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Picture Odyssey

Ashok's wanderlust has led to a fascinating union between camera and subject

"TRAVEL AND photography are two sides of the same coin. A photographer who seldom travels becomes redundant. Photography drove me to places I would never have visited otherwise."

Meet B. Ashok, born in Andhra Pradesh and currently residing in Madrid, Spain. Ashok's romance with the camera began with a long journey through India to explore its people and culture and a gift in the form of a small Agfa box camera proved to be a catalyst, allowing his artistic nature to blossom.

His dream was to become a writer. But this holder of a Master's degree in Spanish studies from JNU, travelled the breadth of the country living and photographing nomadic Gujjars, the hill people of Sikkim, Garhwal and the Kumaon Himalayas and those in the Indo-Gangetic plains. These pictures in black and white captured with his first camera earned him many plaudits and were published in Home Life. While in India he concentrated on people, capturing their moods and vocations, (he says Indians are more spontaneous in their expression) in Spain where he has lived these past few years, he made forays into landscapes and abstracts. "The Iberian landscape is a photographer's dream", he says.

A puritan of sorts, Ashok now uses a Nikon FM2 with a 50mm lens and refuses to use a flash or a tripod. A self-taught artist, he keeps the use of modern techniques to a minimum.

In India to capture the essence of the Pushkaram festival, Ashok's photographs are on display at the Lakshana Art Gallery. This is the second of his exhibitions in India (the first was held at the Lalit Kala Academy, New Delhi) and one among the many he has held across Europe, the Americas and Asia. The framed portraits and landscapes are a selection from the cross section of his work in the Godavari delta, Hampi, Tenerife, Spain, Pyrenees Mountains, Slovakia, Poland and Brazil.

His study of light and the variation of colour at different times of the day in the same space, especially the pictures of the European landscapes bring his style of working closer to the Impressionists. His camera captures the reflections on water and sand (titled Copper, Silver and Gold), to achieve a luminescent effect. His landscapes are an extension of himself, and it is evident that he has taken time to live the landscape, feel the pulse of the people, and participate in the festivals they celebrate. He never clicks his camera without establishing a communion with the people who figure in his photographs. This is evident as each portrait is a story of friendship and the subject is often very spontaneous and comfortable with the photographer.

"There is poetry in light and darkness and an infinite world of creativity between," says Ashok. Of the pictures on display, some are award-winning entries like the one of the little Spanish girl dancing the flamenco (it was adjudged the best photograph by the Royal Dutch Airlines) while others like the one of the river Tolminka in Slovakia have a sense of history (this was where Dante penned his Inferno).

His other pictures of Spain bear a Hispanic touch and the beauty of the Velazquean skies. Others such as autumn in the Pyrenees and in Poland are a riot of colours while the sunken coracles at Hampi, the coconut groves in Godavari and the unabashed portraits of women and children offer serenity to the soul. Perhaps the photograph that will best be remembered for its vivid imagery is the one of three drooping tulips draped on the arm of the Unknown Soldier at the Warsaw War Memorial. They stand a vibrant orange against a dark background.

Ashok's other upcoming exhibitions include one at the Commonwealth Institute, London where he will be one among six photographers chosen from the Commonwealth to exhibit their work.

The exhibition at the Lakshana Art Gallery, Masab Tank, is on from 11.00 a.m. to 7.00 p.m. on all days of the week until December 10. Prints are for sale on request. In a world of stark realities, Ashok presents a photographic testimony of the colours and cultures of the world and the emotions that bind us all.


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