Farmers from Punjab and Haryana are with family and friends in Delhi borders for last 7 nights. In solidarity, to protest against the new farm law of Central Government. Farmers fear that they stand to lose more than they could gain from the new regulations and that the main beneficiaries will be agricultural corporations with enormous funds. It seems they are here prepared, for a long stay at the protest sites away from their farms. With their trucks and farm tractors, loaded with tons of provisions blocked the main highway to the Capital. They opened Live kitchens and brought trailers are been converted into makeshift rooms with tarpaulin covers. Cooking and feeding food to anyone who passes by their protest site. They are only here to march forward.
MG Radhakrishnan and myself worked together in India Today during 2004-2008. We were part of certain social productive assignments, with that warm memory . I am posting….. Thank You Radhkrishnan for timely reflections for my present show online “Unleashing Panoramas”
“For many decades, it hewed close to that often elusive balance between the news of the week and timeless photography..” wrote Elena Martinique, a contemporary art critic about the iconic Life magazine. This observation is equally suitable for India Today magazine which can certainly be credited to have defined India’s contemporary world of photo-journalism. Like the immortal photographers of Life like Margaret Bourke-White, Alfred Eisenstaedt or Andreas Feininger, an array of brilliant lens persons from India Today, like Raghu Rai opened to the country the stunning world of photojournalism. A common sulk we reporters and writers at India Today had was that if there wasn’t a striking picture to go with it, even the story of a Prime Minister getting shot will not see the light in the magazine. Never before had the image dominated the word in Indian journalism.
To such a great league of lens masters belonged Gireesh GV when I first met him at India Today. Like all camera artists, Gireesh’s niche has always been the twilight zone where photography and art met each other. Being a trained artist himself, Gireesh’s work more often than not assumed the composition of an artwork despite news photography’s inherent compulsion to race against time or even deeper concentration. But then, as every work of art, a news image too is a priceless moment etched in time and history for ever. I can’t forget our gruelling yet exciting journey through Nagapattinam and Cuddalore in 2005 to revisit the lands and faces ravaged by the previous year’s tsunami. It was an expedition to discover the faces and identities of the anonymous who were pilloried by the disaster. Gireesh’s each picture in this exhibition deliberately looks everyday to the uninitiated. Yet the connoisseur cannot miss the extraordinary perspective, the brilliant composition, the wonderful ballet of light and shade. As for the journalists who have traveled with him, they open windows to go back in time to history and memory.
While traveling with M G Radhakrishnan in Cuddalore in Tamil Nadu in 2005. This I shot from inside our taxi while he stepped out to pickup his cigarettes. Interestingly What attracted me is that the graffiti of a television on the wall.
M.G. Radhakrishnan serves as the Editor at Asianet News, a popular Malayalam news channel. Radhakrishnan started his career in Mumbai as a sub-editor with Minerals and Metals Review. He was the Associate Editor of India Today magazine for two decades. M.G. Radhakrishan holds a Master’s degree in Economics from the University of Kerala. He also has three books to his credit. His major areas of interest are politics, culture, economics and sports.
Adoor Gopalakrishnan, is an Indian film director, script writer, and producer. Adoor Gopalakrishnan had a major role in revolutionizing Malayalam cinema and is regarded as one of the finest filmmakers of India. Adoor’s first film Swayamvaram (1972) pioneered the new wave cinema movement in Kerala. (text: Wikipedia.)
It was a typical Delhi summer noon at India International Center guest house. He was there in Delhi for some meetings. I got his appointment through Namrata Joshi (my colleague, Outlook correspondent). She was doing a story about his new movie for the latest issue. Her story has to go into pages on the same day. So I rushed to the IIC guest house. I was thrilled to meet him for two reasons. I love his movies, getting to meet him itself is a golden opportunity. Then to photograph him is a bonus. I reached there at 12 pm. That was the only free time he had, just before his lunch. I know it won’t be a good idea to photograph him in that harsh sunlight. But I was not keen to photograph him inside the room. On my way, I planned to request him for another time only for a photo-shoot. But he couldn’t reschedule for another time. Unfortunately he is going back to Trivandrum on the same day, so my plans … !!! We were on a tight deadline. I felt sorry for myself, not getting enough time to plan. But the chance to photograph another celebrity… But…. How can I do like that…. just do the job and leave. I decided to look for a better location than his room. I knew I couldn’t take him anywhere else, because of the heat and lack of time. And the time allotted for the shoot was just 30 minutes. So many challenges. I found a ray of light falling through the glass door towards the end of the corridor, on the same first floor where his room is located. It reminded me about Mankada Ravivarma’s lighting. So I decided to take him there, shoot with that cut lighting. By including more shadows and black area…. a nice portrait of him. I thought of monochrome, though we were shooting in transparency film. The moment I reached the spot, I had noticed the bumpy silver painted rooftop of the walkway of IIC. I opened the door into the roof area. He followed me. I still have that harsh sunlight for my shoot, I don’t know what was I doing there… But somewhere in my mind I decided that I will be using the silver paint as a backdrop. I requested him to sit on the roof, it’s a burning heat, Delhi summer time……, above 40°c but he was so cool and just obeyed my directions. Difficult to shoot him without any shadows on his face at this lighting… the only option I found is that I requested him to look up straight to the sun…. he did, and I shot. The picture just happened.
Sanjog and I had worked together in many projects. This is what he wrote about me for my newly updated website, www.gireeshgv.in
Over two decades ago when we were young, sitting in Gireesh’s apartment near Gol Market in Delhi, I made a promise to him. Whenever the opportunity presents itself, I would seek the services of him, the ace photographer. Bearing witness were Sasi and Manoj Nair, his and mine closest friends and colleagues in Outlook. The magazine then bore imprint of the finest that Indian print journalism would offer, in design, visuals and content. The proverbial young energy in flow, with its editorial strengths emanating from the magisterial Vinod Mehta.
Gireesh is that fine light who shines through his camera. I would look forward to his credits and marvel at the controls he exhibited through his eyes over the shutter and the moment. For all the publications he has worked for. In this time I always look forward to his byline, well aware that both his individual snaps or a photo feature or within pages of a book, will leave me marvelling at his consistent, evolved feel for his art and craft, rigour and dedication.
Photo journalism often calls for a split, nano-second decision making of the subliminal moment where magic is present and may be recorded. Once the moment is gone the magic is lost. Forever. One thing that distinguishes Gireesh from his immediate tribe is the fact that he is a fine art student. His lensing and expressions are invariably sifted through an instinctive understanding of the frame and the composition within it. That is supremely aware of movement, colours, transience and then life itself. I was an admirer then and continue to be so now.
Having left the security of a fixed salary in 2000, I had started working as Karmic Design, a small firm with a proud, big heart. Initially the book assignments we worked on relied on visuals from the client themselves. In 2009-10 came the first opportunity where I could invite Gireesh to work on a monograph on which he was the principal photographer. Awakenings in BodhGaya was the culmination of our own pilgrimage to the site of Buddha’s enlightenment. Through each of the photograph that Gireesh carefully edited were borne elements that allowed us to forge a visual monograph rich and delicate, that elucidate all that is magnificent about BodhGaya.
Since then we have worked on a number of assignments together. On catalogs and books and theatre productions. In particular have come two books one on the heel of the other. First a book on Jajpur, the ancient capital of Odisha, and the second titled Beyond Barriers, a monograph that documents the indefatigable, splendid work of mobilisers, striving tirelessly for polio’s complete eradication in Western UP and in India at large. Both to us are marvelous well realised assignments that involve significant travel and rigour. In all our enterprise, me and Gireesh have worked well as a team which allow me to seek his company and natural born excellence. Always.
Gireesh likes to work alone on an assignment. As the book editor I have been relaxed enough for him to explore and capture moments solitary. For one because he would like to be out even before the crack of dawn. And then he works on till noon when the sun is up and the light become harsh and the shadows minimal. A brief rest later he is on his feet again to seek the outdoor and many a time he surprises me as he goes on to photograph till midnight. In the process he can climb several hills, walk long kilometers in deep cold and harsh heat, ill or not. Committed to the pressing deadlines and supreme performance. To top it all with heavy gear of a couple of cameras, multiple lenses, tripods and lights whenever required, which he insists on carrying himself. What he comes back is with great art, without fail.
Beyond the books on which we have worked together are the photographs he shoots for himself and keeps close to his chest or within his multiple hard drives. I am convinced I am yet to see some of his most profound works. However, in between we have worked on a maquette for a book of his titled Faith. For Gireesh is a traveller par excellence. Over time through his journey he has visited mosques, temples, gurudwaras, churches et al. He has captured moments of ecstasy, of solitude, of the divine and our dialog with creation and its magical overtures
From across India. Of faith that brings people together. That bridges divides and overcomes discrimination with ease, sophistication and finesse. Moments that are lit by grace, compassion and supreme trust in the often incomprehensible ways of the living reality. Often paradoxical and still, illuminated by beauty, subliminal. I personally would love to live for the day when this book of Gireesh, Faith, gets realised. Both as an exhibition and as a momentous coffee table book. I am convinced that the art project would be realised, apposite for the fractured, yet vital time we live in, soon. By Sanjog Sharan, Karmic Design.