Ajigsaw of terrace tops, outlined with vibrant saris put out to dry. There’s something there that you might not catch if you don’t look carefully: a little girl catching a white balloon mid-air, completely missable in routine course, and yet once you spot it you’re hooked to the magical moment of the girl and her white balloon.
It’s moments like this—ordinary to the common eye and striking to the uncommon—that have made the list of finalists to Frames of My City, an eight-week-long photography competition which began on 29 August.
Lost by Jayanta Roy. A boy is singled out from his group of friends at the Raja Ghat slum area near Kolkata. This picture won the first prize.
The idea behind the contest was simple: “Capture unique city moments, places, people, activities that symbolize the cities that we live, work and love,” says Bangalore-based Venkatesan Perumal, known as PeeVee. His website Red Frames organized the event.
“A lot of us go out and shoot our city on weekends or in our spare time...like old marketplaces, heritage sites, streets. We thought we’ll do something that’ll help photographers document their city. Entries could be from up to two years ago,” says PeeVee.
When it started out, Frames of My City was entirely modest in aspiration as well. PeeVee sent out a call for entries on his website and expected photographs mainly from the metros. Instead, he got entries from all over the country, even the tiniest pockets.
In all, there were submissions from 1,600 photographers, a total of 7,800 photos from 250 locations (not “cities because these include towns and villages as well”).
“We’ve had entries from Kutch, Kargil, Kanyakumari, Bathinda, Puducherry, Varanasi. A lot of tier II and tier III cities... And the quality of photographs is just amazing,” says PeeVee.
A selection of 50 photos will be exhibited at the Alliance Française de Bangalore this weekend. In all, there are eight finalists and two honourable mentions. The first prize: a Royal Enfield motorbike or a MacBook Pro.
The winning entry is by Kolkata-based Jayanta Roy, who has captured the “most beautiful photograph” of the competition, according to co-judge and Tasveer curator Nathaniel Gaskell (the other judge is Tasveer’s Abhishek Poddar). Tasveer, started in 2006, is committed to promoting contemporary photography in India.
Roy’s Lost is a black and white frame with a background of a few cropped legs dangling from a ledge. In the centre of the frame is a young boy, clean shaven. The photo was taken at a slum close to Kolkata’s Raja Ghat area. “It’s the photograph of a group of young boys, presumably a group of friends. The young boy in the frame looks sad. After I took the photograph, I learnt that he had lost his mother,” says Roy, who left his family business to become a full-time photographer in 1990.
The second position goes to what is possibly the most disturbing submission. On the banks of the rippling Ganga in Varanasi is the floating body of a baby; from the right of the frame, a priest is throwing some water on it. The photographer, Amit Kumar Anshu, is a student of art. He spent his spare time during a six-month semester at the Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, photographing the Ganga’s banks. Anshu chanced upon the body during one of his photographic sojourns in the city. “It’s the sort of picture that punches you in the face,” says Gaskell.
Gaskell says that while there were many photographs of exceptional quality, they were looking for a combination of originality and technical ability.
“We wanted photographs that would show us the city in a way we didn’t see it before; or show us something completely ordinary that you would normally overlook... like the girl and the balloon,” says Gaskell.
Fifty photos from the Frames of My City contest will be exhibited from 26-27 November at Alliance Française de Bangalore. To view all the photos, visit www.redframes.in