A solo exhibition at Apparao Galleries engages viewers in a reinvention of a declining art

Walking along the beach one pleasant December evening, it isn't long before I happen upon a gaggle of giggling teenagers, whipping out their phones to pose for photographs; which the very next day will be uploaded onto social networking websites and sent to friends as a memento of the events of the evening. As digital cameras, disposable cameras and cell phones become available at every corner, adaptable to every budget, there are fewer people who appreciate photography as a legitimate form of art.

In response to this disappointing turn of events, Hyderabad-based artist Masuram Ravikanth has set out to recapture the romance of the last century's photo studio for contemporary audiences. His 2009 exhibition, Royal DictArt, depicted stiffly-manicured Maharajas in proud poses, underscoring the seriousness with which the art of photography was once approached. His latest exhibition, Romancing the Reminisces, is similar in its message, reinventing a series of 1970s photographs to allow the viewer to imagine the romance and ceremony that the simple act of taking a photograph once imbibed. Simultaneously, he pays tribute to the art as he understood it while growing up in his photographer-father's studio.

Displayed at Apparao Galleries, Nungambakkam, Romancing the Reminisces has various components designed to draw the viewer into the art of photography as it once was. A series of boldly-coloured paintings is modelled after photographs of Ravikanth's father, taken inside his own studio in the 1970's. The glory of the original photographs is retained in the “body language, hair style, dress style” of the subject, while the splashes of colour bring the photo studio to life in a new era. Painted rocking horses serve as a playful reminder of the props once kept in the studio for children's photographs and nod towards the artist's childhood connection to the subject.

The remainder of the exhibition is composed of a slideshow of various monochrome photographs taken in the period 1856-1987 and instalments of contemporary art; all of which, like the studio photographs, focus on the physical posture and expression of the individual subjects. Photographs of the artist himself, dressed in 1970s garb, round out the exhibition; capturing the passion for photography that Ravikanth and his father shared.

In the far corner of the room stands a lone painting of a Maharaja, a clear reference to Ravikanth's previous exhibition which links the two shows in their message. In a world of underfunded arts faculties and undervalued artists, underappreciated art forms must be approached and reinvented in a contemporary manner. The exhibition captures the rich history and glory of photography in a more relevant medium, and in doing so, expresses an intergenerational dialogue between father and son.

The exhibition is on till December 30 at Apparao Galleries, Nungambakkam.

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Arts, Entertainment & EventsMay 14, 2012