Kochi

A collection of black & white memories

Germen photographer Helga Paris poses in front of her work displayed atDurbar Hall Art Gallery in the city on Saturday. Photo: Thulasi Kakkat

Germen photographer Helga Paris poses in front of her work displayed atDurbar Hall Art Gallery in the city on Saturday. Photo: Thulasi Kakkat  

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German photographer Helga Paris’early photographs demonstrate the state of post-war East Germany. But after the Germanies reunited in 1989, she travelled to the West, too.

A photograph taken today gains greater significance after 20 or 30 years, says noted German photographer Helga Paris, as an exhibition of her photos taken over the last few decades in places like Berlin, Transylvania, Poland and Georgia opened at the Durbar Hall here on Saturday.

The photographs in black and white clicked by the self-taught artist present ordinary human life’s numerous moments, some showcasing the artist’s own hazy, dreamy memory of her childhood in ‘Z’ town— Zossen which is some 30 km south of Berlin.

Organised by the Goethe Institute at Thiruvananthapuram in collaboration with the Kochi Biennale Foundation as the first in a series of events in the run-up to the forthcoming edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale in December, the exhibition will be on till July 31, between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily.

Ms. Paris was born to Wilhelm Steffens and Gertrud as the youngest of their four children at Gollnow, Pomerania (now in Poland), in 1938. While her father and brothers were in combat in the Second World War, her already homesick mother took the daughters and joined the refugees heading westwards.

They reached her mother’s hometown Zossen in 1945, where Ms. Paris grew up as part of a huge joint family.

A trained fashion designer, she owes her advent in photography to her aunt’s impressive collection of family photo albums. “I started taking candid photos of my family members and timidly asked my neighbours’ permission to train the camera on them. My horizons expanded gradually to include the community at large and across themes, regions, objects and the like,” she said in a chat with The Hindu.

Artificial lighting was something she never used. She converted the limited options offered by analogue photography to her advantage and carefully approached her objects, caring for details, feeling, lighting and depth. “The compositions come from the heart,” she says, as her son, Robert Zaid Paris, a resident of Ernakulam for nearly 12 years now, translates the conversation into English.

Her early photographs demonstrate the state of post-war East Germany. But after the Germanies reunited in 1989, she travelled to the West, too.

As writer N.S. Madhavan, who opened the exhibition, commented, Keralites with their innate fondness for East Germany could relate to her pictures from that part of the world. “She has documented the history of the place through the photos,” he said.

Ms. Paris has not taken any black & white picture for eight years now. But when she did, she used to process the negatives and develop them herself at her home studio.

Even now, she occasionally rummages through the hundreds of negatives that she possesses to see if some good picture still remains undeveloped and unprinted.

The exhibition will travel to Bangalore and other parts of the country.

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2020 5:00:32 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/a-collection-of-black-white-memories/article6230300.ece

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