Saturday, March 12, 2016

Black & White

What is it that makes black & white photographs so... compelling?

Yesterday evening  sudden downpour sent me scurrying into the Visual Arts Gallery of the India Habitat Centre. At first I thought the gallery was closed - it was dark and foreboding, and yet the doors were open. I stepped in to see the hall transformed like never before.

Jet black cloth covered all the walls, the space inside had been partitioned to create a maze of stunning photoframes, sheer fabric, projections, light and shadows.

This exhibition by Shailan Parker was called "Kavadsa", an evocative Marathi word to describe that fleeting light that which filters into a room to turn the most ordinary things into beautiful works of art.

Parker is what one could perhaps describe as an upmarket photographer. The exhibition underlined not only his ability to push understated elegance to the limits, but also his access to corporate sponsors and wellwishers with deep pockets, and access to the best equipment and material.

Could such images be created with more modest equipment?

William Dalrymple has brought out his first book of photographs, "The Writer's Eye", a collection of 60 B&W photographs shot only using his Samsung mobile, and edited with a free app, Snapseed.
His inspiration came from the bleak and grainy war photography of Don McCullin, the landscape work of Fay Godwin,  and Bill Brandt, whose "brooding images were marked by a stark chiaroscuro, a strong geometrical sense of composition, a whiff of the surreal, and a taste for the uncanny and unsettling".

I wish I knew what all these words mean, but in a world where we take color for granted, B&W images that just leave us with the bare essentials of light and shadows,will always have an attraction that is difficult to explain.



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