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Party is not over yet

Capturing the tranformation: Untitled, from the series, “After Party”; Photos courtesy: Dhruv Malhotra, Photoink / www.photoink.net  

Night is a time to sleep but not for everyone. A few like Dhruv Malhotra feel restless to discover what the darkness has to offer. For last eight years, Jaipur-based Economics graduate photographer has been shooting at night. "Noida Soliloquy" and "Sleepers" resulted from this engagement. He seals the series with "After Party" which deals with transformation of spaces. The artiste, who is now working on a book on these three bodies of work, explains his fascination for the night and his process in an email interview. Edited excerpts.

Night has been a constant force in your work - "Noida Soliloquy", “Sleepers” and now “After Party”. How does the story of the night go forward with this show?

I view these three bodies of work – “Noida Soliloquy", "Sleepers" and "After Party" – as a trilogy of sorts which I collectively call "After Dark". Noida was the birth ground and involved me searching the urban space around me for these places that lay on the edge of a borderland, between the urban and the other. While making these pictures of spaces I would often come across people sleeping outdoors in the open and I started photographing these human figures within the urban environment around them. I would also seek out and make images of spaces that transformed frequently to accommodate all kinds of temporal events.

As I finished "Noida Soliloquy" which had all these elements, and started the editing and selecting process, I realised that "Sleepers" and "After Party" were their own projects. And done with the soliloquy about Noida, I was free to roam around the country and make images for “Sleepers” and “After Party” without any geographical constraints.

With "After Party" the story of the night concludes, for the moment at least, with something like a circle.

At another level are your photographs also a socio-cultural probe of our society?



Noida was the birth ground and involved me searching the urban space around me for these places that lay on the edge of a borderland, between the urban and the other.



I suppose they are. My background in Economics does creep into the way I see things. Having been a voracious reader since childhood does help me maintain an open mind, one that likes looking between the lines and that does reflect in my work, I hope!

What interpretation of the relationship between the darkness of night and the aftermath of these celebrations do you draw?

For me it was important to look at these spaces that rapidly and frequently transform to serve many functions for many events. I am intrigued by spaces and the ones included in this project which possess this chameleon-like quality. This aspect is only emphasised through the use of tents, lights, stages, backdrops and constructions. I wanted to see how these spaces looked and what remained of them after the event, the thing they were constructed/organised for, was over.

How did you work with light at night?

There is a lot of light around at night if one knows how to look for it and what to do with it — street lights, house lights, flood lights and intersections and of course the ambient city lights reflected back from clouds or pollutants in the sky. For making my images I use a medium format film camera on a sturdy tripod and my exposure times range from 10 minutes to two hours sometimes. This really allows me to register all the available light onto the film and make images that don’t seem dark. It is a bit like how human eyes dilate and can see better in the dark after spending sometime looking, and this is even more enhanced by the camera and the action of film.

How did go you about shooting these places?

In the beginning I would come across these “After Party”-like spaces but soon I started to actively look for such spaces – clubs, gymkhanas, outdoor parks and other places that one could host events at and I would regularly visit these places late at night to see what was there. Cold calling caterers and event managers was another way for me to find what was happening, as was looking around in the news and social media. As the work spans many cities a combination of approaches was most ideal.

I’ve tried to find and photograph after all kinds of events – weddings, conferences, banquets, religious gatherings, business meetings/celebrations etc. The nature of the event itself is not really important for me, what is important is the space and the incarnation that it was in, the veneer of which had often started slipping by the time I made my pictures.

You studied Economics. How did you pick up the camera?

I have a BA in Economics from Mumbai University. Photography happened quite incidentally. It was during the last year of my college in 2006, when I started making photographs with a small point-and-shoot camera. The turning point came right before my final exams, when I made some 8 x 10 inch enlargements and I was intrigued. I bought a digital SLR and, in 2007, moved to Noida. The early night pictures were made on the DSLR. There were obvious limitations with my gear and the shift to a medium format camera (using film) in 2008 allowed for a different, more rigorous approach to picture making, one I greatly prefer.

(“After Party” can be viewed at www.photoink.net)


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Printable version | Jun 10, 2021 8:35:32 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/dhruv-malhotras-lens-witnesses-temporality-of-spaces-and-freezes-time/article7375032.ece

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