Art

Imaging life

I went expecting the expected but came away rather surprised. I wasn't alone to feel that way. ‘Land and Lens’, the recently concluded photography exhibition at Venkatappa Art Gallery, was a different showcase from others of its ilk.

It was put together by two NGOs Vanastree and Punarchith, working with women farmers and youth in Sirsi and Chamrajnagar, respectively, but was without any trappings. The photographs were taken by people, who held a professional camera for the first time in their life like school headmasters, farmers, daily wage labourers, homemakers and auto-rickshaw drivers. Just a couple of hours of training by a photographer and they began to roam around their villages taking pictures.

Imaging life

“The challenge was to put together a professional show which didn't look like an NGO show being done for charity,” says artist Suresh Kumar G who curated the show.

If Muthuraju, a school headmaster in Doddamole made a comment on rampant felling of trees through his images, Praveen Kumar DB chose the abstract route with a henna-laden hand holding an egg. Praveen’s second composition was a shot taken from below of a single leafless branch against the horizon. Another poetic frame was by Nagendra of Chamarajnagar, depicting a chopped tree with a broken roadside iron pillar going around it. Ah, the not-so-nice embrace of urbanisation! Another significant presence in the photographs from Chamrajnagar is that of light. “There is so much of light in every frame, so much of sky. It is a drought-prone area and it comes through subtly,” observes Suresh.

Imaging life

The works are evident of their confidence and knowledge of the surroundings and respective fields. “They may not have had typical education that we consider education today but they don’t lack in knowledge. Moreover, for some of them their experience also worked,” points out Suresh.

You can see that in the photographs of Lalita Hegde and Shyamala Hegde of Sirsi. Belonging to a family of agriculturalists, their affinity for nature is obvious. What is interesting to note is the approach. In the lush green Malnad area, when they could have focused on the macro, they had taken close-ups of a leaf or a flower. In an extreme close-up of a leaf, one could see the sky through a hole in it, bringing together the bottle green and blue colours together.

Imaging life

Mahalakshmi M was very clear about photographing the elders in her village in Nagavalli in Chamarajnagar. Her portraits were poignant. Though Mahendra N belongs to Chamrajnagar, he travelled to Sirsi to take some eloquent black and white shots.

Imaging life

“From the perspective of someone in the field helping with this experiment, I must say it has been an extraordinary experience for me personally. All things apart, what stands out is that nothing is impossible. Three donated cameras, 19 students of whom four women in Sirsi were over 500 km away from the others in Chamarajnagar. All plunged into the adventure with trust and willingness. A motley team of people who put it all together. And the photographer, who does not wish to be named, saw to so many details and had the overall vision to carry this out and stuck by us all through,” says Sunita Rao of Vanastree. The show is now slated to travel to Mysuru and plans are afoot to publish a catalogue of the exhibition.

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Printable version | May 9, 2021 5:56:53 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/art/imaging-life/article23556827.ece

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