Zishaan Akbar Latif: The Impulsive Greys
Zishaan Akbar Latif tells Swati Parwani why it is redundant to look for a reason behind every photograph and how it is a matter of instincts.
This article was originally published in June 2014.
Both of us carry two red plastic chairs through the back of a makeshift film set. While walking through shafts of light emitted by the busy set, he spots a relatively gloomier patch and we stop. “I’d like to be out of their way,” he points at a man carrying a heavy chest out of one of the many doorways of the set. That was my first insight into Zishaan’s way of working, unobtrusive.
Flirting with Grey
“Grey is the uncertainty of using a different medium, in this case, a cellphone, and its experience. That is what seduces me to explore it, flirt with it and make it an extension of my personality. It helps me to break moulds and notions of the process of image-making.” I get a feeling that this is going to be an interesting conversation.
Lease of Life
When I ask him why he uses a cellphone, he replies with the earnestness of a child. “It’s the act of making a photograph that I enjoy. Cellphone photography has given me a new lease of life. I like turning the window of the car into an inclusive frame. It interacts with the nostalgia of living in a city that was once Bombay. It’s not going to be easy if you think it’s going to be difficult. Photograph because I know I can make it. because I know it’s (the mobile) there.”
The Immiscible Screens
Zishaan, as a photographer by profession, has helped us establish a fractal connect with inaccessible social causes. Although he hasn’t taken the leap of using a cellphone on assignments, he has managed to use it as an impenetrable screen to protect his personal moments. While working on assignments, whenever he is not actively shooting, he uses his phone for anything that catches his eye. He understands the need to protect his visual instincts by constantly recording what he sees into a photograph. Two immiscible screens for two unparalleled realities– his principles and his memories.
The Grandson with a Camera
Photography is a collaboration between the photographer and his subject. Zishaan tries What most people would see as an obtrusion, the pattern on the window, Zishaan uses it as one of the deciding elements of the photograph. to decipher this equation, “I wonder how the person I am shooting would react to my cellphone camera.” “Would he be okay with this?” he says as he stands up and starts enacting the paparazzi-style of shooting. “Or this?” and does a remarkable impression of a shady guy with a cellphone. We debate whether it would be disrespectful… a thought that hadn’t occurred to us yet.
Finally, he concluded that it did not have much to do with gear. “I photographed my grandfather for over a year, not with a cellphone, but it’s a matter of approach anyway. It took him some time to get used to me. From being a photographer who happened to be his grandson, I graduated to being his grandson who happened to be a photographer.”
On the Spur of a Moment
Time tends to bend back on itself, it likes to fade away and eventually disappear. What makes it real is our instinct, a realisation of the moment. In an honest understanding, he explains the redundancy of looking for a reason behind every picture. Instead, he tells me quite simply, “It’s instinctive, it’s unobtrusive. It’s reflexive. If I see a man sleeping under that shed,” he points to a lopsided bamboo structure, “I would want to take a picture of him. The first thing that I would get my hands on would probably be my mobile.”
He has shot stills for The Other Side of The Door, a horror movie by Fox International Productions. In the past, Zishaan has shot stills for the movie 3 Idiots as well. Kashmir Living and Invisible Farmer are a couple of Zishaan’s socially compelling works.