Photographer Samar Singh Jodha explains how travelling around the world with simple eating habits helps

The day is headed towards the afternoon and the sun is at its shiniest in the diplomatic area of Chanakyapuri. But at Diva Café in the Italian Embassy Cultural Centre, where we sit with Samar Singh Jodha for an informal chat over lunch, nothing is in extreme with winter chill countering the warmth of the sun in the best possible manner. Samar, the nomad, is here from somewhere and will soon leave for somewhere — Nepal to be specific, where his parents live. Italian Embassy Cultural Centre at Chandragupta Marg is hosting his exhibition “Outpost”, which was first shown at the Venice Biennale in 2013, the year when India didn’t have a pavilion, nor many artists to boast of at the significant platform.

In terms of philosophy, it’s not a departure from Jodha’s previous works. In the past, he has documented an endangered tribe in Assam, made a project on India’s elderly, captured the lives of migrant workers that formed the Commonwealth Games work force, and how can one forget about his most seminal work on the Bhopal gas disaster, of which he plans to do a road show abroad and then bring it to Bhopal 30 years to the day after it was struck by the tragedy. “Outpost” was inspired by the habitat of migrant workers in India’s Northeast. “The discarded containers where the miners live in the Northeast become a metaphor for their struggle, pain and loss,” says Jodha, relishing salmon fillet cooked in a wood fired oven with orange and lemon reduction.

Stomach of steel

Travelling non-stop, how does he manage food? “Unlike what people think, I am not a great cook. I can’t cook much in fact. And since I prefer to eat home-cooked food, I just land at friends’ places. If you can’t avoid eating out then yes, restaurants is the only option, but I strictly avoid red meat, tea and cold drinks. And fortunately I have been blessed with a stomach of steel. This habit of oil pulling also does its bit so wherever I travel, I carry a small bottle of oil,” adds the lensman vouching for the freshness of the fish. Eating little helps too. Just one salmon dish and he is fine. He sticks to just plain water and even abstains from the flavourful ginger fizz.

Much before his gaze came to be fixed on the society with all its conflicts, Jodha was preoccupied with lifestyle photography. “Coming from New York, everybody thought I would be apt to do fashion. So I did a lot of work for designers and shot models like Sushmita Sen, Shyamoli Varma but while doing the work for Aman Nath and Ritu Kumar, I got a whiff of the other India,” recalls the photographer about changing tracks.

Ultimately, it’s upon the artist to make a choice, he says. “Whether to create beautiful work or say something and how you say that is also important. Specially in these times when everybody can take pictures from their phones and iPads, etc.; like I take so many pictures on my phone. I am glad that technology has enabled us to do this so I call whatever is happening around me as noise, in a good way.”