Clicking even at 75!

Photograph of small wild flowers through macro lens  

The affinity towards rocks and monolithic stones has been universal since ages and continues to be so. Early cavemen used them for shelter and as weapons to protect themselves from harsh weather and wild animals, whereas the modern men utilise them for beautifying their dwellings in different forms. Taking a cue from this unique factor, K. Ponnuswamy, a professional photographer from Chennai, set himself on a journey to unravel and capture the myriad forms of rock cuttings and carving used in ancient Indian temple architecture in his lens.

Temple architecture had a fascinating impact on this 75-year-old photographer since childhood. Every time he visited an ancient temple in South India, its intricate carving on rocks left a deep impression on his mind. He had been contemplating to capture them in his lens since long but hectic work schedule deterred him from doing so. "It was only after my retirement from the Konica Training Centre that I took this audacious step to photograph them," says he.



The creative facet of his mind never let him settle down in a stereotype government job. He quit his first job in the Madras Secretariat to join `The Mail' of Madras as assistant to a staff photographer. But here also he was not given a free hand to explore his mind. After a brief stint in film studios he finally joined the police force as a photographer. And this was where the photographer in him took shape. Though most of the time he was busy taking gory pictures of the crime scene, it was here that he mastered the art of macro and micro photography, and today he is recognised as an exponent in this branch of photography all over India.

"This is one of the most difficult branches of photography as one has to capture the details in extreme close-up in the available light," asserts Ponnuswamy.

During his stint in the police department he horned his photographic skill both aesthetically and technically. After an 11-year stint, he resigned to take up the post of technical back-up professional in Agfa. "Extensive touring had been part of my job profile and that was a blessing in disguise, as I had the opportunity to visit many places in India and could quench my thirst for photography by clicking beautiful landscapes and people draped in different costumes and culture."

7th century Pallavan sculpture at Mahabalipuram.

7th century Pallavan sculpture at Mahabalipuram.  

To continue his quest in photography with a free mind, he quit his job to start his own studio cum processing lab. "Though I started the lab for clicking photos, people streamed in for more technical suggestions and guidance, and very soon the lab became the authorised training centre for Konica, and I was made its full-time director," recalls Ponnuswamy.

It was only a few months ago that he voluntarily stepped down from the post to revive his lifetime passion of photographing temple sculptures. "Man used rocks and stones to represent his ideas since time immemorial. Initially they were blunt and crude but slowly he started to give a definite expression and thus adding life to the creation. The depiction of various dance forms and epics in the ancient temple complexes are not only educative but also gives us a glimpse of the heritage and culture that we have inherited."

He has travelled extensively covering most of the temples in South and a few in the eastern part of the country to create a unique photographic presentation, and proposes to exhibit it in a few universities in the US. He has chronologically covered from the Pallava period (570 AD) to Hoyasala period (1500 AD), clearly documenting the style adopted by various dynasties like the Pallavas, Cholas, Pandians and the Hoyasalas.

"Whether they are the temples at Belur or at Halebeed or Lingaraj in Bhubaneswar they all speak the same creative language that is universal in nature. Be it sandstone or hard granite the finesse with which they could get the details is replicated in every work, irrespective of the time and the tools available," he opines.

Hoyasala period sculpture at Halebeed

Hoyasala period sculpture at Halebeed  

"To see and show others what I see" is the philosophy of his work, and that is ticking him to go on with his clicking quest.