On Building Legacies
Recently, I was conducting a workshop, when a thought hit home quite suddenly. The fact is that I have been photographing for more than 45 years, the last 25 years of which I have been a professional photographer. But this piece is not about me. It’s about what I have felt about photography, and more importantly about Indian photography and what has contributed to it to its growth. I have often, and more so during the last few years, wondered about the trajectory of Indian photography. And if there is any such thing, then what is it? And if there is indeed no such singular thing then, does it really matter? Considering that India is such a diverse and multi-layered country would it be possible to have a unitary form or style of photography, which at a given time can be dubbed ‘Indian photography.’
However, one can safely say that most photographers do spend the years developing a style, whether by accident or design. And, of course, all of us invest a lot of time and effort developing our careers. But there are only a rare few who besides building remarkable careers, don’t rest on their laurels and take on the responsibility of developing institutions dedicated to the art form we call photography. I would like to talk about two such photographers in this column since I have had the privilege of seeing them at work from close quarters over the years. Actually, the interesting thing is that I haven’t ever seen them working. Both of them don’t work. They are on a mission. They are consumed by their passion for photography and it’s this fuel, which ignites and propels all that they do. They may not agree with me, but they are single-minded, focused, and totally driven people and it’s these qualities, which makes them special.
They have a very clear vision of what they are aiming for and approach it in a methodical and highly productive manner. They are also intensely curious and check everything to the minutest detail themselves and therefore, are very knowledgeable about every aspect of the task they are pursuing. This also makes them a pain in the butt for anyone working with them. But working with them has been a hugely inspirational and educational experience, nonetheless.
The two photographers I am referring to are, Prashant Panjiar and Aditya Arya. Prashant, is the tour de force behind the Delhi Photo Festival. And Aditya has been a collector of antique cameras for his museum for the last several years. For both men, the reason for building these institutions is their sheer love for the medium. And they both engage with it in a way, which goes way beyond just the act of making images or a career in photomaking. Prashant, with a team of dedicated volunteers, is now putting together the third edition of the Delhi Photo Festival, which for him is a way of bringing the best of contemporary international photography to Indian photographers. It is his intense passion for the art form and his incredible energy and dedication that have helped him build this institution. And it goes way beyond just building a career.
Aditya on the other hand has been collecting vintage cameras, using his own resources, and by now has over a 1,000 of them, each unique in its own way. As a collection these cameras tell us the story of the development and evolution of photography since the time it was invented. It’s Aditya’s love for history and photography, which has inspired him to follow this passion. And he is hell-bent on making sure that the Museo Camera Museum has a permanent home. The Indian photographic community in particular and society at large must acknowledge and support such heroes, their efforts and the institutions they are building. After all they are doing this for photography and the profession will benefit more from this than Prashant and Aditya ever will themselvesTags: Dinesh Khanna, Visual Musings, October 2015