Hot Off the Press! An iPhone Photobook


In an interview with Raj Lalwani, Amit Mehra speaks about Roznaama, his daily musings, his cellphone diary, his stream of single images, and now, his photobook.

Press proofs are exciting, but crucial, as this is where the final changes are marked, so that the tonality is rendered exactly as per one’s vision.

Press proofs are exciting, but crucial, as this is where the final changes are marked, so that the tonality is rendered exactly as per one’s vision.

Around two and a half years ago, Better Photography became the first print publication in India (and probably in the world), to legitamise the cameraphone as a serious photographic tool. It was, thus, a marriage of sorts, when photographer Amit Mehra chose to collaborate with us, to let us (and thus, you) in to their world of cameraphone imagemaking. “This may be a book some day,” I remember Amit telling me, when he had sent us the first photograph for his innings within Cellphone Diaries (which ends with this piece). Persian in its origins, Roznaama, or ‘Roz’ ‘naama’, implies a series of daily documentations, much like a diary, or a series of notings, if you may. It is the term ‘roz’ that throws up an interesting connotation though. Is this book a diary of a photographer, the daily sketches of his visual mind? Or is it, not just every day’s notes, but also notes from the everyday, photographic musings of life, as it exists, in all its magic and monotony, and all the magic within the monotony.

“A few photographer friends and I were chatting, cribbing that the cameraphone is killing photography. After returning home, though, I kept thinking to myself… how can a camera kill photography?

The cover of the book is quiet, much like the photos that lie inside. A size of seven and a half inches, in terms of height, means that this is a very small, intimate book, much like a diary.

The cover of the book is quiet, much like the photos that lie inside. A size of seven and a half inches, in terms of height, means that this is a very small, intimate book, much like a diary.

Stringing the Images Together

One of the great challenges was to string together this series of singles, which, on the surface, had nothing to do with each other. “But though the subjects were varied,” says Amit, “there were two common elements: The first was me, as a subject… these were traces of my daily life, my daughter, my family, my travels, routine. The second, of course, was me, as the photographer.” Editing was a fascinating process, he tells me, as he went about discovering visual associations between photographs that were made instinctively, often several months apart, in different spaces and places. “Cinema is my greatest inspiration while making an edit. Try watching any great movie on mute, and observe how one scene flows into another. Often, it’s just a subtle visual connect that pulls the viewer through without making him feel disoriented. One mysterious figure may lead to another, three winged symbols of peace may be followed by framed symbols of freedom.”

The book has no textual clues, forcing the viewer to engage with it on a deeper level and draw into one’s own memories to decipher what he or she is feeling.

The book has no textual clues, forcing the viewer to engage with it on a deeper level and draw into one’s own memories to decipher what he or she is feeling.

Beyond the Photographs

The photographs are only half the battle, as there are several hurdles to be crossed and questions to be answered, before a serious body of work becomes a tangible book. How big or small will the book be? What paper should be used? Will there be text? Should the layout be clean or busy? That a seemingly casual device like the cameraphone can create a delicate book like Roznaama, where every single photographic and publishing decision has been made after considered, deliberate thought, may seem like a paradox to some.

Roznaama is an excellent study in terms of how a wide variety of genres of photography can come together

Roznaama is an excellent study in terms of how a wide variety of genres of photography can come together.

But for Amit, and several other photographers worldwide who have championed the cause of the cameraphone, it is just another tool, to achieve their vision. Maintaining a memoir is not just about its final pages, but also about the process of creating it—the searching that happens within one’s soul, the relentless pursuit of intermingling memories.

The book was self published and officially launched at the recently concluded Delhi Photo Festival. It will be available online for Rs. 650.

The book was self published and officially launched at the recently concluded Delhi Photo Festival. It will be available online for Rs. 650.

With Roznaama, Amit is sharing his freedom, his joys, his insecurities, his uncertainties. His roz. “Only in the moment of spotting an image, I am truly alive. I make a photograph and the photograph makes me. I capture an image and it liberates me. Qaid tasveer hoti hai. Aazaad mein.”

With Roznaama, Amit is sharing his freedom, his joys, his insecurities, his uncertainties. His roz. “Only in the moment of spotting an image, I am truly alive. I make a photograph and the photograph makes me. I capture an image and it liberates me. Qaid tasveer hoti hai. Aazaad mein.”

This article originally appeared in the December 2015 issue of Better Photography.


Tags: Raj Lalwani, cellphone photography, Amit Mehra, Cellphone Diaries, roznaama, December 2015