Sunday, 11 October 2009

September 10, 2009 (Session 9)

After a hiatus of 10 days, the participants had gathered together at Cymroza Art Gallery at Kemps Corner, as Sudharak's exhibition titled 'Coloured Worlds' along with Helena Schatzle was on display. Some of them had long arduous journeys of waiting for the others to arrive so that they could bunch together. But when they reached the art gallery, they soon became busy in viewing the photographs that were on display, while some others nudged Anuja and Mexy to download their photographs.

Finally, when the workshop session began, the participants were in for a rude shock: Sudharak told them that he had viewed their photographs and was disappointed with what they had done. “There was something particular that was expected of you all and each of you have independent way of looking at things. Some photographs taken by you seem as though they were taken by professional photographers but most others hurried a lot with taking pictures. Your own independent way of looking at the world was not evident in the second lot of photographs that you have taken. You cannot afford to be in a hurry while taking photographs. You have to be very steady and sure of the subject that you want to capture, and hence it is essential that everything is dealt with patiently. Most of your photographs have been blurred and hence I strongly suggest that nobody would now be handed the camera for one week.

With the participants feeling uneasy about getting the sudden dose of unexpected negative feedback, Ravi tried to lighten the situation in his own way. “All of us get excited when we get something new in our hands, and this has been the case even with you when you got the camera. The excitement took over the need to be calm and steady, and that did not allow for a comfortable communication flow between you and the subject. But I personally think that each of you have done a wonderful job – I am not saying this to give you a feel good factor, but your photography experience of one month is definitely commendable, as against our photography experience of 20 years! I think you should be excused for that and maybe we can ask Sudharak to forgive us for the hurry we displayed in our photographs,” he said, which eased up the participants to a great extent.

While Sudharak was a little occupied entertaining his guests who had come to see his show, the floor was left open for those women to talk about their experiences when they had come to the same gallery on the previous Friday, September 4, for the opening of Sudharak's exhibition. The participants who had attended the Friday function were Reshma, Ayesha, Farhat, Piagumberi, Raziya and Yasmin. Reshma said that this was her third trip to any art gallery ever and so the initial excitement had weaned off. “Now I know what to expect in an art gallery and I have also seen how the exhibition openings of art galleries look like. Ayesha and I had come early and we soon realised that we would have to break our Ramzan fast here, at 6.55pm. We saw a chair and thought we would sit on it for a few minutes while we broke our fast, but a beautiful bouquet of flowers were sitting pretty on it. So we let it be as it was, and went into a small corner; picked up a bottle of water and chewed on the dried dates. Later, we had a lot of snacks that were being served by the waiters. It was a very different kind of set-up for us to break our fast,” she told the others.

Paigumberi said that she was among the first to arrive on Friday and she only saw journalist Dilip Raote. "I saw some photographs clicking away and decided to do the same. Slowly people began to stroll in and and they all seemed colourful people from different walks of life. Soon there was a candle-lighting ceremony followed by Sudharak and Helena giving a short presentation. I did not understand much of what they spoke but I joined the others in clapping for them. The waiters then brought food which I was glad to have. My camera battery had also given away by then, but I saw Ayesha and Reshma walk in. So I had someone to accompany me through the evening. Reshma and I broke the fast together; I remember how we were constantly checking our watches and after we had broken the fast, we were asking the waiters each time about the content of the food that they brought in. We left the gallery at 8.30pm."

It was time again to have a short presentation of the photographs of the participants that were selected by Sudharak. Ravi said, "When you look at the photographs now, you will notice quite a difference between those that were taken in the first and second rounds. Also, when you visit a place and take photographs, there is always a feeling that you wish you had taken more photographs. That is always the case with anyone who loves to see different new things. Can anyone explain why do we go through such a feeling?"

Ayesha agreed that she too had felt the same. For her, the experience was akin to that of a mela where there is so much to see and do, and yet, later on one feels incomplete of not having done everything at the mela. Raziya reasoned this feeling to the fact that everyone knows deep in their heart that better photographs can be taken, while Farhat attributed this feeling to greed -- the need to always want more than is already achieved.

Ravi said that he once read about the need to take maximum number of photographs of a place you knew that you wouldn't be able to revisit soon. "When I had gone to McLeodganj, I wanted to take many photographs but my camera battery died mid-way. So I captured all the images that I needed in my mind's eye! But can anyone tell me how could one possibly take the maximum number of photographs of a given situation without having the hurried feel in the photographs?"

Ayesha replied that what was most needed at the time of taking the photographs was a certain kind of 'thehrao', or stillness, in us. Ravi hailed the word used by her and said that stillness for the moment was very essential so that the hurry in the photograph is not seen. Sudharak then went to show 160 photographs taken by the participants, because those revealed what caught the eye of the person who was behind the camera. "These are photographs of your lives and we want to see more of this. Your photographs reflect what you see, what you like or dislike, and what your thinking process is like. Finally, we will select just 20 best photographs taken by you. I quite enjoyed some of the photographs that you have taken -- they were fun and entertaining to look at, and it is your personal documentation that steals the show," said Sudharak, and then a series of presentations of the selected photographs followed, after which the remaining pictures to be viewed were also seen.

The gallery authorities said that the projector had to cool down for Sudharak and Helena's talk later in the evening, and so the current presentations had to be stopped. Sudharak then asked Helena, who had arrived at the gallery by then, to explain about her experience in India and how she took certain photographs. She spoke in English which was translated in Hindi by Priyanka. "I first came to Mumbai four years ago with two more friends and at that time I was looking at India as a tourist. Later I cam again and I met Sudharak, who asked me to accompany him for a project that he was doing across India. There were times when people would look at me with glaring eyes but I couldn't help it, nor could I just stop taking photographs because of them. So I had to just be confident about myself in a different country and learnt a few words of Hindi so that I could manoeuvre my way through," she meant to say.

Sudharak further elaborated that it was commendable of her that she went to live and understand the nuances of family life in India, among those whose lives she wanted to document through her camera. "She learnt a few words of Hindi to get by and did not once complain about the the mad heat – she comes from a country of sub zero temperature and in Rajasthan she did not utter a single word of complain about its temperature of 47 degree Celsius. She was entirely dedicated to her work and gave it her complete best," he said.

The evening was inching forward and the participants had to get back home, most of them before sundown so that they are on time to break their fasts. It was decided that a last session would take place at the Awaz-E-Niswaan office the following Thursday, where a consensus would be taken on the final project to be done by the women.

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