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.

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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.

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EtP Residency Programme

The first batch of EtP Residency programme commenced on 24th December 2015 and was be completed on 14th January 2016. Five Young South Indian student photographers Lijo Lonappan, Marshall Sebastian, Arjun Ramachandran, Sooryanarayanan Chandrashekaran from St. Joseph’s college of communication, Thrissur and Gautham Ramachandran from SN School of Fine Arts, Hyderabad did their internship with EtP as part of the Residency programme.   EtP Residency Programme is led by contemporary Indian photographer and Project 365 Director Abul Kalam Azad. The student photographers did their individual projects on different topics namely: Aadu Jeevitham (Life of shepherds), Thanga Aachari (Gold smith), Architecture around Girivalam and Chaavukottu (Tamil Funeral Drummers).  To inculcate the interest of the interns, workshops on analogue photography was done. Contemporary French photographer and Project 365 leading photographer Thierry Cardon, who was visiting Tiruvannamalai during this period did a workshop on cyanotype. Introduction to large format analogue camera was done by Abul Kalam Azad and Thierry.

On 26/12/2015 photographers Abul Kalam Azad and Thierry Cardon introduced Large format camera to the resident photographers, followed by a field visit for shooting.

Two days (30, 31st Dec 2015) Cyanotype workshop was organised at the temporary laboratory set at Ekalokam Trust for Photography premises in Tiruvannamalai. Photographer Thierry Cardon, Resource person, EtP led this workshop.

 

Introduction to analogue photography was done on 3rd and 4th January 2016 as part of the Residency programme. and images show the participating photographers exploring analogue photography.

As part of the residency programme, Indian and International film screenings were organised at Ekalokam Trust for Photography office. During the first movie week ( 22nd Dec to 28th Dec 2015) Agraharathil Kazhuthai by John Abraham, A Separation by Asghar Farhadi, Duvidha by Mani Kaul, La Dolca Vita by Federica Fellini, Rashamon by Akria Kurosawa and Thampu by Aravindan G were screened. During the second movie week (1st Jan 2016 to 5th Jan 2016) Krzysztof Kieślowski’s most famous television series Dekalog 1 to 10 were screened.

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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.

 

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“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

 

 

മരണത്തിന്റെ ഛായാഗ്രഹണം

എം.നന്ദകുമാർ പാലക്കാട് ജില്ലയിൽ ജനനം. പാലക്കാട് എൻ.എസ്.എസ് എഞ്ചിനിയറിംഗ് കോളേജിൽ നിന്ന് ബി.ടെക്ക് ബിരുദം. Wipro net technologies, Cats-Net ISP (ടാൻസാനിയ) മുതലായ ഐ.ടി സ്ഥാപനങ്ങളിൽ ജോലി ചെയ്തു. ഇപ്പോൾ  Technichal Documentation Consultant ആയി ജോലി ചെയ്യുന്നു. വായില്ല്യാകുന്നിലപ്പൻ, നിലവിളിക്കുന്നിലേക്കുളള കയറ്റം (ഡി.സി ബുക്ക്‌സ്), പ്രണയം 1024 കുറുക്കുവഴികൾ (കറന്റ് ബുക്‌സ്)എന്നീ കൃതികൾ പ്രസിദ്ധീകരിച്ചിട്ടുണ്ട്. ‘വാർത്താളി സൈബർ സ്‌പേസിൽ ഒരു പ്രണയ നാടകം’ എന്ന നീണ്ടകഥയെ ആധാരമാക്കി വിപിൻ വിജയ് സംവിധാനം ചെയ്ത ‘ചിത്രസൂത്രം’ എന്ന സിനിമ ദേശീയ അന്തർദ്ദേശീയ ചലച്ചിത്രമേളകളിൽ പുരസ്‌ക്കാരങ്ങൾ നേടി.

Roland Barthes / Image source internet / Author unknown
Roland Barthes / Image source internet / Author unknown

തത്വചിന്ത, ഭാഷാശാസ്ത്രം, ചിഹ്നശാസ്ത്രപഠനം എന്നിങ്ങനെ വിവിധ മേഖലകളിൽ മൗലികപ്രതിഭ കൊണ്ട് സർഗ്ഗാത്മകതയുടെ പുതുസരണികൾ തുറന്ന റൊളാന്റ് ബാർഥിന്റെ അവസാനകൃതി ഫോട്ടോഗ്രഫിയെക്കുറിച്ചായിരുന്നു Camera Lucida: A Note on Photography.

Camera Lucida Book Cover

ഛായാഗ്രഹണത്തിന്റെ സാങ്കേതികവശങ്ങൾ, ചരിത്രം, സാമൂഹികശാസ്ത്രം, സൈദ്ധാന്തിക നിരീക്ഷണങ്ങൾ എന്നതൊന്നുമല്ല ഈ ചെറുഗ്രന്ഥത്തിന്റെ ഉള്ളടക്കം. സൂചകങ്ങളെ വേർതിരിച്ച്, കാഴ്ചയുടെ അനന്തപാഠങ്ങൾ നിർമ്മിക്കാനോ ഫോട്ടോഗ്രഫിക്ക് ഒരു വ്യാകരണം ചമയ്ക്കാനോ ബാർഥ് മുതിരുന്നില്ല. വൈയക്തികവും പലപ്പോഴും വികാരതരളിതവുമായി 48 ഖണ്ഡങ്ങളിലൂടെ ഉരുത്തിരിയുന്ന ആഖ്യാനം ഫോട്ടോഗ്രഫിനെ മരണവുമായി ബന്ധിപ്പിക്കുന്നു.

മുൻകൃതികളുടെ മുഖമുദ്രയായിരുന്ന വിമർശനാത്മക വിശകലനരീതിയിൽ നിന്ന് ബാർഥ് വിട്ടുമാറുന്നു. ഇതിന് പല കാരണങ്ങളും പറയാം. അമ്മയുടെ മരണം ഏല്പിച്ച ദു:ഖാഘാതം, ദൈനംദിനജീവിതത്തെ ഞെരിക്കുന്ന മടുപ്പുകൾ, ചിഹ്‌നശാസ്ത്രം, മനോ:വിശകലനം തുടങ്ങിയ ചിന്താപദ്ധതികളിൽ വളരുന്ന അവിശ്വാസം… അതെല്ലാം ബാർഥിനെ അലട്ടിയിരുന്നു. വിമർശനാത്മക സമീപനങ്ങളിൽ അനിവാര്യമായും വന്നു ചേരുന്ന ജീവിതത്തിന്റെ പരിമിതപ്പെടുത്തൽ, അവസാനകാലത്ത് അദ്ദേഹത്തിന്റെ ഉത്കണ്ഠയായി. സ്വന്തം അനുഭൂതികൾ നല്കുന്ന ഉൾക്കാഴ്ചകളെ മാത്രം എഴുത്തിന്റെ പ്രാഥമിക ഉറവിടമായി ആശ്രയിച്ചാണ് ബാർഥ് Camera Lucida രചിച്ചത്.

Henriette Barthes holding her son Roland Barthes / Image source internet
Henriette Barthes holding her son Roland Barthes / Image source internet

‘വ്യാഖ്യാനത്തിന് വഴങ്ങാത്തത്’ എന്ന രീതിയിലാണ് ബാർഥ് ഫോട്ടോഗ്രഫിനെ സമീപിക്കുന്നത്. കാരണം, പ്രതിനിധാനം ചെയ്യുന്ന വിഷയത്തിൽ നിന്ന് വ്യതിരിക്തമായി, മറ്റെന്തെങ്കിലും അർത്ഥമോ ചിഹ്‌നമോ അതിൽ കണ്ടെത്താനാകുന്നില്ല. ഫോട്ടോഗ്രഫുകളെ വർഗ്ഗീകരിക്കാൻ ശ്രമിക്കുമ്പോൾ രണ്ട് ഭാഷകളുടെ സംഘർഷം ഉടലെടുക്കുന്നു. നോക്കുന്നയാൾക്ക് ഫോട്ടോഗ്രഫിൽ താത്പര്യം ജനിപ്പിക്കുന്ന ഉളളടക്കത്തെ ബാർഥ് Studium എന്ന് വിളിക്കുന്നു. അതിന്റെ വിഷയം, സാംസ്‌കാരിക സന്ദർഭം, ചരിത്രത്തിന്റെ, കലയുടെ പോലും അംശങ്ങൾ ഇതെല്ലാം ഈ സംജ്ഞയിൽ ഉൾപ്പെടുത്താം. മറ്റ് മനുഷ്യർ, വസ്ത്രങ്ങൾ, പുസ്തകങ്ങൾ, വിനോദങ്ങൾ എന്നിവയിൽ ഒരാൾക്ക് തോന്നുന്ന ഒഴുക്കനും അവ്യക്തവുമായ താത്പര്യം പോലെ തന്നെയാണ് Studium നിലനില്ക്കുന്നത്.

എന്നാൽ, അലംഭാവം കലർന്ന ഈ നോട്ടത്തിനെ ഭേദിക്കുന്ന ഒരു വിശദാംശം ഫോട്ടോഗ്രഫിൽ ഉണ്ടാകും. അതാണ് ജൗിരൗോ. വ്യക്തിപരവും തീക്ഷ്ണവുമായ പ്രതികരണത്തിന് പ്രേരിപ്പിക്കുന്ന ആകസ്മികത. പോറൽ ഏൽപ്പിക്കുന്ന, രൂക്ഷമായ ഒരു വിശദാംശമാണ് Punctum. ആത്യന്തികമായി അത് മരണത്തിന്റെ അറിയിപ്പാകുന്നു.

അമ്മയുടെ വേർപാടിന് ശേഷം, പഴയ ഫോട്ടോഗ്രഫുകളിൽ ബാർഥ് അവരെ തിരയുന്നു. അമ്മയെ പോലെ എന്ന് തോന്നിക്കുന്നുണ്ടെങ്കിലും, അവയിലെ മുഖങ്ങൾക്കൊന്നിനുംഗ്രന്ഥകാരന് അറിയുന്ന അമ്മയുടെ മുഖവുമായി തികഞ്ഞ പൊരുത്തമില്ല. ഒടുവിൽ ബാർഥ് ഒരു ഫോട്ടോഗ്രഫിൽ എത്തിപ്പെട്ടു.അമ്മ അഞ്ച് വയസ്സുളള പെൺകുട്ടിയായിരുന്നപ്പോൾ എടുത്ത ചിത്രം. അനന്യമായ ഒരു നിലനിൽപ്പിന്റെ മിന്നലാട്ടമായി ബാർഥ് അമ്മയെ വീണ്ടും കണ്ടെത്തുന്നു.(പുസ്തകത്തിൽ ആ ഫോട്ടോഗ്രഫ് ചേർത്തിട്ടില്ല. കാരണം; ‘അത് എനിക്ക് വേണ്ടി മാത്രം നിലനില്ക്കുന്നു. നിങ്ങൾക്കത് തീരെ താത്പര്യമുണർത്താത്ത വെറും ചിത്രമാണ്.’) ആ ഛായാപടത്തിലൂടെ, അമ്മയുടെ മരണത്തിന്റെ വ്യാകുലതയിൽ നിന്ന് ഗ്രന്ഥകാരൻ സ്വന്തം മരണത്തിലേക്കാണ് എത്തിച്ചേരുന്നത്. അക്കാരണത്താൽ എല്ലാ ഫോട്ടോഗ്രഫുകളും സ്മരണികകളാണ്. തന്റെ തന്നെ അന്ത്യത്തിന്റെ സൂചന പേറുന്നവ. അവയിലൂടെ ആഗ്രഹവും ദുഖവും കരുണയും വീണ്ടെടുക്കാനുളള ശ്രമം തുടരാം. അമ്മയുടെ അഭാവവുമായി പൊരുത്തപ്പെടാനുളള വിഷാദാത്മകമായ ആഖ്യാനത്തിലൂടെ നിലനിന്നിരുന്നു എന്നതിലാണ് ഫോട്ടോഗ്രഫിയുടെ സത്ത. വധശിക്ഷക്ക് വിധിക്കപ്പെട്ട കുറ്റവാളിയുടെ ചിത്രത്തിൽ നിന്ന് കാലത്തിൽ അടങ്ങിയ ഭയാനക വൈരുദ്ധ്യം ബാർഥിന്റെ കാഴ്ചയിലൂടെ വെളിപ്പെടുന്നു: അയാൾ മരിച്ചു അയാൾ മരിക്കാൻ പോവുകയാണ്.

Roland Barthes Autoscopia / Image source internet / Author unknown
Roland Barthes / Image source internet

ഓർമ്മകളെയും മരണഭയത്തെയും അരിച്ചെടുക്കാനുളള, ബാർഥ് തന്നെ സൂചിപ്പിക്കുന്ന പ്രൂസ്റ്റിയൻ പ്രയത്‌നത്തിന് എല്ലാ ഫോട്ടോഗ്രഫുകളും വഴങ്ങണമെന്നില്ല. പോർട്രെയ്റ്റുകളിൽ മരണം പതിയിരിക്കുന്നുണ്ടാകാം. എന്നാൽ പ്രകൃതിദൃശ്യങ്ങളിലും മറ്റനേകം ഫോട്ടോഗ്രഫുകളിലും ഈ വ്യഥക്ക് സാംഗത്യമെന്ത്?

ഫോട്ടോഗ്രഫി കലയാണെന്ന വാദം, ദൃശ്യമാധ്യമ പഠനങ്ങളിൽ അതിന്റെ പ്രാമുഖ്യം അത്തരം കാര്യങ്ങളൊന്നും ബാർഥിന് താത്പര്യമുണർത്തുന്നില്ല. ഛായാഗ്രാഹകന്റെ കൗശലം, ആവിർഭാവത്തിന് ശേഷം പിന്നീട് ചേർക്കപ്പെട്ട നിറങ്ങൾ എന്നവയോട് വിരോധം പോലുമുണ്ട്. യാഥാർത്ഥ്യത്തിന്റെ പകർപ്പ് എന്നതിനേക്കാൾ കഴിഞ്ഞുപോയതിന്റെ ഒരു പ്രസരണമായി ബാർഥ് ഫോട്ടോഗ്രഫിനെ വീക്ഷിക്കുന്നു. പെയിന്റിംഗിനേക്കാൾ കൂടുതലായി രസതന്ത്രജ്ഞന്റെ വിദ്യയോടാണ് അതിന് കൂടുതൽ അടുപ്പം. അതിനാൽ, കലയെന്നതിനേക്കാൾ ഛായാഗ്രഹണം ഒരു മായാജാലമാണ്. ഒരു ഫോട്ടോഗ്രഫ് നന്നായി കാണണമെങ്കിൽ അതിൽ നിന്ന് കണ്ണുതെറ്റിക്കുകയോ കണ്ണുകൾ അടയ്ക്കുകേയാ ചെയ്യണമെന്ന വിചിത്രസൂക്തം ബാർഥ് നിർദ്ദേശിക്കുന്നു.

സ്‌നേഹത്തിന്റെയും വേദനയുടെയും ഈ പ്രേതകഥ അവസാനിക്കുമ്പോൾ അങ്ങേയറ്റം ഏകാകിയായി ബാർഥ് നിൽക്കുന്നു. അമ്മയുടെ ഓർമ്മയും പേറി. വരാനുളള സ്വന്തം മരണത്തിന്റെ അടയാളങ്ങളായ ഫോട്ടോഗ്രഫുകൾക്ക് നടുവിൽ. സൗന്ദര്യാനുഭൂതിക്കും അർത്ഥകല്പനകൾക്കും അപ്പുറത്ത്, നമ്മുടെ നോട്ടത്തെ പിടിച്ച് നിർത്തുന്ന തീക്ഷണമായ ഒരു ജൗിരൗോ. അതിനാലാകാം ഛായാഗ്രാഹകർ, സാംസ്‌കാരിക ചിന്തകർ എന്നിവരെക്കാൾ കൂടുതലായി എഴുത്തുകാരും മറ്റ് കലാകാരന്മാരും ഈ കൃതിയിൽ നിന്ന് ഊർജ്ജം വലിച്ചെടുക്കുന്നത്.

Camera Lucida എഴുതിത്തീർന്ന് ഏതാനും ദിവസങ്ങൾക്കകം ബാർഥ് ഒരു റോഡപകടത്തിൽ പെട്ടു. പാരീസിലെ തിരക്കേറിയ തെരുവ് മുറിച്ച് കടക്കാനുളള ശ്രമത്തിൽ, ഒരു അലക്ക്കമ്പനിയുടെ വാഹനം അദ്ദേഹത്തെ ഇടിച്ചു വീഴ്ത്തി. ആശുപത്രിയിൽ പ്രവേശിപ്പിച്ചെങ്കിലും ബാർഥ് ഒരു മാസത്തിനകം മരിച്ചു. അന്ത്യദിനങ്ങളിൽ, ജീവിക്കാനുളള ഇച്ഛ നഷ്ടപ്പെട്ട ഒരാളായിട്ടാണ്, ചുറ്റുമുളളവർക്ക് ബാർഥ് കാണപ്പെട്ടത്. അദ്ദേഹത്തിന്റെ എഴുത്ത് മേശയിൽ സെ്റ്റൻഡാലിനെക്കുറിച്ച് തുടങ്ങിവെച്ച ഒരു പഠനം കിടപ്പുണ്ടായിരുന്നു. ആ ലേഖനത്തിന് ബാർഥ് നല്കിയ ശീർഷകം: ‘സ്‌നേഹിക്കുന്നവയെക്കുറിച്ച് പറയുന്നതിൽ ഓരാൾ എല്ലായ്‌പോഴും പരാജയപ്പെടുന്നു.’

തുടരും…

ഈ പെയ്ജിൽ പ്രകാശിപിക്കപെടുന്ന ചിത്രങ്ങളും, ലേഖനവും അവയവയുടെ രചയിതാവിന്റെ മുൻ‌കൂർ അനുവാദം കൂടാതെ പരസ്യമായി മറ്റാരാലും പ്രകാശിപിക്കാവുന്നതല്ല. ഇവയെല്ലാം. കൂടുതല്‍ വിവരങ്ങള്ക്ക് admin@etpindia.org / 94879 56405

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.

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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

 

Legendary photographers: PRS Mani Iyer

PRS Mani Iyer

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.

ModernTheatersLtd-Logo

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.

Photography (C) PRS Mani Iyer / Ramana Ashram Archives
Photography (C) PRS Mani / Ramana Ashram Archive
PRS Mani 1
photography (C) PRS Mani / Ramana Ashram Archive

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.

Text research by Tulsi / Ekalokam Trust for Photography. Photography © P.R.S. Mani / Ramana Ashram archives.

 

 

Paradigms of Perception: Between the Visual and the Optic

{ R Nandakumar is an art historian and culture critic. He has taught art history and aesthetics in various Fine Arts colleges and has been Professor and Head of the Department of Visual Arts in Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi. Formerly a Fellow of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, he has currently been a Senior Nehru Fellow at Teen Murti Bhawan, New Delhi.

As an art historian though visual arts is his home discipline, cultural musicology is another major area of his research interest. His works in both have appeared in important academic journals and they address areas of intercultural concern from the perspective of the sociology of culture. }

Photography (C) Ramu Aravindan
Photography (C) Ramu Aravindan

Generally speaking, photography has always found itself uncomfortably placed in the scheme of things of the modernist aesthetic agenda. The aesthetic assumptions and value preferences that fed into a vindication of abstraction in art-historical discourse were mostly in agreement with the prejudices surrounding the debate over the artistic status of photography. This in turn had its terms of reference in the perceived dichotomy between art versus fact, or between representation versus indexicality. It is not without reason that the brand of photography that could strike any kind of a respectable alliance with the fine art traditions of Indian modernism is called ‘art photography’. Thus the ‘art’ in such art photography is achieved in terms of an attempt to mimic painterly modes through a deliberate denaturing of all the mechanistic attributes intrinsic to the medium which are supposedly at variance with art. Soft focus and blurriness, perspectival distortions and angled views, contrast lighting, deep shadows and staged compositions and above all, a pictorialism of the pathetic fallacy kind in which sentimentalised nature motifs are presented – these are still the mainstay of art photography in India.

But photography has outlived this situation in practice by finding new uses, functions and the norms of a new sensibility that it set itself which, as it stands, had marked a break with the aesthetic of pictorialism.  The contra-aesthetic connotations inherent to the photographic medium like its anti-style, authorial absence, its mass reproducibility and destruction of aura on the one hand and the fact of its ideological locus in the techno-industrial environment of capitalism and its nexus with the semiotic systems of advertisement, fashion and consumerism, on the other have all qualitatively different implications in the context of postmodernism. All these have provided the necessary terms of reference for a context of its practice that is in tandem with the conceptual premises of postmodernism, “not as an art-in-itself but an option within an inter-semiotic and inter-textual ‘arena.’”1 And this is crucial to an understanding of the signifying process of photography as a medium in the present world, wherever it is. As Douglas Crimp notes:

The centrality of photography within the current range of practices makes it crucial to a theoretical distinction between modernism and postmodernism . . .[but] it is clear that photography is too multiple, too useful to other discourses, ever to be wholly contained within traditional definitions of art. Photography will always exceed the institutions of art, always participate in non-art practices, always threaten the insularity of art’s discourse.2

Photography (C) Ramu Aravindan
Photography (C) Ramu Aravindan

As “the spheres of art and life, of emotion generated from within and emotion generated from without, or work and leisure, are increasingly indistinguishable”3 in the present-day urban life, so there is a space in the public sphere, in the quotidianness of which the aesthetic and the informational are co-identical at the level of message. By accepting one’s context as that to which culture, communication and creativity form one total perspective, a photographer who is critically self-aware of the aporias of photographic aesthetics and the historicity of its practice, would seek to critically engage this space through his work.

That, to my mind, is what Ramu Aravindan does as a photographer. Ramu’s photographic work has affinities with the tradition of the documentary style (a rather tenuous term) that is traced to Eugene Atget, the turn-of-the-century French photographer who was rediscovered by the Surrealists. The style acquired the cultural and artistic dimensions of social document and initiated a whole new aesthetic in the work of the celebrated American photographer of the thirties and forties, Walker Evans who was a major influence on a generation of distinguished photographers like Helen Levitt, Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander and Lewis Baltz and continues to inspire contemporary movements like New Topographics. Evans who was influenced by Baudelaire in spirit and Flaubert by method, brought to bear upon his images a profoundly moral concern and a measure of stylisation that made his style, as is often  said, “the archetypal classicism of the ordinary.”

Photography (C) Ramu Aravindan
Photography (C) Ramu Aravindan

As the choice of subject for any photographer comes as a point of departure for his convictions, so Ramu’s de-aestheticised images in black-and-white of the unprivileged, uneventful and unspectacular sidelights from the scenario of everydayness are informed by a moral conviction and human empathy. A conscious refusal to intervene in his pictures endows them with an aspect of an impersonal, dispassionate stare – the stare of a flaneur (a la Walter Benjamin).4 Even when his images are near-impersonal, as his Calgary pictures mostly are, with their bare, blank streets and open spaces that are totally unpeopled, they are not dehumanised. Instead, traces left by human activity or the left-over of events, like the track of car tyres or melted ice mark a silent sense of human presence with its discreetly off-frame suggestion. In all his pictures there is a conscious avoidance of the narrative-illustrative in terms of ironic juxtaposition of motif or tell-all details as thematic understatement of a literal content.

Photography (C) Ramu Aravindan
Photography (C) Ramu Aravindan

After having graduated from the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, Ramu went in for his post-graduation at the University of Calgary, Canada where he did his MFA with a photography major. There in Calgary, having been exposed to the works of several pioneers and the different styles (a contentious issue in photography) that put the medium to different uses and the many theoretical implications of the photographic aesthetics, Ramu was increasingly drawn towards the documentary style associated with Walker Evans and its may distinguished practitioners. He found that it has much in common with his own natural inclinations as a visual artist as communicator (more than as creator) and his own attitude as a traveller.

Ramu had shown a series of his Calgary pictures in the exhibition Desert City at Oxford Book Store-Gallery, Kolkata in 1997. One of the outposts for the early European explorers and now becoming something of a boomtown, Calgary has an air of newness about it. Ramu says that he was particularly fascinated by the clarity with which this look of the new was writ large on Calgary’s urban landscape: “I try to use background forms such as signboards, lamp posts, domesticated trees and the pale concrete footpaths to create a ground upon which the people advance. There is an implication of borderlines, particularly between nature and human constructs, in many of my images . . .”5 He had intended them to be seen as a sequence, but the arrangement of the line-up precludes any “juxtapositions that form unintended narrative meaning (as in a film montage that had gone wrong)”, or any repetitive logical order.

Photography (C) Ramu Aravindan
Photography (C) Ramu Aravindan

There is a characteristic sense of place – the look, the feel, the ambience of the place – that is particular to each locale. As it becomes an internalised topography of the mind, it configures in terms of some random details that define the spatial directiveness and bearings of the remembered landscape. More than as landmarks in a factual sense, they are the memory traces that act as orientation points for a mindscape expressive of subjectivity. Ramu’s images have a quality of evoking this sense of place through unexceptional details like a shrub, some fringe plants or a signboard that are endowed with a personal naturalism, having a descriptive tenor with semantic resonance.

Photography (C) Ramu Aravindan
Photography (C) Ramu Aravindan

Generally, Ramu’s images have about them a forthright and stark quality that is heightened by the uniform sharpness of focus and overall flat illumination. Here, the even clarity of the motif that leaves little unsaid is a function of the truth of surfaces that is captured with a conviction that makes these images, to borrow from Harold Rosenberg, the “patterns of unprivileged data into which the secrecy of Being is dissipated.”6 As this clarity gravitates into a certain opacity that comes to equal profundity, the motif sheds its familiarity to achieve a stylisation reminiscent of the “archetypal classicism of the ordinary” of Walker Evans. By avoiding tilted or angled views Ramu achieves a certain head-on, stark frontality of the motif as seen at eye level which also imparts an aspect of confronting it in an unrelenting stare. This frontality of his images is enhanced by its twin aspect of the even flatness of the picture plane. Even when there are steep perspective orthogonals, they do not dramatise space as by the play of light creating volumes of shadow.

Though Ramu spends considerable time trying to get his desired compositions, he feels that much of the thought about it appears rudimentary in hindsight. The various interrelations among the spatial appearance of objects, between object and the direction of its shadow, between textures and surfaces, all constitute a field of meaning that is distinctly antigraphic and at variance with the assumptions of pictorialism.

Photography (C) Ramu Aravindan
Photography (C) Ramu Aravindan

Even when a photograph looks unmediated, without human intervention in the realisation of its image and hence signifying authorial absence, the absence itself is a construction. It is a construction at the interface between factuality and artifice or between simulacrum and point of view; and it is not an empirically given precondition of perception. In many of Ramu’s images, as in the Calgary pictures, the rigorously composed optic array within the frame and the randomness which it suggests of the physical disarray outside the frame (both of which are bound by a causal symmetry) create a subtle dualism. Similar is the dualism between the apparently hands-off, all-at-onceness of his images and an artifice the transparency of which made it possible. Within these dualisms authorial absence is built into the signifying process as a paradox of the very transparency of the image-meaning nexus.

After distinguishing between the two spatial appearances of objects – the ‘natural’ one and that of the object permeated by cognition – Siegfried Kracauer notes:

By sacrificing the former for the sake of the latter the artwork also negates the likeness achieved by photography. This likeness refers to the look of the object, which does not immediately divulge how it reveals itself to cognition; the artwork, however, conveys nothing but the transparency of the object.7

This is also why the primal opacity of the object-in-itself as an aspect of reality perception is something peculiar to the optic ‘unconscious’8 that constitutes the domain of photographic realism. Photography retrieves this opacity of truth that is lost to consciousness – as truth before fact.

Notes:

Peter Wollen, “Photography and Aesthetics,” Readings and Writings: Semiotic Counter- Strategies, Verso, 1982, p. 188

Douglas Crimp, quoted in Jessica Evans, “Victor Burgin’s Polysemic Dreamcoat,” Art has no History! The Making and Unmarking of Modern Art. ed.  John Roberts, Verso, 1994, p. 212

E.J. Hobsawm, The Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century 1914 1991, Michel Joseph, 1994, p. 521

Walter Benjamin, “Paris, Capital of the Nineteenth Century” and “The Paris of the Second Empire in Baudelaire,” Charles Baudelaire: A Lyric Poet in the Era of High Capitalism, Verso, 1983

Ramu Aravindan, Introductory Text to Calcutta Exhibition, Calcutta. 1997.

Harold Rosenberg, “Portraits: A Meditation on Likeness,” Portraits: Richard Avedon, Thames and Hudson, 1976

Siegfried Kracauer. “Photography” (1927), Critical Enquiry, vol. 19, no. 3, 1993, p. 427

Walter Benjamin, “Walter Benjamin’s Short History of Photography,” 1931, Tran. Phil Patton, Art Forum, New York, February 1977, p. 47

(First published in Art India, vol. 5, no. 1, 2000)

Disclaimer: Photographs and text published in this post is the 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