Project 365 Tiruvannamalai

Around the hill / Photography (C) Thierry Cardon / Project 365 public photo archive Tiruvannamalai
Around the hill / Photography (C) Thierry Cardon / Project 365 public photo archive Tiruvannamalai

 

Title: Around the Hill
Photographer: Thierry Cardon
Medium and format: 35mm analogue palladium print
Year: 2014 / 2015
Courtesy: EtP Project 365 public photo archive

EtP PROJECT 365

Collectively creating and preserving photographic visuals of the fast vanishing landscape, divergent customs, pluralistic culture and diversified Dravidian society of ancient Tamilakam, a region comprising modern Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Puducherry.

இ. டி. பி. ப்ராஜெக்ட் 365
அதி வேகமாய் மாறி வருகின்ற நவீன தமிழ்நாடு, கேரளம், புதுச்சேரி, கர்நாடக மற்றும் ஆந்திர மாநிலங்களை உள்ளடக்கிய பண்டைத் தமிழகத்தின் சமகால வாழ்வுமுறையையும், கலாச்சாரத்தையும், பன்முகத்தன்மை வாய்ந்த திராவிட சமூகத்தையும் புகைப்பட பதிவுகளாக பாதுகாக்கும் ஒரு பொதுமை புகைப்படக்கலை திட்டமே ப்ராஜெக்ட் 365.

EtP പ്രൊജക്റ്റ് 365
അതിവേഗം മാറ്റങ്ങൾക്ക് വിധേയമായിക്കൊണ്ടിരിക്കുന്ന ആധുനിക കേരളം, തമിഴ് നാട്, കർണാടകം, പുതുച്ചേരി, ആന്ധ്രയുടെ ചില ഭാഗങ്ങൾ എന്നിവ ഉൾപെടുന്ന സംഘകാല തമിഴകം പ്രദേശത്തിലെ സമകാലിക ജീവിതരീതികളും നിലനില്കുന്ന സംസ്കാരവും വൈവിധ്യമുള്ള ദ്രാവിഡവേരുകളുള്ള സമൂഹവും കേന്ദ്രീകരിച്ച്‌ ഫോട്ടോ ദൃശ്യഭിംഭങ്ങൾ സൃഷ്ടിക്കാൻ ശ്രമിക്കുന്ന ഒരു പൊതു സാംസ്‌കാരിക കൂട്ടായ്മയാണ് പ്രൊജക്റ്റ്‌ 365.

Disclaimer

Project 365 Tiruvannamalai

Director's anecdote / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Project 365 public photo archive Tiruvannamalai
Director’s anecdote / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Project 365 public photo archive Tiruvannamalai

 

Title: Director’s anecdote
Photographer: Abul kalam azad
Medium and format: 35mm Digital
Year: 2014 / 2015
Courtesy: EtP Project 365 public photo archive

EtP PROJECT 365

Collectively creating and preserving photographic visuals of the fast vanishing landscape, divergent customs, pluralistic culture and diversified Dravidian society of ancient Tamilakam, a region comprising modern Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Puducherry.

இ. டி. பி. ப்ராஜெக்ட் 365
அதி வேகமாய் மாறி வருகின்ற நவீன தமிழ்நாடு, கேரளம், புதுச்சேரி, கர்நாடக மற்றும் ஆந்திர மாநிலங்களை உள்ளடக்கிய பண்டைத் தமிழகத்தின் சமகால வாழ்வுமுறையையும், கலாச்சாரத்தையும், பன்முகத்தன்மை வாய்ந்த திராவிட சமூகத்தையும் புகைப்பட பதிவுகளாக பாதுகாக்கும் ஒரு பொதுமை புகைப்படக்கலை திட்டமே ப்ராஜெக்ட் 365.

EtP പ്രൊജക്റ്റ് 365
അതിവേഗം മാറ്റങ്ങൾക്ക് വിധേയമായിക്കൊണ്ടിരിക്കുന്ന ആധുനിക കേരളം, തമിഴ് നാട്, കർണാടകം, പുതുച്ചേരി, ആന്ധ്രയുടെ ചില ഭാഗങ്ങൾ എന്നിവ ഉൾപെടുന്ന സംഘകാല തമിഴകം പ്രദേശത്തിലെ സമകാലിക ജീവിതരീതികളും നിലനില്കുന്ന സംസ്കാരവും വൈവിധ്യമുള്ള ദ്രാവിഡവേരുകളുള്ള സമൂഹവും കേന്ദ്രീകരിച്ച്‌ ഫോട്ടോ ദൃശ്യഭിംഭങ്ങൾ സൃഷ്ടിക്കാൻ ശ്രമിക്കുന്ന ഒരു പൊതു സാംസ്‌കാരിക കൂട്ടായ്മയാണ് പ്രൊജക്റ്റ്‌ 365.

Disclaimer

Abandoned: The Beatles in Rishikesh

Beatles in Rishikesh / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / 2012
Beatles in Rishikesh / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / 2012

“Imagine”

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as oneImagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one
– John Lenon, lead singer and song writer of Beatles, 1971

The Beatles visited Rishikesh in India, in February, 1968 to attend an advanced Transcendental Meditation ( TM ) training session, at the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Pepped by the  widespread media attention, their stay at the ashram was one of the band’s most productive periods. Their adoption of the Maharishi as their guru is credited by some as changing attitudes in the West about Indian spirituality and encouraged the study of Transcendental Meditation.

The Beatles had first met the Maharishi in London in August, 1967 and then attended a seminar in Bangor, Wales. Although this seminar in Wales was planned to be a 10-day session, their stay was cut short by the death of their manager, Brian Epstein. Wanting to learn more, they kept in contact with the Maharishi and planned to attend his ashram in October, but their trip was rescheduled due to other commitments.

Finally, The Beatles arrived at the ashram in February 1968, along with their partners, girlfriends, assistants and numerous reporters. They joined the 60 other TM students, including musiciansDonovan, Mike Love of the Beach Boys and flautist Paul Horn. While there, Lennon, McCartney and Harrison wrote many songs ( Ringo Starr wrote one ), of which eighteen were later recorded for ‘The Beatles ( White Album )’, two for ‘Abbey Road’ and others for solo works.  The trip to India was the last time all four Beatles travelled abroad together.

In the year 2012, I had taken a road trip to Himalayas and on my way back I went to Rishikesh. The off season rains and intense cold didn’t stop my explorations. As a lover of The Beatles, I wanted to visit the ashram in which they had stayed. Going by the knowledge I had of the historical visit, I thought that finding the ashram will be an easy task. Preparing myself for a short walk, I started inquiring people about the ashram, the famous ashram that was visited by the Beatles. To my surprise, not many knew about the ashram and I had to walk more than ten kms, going in rounds to locate the now abandoned ashram… I was shivering in cold when the lone guard of the ashram stopped me from entering. He thought that I was a wanderer looking out for a place to spend the day. Not wanting to enlighten him of my purpose of visit, I bribed him and entered the ashram. My small pocket camera poses no threat to anybody.
The Maharishi’s compound is across from River Ganga, located in the holy “Valley of the Saints” in the foothills of the Himalayas. The ashram was abandoned in the year 1997 and has been under the control of the forest department. The forest undergrowth is what’s left of the original Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram. The remnants of the sprawling ashram buildings, meditation cells and lecture halls could be found, including Maharishi’s own house and the guest house where the Beatles had stayed….

( Continued )

Contemporary Indian photographer Abul Kalam Azad is noted for his maverick experimental photographic works. Overall, the corpus of Azad’s work can be seen to have a thrust towards an archive of local micro-history at the level of personal memory and in that sense, his works add up to a kind of social anthropology of his land and its people, though not necessarily in the line of tradition of the objective documentary.His works are predominantly autobiographical and expose the areas of politics, culture, contemporary history, gender and eroticism. His works attempts a re-reading of contemporary Indian history – the history in which ordinary people are absent and mainly provided by beautiful images and icons. Using the same tool, photography, that chisels history out of a block of ‘real’ human experiences, Abul makes a parody of it.

Abul Kalam Azad is the visionary behind EtP (Ekalokam Trust for Photography) and serves as the Director of Project 365, the public photo-art project that collectively creates and preserves photographic visuals of the fast vanishing culture, divergent landscape and pluralistic culture of ancient Dravidian society. In this series of memoirs, Abul shares interesting anecdotes and information about his photographs and the people in his photographs.

Miniature ART notebooks_promo images_Leo James (8)
Beatles in Rishikesh / Miniature PHOTO Notebook

Ekalokam collective, a firm set-up to merchandise art in every day life has published a miniature photo-notebook titled ‘the Beatles in Rishikesh’. The Beatles in Rishikesh has been exhibited by Apparao Galleries and United Art Fair II curated by noted photographer and art curator, Ram Rahman.

 

Disclaimer

 

“Devil in God’s own country” – wings Flapping of Migratory Birds in an Anarchist’s Fingers

Johny ML is an art historian, cultural critic and curator. Born in, Kerala, he has three post graduate degrees – Creative Curating, Art History & Criticism and English Language & Literature. He has curated numerous shows and is the founder editor of two online magazines on Indian contemporary art. He also directs documentaries on art, translates international literature into malayalam and is a blogger (http://johnyml.blogspot.in/).

In Abul Azad’s visual dictionary the word ‘still life’ is elaborated as follows: the objects related to and resulted by a person’s life and these objects are seen arrayed in a certain fashion as providence would suggest and these objects would remain in the same way as if they were caught in and frozen by time. Their stillness shows that the person who has caused such an arrangement is equally still or methodically careless.

Perhaps, the birth certificate of still life as an artistic genre, written in fourteenth century does not agree with what Azad’s not yet written dictionary says. Still Life as an artistic genre while capturing the beauty and mortality of life also highlighted the skill of the artists who excelled in this genre. Primarily a western religious artistic mode, Still Life became an unavoidable philosophical visual motif for many European artists during the renaissance and the years that followed. When it came to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Still Life had become a medium of scientific experiments in art, which later crossed over to the modes of conceptual installations.

Hari Narayanan / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / 2013
Hari Narayanan / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / 2013

Visit the percussionist, Harinarayanan’s room. What you find there is a total commotion of daily objects used or rendered useless by or even emblematized by the anarchist artist Harinarayanan. Azad trains his camera at these objects and the framing itself edits out the wanted from the unwanted. Unwanted here is the space as Harinarayanan occupies a space that is object infested; his tea glass which has not been washed for quite some time, empty cigarette packets, papers, cigarette stubs and so on. When the space is edited out by the eyes of Azad these objects assume the shape of a Still Life, which simultaneously speak of the life of Harinarayanan and narrates a story about the time in which he lives.

Like Harinarayanan, Azad too lives a life of a nomad, an eternal wanderer. While Harinaryanan travels in his subconscious through nicotine and alcohol or weed induced euphoria, Azad travels in the physical space constantly capturing the displaced images that create meaning out of ironic associations. Nomads are dangerous people as they defy settlement and refuse to enter the mainstream life. On the contrary the mainstream life protected by state is always watchful about the nomads who the state believes that are in a perpetual preparation of war against it. An anarchist and nomad who live within the mainstream society in that sense is a threat not because he causes physical danger to others but because his life style itself remains as a constant critique of the normative life values. It tends to threaten the complacency of the people who live in illusionary sense of conformity.

Harinarayanan is a percussionist par excellence. While percussion is mostly related to temple based classical art forms, Harinarayanan operates from outside the religious structures. He has always been a fellow traveler of other anarchists and creatively mad people like late filmmaker John Abraham. In Abraham’s hallmark movie, ‘Amma Ariyan’ (For Mother’s Information) Harinarayanan plays the role of a tabalist who commits suicide. His friends gather from different places and they together go to his mother’s place and slowly the mother becomes the leader of that pack of anarchists who in fact moves against the mainstream values of life. Harinarayanan’s character has become one with the character that he plays in the movie. A friend of many like-minded creative people, Harinaryanan still lives the life of a non-conformist in the city of Kozhikode.

When Azad captures the objects and presences in Harinarayanan’s room devoid of Harinarayanan’s physical presence, they in a way tell the story of the person who lives there. In the moments of revolt and self-induced pain and angst, Harinarayanan writes slogans of revolution on his walls. They remain like graffiti written by a revolutionary in exile. Though Still Life connotes the beauty of life and the imminent death, here in Azad’s vision, these photographic still lives emblematize the life of a person who refuses to die and prolongs his life through anarchistic life style and thinking. One cannot forget the lives lived by late John Abraham and A.Ayyappan or D.Vinayachandran, when we look at these photographs. When Azad registers the still life of Harinarayanan we feel how moving a life it is. At the same time that life poses before us a critique of our own lives.

There is a sense of strong identification between Azad and Harinarayanan. In his autobiographical series called ‘My Anger and Other Stories’ Azad brings out a series of still lives from his own life that has brought in anger and pain, love and denial in his own life. Harinarayanan in that sense becomes a surrogate for the artistic self, a character which could be interchanged in subtle ways. Azad’s spiritual seeking at Thiruvannamalai also gets reflected when Harinaryanan writes on his wall, ‘Who am I?’ Such resonances make this series worth pondering. In a sense, each photograph belongs to the genre of still life but the intentionality of the artist transcends it into the zones of documentation, biographical registration and a critique of life, rather than a caution about death.

Disclaimer: Photographs and text published in this post is copyrighted property of the author. Prior permission is required from the author for republishing and reprinting. For more information, contact Ekalokam Trust for Photography at admin@etpindia.org

 

 

Close encounters: 365days myopic view

{ Essay on photography by Arjun Ramachandran, a media student with interests in cinema and photography. 365 days myopic is a smart phone photographic series done by photographer Abul Kalam Azad, as a contribution to Project 365 public photo archive Tiruvannamalai. In this unique, expansive body of work Abul records the everyday life in the ancient town, Tiruvannamalai. Abul is the Director of Project 365, and co-founder of Ekalokam Trust for Photography.}

Since the advent of digital technology and its fast growth, we have been carelessly misplacing or erasing much of the images we produce, “safely” storing them in the long forgotten floppy discs, CD drives, USB drives, old mobile phones, cameras etc. Photography, which is essentially a print, has been stripped of its traditional alchemical quality and longevity, and has almost completely become mere virtual intangible images. While this digitization has undoubtedly democratised the medium and stretched the horizons of thought of its practitioners, the danger is, in an instant, the innumerable casual-yet-valuable images that are being made can be lost forever to our future generations.

Digital recording is, largely, mere magnetisation of a material or optical marks made on a surface. The unwanted and untrue connotation that the word “digital” has acquired is that it is only presentable on a screen; “digital” only really means quantised, non-continuous data. On the basis of this misunderstanding, we have been storing digital images for the purpose of virtual viewing alone and by nature, digital recording is much more vulnerable to damage compared to analogue (read continuous) recording. A stray magnetic field is enough to wipe out a hard disk.

Even though several thousand photographs are being taken every day, by nearly everyone, only a very few provide thoughtful and focused efforts to preserve these photographs like yesteryear epigraphical documentation or other iconographic motifs for the benefit of future generations. This is as much an effect of seeming unnecessity and non-viability as it is of gross negligence. Documents are only valuable for those who see a use for it many years down the line, and not for those who do not intend to pay a second thought to the matter. Smart phone photographs, therefore, seem trivial and replicable for the majority of the authors and as such, irrelevant. These photographs may not be printable in larger formats, may not be commercially viable, but in an archive, they serve well the intended purpose – a visual document of ordinary people and their everyday life in an ancient town.


Abul Kalam Azad has been making smart phone photographs as connecting anecdotes for project 365. He has created several hundred lo-fi images depicting the life and culture of this ancient town, recording routine or chance meetings, casual events or details of his own daily life. Project 365 public photo archives will be locally preserving these images for public access and research. Setting aside his expertise in analogue & experimental photographic works and after traversing through digital, painted, manipulated images, Abul has consciously shifted to smart phone image making in a bid to utilise its nuances.


Smart phone images readily seem to bring in an element of autobiography. The daily events are most often captured through them, almost always in a moment of subconscious composition and judgement. There is a lack of formality or any veil of pretention that a bulky professional camera might induce even though the pretentions and mannerisms of the “real world” remain intact, as the smart phone remains nearly invisible between the subject and the artist. Even in staged portraits captured on smart phones, the posture of the subject becomes much freer. The smart phone becomes something of a non-intervening observer, not affecting the system at all.

The myopic eye of smart phone demands that the photographer has to be within a certain “intimate” distance to take a photograph. There has to be a certain connection between the one who is being photographed and the photographer himself – using a smart phone to create portraits of people means that the photographer is not a mere witness; the one who is photographed often looks straight into the camera and thus, at the photographer. A reflection of the effect of eye contact between the photographer and the subject is captured in the portrait.


This presence of intimacy is what a spectator relates to in these images. As personal spaces become increasingly reserved and physical contact becomes restricted in a wave of conservative urban-elite influence, this welcome intrusion of a nonprofessional-appearing, smart-phone-wielding photographer into touching distances of the subject is a reminder of the extent of simplicity and freedom in human relationships.

Disclaimer: Photographs and text published in this post is copyrighted property of the author. Prior permission is required from the author for republishing and reprinting. For more information, contact Ekalokam Trust for Photography at admin@etpindia.org

Legendary Photographers – Eliot Elisofon (1911 – 1973)

Eliot
Since tri-sangam period, Tiruvannamalai had been a preferred destination for creative people from various traditions and the Annamalai hill in this historical town has found mention in many Sangam period literatures. The light, landscape and people of the sacred hill and its surroundings attracted many photographers to document this town. The earliest known photograph of Tiruvannamalai was taken in the year 1880. During the late 1940s Life TIME Magazine had sent noted American commercial / documentary photographer Eliot Elisofon on an assignment to document the Annamalai (Arunachaleshwarar) temple in Tiruvannamalai.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Eliot Elisofon, (1911 – 1973) was an internationally known photographer, filmmaker, author, artist, and art collector. He started as a commercial photographer in 1935 but soon after developed an interest in photography as social documentary and decided to devote his career to photojournalism. He joined Life TIME magazine in 1942 as a war photographer-correspondent and worked on staff or freelance for the magazine until it ceased publication in 1972. After the war he worked on large geographical photo features in the United States and around the world. He was appointed a research fellow in primitive art at Harvard University in 1958 and was a member of the Harvard Peabody Museum’s 1961 expedition to film tribal life in New Guinea. He published more than 20 books, made documentary films, wrote numerous scholarly articles, and was a founding trustee of the Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C. He died in the year 1973.

Photography (C) Eliot Elisofon
Photography (C) Eliot Elisofon
Photography (C) Eliot Elisofon
Photography (C) Eliot Elisofon

Eliot’s assignment in India was to depict the art and ancient rock cut architecture of Hindu and Buddhist temples at various locations in India, including cave temples at Ellora, Ajanta, Elephanta Island, and Māmallapuram; Lingaraj and other temples of the Hindu god Siva in the temple city Bhubaneswar; the Sun Temple of Konārak and Arunachaleshwara Temple in Tiruvannāmalai. He had made several photographs of Tiruvannamalai, the Annamalai (Arunachaleshwar Temple) and Sri Ramana at his Ashram. Eliot’s photographs on Tiruvannamalai was published on 30th May 1949, the article was titled “Holy Man”, written by Winthrop Sergeant.
Click this link for the full article:
https://books.google.co.in/books?id=1k4EAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA92&dq=ramana+maharshi&hl=en&ei=iQ4tTbGSFcH-8Ab53eiDCQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=ramana%20maharshi&f=false

Disclaimer: Images (C) Eliot Elisofon / Time LIFE magaziine archive. Text research Tulsi Swarna Lakshmi / Ekalokam Trust for Photography