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A reason to smile

A reason to smile
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First Published: Fri, Jul 10 2009. 09 41 PM IST

Toran Natak Company: Images by Kapil Das.
Toran Natak Company: Images by Kapil Das.
Updated: Fri, Jul 10 2009. 09 41 PM IST
Indian photography has no home,” says the manifesto of BlindBoys.org. Creators Akshay Mahajan, 23, and Kapil Das, 28, decided to give it one in the form of this site, which bills itself as an online photography magazine, and features photo series on different subjects and themes.
Toran Natak Company: Images by Kapil Das.
The enterprising duo initially wanted to showcase works by photographers from South Asia only, but then decided to broaden the scope of the webzine and include photos taken anywhere in Asia. So, in addition to India-based subjects, there are features on seductive advertising billboards in Seoul, the androgynous “Lady Boys” in Siem Reap in Cambodia and nomadic life in Mongolia.
More and more young men and women are opting for photography as a career in India but, according to Mahajan, there is little available to them by way of support and mentoring. They are mostly self-taught and often work as freelancers for media and advertising firms. “There are good and talented photographers, (but) I feel that they are not able to match their talent to the opportunities available,” he says. In the process of showing new photos, he and Das hope to build a community of like-minded photographers.
There is also a growing tribe of amateurs for whom photography is a serious hobby and Blindboys doesn’t want to restrict itself only to the pros. “I feel that (in Indian media) very often the same stories get told over and over again,” says Mahajan. “I see this as a platform to tell new stories.”
The photographs on the website are an encouraging collection of works by young photographers, both Indian and international—Das’ series on the Toran Natak Company, a travelling theatre troupe in Gujarat, captures a day in their life and their resilience in the face of dwindling audiences with wryly comic and poignant touches; Aditya Kapoor’s images of Muslim patrons—men and women, friends and families—posing in front of the camera at a photo studio transcend the local and the particular to present a portrait of humanity that is earnest, life embracing and also fragile; and Qinn Ryan Mattingly’s images of Mongolian nomads against flat fields and vast skies are a meditation on both man and nature.
Then there are two intriguing and wacky series featuring old, retrieved black and white photographs of one Charli Bikaner—supposedly a private eye who “mysteriously disappeared” 48 years ago. From the photos—which have archival rather than artistic value— Bikaner seems like a strange old man bent on acting out his silver-screen fantasies.
“It’s a good start,” says the celebrated photographer Pablo Bartholomew about Blindboys, but adds that there is room for improvement. “The look of the site is decent, but the images require editing and better intro writing.”
The real test, according to him, lies in being able to consistently source quality photos over time.
himanshu.b@livemint.com
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First Published: Fri, Jul 10 2009. 09 41 PM IST