PHOTOGRAPHY A.G. Laxminarayan's indulgence in creative photography started really early. The elusive lensman remains tucked away in his hometown in Shimoga

A s a hushed orange dusk drops down over the horizon, two women ride away from a benevolent temple atop a hillock. They looked pleased with themselves. The photograph — which you may mistake for a painting — is titled “End of a Visit”.

You have stepped into the mind and imagination of pictorial photographer, A.G. Laxminarayan. The verdant dew-spangled green of Karnataka's Malnad region has been known to fire the artistic imagination of many an illustrious figure — Kuvempu, U. R. Ananthamurthy and Dodderi Venkatagiri Rao.

A.G. Laxminarayan is a little-known but well-respected figure in this cultural sphere today. As someone who has always been interested in photography, Laxminarayan had a fortunate start to his journey. In his twenties, he found a mentor in the well-known litterateur and internationally recognised photographer, Dodderi Venkatagiri Rao, a relative by marriage.

But it was a visit to Bangalore which gave direction to the young photographer's desire for the unusual. At a conference of the Federation of Indian Photography, he chanced upon famed photographer Susanta Bannerjee's works in creative photography. “I realised that this was quite different from the regular straight shots I had been attempting so far,” says Laxminarayan.

He made up his mind then, to learn and understand photography as an art form — here the lens man doesn't only document, but uses various techniques to set the frame in the context of his own imagination — almost like a painting.

Thus began an extended process of trial and error. “It was an expensive hobby, but my father never once questioned me,” says Laxminarayan, of the money he had to invest in costly equipment. It was the 1970s. There was no Internet, and books were not easy to come by. The eager-to-learn photographer found that his fellow-shutterbugs in the country were not always eager to share. Laxminarayan however, persisted, and found that his occasional interactions with foreign photographers were rewarding.

Once Laxminarayan had sorted out the technical aspects of creative photography, he next decided that he would veer away from some of the typical themes found in Indian photography back then — “herding cattle, drawing water, sweeping, and other rural activities”. This paid off. One of his works, “Holy Day”, was selected in 1979, for display at the prestigious international exhibition organised by Photographic Association of Dum Dum, Kolkata. This was an achievement in itself.

Post this, Laxminarayan's entries found a platform at the annual exhibition for nine years in a row. There has also been international recognition, the most cherished being the EFIAP, an award of excellence handed out by the Federation Internationale de l'Art Photographique (FIAP). The FIAP has member associations in more than 85 countries. Laxminarayan has also won bronze and silver medals at various FIAP approved exhibitions, and awards at various other salons, national and international.

“My images are different because of where I live”, says Laxminarayan, who comes from a family of well-to-do areca planters. He continues to live in the village of his forefathers, Amachi in Shimoga district. While many have suggested that he move to a big city, Laxminarayan, who leaves his native village occasionally for an exhibition or workshop, says the noise and concrete get to him.

How do his works happen? “How I conceptualise an idea is difficult to explain. It may be the result of an internal struggle which takes place in my mind. I may be influenced by some social aspects, a tragedy in my surroundings, human rights violations or even the beauty of nature; perhaps all this takes shape in my mind and finally comes out as an image”, says Laxminarayan.

It takes him two to three weeks to put together a piece and it is only after he finishes one that he moves on to the next. Laxminarayan says he rarely takes candid shots, but does admit that random clicks, especially from his travels, can go so far as to change a theme he is working on.

“Abroad, things are changing fast. Earlier, we were lagging behind. Now, our pictorial photography is picking up”, says Laxminarayan who feels that adapting to these changes “is essential for creativity”. Among the photographers he admires, Laxminarayan names the famed Argentinean photographer, Pedro Luis Raota.

Laxminarayan mentors photography enthusiasts in Shimoga, and has regular exchanges with photographers from all over the world. The lensman, who has been doing this for three decades now, says photography will remain a purely creative pursuit for him. He does not seek financial gain for it, as he feels this will come in the way of his artistic freedom. He continues to participate in international salons, and is often invited to judge exhibitions across the country.

SHILPA PAI MIZAR

My images are different because of where I live A.G. Laxminarayan

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