By Artika Raj:
As I sat developing my recent set of films, in a small red-light cabin, dipping them in and out of various chemical baths – my curiosity to see how the photographs might have come out only increased by the minute.
Because hey, it’s the 21st century and if you’re still processing your pictures it’s ‘coz you’re old-school-cool or stuck in a time warp.
Either way, what’s probably the same for all of us, even now, is the brimming hope of having captured a timeless moment or a hidden perspective when we ‘click’! Photography over the years has evolved into an art form, having been enriched as also possibly having taken a few hits, in its journey. From the first bulky cameras to the smartphones of today that have changed the way we look at, share, and define photographs and photographers, I pose the question to Idris Ahmed, photographer and founder of PhotoCommune, a photography collective in Delhi, on what he thinks of the whole thing – “Pretty much like all things technology whose advent has had its pros and cons – the increasing use of smartphone cameras has both helped the art of photography and at the same time has done disservice to it too. People have stopped experiencing the joys and pleasures of life and are too busy capturing it with their cameras. But at the same time it gives you the edge of sharing your images spontaneously – it’s almost like communicating with images.”
This month, members of Photo Commune, which describes itself as a collective of photography enthusiasts who meet up every Sunday “to learn about the techniques and art of photography,” are holding an exhibition at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi. Called ‘Off-Roaders’, it promises to be a visual journey from the POV of these photographers where they take the viewers through the cold but oddly calming mountains of Lahaul-Spiti, the revealing back lanes of Venice, the many pillared and aesthetically marvelous mandirs of Khajuraho, and through a cultural sojourn that they believe truly reflects the inclusive social fabric of our country. Also, there is a message in what these guys are doing – so many of us click pictures when we travel, the scenes off the beaten track, but what do we do with them after? Perhaps joining this collective is a good option.
Offered here is a glimpse into the exhibition and the exhibitors, and maybe a travel story that might just be similar to yours:
I was absolutely smitten by the magical world of Spiti and its people, on my recent photography trip organised by Photo Commune. And, that is the experience, I aim to pass on, in this exhibition. Although, I am full-time behind the lenses at some place or else, the calm that Spiti offered me while at work, is unparalleled. Every time I look at these pictures, the zesty me gets closer to the tranquil me, which I had discovered in Lahaul and Spiti.
For a UI Engineer, photography is a UI (user interface) constant in my life and to my life. I like to capture life’s texture through my lenses, which is best felt while travelling. Through this exhibition, I want to present the beauty that manifests in various religions in India, learning for me as well and hopefully for the rest of India’s youth. The rituals and practices differ yet keep us alive and together as a diverse collective because ‘Majhab Nahi Sikhata Aapas Mein Bair Rakhna‘. I really hope my work at ‘Off-Roaders’ drives this idea into each and everyone.
An important aspect of travel is exposure to Socio-cultural fabric of the country you are visiting. And ever-evolving art forms or any medium of expression is the best way to catch the sentiments. Hence, ‘Graffiti’ as an art form has always intrigued me as a genre of artist expression and the way it has evolved over years.
While roaming around in the winding lanes of Venice, I came across this wall with posters of various plays and movies showing in the town. I don’t know it was intentional or just happened by chance, the posters arrangement depicted different facets of life from birth to death and from good to evil and also the 5 elements ‘panch bhu tatva’ that created life and become a part of the universe once you die.
This picture also is from Venice. This is a backside of a house in Venice and these were the names on the wall that reminded me of 1960’s – 80’s era when ‘tagging’ their names on walls in as many places as possible to get famous. Also, what’s more fascinating is a picture of Mother Mary in the middle of the scribbled names as if, she is listening to those people.
Mysterious mountains, vivacious valleys, serene snowscape, untouched utopia. Far away from the myriad madness of the urbane, Spiti – an odyssey to spirituality through nature, was an experience of a lifetime. As the mystic wind whiplashed on me, with limited consciousness within an unlimited surrealism, these are some memoirs of the valley I could freeze in time. Hope you feel the fresh aroma of the mountain winds and the chants of the enigmatic monasteries, as these photographs attempt to teleport you there for a few minutes.
Photography is what makes my heart beat. Every time I pick up my camera and venture out, I feel like this is what I was born for and this is what I wish to do all my life. Photography for me has evolved from a hobby to a philosophy. I want to run along with my camera, behind experiences and not certificates.
The photos I present to you at ‘Off-Roaders’ is from one of my favourite places, Khajuraho. As much as we have heard of it and seen it in the media, not as many Indians have experienced its grandeur first-hand. While a picture may not be as close to actually spending time with the Khajuraho Temple architecture, I have tried to bring back stimuli. I hope my photos here will provide the push one needs to go and experience the Godly heritage that the small village of Khajuraho is blessed with.
I always wanted to see Eiffel tower for two reasons – one for being the architectural marvel it is and second for being the symbol of love. I have always been enchanted by its beauty from what I had seen in the pictures and read in the books. So when we reached Paris, Eiffel tower was on top of my bucket list. I wanted to explore this from every possible angle and in every light available be it early in the morning or at twilight or seeing the sun going down from the top of the tower and it being getting lit up level by level. And from the moment I started taking that first step upstairs I couldn’t help but marvel at the beauty of this masterpiece, it’s indeed a sight to behold. When I took these pictures I was not looking for anything specific, but had generally been looking out for geometry and symmetry plus I wanted to keep my frames quite minimalistic. The shot with the reflection of a tower on a glass pane is my personal favorite amongst all the other ones.
In socio-economic terms, they say, I am a full-time music educator and musician. Nevertheless, there may be days when I step outside without my audio equipment but hardly any without my camera bag and tripod. Photography is not different from what I like to do in music- Absorb (what I sense, hear or see), Interpret (a song or an object), Compose (a melody or a frame), Arrange (musical sections or visual elements), Practise (techniques, musical or photographic), Share (with students and audience) the little bit I have to offer and finally Spread, the want to express through them.
So, there’s no difference really. At ‘Off-Roaders’, I bring to you portraits worth a thousand words, for me. For these, I can’t help but remember the famous lyrics by Timothy Miles Bindon Rice and Sir Elton John
It’s the Circle of Life
And it moves us all
Through despair and hope
Through faith and love
You’ll know when you come and see those eyes and that smile and maybe even feel the breath.
‘Off-Roaders’ the exhibition will be on at the India Habitat Centre from November 19th to 22nd. To know more about the exhibition visit Photo Commune’s Facebook page.