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Portraits of India, captured on film

Vijetha S.N.
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The 9{+t}{+h}All India Photo Exhibition, 146 photographs by 43 photographers, opens at the AIFACS gallery

Photographer Avinash Pasricha at the 9th All India Photo Exhibition organised by AIFACS, the All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society, in New Delhi on Monday.- PHOTO: Shanker Chakravarty
Photographer Avinash Pasricha at the 9th All India Photo Exhibition organised by AIFACS, the All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society, in New Delhi on Monday.- PHOTO: Shanker Chakravarty

“Pictures always speak for themselves and that is why every person sees what he or she wants to see in a photograph, although the photographer's ideas may have been quite different while taking the picture,” said eminent photographer Avinash Pasricha inaugurating the 9{+t}{+h}All India Photo Exhibition here on Monday.

The romance of the rains, the loneliness of the early morning mist, the stifling boredom of ordinary lives and the various religious and occult practices that define India have been portrayed in the collection that encompasses around 146 photographs from 43 photographers.

A frightening-looking ascetic is seen smoking a chillum in a photograph that shares space with another picture that captures the intricate craftsmanship of a Mughul-era ceiling. In yet another, a sadhu with sad eyes is seen playing a flute with his dirty hands.

The strange occult practices that abound in our country, those that cannot be explained or done away with in the modern world, have also been captured in several pictures.

In one, bare-chested men draped in colourful lungis move around in a circle, in the middle of which lie some bodies. In the background is a lake beyond which can be seen temples. Countless vultures circle overhead.

Another photograph shows a narrow street filled with colourfully painted cows, with bunches of peacock feathers on their heads.

Countless village scenes tell different stories. A potter is seen balancing several pots on his shoulders, leaving the village, perhaps to sell his wares in some other place. Meanwhile another picture portrays a magnificent russet-coloured bull, resting but dangerous. An undernourished calf is seen tied up against the backdrop of a miserable hut made of mud and straw.

The seemingly mundane activities of daily life have also been captured interestingly; a dhobi is seen wringing three pairs of jeans held tightly in one hand, as the water pouring out reflects the sun setting in the distance. A fisherwoman is seen clutching her fish in a busy market-place, while the shadows of village boys enjoying a swim at dusk make another beautiful picture.

A man sits by himself at a railway station bench, looking towards a group of chattering people. Only mind-readers can tell if he is lonely or if he wishes to join the group before him. He looks lonely as does a woman seated by herself in front of her tiny hut; her head is bowed down as if in grief, but, of course an observer can only assume what her expression is.

It is up to the observer. Each photograph tells a different story. The dew drops on plants which look like sparkling diamonds to some may seem like foul insects to another.

Six photographers -- Ranjan Mukhopadhyay from Howrah, Lalit Kumar from New Delhi, Sarvjit Singh from Mohali, Sanat Kumar Sinha from Kolkata, Manish Chauhan from Vadodara and Santosh Kumar Jana from Midnapur -- won prizes ranging from Rs.10,000 to Rs.15,000. They were chosen by eminent photographer Pablo Bartholomew.

The exhibition is on display up to February 29 at the All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society gallery on Rafi Marg.

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