A Photograph

B5E071DF-9F01-4F5A-9A46-24E36C7C8385Is an immediate memory of an event that has been immortalised by a calculation. The calculation is mental, physical, chemical – all in precision – timely and sometimes imperfect. In the times of chemicals and emulsions that we perhaps now call Alternative,  the calculation was a laborious process; in the digital camera it stands watered down to the mental plus and minus of the frame, the lighting and what can be added or deleted in the post process.

I find the photograph to be a first mile. It is an easy access to a vault of facts, is tangible a and can serve a multitude of purposes – it creates opportunity to document, to discuss, to debate, celebrate or record keeping. The tangibility furthers itself with a print of a moment that one can always touch though the print is fast being replaced or rather has been replaced by the memory bank of the modern day smart phone. But as much as the phone claims to be closer to tangibility, I feel it does not come as close as a print kept inside a book, a journal or a diary.

Ive heard conflicting views about whether a photograph should have text attached with it always. The debate in itself is contextual – it is the prerogative of the photographer to elucidate the photograph with some text. This debate now extends further to the kind of cameras being used, post processing, the photography as a digital art form (modification of the raw file; addition deletion of elements within the same). The photographic ecosystem has evolved itself; more so mutated itself – moving beyond the realm of right and wrong.

Will continue.

 

 

 

 

My Ten Most Important Pictures On Instagram

I’m on the cusp of 700 followers on Instagram. Knowing the nature of social media just a bit, I feel its better to write this note out sooner than later. I wanted to do something similar when I hit 600 followers; I wrote the note and slept off planning to post it the next morning. When I woke up, the followers were down to 598.

I started on Instagram in 2013. That time phones were more for talking and the cameras hadn’t evolved into the selling feature. Filters were basic, I remember my favourite being Amaro. I don’t use it any more.

Thinking deeply, the journey with Instagram has been an elusive affair – one that excites for a moment and gradually wanes into a shadow only to emerge again at a turn of life. I’ve created hordes of images and put them up only to see them disappear unless I scroll down to see them again. As filters improved along with my limited photographic abilities, I found myself doing images that were a shade(s) better than the earlier years. What’s remained constant is the number of likes I get – a mean figure of 18 – 22. But in a figure of speaking even Gods need followers.

I use this post to remember 10 of my favourite posts on Instagram and the stories behind them –

10. Transgenders In Celebration

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The photograph that got me featured on Instagram. A lovely moment & a wonderful story to go with it.

9. Zauk’s Delhi

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Delhi is where I grew up. It was my teacher in the formative years. But as life went by, I started to detest the conditions I lived in. I moved to Pune and was seduced by its limitedness. Until a few months back, when I visited Delhi again and lived as a traveller. That is when Delhi revealed it to me. On my flight back, I reminisced about the sights that I’d seen, the foods I ate and people I met.

8. Balamwa

Samsara

At a concert almost a year back, Pt Sanjay Garud sang an awesome rendition of the iconic thumri – Balamwa. I was recording video just before he started singing. As soon as he sang his first song, I switched off the video and started doing photos. A few moments later I realised how grave an error had been committed. Thankfully I have an audio of the same. I go back to it from time to time. The audio recording is here.

7. At 38

Samsara

While I like being photographed, there haven’t been many occasions when I have actually been. And as time landed me on the wrong side of 30, I became conscious of my ever thinning hair. Then I read that once someone crosses 36, he seems to be less mindful of the worries of the world.

6. Taken By The Hand

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Jaisalmer made me meet Deepa. She took me by the hand and made her way into my heart – forever. You can read about Deepa’s story here.

5. Important Things Are Said Softly

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During my trip to Nepal after the devastating earthquake, I came across this moment on the street which instantly took me to my childhood. I went to college in Bangalore and after that for work moved to Delhi and Chandigarh and then to Pune. As I moved forward, I made new links but forgot old ones. I am not in touch with any of my childhood friends and with very limited friends from college.

4. Manto

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I started reading Manto a couple of years back. I was taken aback. His stories shocked me. And they moved me. The raw language laying bare emotions at their naked best. Kingdom’s end struck me like a avalanche.

3. Mumma 

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Mumma has been my hero for ever and ever. And the one thing I’ve always seen her doing is change the bedsheets and pillow covers. She did it in times of happiness, sorrow, easy and tough. But this visual came at what perhaps was a turning point in her life – when her grandson came home after his birth.

2. Salaried for Life

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I met this family of 5 at the protests of 2013 in New Delhi. The family comprised the parents, two sons with special abilities and the daughter who was perfectly “normal”. The father offered to pay half of his daughter’s salary to anyone who could help her get a government job so the family could afford a life.

1. The Human Condition

Samsara

Shot while making Ecosystem, this image stands out in my memory as the most gripping visual of a human emotion. I don’t know what transpired in their lives at that moment but this moment was just so raw. The couple stood at the same spot for an hour or so. Her hands were around him and he dwindled between comfort and discomfort.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lost In Wilderness

 

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In a world full of images and inane words that describe them, I have been trying hard to find my space. In the last 3 years there have been countless times when I have been overwhelmed by the speed at which images are produced in this new world. I have been overwhelmed by the kind of images that have been produced by the people on view. Normal folks have become legends and then almost inexplicably have nose dived into a noise full of rubbish. Sounds are cacophony and colours are a riot that assault my senses. I hardly see any intelligence in work anymore and bodies are laid bare in the garb of intellect. Sounds are shrieks as one tries to over do another in an attempt to make the point.

But that’s my rant.

My reality though is this wilderness where I am lost. No one bothers me too much in this or rather should I say that I do not get bothered by anyone or anything any more. Growing up one realises that as days go by one must accept the world around them as it is. Life becomes smoother if not simpler and makes more sense. Like I go through my daily, people around me do the same, they have their laughs, pains and so do I. A world of transactions seems to be fitting in just too well.

I am tempted to write in detail about the last two years. 2008 had come as a decisive year and I have for so long imagined that there wont be a more impactful year in my life. I cannot say that I was proven wrong but I realised that there have been moments in the last 4 years that shaped up today and in the last 2 that have created this moment of writing. 2014 was a watershed – in just over 12 months I faced extreme mental and physical hardship and one day found my self working in Pune. The roller coaster continued and suddenly in 2016 I found myself quitting the corporate world and jumping into the art world formally.

Once again in life lay in front this amazing chance of challenge. There was and is a lot to be learnt and done. And in the last year and half I have done more than what I could have imagined. I get more and more comfortable and confident about my work and am pushing the limits. If life endures me this journey will only enrich.

You know, all the problems in life come with a purpose. Bigger the purpose, bigger the problem. Because the problem prepares you for the purpose. The purposes of our lives.

I am happily lost in the wilderness.

 

 

 

1st Jan 2018.

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Lavasa ©Kartikaya Nagar
For the last couple of years, I’ve made a habit of sleeping early on December 31st..and travel on the 1st day of a new year.
Today it was Lavasa; I’d heard about its man made landscape, its crowds, shops, the dam and lake.
What I did not know was the beauty that that I was about to encounter.
Accordingly I present some visuals on the music track called Nevada by Huma Huma. The heart yearns to go back for a longer stay. Click below to see the video.
This video is shot on the iPhone7Plus with the support of the Zhiyun Smooth Q. Edited on Premiere Pro.

My First VLOG

I am happy to share my short film on my recent travel to Jejuri. In a moment of absolute vanity, I’d like to mention that this is shot entirely on the iPhone7Plus.  I hope you like it; please do leave comments and thoughts that could help me make this (& the ones to come) better.

Jejuri Short Film

Events by Samsara Photos
When The Land Turned Gold ©KartikayaNagar

 

When The Land Turned Gold

Events by Samsara Photos
Jejuri – The Land That Turned Gold  ©Kartikaya Nagar

50 Kms away from Pune, tucked neatly on a hillock called Jejuri is the ancient temple of Khandoba. Khandoba per legend is a manifestation of Lord Shiva and this is his main shrine in India. Khandoba is worshipped by a majority of Maharashtrians and in the modern age spiritualism finds significance in Shirdi. Apparently the priest of his temple in Shirdi bestowed the name Sai to the Sai Baba of Shirdi when he arrived in Shirdi at an age of 23.

The legend of Khandoba tells the story of 2 asuras – Mani & Malla being defeated in war by Lord Shiva in his Khandoba avatar. Also known as the Martandya Bhairav, Khanodba is seen in pictures mount on a white horse, accompanied by his wife Mhalsa and a dog.

On auspicious days in Jejuri, devotees from all around gather to pay their respects to Lord Khandoba. A 500 step climb on hard rock needs to be taken from the main entrance at the foothills to the temple. Passing by are small shops selling flowers, coconuts, incense sticks and the usual religious stuff that you need along with one things that marks the whole of Jejuri as special – Turmeric or Bhandara as it is known in the local langauge.

A drive of about 90 minutes takes one from Pune to Jejuri. And this was in peak traffic times so if one leaves early morning, it could be quicker. The foothills of the hillock is inhabited with parkings, small hotels and a series of shops on either sides of the road that leads to the first steps of the climb.

Events by Samsara Photos
Shop On The Go ©Kartikaya Nagar

Cries of Jai Malhar rang in the air as devotees began their climb. Through the way I encountered multiple small shrines and shops. All in yellow of the turmeric. Walking up the path, devotees chanted the name of Malhar and smeared the temple precincts with turmeric. Some splashed it in the air and the offering flowed down to rest on the heads of other devotees and the ground. Fervour gave way to celebration as some devotees played a yellow holi smearing the powder on each other, danced to the local dhol walas and pulled others also into the act. An hour’s walk led me to the main temple which is a magnificent structure. All around the temple are statues of Shiva, Vishnu and other deities – all bearing the colour yellow.

Events by Samsara Photos
The Song & Dance of Faith ©Kartikaya Nagar

The faithful have a way with their faith. I saw devotees praying, some getting the local pujaris to conduct special poojas for them. This is a place where dogs are treated with  respect.  Some people offered food to the dogs but not before smearing them with turmeric. And the dogs promptly shimmy shake the turmeric off them. Maybe its time for us to think more rationally.

India has been known for its occult. I saw scenes of men whipping themselves and getting into a trance. Once in the trance they would be whipped by other men and after 5 to 6 painful whiplashes be embraced by the devotees.

The occasion was festive to say the least and local folks must have made a ball as they put up temporary stalls for refreshments, souvenirs and most interestingly photo booths replete with Puneri and Maratha head wear, soft toy tigers, horses and backgrounds depicting wars.

On this trip, while I took some pictures which are here , I also shot a lot of videos on my iPhone7Plus. I will put them into a small vlog in the days to come. Meanwhile, please enjoy the pictures if you like them and leave comments in critique of the writings. Would help me improve.

Events by Samsara Photos
Devotees At Jejuri ©Kartikaya Nagar

 

 

 

 

Show Me The Money

If you have come to this post thinking that this is a rant of someone who is not making money through photography, please go away. While I am not making money from photography, I think it is a few moments (maybe months) away. And I am sticking my neck out.

Photography is easily accessible. Pick up your DSLR and you’re one. Pick up a P&S and you’re one. Pick up your phone and you’re one. Editing is simpler than ever with all the softwares around, especially the ones that play easily on our phones – snapseed, vsco et al. So all you have to do is take  picture, put some filters and send them out to the world to call you a photographer. Some apps help one traverse that journey from human to what seems to me is a Chihuahua with ears and noses.

Those who have picked the trade up professionally, will agree that in the market of averages, cost is the determining factor. No matter how good you are, if you’re in the market of averages as I call it, the amount of work you get will depend finally on the price and the pocket. The middle class wont stretch itself and especially in these trying times of the economy. Even in lucrative markets like weddings, the averages play a huge role. They seem to rationalise everything when it comes to visuals.

Then there are many who undercut. Undercutting hurts big time – both to the serious photographer and the customer. Because the one who undercuts sometimes may not get the visual; plus he/ she has taken the business away from the one who could do it. The customer’s cries are over and above.

So while I am in this happy zone making pictures and videos, drawing my heart out and preparing for some exciting personal stuff in the future, one zone in my mind is always occupied with the bills, emi’s and savings. But it is an exchange that I am happy to settle for; because when I am photographing, the world doesn’t matter at all.

In my opinion, art has to reach the middle class. They need to have access to happy pictures of their prime, their kids and parents and all this must come at affordable packages. So the philosophy of bulk might have to kick in. But that requires a strong backend. Thankfully my team and I are working on it. Speed, accuracy and art remain the essence of our services and there are enough folks in the world outside who realise that they can bring happiness to themselves by either contributing or consuming. But pay your artist promptly.

I also think an artist needs to be multifaceted. Unless I am big enough to command a Steid to make my books, I am content doing it myself. Write, read, edit, blog, sponsor, network – everything yourself.

Some awesome baby pictures coming soon. Until next time.. which should be soon.

 

The Midnight Hour

When I made pictures as an amateur, there were some that just stuck to the heart. I had no words to explain why I liked a certain picture that I had created. I would just look (I still do) at the photograph first in the camera and then the computer screen and wonder what had made me take that picture.

As I made my way through photo school and the years there after till today, the answers came to me. They come again and again reinforcing something that was told many a times by a lot of our teachers and discussed countless times amongst friends. Shoot what you feel; the camera is a mechanism of capturing emotions. Once you pick it up and think about the power it places in your hands, there is no going back to the morbidity of the usual. Point it at life and life points right back to you, mostly smiling; though sometimes it does stick the middle finger at you; but it smiles alright.

Last week I shot two assignments commercially. One was a maternity shoot and the other was a classical Indian music concert. While shooting both I was, countless times, overwhelmed. Making pictures is such a joyous process and it makes me so happy. In that moment of clicking the shutter lies my happiness and I have no memory to deal with. Check out this video from the concert.

The sound of the picture is my silence.

I am also happy to report that I have refurbished my website. I love the midnight hour to make these announcements.

 

The Photograph In Meaning (contd) 

It’s an imprint; a sign or maybe a symbol of the impending future. It is future in the making and when one looks at it; is assured of what today will grow into. It’s tomorrow today. One could associate many emotions of tomorrow on that, which has been photographed today.

Featured here is my two year old nephews wet foot print on the floor. 

The Travel of Words

2 days after the 83rd birthday of Ruskin Bond, I happened to pick up a collection of his fiction & non fiction writings this morning. And as I went from one piece to another I smiled and laughed at the tales he had to tell. A feel good book largely that kind of took me back to my childhood – especially the summer – his stories were about mangoes and baths in the canals in the towns where Rusty lived. One tale spoke about his journey to becoming the cook of the scouts team. Another took me to an attic in London; where in the loneliness of the first few days, a mouse was company.

As the day wore off, I took a short ride for business. Once out of the house I couldn’t help but notice the sights that were always on the roads when I rode on them, but never presented themselves in the manner as they did this evening. I noticed the small shop selling pakodas on a tiny turn; a dry wheat field across the stream that usually I fail to notice when I cross it. I also stopped at the highest point of the highest flyover in my city to observe the land scape that it overlooked. To a great distance in the sky I saw the roofs of buildings, open spaces on either sides of the road that the fly over crosses; I saw the sun setting in a golden hue.

As I sit and write this out, I find it imperative to mention how my heart yearns for travel; something that has not happened due to the commerce required to run life. Coming into May of 2017, I decided to bring pending businesses to a close so that the criss cross of the Indian Monsoon and Summer are months when I would be out to look around the country side. Usually May is a long month and its taken a toll on my plans, I am delayed in completion of all work by another 15 days.

But I did travel. Rusty took me to the canals and mangroves in his town. The words of his stories – simple and effective – painted their cities, caricatured their people – be it the bumbling Uncle Ken, the authoritative Bhabhiji – lady of the house or the two white mice who were gifted to Rusty by a station master when he landed up in Lucknow instead of New Delhi after an overnight train journey. What does also stand out in memory is the working miniature train model – I’ve seen those and in the days of the past planned to own one by saving a lot of money and building the collection one by one.

I have come to know someone (though not directly) who reads the book Shantaram but has never bought it. Thats because he finds the book every place he has travelled to. I also know a lot of folks who read up about the places that they intend to visit. Some also read famous stories from the place they are visiting. I think they do this because it gives them a sense of belonging and identification. I also know people who have remembered incidents/ lines from stories and put them into their travel experiences (read photographs). In his autobiography , Khushwant Singh’s descriptions of the places that he has stayed in across his life are beautiful; at a certain place he mentions a walk that he took from Simla to Kausali; one almost walks with him. In her biography of the Late Mohan Singh Oberoi, Bachi Kakaria recreated for me, the erstwhile pathways in Simla as Oberoi walked from his home to the Cecil – the first hotel he managed and ran. She wrote about the boilers and steam coming out of them, and the farm house where Oberoi lived till his last and how the sun shone through the windows in the soft Delhi winter. Such was the impact of that reading that I desired to stay at the Cecil and about 15 years post the first reading, I finally checked in to the Oberoi Clarkes in Shimla only to learn that it wasn’t the Cecil. Gosh I need to read that book again!!!

They travel – these words. They take us places.

And as my plans of travel for 2017 take another bout of delay enforced by my pursuit of commerce, the fact that I can travel with words brings a smile to my lips and peace to my heart.

May I travel soon.

And Rusty is such a darling!!!