Every line on the crinkly face of the lady who smiles down from the television screen is visible. As one peers at her photograph to fully discern its meaning, quite unexpectedly, she moves. She does not speak, but gradually murmurs in the background can be heard.
Is it a photograph? Is it a movie? The Light of Day by Simon Biwas appears to be neither.
On display at Eklektikos – a week-long exhibition of photographs by young professionals “who have their roots in Kolkata even if they are not based here” – it is a series of moving portraits of elderly people who recount their memories in what appears to be a dialogue between still photography and film.
“We wanted to bring this dialogue to the city. Photography is at a very interesting juncture right now – with a lot of confluence with different media so that it has a broader spectrum. But not much work of this kind has been shown in Kolkata so far,” explained Arko Datto, one of the curators of Eklektikos.
“There are many ways of presenting a photograph. But there appears to be a mindset that it can only be done as a display in an exhibition or as a part of a compilation in a book. We wanted to bring in a flavour of the alternatives,” added Ronny Sen, co-curator.
Dedicated to the memory of Prabuddha Dasgupta, the exhibition is one of the few and early attempts in the city at breaking from convention - no single-shots, no photo-frames and “certainly no photographs lined up in a horizontal line along the wall.”
“Cities like New Delhi and Mumbai have hosted such shows before, but we wanted to provide an opportunity to photographers and enthusiasts to experience something that would be rather new here,” Mr. Datto said.
The strikingly personal photo diaries of Mr. Sen or Shankar Sarkar, who has been documenting in photographs, the life of his mother – a sex worker – find their place beside photo-journalistic exhibits.
Salil Bera, who won an honourable mention at the World Press Photo Contest earlier this year and innumerable other prizes for his photograph of a leopard pouncing upon a forest guard, presented a series of 12 images shot in the course of the incident.
“It did not happen in the flash of a second. For hours, the foresters were locked in battle with the animal until they could tranquilise it. In the process, the leopard was injured several times and eventually died,” said Mr. Bera.
It is these contiguous stories that emerge from the body of work done by the photographers that Eklektikos wanted to bring into focus. “Everyone has a different way of telling a story. We did not want to restrict an exhibit to a single photograph, instead explore how they are told,” Mr. Sen said.
So when Mr. Datto happened to be in New York during the Occupy Wall Street protests and the lines from Allen Ginsberg’s Howl automatically came to mind as he moved among the protestors with his camera, he decided to merge the two in a multi-media presentation, Moloch.
“I had read the poem earlier and it seemed to come back to me as I began to take the shots. There were certain images that automatically suggested lines from the poem, but at that time I had not planned to present it this way. Later as I was organising my photographs, I found certain pictures that supplied the text,” he said.