Shovan Gandhi’s images of Alan, part of a group show, present the world’s largest ship breaking yard through literal and metaphorical narrative.

Life, destruction and rebirth forms the striking narrative Shovan Gandhi weaves around the world’s largest ship breaking yard in Alang situated in Gujarat. Shovan’s black and white frames are not a mere documentation of these mammoth vessels but loaded, only if subtly, with meaning. Shovan’s 14 images are part of the 10 volume of PIX, a photography quarterly this time dedicated to the subject of habitat, due to release this Friday at Max Mueller Bhawan. The launch will be accompanied by a group exhibition showcasing some of the work that is featured in the book. Shovan’s images will be part of the group show.

“It is like an introduction to this body of work which has developed over a few years,” says Shovan. For their representation, the young lensman says, his background in architecture, contributed. “More than anything it is an artistic interpretation. Of course there are references but I am not making any socio-political commentary.”

Giant vessels against the vast expanse of sea looking like art installations, ship wreckage submerged in water near the shore, workers on the ship along with several other images, according to Shovan, are his reaction to a physical site which is also a huge recycling affair. “What happens to these ships after they are brought there? They are sold by the tonne. It is supplied to different industries and each and every part is melted and recycled.”

Shovan says that he has built not one but two narratives around it. “The first is a more philosophical one about birth, death and rebirth where I look at these vessels as a person. They go through different journeys and reach the last leg of their lives. Their last phase is destructive before being transformed. In the other narrative, I am looking at it in a very literal way. What happens when a man-made object loses its utility and materiality? In most cases it is discarded but here it is transformed.”

Shot in a documentary style merged with fine art photography, Shovan plans to exhibit all of it eventually on national and international platforms. “There are subtle references about the working conditions of people and environmental concerns but since this is about the subject of habitat, only certain works have been selected. It’s a curatorial concern.”

(The exhibition is on at Max Mueller Bhawan, Kasturba Gandhi Marg, till May 16)