The Beauty of Storytelling through Photography - Eminent Photographer Vivek Desai Shares Delightful Narratives to Explain "Chhabi Kem Jovi?"

“Chhabi Kem Jovi” is a discussion on photography appreciation by eminent photographer Vivek Desai at the monthly talk series “Paraspar” held at Kanoria Centre for Arts. With his characteristic frankness the photographer explained to audience the relation of philosophy with photography and shared delightful narratives about behind-the-scenes thoughts on his photographs.

“The selfie generation is clicking some really excellent pictures today. Their pattern of breaking the typical rules of photography can even surpass the aesthetics of renowned photographers who have been practicing for forty years. But the Photoshop generation needs to maintain these profound photogenic traits by continuously analysing their work. One needs to give them streamlined feedback on their work – a precise review exemplifying where they can still improve, or even appreciating their extraordinary performance whenever necessary. In the 60s and 70s, local publications used to have panellists and visual reviewers articulating their perspectives on particular images. These strict cutthroat arrangements resulted into some great photographers who gave the globe picturesque memories, through faultless frames, proper lighting, and focused subjects – everything that makes an image look like an artwork.”

Eminent photographer Vivek Desai said these words, as part of the conversational 2nd chapter ‘Chhabi Kem Jovi?(How to view a photograph) in Paraspar– a monthly talk series on enriching subjects conducted by reputed city delegates on February 24th, 2017. Paraspar is a joint effort by Matrubhasha Abhiyan, Kanoria Centre For Arts, Gujarat Literature Festival and CreativeYatra.com

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Vivek Desai is a renowned travel photographer, who hasn’t let experience shadow his instinctive approach to photography. Desai, also the Managing Trustee at Navjivan Trust has gifted us with some spectacular images from the cultures of Kutch to the rituals of Benaras. Explaining his manoeuvre of moulding photography into a storytelling module he said during the talk, “I wonder why people wail over Kutch’s development – about its people adopting the contemporary styles, its women changing their way of dressing and beautifying themselves in a different way now. If a photographer is travelling remote places just to capture the ornaments on a person’s body or their external possessions, then he/she is not touching the emotions of the subjects. He won’t be able to narrate the photograph and the circumstances in which it was clicked. I still remember, once I was judging a school photography competition, where an eleven-year-old child had clicked a photograph of a shop with closed shutter, captioned ‘Baapa Paisa Gane Che’ (Dad is Counting Money). When we asked him the reason behind the caption, he explained that he notices his father everyday counting money after closing the shutter of his shop at night. A photographer should go beyond the mere frame and develop a script around his pictures, in order to narrate what he has created.”

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The discussions ensued from the question that Desai threw to audience – “Is photography beauty or reality?” Differing views came out from audience to which Desai responded, saying, “Taj Mahal – what a wonderful piece of architecture. Pangong Lake – sheer Himalayan beauty. Any photographer clicking these picturesque destinations will certainly receive a spectacular frame. But will we be calling these photographs beautiful? Eventually, a photographer’s responsibility is to exaggerate the catharsis of a subject and remain genuine with the beautiful scenery. And the best examples for this are seen in Ashwin Mehta’s Gift of Solitude album, where he clicked the Sea Rocks, and presented them alongside Tagore’s verses. Because no doubt, while these destinations will give us wonderful likes on Facebook and other social media platforms, the question is – where is the story behind them? A photograph or a thematic album should narrate the subject’s unseen aspects, a corner that a viewer doesn’t know about. Editing is not at all a means of tampering with the aesthetics; it is an essential element to beautifying a picture, but manipulating the subjects of a photograph so that one can get a perfect click certainly is a crime.”

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This was followed by Desai showing some of his selected works to audience, and narrating the thoughts behind each one of them. This made the talk quite anecdotal and generated log of value for the audience. The biggest take home that Desai gave away, may be unwittingly, is his deep and real relationship with every character that is a part of his frame. A quality, which ironically the ‘selfie’ takers miss out, inspite of the fact that the subject in a ‘selfie’ is the photographer him/herself!

The conversations continued with other photography appreciation dialogues and finally ended with a Q&A round. Desai delivered a generous gesture, saying, “Ask me, and I will be able to reveal more,” which briefly sums up Paraspar’s motive of making a platform where listeners can learn, gain knowledge and even share inputs within a discussion. The informal tête-à-tête with Desai, over a warm cup of chai, was a bonus for the participants after the session.

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Paraspar is a monthly talk series to generate a two-way dialogue on various faculties of arts and creativity. It is a joint initiative by Matrubhasha Abhiyan, Gujarat Literature Festival, Kanoria Centre For Arts and CreativeYatra.com.

Photographs : Rajkumar Rao

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