Amar Ramesh’s portrait series on Carnatic musicians marries the art form with contemporary settings

Photo by Amar Ramesh

Photo by Amar Ramesh  

Percussionist Sumesh Narayanan is mid-leap. The elaborate flares of his silk dhoti strike up a pose on their own in the backdrop, as he holds on to his mridangam.

Set against a pitch black background, a soft glow engulfs the red and mustard shades that dominate this particular frame — drama is the word that defines it.

This is one of the many portraits that Chennai-based photographer Amar Ramesh has clicked as part of Natya, a series on artistes and their instruments.

Amar Ramesh’s portrait series on Carnatic musicians marries the art form with contemporary settings

But, this Margazhi, his work puts the spotlight on Carnatic musicians and the relationship they share with their instruments. “It is not often that we see Carnatic musicians having official portraits online. I thought it would be nice to change that,” says Amar.

Natya has been in the works for over a year-and-a-half. “I got into the series thinking Natya referred to only Bharatnatyam. Later, I realised that Natya also denoted iyal, isai, natakam: dance, music, theatre. This led me to cover artistes across disciplines,” recalls Amar, adding that he is working on a separate series for each of these disciplines. The latest being portraits of Carnatic musicians, where part of the series is done in collaboration with MadRasana as a precursor to their concerts scheduled in Sathyam Cinemas.

“It was timely that it came up in the Margazhi season. I have been collaborating with MadRasana for the past three years by shooting performance videos,” he explains.

Ahead of MadRasana’s concerts over the weekend, the portrait series picked up speed. Interestingly, the walls of the ID outlet inside Sathyam Cinemas are now bright with the large-format portraits Amar shot.

Vignesh Ishwar, Sherthalai Renganatha Sharma, Jayanthi Kumaresh, Bombay Jayashri and Abhishek Raghuram dominate the pristine white interiors, often taking customers sipping steaming cups of filter coffee by surprise.

Amar believes that it is important to talk to his subjects to know them and their interests before the shoot. He later brings these aspects into the frame’s orchestration.

“It is also a project meant to explore my creative freedom, to push my limits,” he says.

After much reading and research, he zeroes in on new techniques to try. “For instance, Sumesh is young, lively, and restless. So I tried to bring in the essence of the musician through jumping shots,” Amar says, adding, “The challenge is to introduce new techniques by not losing the essence of the subject or the art form they represent.”

Amar Ramesh’s portrait series on Carnatic musicians marries the art form with contemporary settings

The way he plays with lighting, is testimony to the same. For instance, monochrome shade and minimal lighting come to the rescue in photos of musicians Anirudh Athreya and K V Gopalakrishnan. They are shot with the kanjira, an instrument that is small, and tricky to strike up poses with.

Currently, Amar is travelling the world shooting performing artistes in Iceland, Japan, and the US.

He hopes to shoot at least 100 musicians for the music section of Natya, as he continues to juggle other projects.

What is his goal in the long run? He says, “It could be a book, a photography series, or just documentation... I haven’t thought of it as much.”

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Printable version | Aug 10, 2020 2:51:59 PM |

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