the artist' / Photographer and activist R R Srinivasan / Image (C) Arnav Rastogi / EtP Archives
‘Meet the artist’ / Photographer and activist R R Srinivasan / Image (C) Arnav Rastogi / EtP Archives
'Meet the artist' / Photographer and activist R R Srinivasan / Image (C) Arnav Rastogi / EtP Archives
‘Meet the artist’ / Photographer and activist R R Srinivasan / Image (C) Arnav Rastogi / EtP Archives
'Meet the artist' / Photographer and activist R R Srinivasan / Image (C) Arnav Rastogi / EtP Archives
‘Meet the artist’ / Photographer and activist R R Srinivasan / Image (C) Arnav Rastogi / EtP Archives
'Meet the artist' / Photographer and activist R R Srinivasan and American artist Wendel Field / Image (C) Arnav Rastogi / EtP Archives
‘Meet the artist’ / Photographer and activist R R Srinivasan and American artist Wendel Field / Image (C) Arnav Rastogi / EtP Archives

Meet the artist event has been regularly organised at Kalai Illam. On 12th October 2014, Project 365 photographer Bhagyashri Patki presented her works followed by a video documentary on Indian photographers Sunil Janah, Sohrab Hura and Brazilian photographer Sebastiao Salgado.On 5th October 2014, Photographer Shiv Kiran presented his works followed by video documentary French Photographer Henry Cartier-Bresson who had visited Tiruvannamalai during the 1950s.

Project 365 Photographer Bhagyashri Patki presenting her works / Image (C) Arnav Rastogi / EtP archives
Project 365 Photographer Bhagyashri Patki presenting her works / Image (C) Arnav Rastogi / EtP archives
The audience / Project 365 Photographer Bhagyashri Patki presenting her works / Image (C) Arnav Rastogi / EtP archives
The audience / Meet Project 365 Photographer Bhagyashri Patki  / Image (C) Arnav Rastogi / EtP archives
Project 365 Photographer Shiv Kiran presenting his works / Image (C) Arnav Rastogi / EtP archives
Project 365 Photographer Shiv Kiran presenting his works / Image (C) Arnav Rastogi / EtP archives
Project 365 Photographer Shiv Kiran presenting his works / Image (C) Arnav Rastogi / EtP archives
Project 365 Photographer Shiv Kiran presenting his works / Image (C) Arnav Rastogi / EtP archives
Project 365 Photographer Shiv Kiran / Image (C) Arnav Rastogi / EtP archives
Project 365 Photographer Shiv Kiran / Image (C) Arnav Rastogi / EtP archives

This rural space is growing to be a place where artists, art lovers, art enthusiasts and public gather and celebrate art. Project 365 Director Abul Kalam Azad says, “We come from a lineage that properly knows that art is a symbol of our culture, and, therefore, has to be owned and protected by people. Join us in this effort to take art to Rural India”.

Thank you.

Tulsi Swarna Lakshmi

Project 365 Manager

Project 365 is a PUBLIC PHOTOGRAPHIC ART PROJECT initiated by EtP to photo-document the fast changing ancient culture and contemporary lifestyle of the ancient Tamilakam territory. During the first phase, forty photographers will be documenting the multi-cultural aspects of #Tiruvannamalai, South Indian heritage town over a year period (Aug 2014 – July 2015). This Project is led by contemporary Indian photographer Abul Kalam Azad. FOR MORE PROJECT 365 IMAGES, see #etpproject365 In the next five years, EtP will document the Sangam period ports Muziris, Tindis and the cauvery basin culture and lifestyle.”

Disclaimer: Image (C) Arnav Rastogi / EtP Archives

All rights reserved. All the images published in this blog is copyrighted property of the author and belongs to PROJECT 365 PUBLIC ARCHIVES. Text (C) Tulsi Swarna Lakshmi / EtP. Reprinting / publishing rights reserved by the author and EtP (PROJECT 365 public archives). Prior permission is required for reproduction / re-publishing. For more information about Project 365, contact EtP at {0}4175 237405 / {0}94879 56405 / ekalokam@gmail.com / FACEBOOK – Project 365

Mystical verses, contemporary images

“Every photograph I take is an experience” says Project 365 Photographer Bhagyashri Patki. For Bhagyashri, her work speaks of spontaneity. It is a complete process of self-exploration, and an expression of her true nature.

Project 365 Photographer Bhagyashri Patki / Image (C) Arnav Rastogi / EtP Archives
Project 365 Photographer Bhagyashri Patki / Image (C) Arnav Rastogi / EtP Archives

After graduating in Computer Applications and having worked as a web designer, she studied photography at the Sri Aurobindo Center of Arts and Communication. In her study she was largely exposed to Photojournalism as well as documentary and conceptual photography. Soon, she worked on various projects that allowed her to explore her creativity. Her series on ‘Ladakh – The land of prayers’ has been published in the Sunday Guardian and another series ‘Photography’ was published in The Caravan Magazine. Currently, Bhagyashri is part of a team of photographers called Fseven Photographers, who take up commercial work including product, food, industrial and other photography. Her personal projects include a series called ‘Delhi above the noise’ which captures the many moods of this city from an elevation, among other vantage points. Bhagyashri has her own way of seeing things and her personal perspective is displayed in her work. Her photographs are all about what she feels and how something captivates or moves her. At Tiruvannamalai, she will depict the ancient hymns, ancient Tamil literature and devotional poems of the legendary culture through contemporary visuals. She will study the writings of ‘Thevaram and Thiruvacakam’ and express the life of the Nayanar Saints with abstract visuals. She will be using both digital and the analogue medium while experimenting with multiple exposures.

Bhagyashri says, “Consciously or subconsciously, we all want to attain liberation. We may all have a different idea altogether about the the means / paths to be free. In ancient times, the lives of people were simple and so were their desires. Its’ almost two months since I have come to Tiruvannamalai. The simplicity and the tranquil lifestyle seems to be influencing me in profound ways. I believe every place has its soul and few of my past projects have also been an exploration about the same. Here while my journey has just began, I am certain of undergoing my own spiritual journey breaking down the walls and being my true self. The first phase of my project is to create visuals representing the lives of the 63 Nayanmars (holy devotees), who dedicated their lives and few of which lives after lives in reverence to lord Shiva – the ultimate moksha for them was to serve the lord and be his companion.”

The Periya puranam (Tamil: பெரிய‌ புராண‌ம்), that is, the great purana or epic, sometimes called Tiruttontarpuranam (“Tiru-Thondar-Puranam”, the Purana of the Holy Devotees) is a Tamil poetic account depicting the legendary lives of the sixty-three Nayanars, the canonical poets of Tamil Shaivam. It was compiled during the 12th century by Sekkizhar, who (Tamil: சேக்கிழார்) was a poet and scholar of Tamil Shaiva Siddhanta, a Saiva saint contemporary with the reign of Kulothunga Chola. He compiled and wrote the Periya Puranam, 4253 verses long, recounting the life stories of the sixty-three Shaiva Nayanars, the poets of Shiva who composed the liturgical poems of the Tirumarai. Sekkizhar’s work itself became part of the sacred canon.

“He is beyond the world’s thought
His tresses are decorated with the moon and rivers
Immeasurable brilliance;
Shiva, the Dancer in the Hall
Praise and worship his feet
That blossom as Grace.” – Shekkizhar

Lives of Nayanars / Image (C) Bhagyashri  Patki / Project 365 public photo archives
Mystical verses, contemporary images / Image (C) Bhagyashri Patki / Project 365 public photo archives

Sekkizhar (Tamil: சேக்கிழார்) was a poet and scholar of Tamil Shaiva Siddhanta, a Saiva saint contemporary with the reign of Kulothunga Chola. He compiled and wrote the Periya Puranam, 4253 verses long, recounting the life stories of the sixty-three Shaiva Nayanars, the poets of Shiva who composed the liturgical poems of the Tirumarai. Sekkizhar’s work itself became part of the sacred canon.

Lives of Nayanars / Image (C) Bhagyashri Patki / Project 365 public photo archives

Mystical verses, contemporary images / Image (C) Bhagyashri Patki / Project 365 public photo archives

Caption: As his heart was moved by love,
Marar of Iiayankudi settlement
Went with a basket on his head
To the fields where the fowls slept..
– Sekkizar

Lives of Nayanars / Image (C) Bhagyashri  Patki / Project 365 public photo archives
Mystical verses, contemporary images / Image (C) Bhagyashri Patki / Project 365 public photo archives

(to be continued…)

(to be continued…)

Project 365 is a PUBLIC PHOTOGRAPHIC ART PROJECT initiated by EtP to photo-document the fast changing ancient culture and contemporary lifestyle of the ancient Tamilakam territory. During the first phase, forty photographers will be documenting the multi-cultural aspects of #Tiruvannamalai, South Indian heritage town over a year period (Aug 2014 – July 2015). This Project is led by contemporary Indian photographer Abul Kalam Azad. FOR MORE PROJECT 365 IMAGES, see #etpproject365 In the next five years, EtP will document the Sangam period ports Muziris, Tindis and the cauvery basin culture and lifestyle.”

Disclaimer: Image (C) Bhagyashri Parki / Project 365 PUBLIC archives.

All rights reserved. All the images published in this blog is copyrighted property of the author and belongs to PROJECT 365 PUBLIC ARCHIVES. Blog maintained by Tulsi Swarna Lakshmi / EtP. Profile of Bhagyashri Patki by Ami Gupta / EtP. Reprinting / publishing rights reserved by the author and EtP (PROJECT 365 public archives). Prior permission is required for reproduction / re-publishing. For more information about Project 365, contact EtP at {0}4175 237405 / {0}94879 56405 / ekalokam@gmail.com / FACEBOOK – Project 365

Project 365 – call for photographers

 REVAMPING AND STRENGTHENING PROJECT 365 TEAM
Call for photographers

Vanakkam.

Project 365, the PUBLIC PHOTO ART PROJECT initiated by EtP commenced on 15th August 2014 and in less than 2 months, the team has created interesting photographic visuals of Tiruvannamalai, one of the ancient South Indian towns situated in Bangalore-Pondy highway. A select few of these images are shared regularly on facebook / blog (www.ekalokamtrustforphotography.wordpress.com).

The intent behind Project 365 is to initiate public photo art projects in rural settings, so that the large rural audience could also take part in contemporary art practices. Rejuvenating the practice of using ‘good-old’ traditional analog medium in documenting social life, politics, religion, food, customs and traditions, etc., is another vision behind this initiative. At the same, this project incorporates the modern digital techniques as well. Project 365 is not one of those run off the mill photo-journalism or traditional documentary project done in urban settings. Our vision is to use the photography, in collaboration with other art forms to create visuals of a paradigm shift moment of fast growing villages and small towns. This is a long term vision of EtP and in the next years, we will document the tri-sangam Tamilakam ports and the entire Cauvery Delta and its life style.

Unlike the usual individual focused documentation projects, this initiative is based on collective consciousness. We belong to the lineage that properly believes ‘art is a public property’, that, more than a commodity, art is symbol of our culture and, therefore, has to be owned and protected by the people. True to our art tradition, Project 365 encourages public participation and intends to create a permanent space to exhibit these valuable individual art images for public access and use. With this vision, Project 365 photographers have been working on their chosen subject and artistically creating visuals of the multi-cultural aspects of this ancient town. As part of the project, several outreach activities are organized, in which photographers are actively interacting with the local public. We are grateful for the response of the public to this cultural initiative.

However, few photographers are not in a position to commit and give the dedication this year-long project requires, due to other professional commitments / personal reasons. EtP and Project 365 Director Abul Kalam Azad believe that a stronger, committed and pasionate team of photographers is required to ensure success for this novel initiative. EtP has a greater responsibility to the public, who have been sharing their time and resources to this project. So, we have to revamp and strengthen our team. If interested to be part of this Project 365 team, contact, contact EtP at {0}4175 237405 / {0}94879 56405 / ekalokam@gmail.com

Project 365 initiators and partners

Notes from a photographer #2

Wendel Field

American Painter who lives in Tiruvannamalai

Wendel Field / Photograph (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Photograph courtesy EtP Archives / 2013
Wendel Field / Photograph (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Photograph courtesy EtP Archives / 2013

Today, I would like to present Wendel Field, an American painter who has spent almost 15 years in India. Wendel Field is born in Indiana, United States. Wendel’s mother was an artist and his cousin was an art historian… the inherited art legacy was palpable in Wendel at a very young age, and he started painting when he was just 4 years old. Wendel didn’t opt for a formal art education until he was in his late 20’s and studied art in Indiana University. Meantime his passion for art grew exponentially and he says with a chuckle, “I can’t stop [painting]”. In the year 1970 Wendel visited India for the first time. He says, “Making a very long story short, one day, somebody came to my home and said, here is the money… Go to India … I came to Pondy and then heard of Sri Ramana and came to Tiruvannamalai. I stayed almost 9 months and didn’t return until 1990s. Since then I visited Tiruvannamalai every year. In the year 2012, I moved to Tiruvannamalai”.

During his first visit to India, Yogi Ram Suratkumar became Wendel’s best friend. They used to hang out every night. Those times Yogi Ram Suratkumar was living in the streets. Most often he hangs out near the temple. Almost everyday Wendel used to meet Yogi Ram Suratkumar and often travel with him to nearby villages. He fondly recollects, “Yogi never used to talk about spirituality. He was very funny, innocent like a child. He has the best laugh I have ever seen and heard…. Whenever people ask questions about spirituality rather than giving a straight response, he used to poke them. People often miss the pun”. When asked about Yogi’s interest in art, Wendel said, “He used to see and enjoy my paintings. I remember one of his comments. Once I was doing a painting of spiritual images of different religions.. he looked at it and said, ‘actually you should make those tits bigger’. Although I had a hearty laugh, it did make sense to me, as the full image of that woman goddess would look much better with his suggestion.” Wendel’s experience with Yogi along with one of his painting has been featured in a chronological book on Yogi done by a community in Arizona. The first four chapters discuss wendel’s memoir of the Yogi.

Painting by Wendel Field / Photograph (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Photograph courtesy EtP Archives / 2013
Painting by Wendel Field / Photograph (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Photograph courtesy EtP Archives / 2013

Wendel does a lot of commissioned works. Wendel did his first portrait of Ramana when he was just 19 years old. When asked about his repeated inclusion of the spiritual subjects in his paintings, he said, “To me, it is the Mystical Realism… a combination of what is in a photograph and also something more that is not in a photograph…”

Abul Kalam Azad

8th October 2014

Tiruvannamalai

Project 365 is a PUBLIC PHOTOGRAPHIC ART PROJECT initiated by EtP to photo-document the fast changing ancient culture and contemporary lifestyle of the ancient Tamilakam territory. During the first phase, forty photographers will be documenting the multi-cultural aspects of #Tiruvannamalai, South Indian heritage town over a year period (Aug 2014 – July 2015). This Project is led by contemporary Indian photographer Abul Kalam Azad. FOR MORE PROJECT 365 IMAGES, see #etpproject365 In the next five years, EtP will document the Sangam period ports Muziris, Tindis and the cauvery basin culture and lifestyle.”

Disclaimer:

All rights reserved. All the images published in this blog is copyrighted property of the Abul Kalam azad and belongs to PROJECT 365 PUBLIC ARCHIVES. Text transcribed by Tulsi Swarna Lakshmi (C) EtP. Reprinting / publishing rights reserved by the author and EtP (PROJECT 365 public archives). Prior permission is required for reproduction / re-publishing. For more information about Project 365, contact EtP at {0}4175 237405 / {0}94879 56405 / ekalokam@gmail.com / FACEBOOK – Project 365

Notes from a photographer – Part 1

Sri Ramana Maharishi / Photograph © PRS Mani / Sri Ramana Ashram Archives / Source internet
Sri Ramana Maharishi / Photograph © PRS Mani / Sri Ramana Ashram Archives / Source internet

Photography, rendered in Tamil as ‘pugai padam’, means ‘images derivated from the fumes [of mercury]’. The ancient Tamil minds have captured the essence of this innovative original scientific photographic process in which hazardous mercury fumes create images. Tamils worship visuals on an everyday basis. Probably that’s why photography easily became a part and parcel of our lifestyle.

When photography was introduced in India, word spread about the camera’s almost magical abilities to create images, something that was so far been attributed to the gods. The earlier belief and reaction was a fear factor that ‘photographs can steal a person’s soul’. Not many a saints and believers were coming forward to be photographed.

Ramana Maharishi had taken keen interest in the photography medium and would invite photographers from different parts of the country and engage in lively dialogues with them to create living images of a time gone by. The earliest known photograph of Sri Ramana Maharishi was taken by an unknown photographer in the year 1902. Sri Ramana also has been instrumental to preserving these invaluable documents and Sri Ramana Ashram photo archive has one of the rarest collections of photographic prints (1880s -1950) of eminent photographers PRS Mani, Dr. T. N. Krishnaswamy, GG. Welling, Henri-Cartier Bresson, Eliot Elisofon and many other known and unknown photographers. These images are pertinent to sage Ramana and the ashram that evolved around him. EtP wishes to make its movement comprehensive by extending this service to other areas of this ancient town.

In this series of ‘notes from the Director’, I will be presenting the known and unknown photographers and artists who have created a body of photographic / art works based on Tiruvannamalai and the holy town.

In this note, I am going to present PRS Mani, the first official photographer of Ramana Ashram. P.R.S. Mani’s most famous photo of Sage Ramana titled ‘Mani bust’ has been circulated and worshipped in South India and abroad since late 1930s. I remember looking at ‘Mani bust’ for the first time – a well framed portrait of an unusual old Indian man. Later, I found out that it was an image of Sage Ramana. I was curious to find out the photographer….. He was unknown to the world of contemporary photography. I started digging and found out that the image was taken by Sri. P.R.S. Mani Iyer. He was born at the turn of the 18th century as the first son to the couple Ramaseha Iyer and Sivasankari who hailed from Pattamadai, a village in South Tamilnadu. After his honour’s degree in Arts, Subramanian took to professional photography and joined the then famous Modern Theatre of Salem as an executive photographer. Modern Theatres Ltd. was a motion picture movie studio in Salem, Tamil Nadu India started by Thiruchengodu Ramalingam Sundaram (aka TRS) in 1935. The early South India Cinema headquarters was based in Salem and this sophisticated studio produced over more than 150 movies until 1982. Modern Theaters is situated in the outskirts of Salem – Yercaud road, which is currently in ruins. Only later the Tamil Cinema base had moved to Chennai.

During the 1930s, N.R. Krishnamurti Aiyer was asked by the ashram Sarvadhikari to send photographs of Nataraja, the majestic idol in the Meenakshi temple, in front of whom the boy Ramana stood for long spells of time, shedding copious tears of ecstasy, before he left Madurai for good. He also wanted a photograph of the house where Ramana was born in Tiruchuzhi and of some other places there. These were meant to be placed in the Tamil biography Sri Ramana Vijayam by Suddhananda Bharati . N.R.Krishnamurti Aiyer brought P.R.S.Mani who was his student and an expert photographer. Ramana used to call him Mani and he spent almost 14 years under the loving care of Ramana. Mani married the daughter of Ganapati Sastri, Tiruvannamalai. He died at the young age of 33 years.[1]
During the short span of his photographic career, he made several marvelous images of the Sage Ramana, especially during the Skandasramam days and many other historical photographs of the town as well. There is very limited information about Mani and his contributing during his time with modern theatre is unknown till now. If one starts digging they will find marvellous images of those early cinema days taken by this photographer.

PRS and I have never met in person but I am seeing him through the prolific images he has made. Salute you PRS. Mani. Your contribution to the ‘dying art’ photography is amazing. We photographers looking to the light in your images !!! Thank you…..

Abul Kalam Azad

Tiruvannamalai

Project 365 is a PUBLIC PHOTOGRAPHIC ART PROJECT initiated by EtP to photo-document the fast changing ancient culture and contemporary lifestyle of the ancient Tamilakam territory. During the first phase, forty photographers will be documenting the multi-cultural aspects of #Tiruvannamalai, South Indian heritage town over a year period (Aug 2014 – July 2015). This Project is led by contemporary Indian photographer Abul Kalam Azad. FOR MORE PROJECT 365 IMAGES, see #etpproject365 In the next five years, EtP will document the Sangam period ports Muziris, Tindis and the cauvery basin culture and lifestyle.”

Disclaimer:

[1] excerpts taken from Face to Face with Ramana Maharishi, Published by Sri Ramana Kendram, AP, ISBN: 81-903538-0-2, Sri Ramana Maharishi / Photograph © PRS Mani / Sri Ramana Ashram Archives / Source internet

 

 

‘தினம் ஒரு புகைப்படம்’ போஸ்டர் பிரச்சாரம்

அன்பு நண்பர்களே,

வணக்கம்.

போஸ்டர் பிரச்சாரம் / திட்ட இயக்குனர் அபுல் கலாம் ஆசாத், மேலாளர் துளசி ஸ்வர்ண லக்ஷ்மி மற்றும் புகைபப்டக் கலைஞர் பாக்கிய ஸ்ரீ பட்கி / புகைப்படம் (C) ஆர்னவ் ராஸ்டோகி / Project 365 பொதுமை புகைப்பட ஆவணத்திட்டம்
போஸ்டர் பிரச்சாரம் / திட்ட இயக்குனர் அபுல் கலாம் ஆசாத், மேலாளர் துளசி ஸ்வர்ண லக்ஷ்மி மற்றும் புகைபப்டக் கலைஞர் பாக்கிய ஸ்ரீ பட்கி / புகைப்படம் (C) ஆர்னவ் ராஸ்டோகி / Project 365 பொதுமை புகைப்பட ஆவணத்திட்டம்

நமது திருவண்ணாமலைக்கு Project 365 திட்டத்தில் பங்கெடுக்க பிரசித்தி பெற்ற மற்றும் இளம் புகைப்படக்கலைஞர்கள் பலரும் வந்த வண்ணம் உள்ளனர். இ.டி.பி. நிறுவனம் இந்த திட்டத்தினை தொடங்கியதற்கான ஒரு முக்கியம் காரணம் சமகால கலையில் பொதுமக்களின் பங்களிப்பினை ஊக்கிவிப்பதே. அது மட்டுமல்ல, புகைப்படம் ஒரு அரிய கலையென்பதும் ஒரு முக்கிய வரலாற்று ஆவணம் என்பதும்  அது ஒரு பொது உடமை என்பதும்  அதனை பேணிப்பாதுகாப்பது மக்களின் பொறுப்பு என்ற கருத்தினை நிலைநாட்டுவதும் இந்த திட்டத்தின் நோக்கமாகும். அதன் பொருட்டே பல்வேறு செயல்பாடுகளை செய்து வருகிறோம். கல்லூரிகளில் திட்டத்தினை குறித்த கலந்துரையாடல், நமது கலை  இல்லத்தில் ‘புகைப்படக்கலைஞர்களுடன் ஒரு சந்திப்பு’ நிகழ்ச்சிகள், கண்காட்சிகள் போன்றவை செய்து வருகிறோம்.

போஸ்டர் பிரச்சாரம் / திட்ட இயக்குனர் அபுல் கலாம் ஆசாத் / புகைப்படம் (C) ஆர்னவ் ராஸ்டோகி / Project 365 பொதுமை புகைப்பட ஆவணத்திட்டம்
போஸ்டர் பிரச்சாரம் / திட்ட இயக்குனர் அபுல் கலாம் ஆசாத் / புகைப்படம் (C) ஆர்னவ் ராஸ்டோகி / Project 365 பொதுமை புகைப்பட ஆவணத்திட்டம்

இதன் பாகமாக, இ.டி.பி. புகைப்பட பட்டறைகளை நமது திருவண்ணாமலை மக்களுக்காக நடத்தி வருகின்றது. அதன் பொருட்டு போஸ்டர் பிரச்சாரம் நடத்தப்பட்டது. தினம் ஒரு புகைப்படம் திட்ட இயக்குனர் திரு. அபுல் கலாம் ஆசாத், மேலாளர் துளசி ஸ்வர்ண லக்ஷ்மி, புகைப்படக்கலைஞர்கள் பாக்கிய ஸ்ரீ பட்கி மற்றும் ஆர்னவ் ராஷ்டோகி திருவண்ணாமலை நகரெங்கும் போஸ்டர் ஒட்டி, கூடிய மக்களுடன் புகைப்படம் குறித்த கலந்துரையாடலில் ஈடுபட்டனர்.

போஸ்டர் பிரச்சாரம் / திட்ட இயக்குனர் அபுல் கலாம் ஆசாத், மேலாளர் துளசி ஸ்வர்ண லக்ஷ்மி மற்றும் புகைபப்டக் கலைஞர் பாக்கிய ஸ்ரீ பட்கி / புகைப்படம் (C) ஆர்னவ் ராஸ்டோகி / Project 365 பொதுமை புகைப்பட ஆவணத்திட்டம்
போஸ்டர் பிரச்சாரம் / திட்ட இயக்குனர் அபுல் கலாம் ஆசாத், மேலாளர் துளசி ஸ்வர்ண லக்ஷ்மி மற்றும் புகைபப்டக் கலைஞர் பாக்கிய ஸ்ரீ பட்கி / புகைப்படம் (C) ஆர்னவ் ராஸ்டோகி / Project 365 பொதுமை புகைப்பட ஆவணத்திட்டம்
போஸ்டர் பிரச்சாரம் / திட்ட இயக்குனர் அபுல் கலாம் ஆசாத், மேலாளர் துளசி ஸ்வர்ண லக்ஷ்மி மற்றும் புகைபப்டக் கலைஞர் பாக்கிய ஸ்ரீ பட்கி / புகைப்படம் (C) ஆர்னவ் ராஸ்டோகி / Project 365 பொதுமை புகைப்பட ஆவணத்திட்டம்
போஸ்டர் பிரச்சாரம் / திட்ட இயக்குனர் அபுல் கலாம் ஆசாத், மேலாளர் துளசி ஸ்வர்ண லக்ஷ்மி மற்றும் புகைபப்டக் கலைஞர் பாக்கிய ஸ்ரீ பட்கி / புகைப்படம் (C) ஆர்னவ் ராஸ்டோகி / Project 365 பொதுமை புகைப்பட ஆவணத்திட்டம்
போஸ்டர் பிரச்சாரம் / மேலாளர் துளசி ஸ்வர்ண லக்ஷ்மி மற்றும் புகைபப்டக் கலைஞர் ஆர்னவ் ராஸ்டோகி / புகைப்படம் (C)  பாக்கிய ஸ்ரீ பட்கி / Project 365 பொதுமை புகைப்பட ஆவணத்திட்டம்
போஸ்டர் பிரச்சாரம் / மேலாளர் துளசி ஸ்வர்ண லக்ஷ்மி மற்றும் புகைபப்டக் கலைஞர் ஆர்னவ் ராஸ்டோகி / புகைப்படம் (C) பாக்கிய ஸ்ரீ பட்கி / Project 365 பொதுமை புகைப்பட ஆவணத்திட்டம்
போஸ்டர் பிரச்சாரம் / மேலாளர் துளசி ஸ்வர்ண லக்ஷ்மி மற்றும் புகைபப்டக் கலைஞர் ஆர்னவ் ராஸ்டோகி / புகைப்படம் (C)  பாக்கிய ஸ்ரீ பட்கி / Project 365 பொதுமை புகைப்பட ஆவணத்திட்டம்
போஸ்டர் பிரச்சாரம் / மேலாளர் துளசி ஸ்வர்ண லக்ஷ்மி மற்றும் புகைபப்டக் கலைஞர் ஆர்னவ் ராஸ்டோகி / புகைப்படம் (C) பாக்கிய ஸ்ரீ பட்கி / Project 365 பொதுமை புகைப்பட ஆவணத்திட்டம்
போஸ்டர் பிரச்சாரம் / பொது மக்களுடன் திட்ட இயக்குனர் அபுல் கலாம் ஆசாத் கலந்துரையாடுகிறார்  / புகைப்படம் (C) ஆர்னவ் ராஸ்டோகி / Project 365 பொதுமை புகைப்பட ஆவணத்திட்டம்
போஸ்டர் பிரச்சாரம் / பொது மக்களுடன் திட்ட இயக்குனர் அபுல் கலாம் ஆசாத் கலந்துரையாடுகிறார் / புகைப்படம் (C) ஆர்னவ் ராஸ்டோகி / Project 365 பொதுமை புகைப்பட ஆவணத்திட்டம்

புகைப்படம் குறித்த இந்த போஸ்டர் பிரச்சாரம் ஓராண்டுக்காலம் நடக்க உள்ளது. இந்த போஸ்டர் பிரச்சாரத்தில் கலந்துக்கொள்ள விருப்பம் உள்ளவர்கள் இ.டி.பி.நிறுவனத்தினை தொடர்பு கொள்ளவும். இது போன்ற பட்டறைகள் பெரும்பாலும் சென்னை, பெங்களூர் போன்ற பெரும் பட்டணங்களில் தான் நடைபெறும். இத்தகைய கலை முயற்சிகளில் கிராமங்களில், சிறு நகரங்களில் வசிக்கும் பெரும்பாலோனோர் பங்கு பெரும் வாய்ப்பினை பெறுவதில்லை. அதனால் தான் இ.டி.பி. நிறுவனம் இந்த முயற்சியினை திருவண்ணாமலையில் துவங்கி உள்ளது. நீங்கள் புகைப்பட கலைஞராகவோ, புகைப்படக்கலையில் ஆர்வம் உள்ளவராகவோ இருந்தால், நீங்களும் இந்த திட்டத்தில் பங்கு பெறலாம். 

போஸ்டர் பிரச்சாரம் / பொது மக்களுடன் திட்ட இயக்குனர் அபுல் கலாம் ஆசாத் கலந்துரையாடுகிறார்  / புகைப்படம் (C) ஆர்னவ் ராஸ்டோகி / Project 365 பொதுமை புகைப்பட ஆவணத்திட்டம்
போஸ்டர் பிரச்சாரம் / பொது மக்களுடன் திட்ட இயக்குனர் அபுல் கலாம் ஆசாத் கலந்துரையாடுகிறார் / புகைப்படம் (C) ஆர்னவ் ராஸ்டோகி / Project 365 பொதுமை புகைப்பட ஆவணத்திட்டம்
போஸ்டர் பிரச்சாரம் / புகைப்படம் (C)  அபுல் கலாம் ஆசாத் / Project 365 பொதுமை புகைப்பட ஆவணத்திட்டம்
போஸ்டர் பிரச்சாரம் / புகைப்படம் (C) அபுல் கலாம் ஆசாத் / Project 365 பொதுமை புகைப்பட ஆவணத்திட்டம்

நன்றி. !!!

தென்னிந்தியாவின் பண்பாடும் வாழ்க்கைமுறையும் மிக வேகமாக மாறிக்கொண்டிருக்கிறது. மாறுகின்ற இந்த பண்பாட்டின் வெளிப்பாடுகளை புகைப்பட வடிவில் பாதுகாத்து வைக்கும் ஒரு சிறந்த முயற்சியே இ.டி.பி. அமைப்பினால் தொடங்கப்பட்டுள்ள Project 365  என்று மகுடமிடப்பட்டுள்ள  ‘பொதுமை புகைப்படக்கலை திட்டமாகும்’. இதன் முதல்படி தமிழ்நாட்டின் திருவண்ணாமலையில் நடந்து வருகிறது. பல்வேறு கலாச்சாரங்களின் கோணங்களை தன்னகத்தே கொண்டுள்ள இந்த புராதன நகரத்தின் சிறப்புகளை இந்தியா முழுவதும் உள்ள புகைப்படக்கலைஞர்கள் சம்பிரதாயமான ஊடக வழியில் ஓராண்டுக்காலம் ஆவணப்படுத்துவார்கள். முடிவில் கண்காட்சியும் புத்தகமும் வெளியிடப்படும். இந்த திட்டம் இக்கால இந்திய புகைப்பட கலைஞர் அபுல் கலாம் ஆசாத் அவர்களால் வழி நடத்தப்படுகிறது. அடுத்த ஐந்தாண்டுகளுக்குள் சங்க கால துறைமுக நகரங்களாகிய தொண்டி, முசிறி மற்றும் காவேரி பாயும் நிலம் சார்ந்த அனைத்து ஊர்களின் கலைச்சிறப்பை ஆவணப்படுத்தும்.

இந்த பதிப்பிலுள்ள புகைப்படங்களின் பதிப்புரிமை புகைப்படக்கலைஞரின் உரிமை ஆகும். மீண்டும் பிரசரிப்பதற்கோ வேறு பதிப்புகளில் உபயோகப்படுத்துவதற்கோ இ.டி.பி. நிறுவனத்தின் (Project 365 பொதுக்களஞ்சியம்) முன் அனுமதி அவசியம். மேலும் தகவல் அறிய {0}4175 237405 / {0}94879 56405 என்ற எண்ணில் தொடர்பு கொள்ளவும்.

ஆங்கிலத்திலிருந்து தமிழுக்கு மொழியாக்கம் – திரு. ராம் மோகன் / எடிட்டர் ரமநோதயம், ஸ்ரீ. ரமணாஷ்ரமம், திருவண்ணாமலை 

Photography: A colonial fear

This interview of Project 365 Director Abul Kalam Azad was originally published in Malayalam language in Deshabhimani Weekly. Interviewed by PP Sha Nawas. Translated to English by Bipin Balachandran and published in Art and Deal magazine.

Abul Kalam Azad is one of the foremost exponents of art-photography in India. His grandfather and father were migrants from a weaver’s family of Tamil Nadu who settled down at Kochi, Kerala. Later, his father became a successful textile merchant in Kochi. Azad learned photography from London and worked in France and Germany. He was a photo-journalist with P.T.I for twelve years. His wide friends’ circle in India and abroad include artists and intellectuals such as O.V.Vijayan, Vivan Sundaram, Geeta Kapur, Suneet Chopra, M.K. Raina, M. A Baby, R. Nandakumar to name a few. He was living in Mattanchery, Kochi. At present, he lives in Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu.

Divine Facade / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / 1995 - 96 / Single ediiton silver bromide prints / 30"x40"
Divine Facade / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / 1995 – 96 / Single ediiton silver bromide prints / 30″x40″

(Question) Shanavas: How did you get the name of Abul Kalam Azad

(Answer) Abul Kalam Azad: It was my father who named me after Moulana Abul Kalam Azad, who was a supporter of the struggle for independence and befriended the leaders of Islamic reformation movement in Kerala. For my father, Azad was a name bearing the memories of that time. My ancestors were weavers from Tamil Nadu and they settled down in Kochi. We speak Tamil at home. So I find myself to be a South Indian Dravidian. As weavers and textile merchants, my ancestors were experts in appraising the texture and quality of silk.

(Question) SN: What about the Islamic tradition of your background?

(Answer) AKA: Though we belong to the Tamil Islamic identity, my dad’s sisters never wore a burqa. Today, it is interesting to note that every Muslim woman wears a burqa. How does one choose a dress according to religious belief? In Malabar (northern part of Kerala) Muslim women used to wear “vellakkachi and jumper”. My aunts would wear good silk saris and they were well dressed. We cannot view the changes in our cultural life without some trepidation. In fact we have assimilated various cultural models. Ravi Varma had to travel all the way to Gujarat and Maharashtra for a model clad in Sari. Sari or salwar-kameez, all these dresses are from outside cultures.

Divine Facade / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / 1995 - 96 / Single ediiton silver bromide prints / 30"x40"
Divine Facade / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / 1995 – 96 / Single ediiton silver bromide prints / 30″x40″

(Question) SN: You are noted among the Indian art photographers and are acquainted with a national and international metropolitan life. You have also worked with artists and intellectuals in London and Delhi and never tried to uphold any religious identity. But still my questions aim at your Muslim identity. How do you look at this?

(Answer) AKA: I was not aware of or no one ever mentioned about such an identity when I left Kerala. I worked in different parts of India like Delhi, Punjab and U.P. It was on one of those days that Babri Masjid was demolished and the B.J.P. came into power. Then this ‘identity-consciousness’ was created in everyone. And the polarization of Hindu-Muslim came into effect. It was like the fear of someone who has been caught between two specters. Obviously identity became problematic then. To be known by some names, such as M.F.Hussain, could be troublesome, causing culture and vision to start journeying through religious paths. I am talking about both religious fundamentalisms… Artists cannot speak about the Quran or nationalism or Saraswathy or Parvathy or Siva.

The Muslims of Kerala know Ganapathy (Lord Ganesh) or Nataraja Guru. They are familiar with Christ, Buddha and Marx. We know what Buddha Purnima is. We celebrate a cultural life which is rooted in sectarianism. People are being killed everywhere in the name of nationality and ethnicity. It has been repeating throughout history: Karbala, Jordan, Syria, Palestine and Congo. The Israel border is paved with land-mines. What about the Golan Hills? It has been kept deliberately as a reason to fight for. Bait-ul-Muqqadas is a holy place for Jews, Christians and Muslims. Everyone can go there. But now, it is a war-field. War goes on, on one side and the other, people lead their ordinary life, but in an unceasing fear of war; perhaps by forgetting reality as something natural.

Divine Facade / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / 1995 - 96 / Single ediiton silver bromide prints / 30"x40"
Divine Facade / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / 1995 – 96 / Single ediiton silver bromide prints / 30″x40″

(Question) SN: I have seen a photograph by you titled “Defend Secularism”, done for the Sahmat campaign of Delhi – an image of a man without a head, holding a lotus in front and a knife in the back. In fact, the posture is a bit sarcastic. It is aiming at the socially circulated fear created by the violence and holocaust you have mentioned, and at the same time, conveys an expression which soothes the fear of violence.

(Answer) AKA: It’s about social fear. Take for instance, the Gujarat issue. It’s a result of a conspiracy and cannot be justified, whether it’s Hindu fascism or Islamic fascism. Every ideology has the element of fascism in it. We try to be international. The effort is to make Islam an international religion; same dress code, same food, same education, same gestures and so on. A totality of “everything has-been-said-in-Quran-or-Marxism”. This totalitarian perspective is a big shortcoming of modernity. The views on secularism possess the same totalitarian aspect. How is it possible to unify the lives of people that show differences in culture and concepts? I prefer Gandhi’s fellowship that tries to be with people rather than Nehru’s elite state secularism. But I don’t negate the concept of secularism insofar as how much it is inevitable to vote for. At the same time, I don’t believe that secular culture can remediate the problem.

(Question) SN: Many readings are possible on Marxism. But, ‘Das Kapital’ is also an account of the execution of capitalism through the displacement of indigenous people and farmers.

(Answer) AKA: Mohammed and Marx are similar in certain ways, the concept of prophecy. The earliest concept of collectiveness might be of Buddha. The concept of modernity, a pantheism which sees everything as united. This is same as Mohammed’s idea of “thouheed” – concepts such as mihraj, meditation, enlightenment, Jahiliyyah phase etc., Buraq, Kamadhenu, flying, elevation concept of collective consciousness, monotheism – all these are contexts of man’s efforts to acquire knowledge. But, looking back today, it should be analysed as to where it has led us to. I have never seen an image of Mao with a gun in his hand, but today every Maoist has a gun in his hand. In these days everyone feels a credibility gap. Nothing is there to hope for. No way to know the truth – an entrapped situation. In one of my series I have tried to express this situation by using a bullet collected from Kashmir, a mouse-trap and a knife. I am searching for the absence of violence. That is why I go for the images of Narayana Guru and Nataraja Guru. I have done an image of Rajan (victim of Indian Emergency in 1975). But it was not out of any sympathy for Naxalism. His face was haunting me, not as a hero but as an embodied plight of everyone. I have pictured the incident of political murder of labourers in front of Mattanchery court: a tableau with dresses soaked in blood. In this way, violence repeats in the temper of Keralites. There might be some tribal motives which control our minds behind the political murders of Kannur. Racism is high in the so called civilized West. An Islam name holder has to encounter a kind of suspicion in Britain or France. Even the one who does not care about such an identity has to undergo special security checking in airports only because of one’s name. I am put into a group of people with Islam names. Perhaps, we cannot expect this kind of experience happening in India or Israel. This is the status quo of our modernity and secularism. Note that it is the same London where Marx’s tomb is situated. At 86, M.F. Hussain is forced to live the life of an exile in the name of his sketches. No one is discussing about his contribution to this country.

Divine Facade / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / 1995 - 96 / Single ediiton silver bromide prints / 30"x40"
Divine Facade / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / 1995 – 96 / Single ediiton silver bromide prints / 30″x40″

(Question) SN: Are these problems of identity and ethnicity responses to an all-embracing economic order?

(Answer) AKA: It may be so. In some places in Europe water is costlier than coca-cola. Then people would be forced to buy coca-cola. But ethnicity and casteism are deeper realities than this. It is embarrassing to know that there is a wall to keep the Dalits away in Tamil Nadu. Instead of demolishing the wall without too much attention, it has been granted to become a media-celebration by the government and political parties. There was a period when I looked at the Quran as nonsensical. I had the attitude of dissident. But now I can’t do it; I look at the Quran or the Bible or the Vedas as human knowledge created by laborious efforts.

My attempt is to get involved regionally and, through it, find out my universality. I arrange the images from regional lives and let them find their own ways. I don’t want to create immortality. David was not made to be immortal. Creations with a life span of only a few years. I don’t want to make a marble-image forever. Art should be simple and transparent, not shabby or fuzzy. The texture should be precise and coherent. A pig or a bison on a large canvas; and they will face the viewers by themselves. Works of art can speak for themselves. The artists of ancient India did paintings and sculptures, but not for adorning it with their signature. The Buddhist sculptures in Ajanta and Ellora did not bear the names of the artists who created them. In the Pallava and Chla period, no artists or artisans signed on their creations. They practiced art not for immortality. The function of the hand… it was Marx who said human history started when man began to use their hands. Man began to drive cars, to shoot, to paint, to sculpt, to raise his fists in protest, to wash his bottom only after he could stand straight and move his hands freely. So, the meaning of art is to know how one can use his hands and for what.

Divine Facade / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / 1995 - 96 / Single ediiton silver bromide prints / 30"x40"
Divine Facade / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / 1995 – 96 / Single ediiton silver bromide prints / 30″x40″

(Question) SN: As in your series, ‘Man with tools’ wherein you have pictured Pulaya, Paraya (the Dalit castes) and new-Hindus, you are looking at the renaissance movement in Kerala from the perspective of the Sree Narayana tradition, but why not from the Bhakti movement, though the images of the Tamil Nhakti movement are there in some of your works?

(Answer) AKA: My series ‘Untouchables’ is an answer to this question. (a series of work done during 2000-2005 with found photographs from Abul’s family album)

(Question) SN: What are the personal references in your themes? For instance, what are the imperatives that led you to the series ‘Animal’ in which motifs of animals were used?

(Answer) AKA: It is quite natural to have personal prototypes for such creations. To have a truth and narrative, we need such untruths. Personal interests, freedom and tastes are inevitable, but the sum of which may not be necessarily a personal assessment. My style so far is to present the images in a hybrid manner; to mix-up images from different or even paradoxical realms. But in this process, I do not emphasize on any particular concept, ideology or theology, because we cannot whole heartedly believe in any of them these days. We have experimented it all. Malayalis know. Now we have to break the wall to move forward. What is the medium used? How it is made? Is it printed in silver bromide costing two and a half lakhs? These questions are not important in art practice. I am searching for and trying to express the purity and virtue behind all these. The search is for a democratic space for art where even a local flex printer can create art.

Even though people live in modernity and sophistication there are some undercoats in their psyche, like the existence of Sufism in the lives of people who are still religious. This undercoat is the decisive factor in my imageries. That is my referral point. My use of light also comes from the regional life. I know that the brightness of the evening light is the specialty of that place. The trends in art cannot change the fundamentals.

Photography is the stillness of one by thirty seconds. To copy the dead time… the moments of last forever… photography creates a colonial fear… to shoot… to kill… photography shares the same method of homicide taught by colonialism. That is why we become frozen with horror before a camera. This terror is my medium, and there are some truths inherent in the medium. We are searching for that.

(C) All rights reserved. All the text and images published in this blog is copyrighted property of  contemporary Indian photographer Abul Kalam Azad. Reprinting / publishing rights reserved by the author and prior permission is required for reproduction / re-publishing, For more information call {0}4175 237405 / {0}94879 56405  or mail to ekalokam@gmail.com / FACEBOOK – Abul Kalam Azad