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.
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.
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.
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.
PRS is not known in the contemporary photography world. However, his famous photo of Sage Ramana titled ‘Mani bust’ taken during the 1930s, continue to be circulated and worshiped by several thousand devotees.
PRS Mani 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 Tamil Nadu. 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 Indian Cinema headquarters was based in Salem and this sophisticated studio produced over more than 150 movies until 1982. Modern Theaters was situated in the outskirts of Salem – Yercaud road, which is currently in ruins. Only later the Tamil Cinema base had moved to Chennai. Several of PRS’s promotional photographs of eminent actors, actresses and artists taken during his time at the Modern Theaters are lost to the contemporary photography world.
During the 1930s, N.R. Krishnamurti Iyer was asked by the Ramana 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 Iyer 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.
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 contribution during his time with modern theatre is unknown till now. If one starts digging they will find marvelous images of those early South Indian cinema days taken by this photographer.