Sunday 8 January 2017

Eyes that hunt for street charm and past glory

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There are magical moments that go unnoticed as we go about our daily chores ridden with the trappings of urban life. This calls for someone like freelance photographer Lakshmi Prabhala who has taken it upon her to capture these fleeting moments.

The photographer now has a coffee table book to her credit - Hydandseek. It's collage of the colours, textures, and moods of the streets of Hyderabad. The pages of the book are peopled by happy souls that don't have a care in life. Says Lakshmi, "It is a collection of both my past and more recent work."

Lakshmi speaks of how her art teacher encouraged her drawing abilities and the talent to think in visuals during her schooling in Bahrain. She avers, “I chose engineering in class 12th, this was when my thinking actually got a lot more three-dimensional.” But her journey as a photographer per se started much later. Says she, “My brother lent me his shoot-at-point camera during my college days and then, I clicked whatever I found interesting. I tried my hand at various other genres like abstract photography, nature and people.” She adds, “Slowly, I found that street photography is what I liked doing.” She never ceases to look for interesting moments to shoot.

This photographer who has no official training in her field had showcased in Alankrita, an ace art gallery in the city, many years ago and still continues to showcase at different galleries in Hyderabad. One of her past collaborations, Hyderabad Diary 2011, a diary publication by Hindi Milaph, presents snapshots by a group of talented local photographers. The diary features candid shots in the Nizami city’s lanes and by-lanes.

One of Lakshmi’s “personal projects” is “to document lesser known monuments in the city that will do with better maintenance.” Sitarambagh Temple, Hayat Bakshi Mosque, Patancheru Tombs, Purani Idga, Moula Ali Dargah, and Sarai Khana (a royal guest house built by one of the prominent Nizams in his time) are some of the sites in her list. Says she as she shares a breath-taking picture of Hayat Bakshi Mosque post-renovation, “These are places many people do not even know exist.” She agrees that tourists as well as locals get to enjoy only ‘popular sights’ like Salar Jung Museum, Charminar, Hussain Sagar and tacky amusement parks.

Many of these monuments are under threat due to air pollution caused due to industries among other things. Patancheru Tomb is a typical example. Among her prominent subjects are Jama Masjid and Idga Masjid. Within the premises of the mosque lie the ruins of an old Turkish bath. The Jama Masjid remains one of the principal places of worship in the city. Interestingly, prayers are offered only twice a year at Idga – on Eid-Ul-Fitr and Bakreed.

Lakshmi gushes, “I love the spontaneity of the people of. They still hang out at Irani Chai cafes to chat about their favourite stars - there is no sense of hurry in them. Also, in the heart of the city, unlike in the old city, is it tough to click people pictures without the subjects getting self-conscious.” But has Hyderabad changed in all these years especially since she started off her love affair with the camera which was in 2005? “The distinction between the old and new is stronger now – the two don’t interact much.”

She mentions Raghu Rai and French photographer Claude Renault among her favourites. She opines, “A photograph must tell a story, it is not just meant to be pretty. I loved Raghu Rai shot of a corpse on the shores of Yamuna with Taj Mahal as the backdrop.” There is a grand tomb right behind the corpse and the corpse in itself is lying unattended! She signs off, “Photography is only 20 percent technique and the rest is art. Composing something a sight you see into a photograph is also art.” But points out that a photographer breaks the rule of composition when he is emotionally drawn to a sight.

To get your copy of Hydandseek by Lakshmi Prabhala visit:

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