The Joys of the Small Print
A picture in a wallet. Almost forgotten… but not quite. Cleaned out the wallet recently, transferred the picture to new one with a better plastic window. On second thought, decided to preserve it separately. An old passport photo rescued from an ID my wife had thrown out years ago. She looks like a kid in there. Grandfather, on a windowsill, ornately framed. He was 91 when that photo was taken. He joked about running in the next marathon. He smiled very often. He had a strange smile on his face when he slipped away at 96, as though he were meeting a secret lover. Nigel Bruno Dcunha was 34. My closest friend. Brothers in arms.
We had gone for the Mark Knopfl er concert together in 2005, and talked another fan into letting us have a lifesize cutout of the rock legend that he had just stolen. In coat and tie, Nigel grins cheekily out of a narrow prayer card in a plastic box, where I keep my best headphones. A wall full of family photos, mostly made by my Dad. Guests never fail to say something about those pictures, whether they know the people in the frames or not. My Dad keeps changing t-he photos frequently, except for two, which have been around for over six months now. Relegated to a corner, I also know they are his favourites. One of them is titled 5 min after dear granddaughter’s arrival. It shows Mom beaming right into the camera without really seeing it. Meeting over coffee, Swapan Parekh pulls a cardboard box from his satchel. In the box, memories of his father… his Dad’s book. Over the book, a sheet of tracing paper.
On that, a pair of white cotton gloves. He opens the book carefully. Just a glimpse. Gravure printed, the photographs are spectacular. The captions, in his father’s words, eloquent in their simplicity. Swapan invites me to hold the book, see it. My palms are greasy from the October heat outside. I refuse. Right there, I cannot decide if I am more moved by Kishor Parekh’s photography or by Swapan’s obvious love for his Dad. The print, in whatever form, is a gift. It presents itself quietly, by simply existing somewhere in the fringes of our consciousness. As useful as cellphones and computer screens are, they just cannot do the same thing as the smallest, plainest print.
This article originally appeared in the August 2016 issue of Better Photography.Tags: K Madhavan Pillai, Edit note, November 2015