Check out photographs that see the unusual in the mundane

Sujatha Shankar Kumar has a natural flair for storytelling. To be able to tell stories more effectively, she studied filmmaking at the School of the Art Institute, Chicago. And, when an interest in photography bloomed, Sujatha (founder, finegrain studios) learnt how to extract engaging stories out of the frames.

Together with V. Karthik, she has undertaken photographic projects that are geared to the twin goals of conservation and creating beautiful myths out of natural elements. In 2007, the two explored the salt mines of Marakkanam, near Puducherry, gathering enough exhibition material. The snapshots of the salt pans made up a big chunk of the 33 photos at “Transient Places”, their exhibition in 2008.

The photos from salt land are making a comeback — this time, as a set of 17 photographs (in Silver Gelatin and Type C), which dramatically unite Chicago with Marakkanam in “Barking Dog Tree And Other Stories — Mythologies In The Landscape”. The exhibition is on at the lobby of The Park (until October 18). Displayed as triptychs and diptychs, the images bring the storyteller in Sujatha to the fore. Each set is accompanied by a short story, simple but mythical in theme and tone.

A photo of a dog gaping at a mound of salt, along with another that shows a stunted tree with branches resembling a dog, next to a similar mound, is accompanied by a beautiful story — it is about a family of salt people (man, woman and boy) which buries a pet dog that guarded a mound of salt. Their canine friend was killed by someone because it kept foiling his attempts at stealing salt. For the family sunk in sorrow, hope comes in an unexpected form — a tree where the dog used to lie down. The tree faces the mound as if keeping guard.

In other photos, Sujatha and Karthik see meaning in the contours of the salt pans as also in those of broken bridges across the waters. In contrast to the earthy quality about the expanses of salt, some photos display big city images — among the most striking ones in this lot is an unsteady, vapour-like reflection of a tall building on water.

With Karthik’s technical expertise perfectly complementing Sujatha’s ability to weave stories from a tapestry of images, the photographs are a treat both to a connoisseur of photography and anyone who enjoys larger-than-life stories.

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