“If you want to bring alive a photograph, add a human element to it,” says Dheeraj Paul, whose ongoing exhibition of 30 photographs at The Shrine Gallery, Gallerie Romain Rolland, Alliance Francaise, New Delhi, reveals the human condition through humour, irony and philosophy.
The cover photograph on the catalogue, also a personal favourite, shows a topi-sporting politician checking out larger-than-life wall portraits of three litterateurs, including Amrita Pritam, while two sweepers clean the street at the opposite end. This black-and-white work is titled Literary Sweep, a tongue-in-cheek comment on the disparity between the worlds of politics, literature and street labour. Another striking shot, this time in colour, is of Bhangra dancers relaxing after a show, their languid postures shorn of the vigour with which the dance form is associated.
Paul’s work, however, is as much about candid images as about technical perfection—a skill his father, eminent photographer S. Paul, drilled into him when he was a child. The compositions are powerful combinations of subject, setting and lighting. This is especially evident in a fish-eye perspective of schoolchildren at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi.
Shefali Somani, owner of The Shrine Gallery, cites the example of another photograph on display. Titled Divine Slumber, it shows three people asleep on a pavement, with an image of Hanuman watching benevolently over them from a streetside temple. “The combination of divinity and deprivation is tinged with irony since Indian philosophy maintains that God cares for all. The pavement dwellers sleep peacefully, comfortable in their faith in the Almighty and seemingly oblivious to suffering,” she says.
Curator Prima Kurien has ensured that the photographs in the show force people to stop and think. There are 15 editions of every photograph, priced between Rs35,000 and Rs60,000 each.
The exhibition will be on view till 21 April, 11am-8pm.