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2017-19

Roosting with the Gladiators

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All four Photosphere awardees are hard at work developing their projects. Read on to find out more about how the Photosphere fellowship and Prabir Purakayastha’s guidance is helping Adnan through his process.

As the Gladiators used to fight showing their loyalty towards their masters, one can see the same spirit echoed in the ears of the roosters, fighting for their masters.

The project which started as a mere coincidence, in Delhi has been supported by The Photosphere Fellowship 2018 which gave it new heights. I was roaming around the streets of Delhi when I met two old men who had two roosters. Upon seeing me shooting the animals, one of the old man offered me a chance to shoot them fighting. He made both the roosters fight a small round and photographing it gave me a thought to convert my photos into a project.

As soon as I started working upon my project, I went to a lot of places to shoot Rooster fights, all with different people and experiences. Upon asking the people to take me along for the fight, I was always told that the name of the place would not be disclosed and will be only be able to see the place once we have reached. Though, never again the fight happens at the same location.

Receiving the Photosphere Fellowship over this project was a boon to me and artistic practice. With the availability of Prabir as my mentor, I was able to develop the project successfully as it removed the obstacles that used to come in my way. The mentorship helped me to diverse my thinking, adapt various angles to my story, clarify doubts and the places where my mind used to stick, perform efficient editing and produce a coherent body of work. I am thankful to Photosphere and Prabir sir for having faith in my project and for supporting this project endlessly.

Memories of a Photograph

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Sustainabilty is one side of the Photosphere coin and photography is the other. Today, almost anyone can become a photographer, thanks to the availability of better and better cameras in our ubiquitous phones. And once we capture these images, we can’t wait to share them. How are our pictures on Facebook and Instagram different from those we look at in physical albums? Does it make a difference on how we remember certain things and memories?

The last two decades have seen a humongous growth in technology. The novelty of phones, computers and tablets has worn off, and left in its wake a rising pile of electronic waste from gadgets that become obsolete almost as soon as they are bought. Many of these gadgets contain within them what was once a separate entity: the camera. With the camera being able to fit in our pockets, available to anyone with a phone, the number of photographs that are being clicked today has increased many folds.

A photograph captures a moment in time. Clicking photographs was not as common once as it is today, and only a moment deemed worthy and important was captured. It created a memory, which not only included what was in the picture, but also what happened before or after it was clicked. Each one came with a story.

Today however, there are tens of pictures in every Instagram story, and our memories around pictures are the reminders that Facebook gives. As the number of photographs we click increase, the value each one holds for us decreases. It is often said, ‘excess of everything is bad’. Does today’s excess of photography then, make it less worthwhile than it was some years ago? There was a time when taking a photo was a conscious decision, and not an instinctive response. Every photo – whether it was focused or not – was carefully placed in albums, to be looked at later; and deleting wasn’t an option. There were 36 photographs in a reel, used judiciously; and now there are 25 filters for every click, used excessively.

So is this the end for photography? I don’t know. But just as e-books have not yet killed paperbacks, maybe the quantity of photos will not kill the quality; and every once in a while, from a sea of pictures we’ll find one that grabs our attention, and tells a story deeper that what is seen.

Shooting the wild

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The trap was set. The only sound was the rustling of leaves in the wind. With a bated breath he waited. The prey finally arrived. Unsuspecting, naïve. There was a soft click, and the deed was done.

Sustainability is one of the two halves that make up the concept of Photosphere. Sustainability is not just having a cleaner and greener environment for humans, it seeks to achieve that for all the living beings of the planet. As we celebrated World Animal Day on the 4th of October, this post goes on to explore how photography has brought the wildlife to our homes and the effect it has on species and habitat conservation activities.

A few decades ago, hunting parties would tramp the jungles of the world in search of elusive game. Days would be spent in tracking the animal’s movements by following the traces it left behind – broken grass blades, remains of its last meal or the dung it left behind. A hunter’s worth would depend on both the number and size of the kill.

Today, most parts of the world frown upon this sport. A new way of shooting the wild has now taken its stead – photography. A wildlife photographer today goes through as much or rather more trouble than the shikaris of the past. Not only does the photographer maintain a respectable distance from the animals, he tries to create as minimal a disturbance in their natural habitat as possible. His trophies – pictures of animals in their homes, convey a lot more than dead stuffed heads on a wall.

The responsibility on wildlife photographers and documentary makers is increasing with each passing day. As wildlife experiences the worst effects of climate change and plastic pollution, images and videos prove indispensable in creating and spreading awareness. The emaciated polar bear captured by Nat Geo’s photographers opened the world’s eyes to what we are doing to the planet and its inhabitants.

Sir David Attenborough asks, “The question is, are we happy to suppose that our grandchildren may never be able to see an elephant except in a picture book?” and the question has never been more relevant. Let us hope that the picture books made by photographers today help save at least a few real elephants that our grandchildren can see.

What is Photosphere?

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Photosphere is the first of its kind biennial photo-festival that tries to bring together the themes of photography and sustainability.

The art of photography has evolved to become a big part of our everyday lives. The popularity of the art form allows it to reach diverse audiences. These photographs can evoke powerful emotions and create lasting impressions. This advantage of the medium can be harnessed to address any issue that impacts us.

One of the most important issues plaguing us today is sustainability. In a world of excesses, everything from culture to resources is being stretched to its limit. Photosphere weaves these issues with photography to create sensitive yet aesthetic work. Photosphere was the brain-child of Dr Alka Pande, the artistic director of the festival.

After receiving entries from all over the country, four awardees are awarded Photosphere fellowships. They are also mentored by a jury panel comprising of Aditya Arya, Bandeep Singh, Parthiv Shah and Prabir Purkayastha. A body of work is produced after a year-long process of conceptualisation, photography and feedback from the mentors. The process is interspersed with workshops and talks, and culminates in a month long photo festival.

The first Photosphere was successfully completed in the year 2017. The awardees used different forms of photography and installations to convey their concepts. It was met with a great response from the public and the media. As we gear up for the next edition, we will use this space to keep you updated about all things related to sustainability, photography and Photosphere!

Second edition of our year-long photo fest titled Habitat Photosphere kicks off with Photosphere Fellowship Awards

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New Delhi: The second edition of Habitat Photosphere, a year-long photography festival conceptualised and curated by Dr Alka Pande around the theme of sustainable development and initiated by India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, has kicked off with the announcement of this edition’s four awardees of the Photosphere fellowship. Selected through an open call for application and from hundreds of entries, the four photographers – Juhi Saklani (New Delhi), Thulasi Kakkat (Kochi), Zishaan A. Latif (Mumbai) and Syed Adnan Ahmed (Rajasthan) – have been given a Rs 2 lakh grant to produce a significant body of work that will be exhibited during the grand finale of the festival slated for February-March 2019. The awardees will be mentored through the year by an eminent panel of photographers including Aditya Arya, Bandeep Singh, Parthiv Shah and Prabir Purkayastha respectively.

Habitat Photosphere brings together the spheres of photography and sustainability, through fellowship and mentorship, followed by a month long grand finale of exhibitions, workshops, talks and screenings at India Habitat Centre. In addition, there will also be curated events and exhibitions on the theme of sustainability throughout the year. The festival is followed up with a photo-book titled Visual Arts Journal 2018 Photography: Art, Archive, Document that aims to position itself as a handbook of diverse scholarly works on photography from prominent authors, curators and art practitioners.

Says Dr. Alka Pande, Festival Director, Habitat Photosphere: “We are a festival with a green conscience. While the first edition dealt with the subject ofPanchtattvas (five elements) under the meta-narrative of sustainable development, this year’s focus will be on cultural sustainability, which is as relevant and pertinent as ecology and environment, and in fact, impact it as well.Also this year, there was a shortlist round where eight candidates were first shortlisted, and from which the final four were then selected.

 

Delhi-based Juhi Saklani’s photographs will be of beautiful, sculptural trees and roots that grow out of old walls and buildings, out of other trees, or unexpected spaces. The idea is to emphasise the synergy and interconnected-ness of life. The performative silhouette of the artist placed amongst these surroundings explores this interconnection.

from prominent authors, curators and art practitioners.

Says Dr. Alka Pande, Festival Director, Habitat Photosphere: “We are a festival with a green conscience. While the first edition dealt with the subject ofPanchtattvas (five elements) under the meta-narrative of sustainable development, this year’s focus will be on cultural sustainability, which is as relevant and pertinent as ecology and environment, and in fact, impact it as well.Also this year, there was a shortlist round where eight candidates were first shortlisted, and from which the final four were then selected.

Delhi-based Juhi Saklani’s photographs will be of beautiful, sculptural trees and roots that grow out of old walls and buildings, out of other trees, or unexpected spaces. The idea is to emphasise the synergy and interconnected-ness of life.

Says Saklani: “The inseparableness of ‘nature’ and ‘human’ lies at the heart of this work. For long, nature has been seen as something outside of us, to be used, for ‘our’ benefit. And that is why, in an age of ecological crises of climate change, we still plan ‘smart’ spaces created by cutting trees in hundreds. The intertwining tree roots in these images proclaim the opposite of the division of human and nature. In these trees, life bursts forth and expresses itself magnificently wherever it finds possibility — old buildings, masonry, vertical surfaces, abandoned vehicles… Trees grow out of platforms that were built to contain them, or shrines that were built around them to venerate them, or walls from where they provide hospitality to birds and humans alike.”

Thulasi Kakkat focuses on the the eco-cultural significance of Theyyam, a ritualistic form of worship from Kerala. An unmistakable umbilical link existed between Theyyam, with its organic accoutrements drawn from nature, and the biodiversity-rich wilderness of the sacred groves (Kaavus) home to Malabar’s pantheistic deities. A government report published in 1956 had identified some 10,000 Kaavus in various parts of Kerala. Fifty years hence, in 2015, just about 1,200 of them survived. Development has ushered most Theyyams out of what remained of the groves to built structures with open spaces engirdled by high compound walls.

Says Kakkat: “My aim is to document the surviving Kaavus with their integral Theyyam deities. I seek to explore the strong underpinning of eco- feminism that remains embedded in Theyyam, with its subaltern ecological identity that is at war with its own opportunistic transformation. Such an eco-cultural chronicling is sure to sensitise the people to the life-sustaining value of the Kaavus and their undeniable role in fighting climate change.”

Syed Adnan Ahmed is dealing with the culturally and socially sensitive subject of rooster combat where animals are pitted against each other resulting in fatal injuries and pain. “The aim of this project is to create awareness and sensitize people to the threat to sustainability by this blood sport. The project will focus on the impact of rooster combat on the animal as well as the communities involved in breeding and betting.”

Zishaan A. Latif’s work titled “Withering” is an endeavour to document the ‘drowning state of existence ‘ of the river island of Majuli in Assam caused by the mighty Brahmaputra, with an aim to reflect on the larger consequence of climate change and displacement and with that the disappearing of a mystical ecological example that the world must take cognisance of.

The primary sponsor for Habitat Photosphere 2018-19 is Dalmia Bharat.