When Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated there were pictures of him blown into pieces. If I was there I would not take the photos that way. I am not condemning anyone else’s work -but at the same time that is not the way I would do things. I would like it to be more symbolic and take photos that bring out the suffering in a subtle way not the brutal way’’ , he says.
Wherever he went in India, photojournalist Sanjay Austa, found people in rural and urban areas devouring the daily newspaper. Even in metros, where a large number of people use public transport. It was a stark contrast to what he had found abroad, in countries like the US, where people preffered reading books.
Steve McCurry however has an unabashed fascination for Asia. Africa comes a distant second. His images from these developing countries has invoked awe in the viewer, showered a kind of benediction on the subjects and contributed immensely to our knowledge of some of the lesser known cultures from these parts.
Its always intriguing how the audience interpret your work- whether its a poem, a book, a film or photographs. Surfing the internet, I found this video presentation on three of my photo-essays by an art student in the US.
Sanjay Austa is a name to be reckoned with in the world of photojournalism in India. Austa started out as a journalist and gradually switched to photography. His first assignment as a photojournalist was an ardous expedition to Kanchenjunga where he documented the indian army’s climb to the summit.
Austa asserts that for a photojournalist the story behind a photo is every thing, ”Most of the photo-essays I work on are stories which I think are important to me…
The main dome itself seems a bit out of place compared to the domes of other Mughal Mosoleums. The domb here is somewhat extended at the top giving it the ‘onion’ look. The dome and other places where marble is used has a rough patchwork look to it. Thats because most of the marble used in Safdarjung Tomb was marble plundered from other tombs-most notable the tomb in Nizamuddin of Abdul Rahim Khan-e-Khana, Akbar’s protege,
Sanjay Austa is a Delhi based documentary photographer who is widely published in International Media including the Wall Street Journal, National Geographic Traveller, The Sunday Guardian, Departures, Centurion, Mint-WSJ, Outlook Traveller etc. His photo-feature on the 1984 anti-Sikh Delhi riots was exhibited in California and UK by various human rights groups in 2009 and 2010 respectively.
The fact is there is little to put the person who genuflects before a God in Heaven apart from the one who bows before a country. Both are worshipper of an abstract idea. In one case the idea is enforced by the priests and in the other its promulgated by the politicians.
Prayer as practiced by all organized religions of the world is a sort of begging. The believers worship a certain God, either out of fear or to fulfill their needs (material, emotional or spiritual). Shiva the Destroyer, is very much like the angry Old Testament God. He has to be kept happy, lest he wreck havoc on the world and our lives. Vishnu the Preserver has the power to fulfill our dreams. His various avatars from Krishna to Rama are worshipped by Hindu’s for a better salary, better grads in school, good husband, safe air journey etc.
But Brahma? What is the point of worshipping him? He is the creator and he has done his job. He has no power to either destroy our dreams or fulfill them. So why worship him? That’s why Brahma has been completely ignored by the Hindus.
The `Official Santa’ is very much the Santa of my imagination. Long white undulating beard. Rose tinted rotund cheeks. And the all too familiar corpulent frame. He greets us a predictable Namastay when we tell him we are from India. He takes turns greeting us all and asks the girls in our group if they have been good-girls in a manner and tone he would ask any naughty children visiting him. The girls play along with one of them insisting on getting a photograph shot sitting on his lap.
The problem is that in India, exercise is seen as an unusual or as an elitist activity. Here film and sport-stars exercise not the regular Johnnies. If you workout, people comment, ‘’ Aree way! so you are a fitness freak?’’. For example an article about Robert Vadra is seldom written without mentioning his fitness-regime. Its as if he is doing something extraordinary. Magazines and papers love to use photos of him pumping iron in the gym. What is obviously unusual is people not exercising. Homo Sapiens were essentially hunters and gatherers. We trekked for days in search of food. We may have changed the world around us (read screwed up) but our bodies haven’t suddenly metamorphosed in the short span we have been on this planet.
Many years ago when I visited Nainital for the first time , it was a relief to see the lake so polluted . If you belong to a hill station like me, you tend to look at another hill-station with a sense of competition. My hometown, Shimla, I happily concluded, is after all the best hill-station in India.
But on a recent visit to Nainital, I was astonished to see the Naini Lake far from the dump it was many years ago. It was all spruced up and crystal clean. There was no longer any debris floating on its surface and the horrid smell had gone. I had to reluctantly admit that Nanital is possibly India’s most beautiful hill station.
Whenever I get an invitation to visit a cold place I am generally not too excited. I was born in the foothills of the Himalayas (Himachal Pradesh) therefore snow, mountains, and high altitudes generate feelings of home not wanderlust. But an invitation to visit the Arctic was different. I had never crossed the 66 degree latitude for one and the opportunity to relive your childhood storybook fantasies of reindeers-rides and huskies sledges is too hard to resist.
I believe in their pursuit to specialize, all professions only become more and more parochial. In our world we respect the specialists but the specialists are often only navel-gazers. Knowledgeable in their field yes but one-dimensional and therefore shallow as a whole. If becoming an ‘expert’ requires narrowing our vision, its worth asking if its worth it after all. I believe we must have a healthy contempt for all specialists.
But all this seems distant on the short drive along double-barrelled Basai Road, which makes its way through the villages of Dhankot and Chandu and past Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary, undulating through multi-coloured fields of mustard, wheat and marigolds. The drive is a pleasure; the road is in good condition and lined with fruit sellers peddling seasonal wares right from the orchards. Farmland lines the road, retreating into gentle hillocks that mark the beginning of the Aravalli Hills. Farrukhnagar appears in a traffic jam of lorries, buses and cycles resembling most small Indian towns until one reaches the old quarter with its distinctive Mughal architecture.
A photographer is someone who gets his feet dirty out there in the field. He is not a wheeler-dealer in pin-strips selling images in sanitized boardrooms. At least that’s not what most of us signed up for. This is why I think Photo Stock agencies are a bane to photography and photographers. But alas, they are here to stay.
Celebrated Indian Photographer Raghu Rai has often said that newspaper and magazine editors are visually illiterate. He should know. Rai spent much of his photography career working for newspapers and magazines. I started my career as a journalist too and never understood the importance of photography in a paper. I especially did not understand why my newspaper would spend so much money sending a photographer with me on travel assignments. He just has to press the button I thought.
Does photography make you see more – as is popularly believed – or does it sometimes make you wear blinkers to the world around you? Photography of course should make you see and absorb more and this is what we all believe but I think it can do just the opposite. I feel photographers are so busy with the visual assimilation of what is at hand that they don’t (and perhaps can’t) care much about what it is they are photographing. They are not so much interested in understanding the subject as they are in `capturing’ it.
Though the younger generation of orchardist are all well educated , deep rooted tradition beliefs prevail over commonsensical environmental awareness. They would rather slaughter a goat to the local Gods for good weather than plant trees in their depleting forests.
Every assignment brings its own challenges. The trick is to satisfy the client who hires you without compromising on what you think are good pictures. As a photojournalist I am mostly photographing strangers. The challenge for me is to make them open up to me so I can get a unique perspective to their lives.
Most of us have a filmy notion of street-muggings. Its more Hollywood than Bollywood. You are walking down a dark-alley when hooded hoodlums waylay you. They brandish a knife or a gun and say stuff like ‘’Your money or your life’’.
But when I was mugged in Tanzania , two years ago, it took me a while to get my bearings to realize I had been mugged. It happened so fast.