The window bars arrange themselves into a geometrically satisfying grid as two heads pop out, anticipating an update on why the train has halted. A regular sight captured on a whim during a train ride to Gokarna, this is one of Shruti Parthasarathy’s most cherished photographs.
A mixed media frame, on the other hand, shows the Chennai GPO towering behind the illustration of an auto-rickshaw by Shiva Kumar.
Such unique frames confirm that the most missed aspect in the ‘new normal’ is the hustle and bustle of public transport. Chennai Photo Biennale’s arts learning initiative CPB Prism (@cpbprism) recently launched a hashtag-led open call on Instagram #TicketToRide, in collaboration with Storytrails, to encourage people to look back and reminisce. Though they have closed the campaign, the 50-odd entries received had interesting stories (from Lisbon to Chennai) to tell.
For instance, Sneha’s frame of a lady, her hair adorned with flowers, in a moving bus invokes a sense of nostalgia for those days when all of us were scrambling for time in a busy world.
“We wanted to initiate something positive.We had earlier done #InAugustCompany, also an open call, where people were asked to share photos taken during the lockdown. After that, we were thinking of how else people can connect to photography in the lockdown,” says Sakshi Shraddha, education programme coordinator at CPB Prism, adding, “We realised that everybody has been missing public transport.”
During the lockdowns, its importance was appreciated more as many struggled to get to their workplaces or move about. Apart from that, buses and trains are meeting spots for friends everyday.
“Now, we know how much we actually need them and what happens when we don’t have them,” says Sakshi.
Since it is still not entirely safe to use public transport now, they encouraged people to send photographs from their archives. “We also wanted them to tell the story behind the pictures. When they look back at these images, the memories come rushing back.This was another way in which we wanted them to reflect on public transport and realise its contribution that they might have failed to notice before,” adds Sakshi. In addition to personal stories, historical trivia on the location dug up by Storytrails, is also featured.