Grave Matters


At peace


It was in the last week of December, 2011, that the Karnataka Chitrakala Parishat, College of Fine Arts, Bangalore hosted the National Art Camp in the campus premises, buzzing with a multitude of visual art forms from water colour painting, charcoal sketching and traditional painting to abstracts, mixed media art, installations and sculpture. The camp, apart from giving us students a small peek into the daily dedication, tradition and skills of the senior artists also opened doors to new ways of thinking, essential for any creative process. The most debated idea was that of drawing lines in art with respect to morality, ethnic culture and religious traditions, which was profound in the Photography session we lined up to attend. After a day’s grasp of some basic fundamentals of using the DSLR, our mentors enthusiastically proposed a practical street photography session for the following day, giving us the chance to experiment with our cameras. The catch, however, was it wasn’t just another by lane into a market as we expected. We were taken to the Audugodi Cemetry, much to our bewilderment, while our photography mentor was at complete ease with the immediate surroundings, with his eyes already darting around for (interesting?) compositions to be captured with great expertise.


Grave matters


Now, while Bangalore is a relatively more open place in comparison to other regions in India for art and design, I realized at this point that we have much more holding us back than what we think. The expression on everyone’s face was plain bewilderment, considering that our much awaited exciting street photography session turned out to be at an isolated graveyard. Booyaaaaaah.


In the shadows


Well. So people have their own perspectives on the idea of God, ghosts, spirits, supreme powers and souls. As children, we are constantly made to believe about a God, or a higher power for blessings and thanksgiving. At the same time, we are made to take refuge under the same idea of God, find solace in His being for our very vulnerable human emotions and are dissuaded from anything away from these ideals. And standing right at the entrance of the graveyard that day brought back some old, unknown, unexplored and hence feared subject of the departed.To which, the better approach would probably be to allow one to explore and read on subjects concerning the same, and allow every individual to follow and respect concluded beliefs, both his own and others. So the more adventurous of us did enter the graveyard after the initial hesitation, and I was glad we did. While I do know there were a bunch of my classmates who were already into photography and doing some good work too, the same few missed out on this session due their personal religious beliefs ( or was it fear?) of not stepping into a graveyard.


” Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven- for she loved much. He who has forgiven little, loves little.” Luke 7:47-48


May be it wasn’t just about the lighting, setting white balance or exposure values or about a couple of photographs to shoot. May be its about how much we can open our mind to a situation that calls for accepting the new, with a firm result. Art for art’s sake, yet again. During the interactive session after the photowalk, our mentor explained that photography was not just about recording the state of our surroundings. Everyone knows what to expect to see in a graveyard after all. Or any other location in general. But what did make all the difference was if we had a story in our frame, that could give the viewer a new way to look at the same objects.




To conclude it all, it still surprises me about how many more barriers we have to break in our process of learning. And also about how much more is possible with a determined and creative mind. Many thanks to Deepak John Mathew Sir, NID Ahmedabad, guest lecturer and our mentor at the camp for sharing his immense knowledge on the subject, and his constant belief in fine art photography being a story led  by the power of human expression.


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