A band of photographers, born in Kerala and now scattered across the world, unites to capture the countless shades of rain.
When it rains, a photographer reflexively reaches for his camera bag. But what if the mission is to shoot the rain? “We had to hurriedly take the camera out of the bag, even as our gut reaction was to hastily keep it inside,” says Binu Bhaskar, an acclaimed photographer who lives and works in Madrid, Spain. He is also the leader of a six-member team, comprising Kerala-born lensmen Enjo Mathew, Bony George, Pratheesh Chandran, Ashkar Abu Hameed and Biju Ibrahim, that took up a month-long exploratory trip across their State. Timing their journey with the onset of monsoon in June, they sought to demystify the monsoon.
The journey was initially planned around the theme of water, a ferryboat ride through the rivers and the backwaters of the State that Bhaskar believes, rightly, constitute the life-giving nerve-system of the land. “We changed it later and settled for rains, the mother of all waters,” he says.
Nature, needless to say, does not heed the wishes of mere men. “As the journey began, we longed desperately for the rains to come,” says Bhaskar, recollecting details of the unlikely trip. “At times, the skies turned stingy, as if the monsoon had other plans. Now we know how a farmer feels when he is waiting desperately for the rains to come.” Still, the monsoon season has a feel of its own, which is palpable in the air. “Or else, how could we shoot in ‘soft light’ even at 11 a.m., when it was not raining during the outing?” asks the Kottayam-born Enjo Mathew, presently based in the U.A.E.
The group traversed all the 14 districts of the State, stopping at important points and taking pictures, in the process learning valuable lessons about the native soil to which many were returning after a long time. “The character and fibre of the rain are different in different places inside the same State,” observes Bony George, a Dubai-based travel and fashion photographer. “It is visibly different in the hillsides of Idukky from what it is at Attappady in Palakkad.”
But it wasn’t always about photographing rains, rivers and the lives in monsoon from different lands and latitudes — creating, in essence, a visual document of Kerala during the monsoon months. It was also, in many ways, a life-changing journey. “Some of our snaps show the terrible scale of human greed that is slowly murdering the earth,” says Bhaskar.
The artistic outcome, which these photographers (including Pratheesh Chandran, Ashkar Abu Hameed, Biju Ibrahim) plan to exhibit in a few major cities soon, will also become fascinating pages of an impending photography book on monsoon. “It’s a journey that can never end,” says Bhaskar. “We are dispersing at the moment though, with the hope of reuniting once again next March, by when the book, our baby, will be out.”