The Screenplay of Life
A love for cinematography and design is what characterises the work of Gireesh G V. Aditya Nair speaks to him to find out more.
His first day in photojournalism resulted in Gireesh G V almost getting beaten up by a group of drunken fisherman. “I was shooting in a fishing village, which is quite a common location to photograph in Kerala. The fishermen, who were busy gambling, did not take too kindly to the camera and tried to beat me up. Usually, as photographers, we start shooting without any thought for the other person’s privacy. I learnt my first lesson.”
“The first job I got as a photographer was for a magazine called Life Positive. It was an alternate healthcare and spiritual magazine. Before I joined, they did not have a photographer on their staff. So it was a new experience for the editor also. The salary was quite low but I needed a job, so they got a victim,” he jokes.
One of the first portraits that Gireesh shot for Life Positive was of a doctor who practised ozone therapy in Bengaluru. “Quite frankly, when she explained the process, more than half of what was said, went over my head. And to make matters worse, I still did not know what I wanted to shoot.” At this point, he turned to me and asked, “How would you make an image that represents ozone?” Before I could respond, he continued, “Thankfully, she happened to mention a correlation with the blue sky and instantly, I knew what my final photograph would be.”
The Working of a Photojournalist
“A major challenge you face as a photojournalist is getting an image that tells the story and yet, is different from the hundreds of others being shot by your colleagues.” In 2001, when terrorists attacked the Indian Parliament in New Delhi, Gireesh was a photographer for the news magazine Outlook. The press got wind of where one of the victims, a female security guard, was being taken. “There were quite a few photographers waiting for the ambulance to arrive. I looked around and realised that there was a ledge on the first floor, which I could climb to get a different viewpoint.” Instead of getting up there immediately, he waited for the ambulance to arrive. “I knew that the moment I would climb up, I would be imitated by the others. So, I simply waited and went up on the ledge only when the other photographers got busy. Thus, I got the image I wanted.”
Walking a Tightrope
Gireesh’s images manage to strike a balance between being documentary, design oriented and newsworthy. His choice of frames reflects an aesthetic taste rather than the approach that you would expect from a photojournalist. “My career, along with my life as an artist opened up two sides of my personality—a lover of aesthetic notions of beauty and a curious observer of life around me.”
“Getting an image that is different from all the others being shot can be challenging.”
Panoramas, But Not Quite
The images from his series, Nooks and Corners, look like seamless panoramas at first glance.They are, in fact, diptychs, triptychs or more. “With these images, I am looking to explore a parallel to the apparent reality of spot journalism.” Instead of capturing a single moment, with this series, the viewer is introduced to multiple slices of time placed together. The series lets you believe that you are looking at a single moment that is constantly evolving, much like a scene does in cinema.
An Illusionist’s Perspective
Around the time we were discussing this series, I noticed another image that looked like one of his characteristic diptychs. I asked him why the image wasn’t a part of Nooks and Corners. As it turned out, my original impression of the photograph was wrong. Gireesh informed me that the photograph was composed to look like a diptych but was, in fact, a single image. This increased my curiosity further. It was fascinating to discover that his series had started influencing the rest of his work as well.
“With my images I am looking to explore a parallel to the apparent reality of spot journalism.”
A Multitude of Interpretations
Though Gireesh calls himself a documentary photographer, it is difficult to define his images. Are they a juxtaposition of objects for aesthetic appeal? Or do they simply show the moments he experienced? Regardless, they can just as easily be described as abstracts that make striking use of colour and lighting. Having retired from fulltime news photography, Gireesh now wishes to spend time completing the his personal projects. Amusingly enough, this includes one on fishermen in Kerala as well.
Tips by Gireesh
- Spend a lot of time with your subject as this will be reflected in the images you make.
- Editorial images should support the tone of the story. If the story has a positive tone, the image should show the person in a positive light.
This article originally appeared in the May 2012 issue of Better Photography.