Images can't be made only this way or that. Four photographers at the ongoing Khoj exhibition show numerous possibilities within the medium.
Pushing boundaries is a constant phenomenon in the world of creativity. Art practitioners in their quest to go beyond the norm are always seeking a new visual grammar to express their concerns. Reasons could be many, like the urge to explore the material, to create a new visual vocabulary or to challenge the notion of consumption in the art world.
Khoj, in its capacity as an alternative space for artists indulging in experimental art, has always probed the role of art through its various residencies and subsequent exhibitions. ‘Shifting Focus', a 27-day photography residency that culminated on October 27 with an exhibition that's going on at Khoj Studios, follows suit.
While Ajay Talwar is an astro-photographer, one of the very few in the country, Mansi Bhatt's work falls into the category of performance photography, something akin to what veteran Pushpamala N. does and then is the duo of Edison Dias and P. Madhavan who do all kind of photography except digital . For some time now, the Goa-based artists have been trying to experiment and popularise pinhole photography.
The foursome in their own unique ways attempted to look at various image-making possibilities in the residency. In his seven pictures and a video, Ajay brings forth the sky by capturing stars, comets, solar eclipse and the moon. “I always looked at my pictures in a scientific manner until some artists saw it and said they look like a moving abstract picture full of colours,” says the photographer and amateur astronomer pointing to the image of ‘Star Trail'. Three digital cameras attached to the telescopic lens, at Hatu Peak in Narkanda, Himachal Pradesh, worked in harmony clicking the movements of stars every 30 seconds. It is then worked upon in photoshop to produce a fantastic image of a star trail which generates the effect of a painting and sometimes hint at an old embroidery technique.
Presenting such deep sky objects like the Kritika constellation, a cluster of stars often referred to as seven sisters, rose nebula, solar eclipse of March 29, 2006 or the moon with a clearly visible Tycho Crater, Ajay says, to collect such imagery, he often heads to low light pollution areas like Ladakh and Devsthal in Uttrakhand. A prolific photographer who has been engaged in astro-photography for more than a decade, Ajay says, the residency taught him to frame, identify and print his photographs. Ajay, in whose work science meets art, was also instrumental in building one of India's largest Dobsonian telescopes.
P. Edson and Madhvan's work is equally intriguing. Hazy self-portraits, shaken shots of a bike or a car, a house, monuments, all taken from the Khoj Studio surroundings in Khirki Extension comprise the collection of photographs displayed at the exhibition. Much of it has been produced by the kids of the area who made their own pinhole cameras as taught by Edson and Madhavan and then spread out in the vicinity accompanied by the duo taking pictures.
“The idea is not to challenge any form of photography but only to draw attention to the various other possibilities of image making one of which is the ancient pinhole photography,” says Madhavan.
Pinhole camera is a simple camera without lens and with a single small aperture, a light-proof box with a small hole on one side. Light passes through this single point and projects an inverted image on the opposite side of the box. Following the aesthetics of Arte Povera, they create art by using match box and shoe box cameras. Arte Povera is an Italian art movement of the 1960s that based itself on the idea of revolutionary art, free of convention.
“The kids were involved in the making of the image right from step one, so they developed a sense of ownership. We also tried to understand the sub-culture of Khirki through this exercise”.
(The exhibition is on at Khoj Studios till tomorrow)