9 Jul 2013

Guest Post: Photohappiness

Introducing a new series by guest writers with the first post by Bangalore based photo artist Shibu Arakkal

Photohappiness
Photography and its meaning in the midst of a million clicks

The word 'happiness' to me is so synonymous with taking pictures. There is something so exhilaratingly profound about having frozen a slice of time on film or as in these days, digitally. The mere seduction of a thoughtfully crafted photograph emerging out of nowhere in the red of a darkroom is much the reason for my nineteen year love affair.

I have always maintained that we're all so naturally drawn to photography, maybe because it is the most realistic of all two-dimensional visual art forms or maybe like painting or sculpture, there isn't anything particularly intimidating about it. So whether it is that black and white studio portrait of our grand parents' wedding or that iconic album cover of a favourite music CD, certain pictures have forever found a place in our very being, maybe without much realization. It also goes to show how the emotion is so intrinsic to any photograph as its very soul.
It is also why I am rarely surprised when someone decides to quit an MBA degree or their jobs in software to wanting to take pictures for a living.

I think that we also make too much of being able to articulate our emotions for art in general and in critiquing it. Just that we instantly relate to or even in retrospect feel something very strongly for an art work or even don't realize that an art work has imprinted itself into our subconscious means much more than being able to articulate our emotion for it. As such and particularly in photography there are images that we never seem to forget, irrespective of whether there was an appreciable element of technical wizardry or a very simply execution of a great idea.

Image provided by Shibu Arakkal

As there are photographs that have defined times and moments in this world, there are those single shots that can make one's whole life worthwhile. William Albert Allard's portrait of this crying Peruvian boy who lost his sheep to a hit and run taxi moved so many people around the world to chip in and buy the boy a whole new herd. That single portrait was responsible for a lot of lost sleep for a whole lot of people other than everyone who saw it questioning what was right in this world.

The great American landscapes photographed by Ansel Adams stand tall as a monument to high art and have over the years helped to bring great attention to natural conservation in the country. Interestingly and a less known fact, Adams destroyed a lot of his negatives towards the end of his life as he felt that he didn't have enough time to print them himself. It is a certain happiness that you have gained from what you do that dictates what shall eventually happen of the pictures you have taken.


Life's stories in all its variations are almost normal when compared to the ones photographers tell you. It is sometimes an absolute compulsion to take that one elusive picture that has got someone into heaps of trouble or simply a desire to create something that shall live on, that has seen one scale the very heights of photographic yearning.

In such a world seemed to live Bill Brandt, whose artistic interpretation of early twentieth century middle class English life and portraits of great English names in its soul screamed and cried and at the same time glorified all that was so in essence 'English'.

Like the musicians and poets of a time, the photographers are the ones who remind us what things looked like, their interpretation of it, of course.

It is not often in a world of so many do's and don't's, that we experience true liberation of the mind and the soul. Taking a simple, conscious and intentful photograph does that so very often that, pardon the pun but it seems to instantly put things into perspective.


Shibu Arakkal is a Bangalore based photo artist whose work has been shown at the Royal College of Art in London, the Arad International Biennale in Romania, and the National Exhibition of Art in India over a nineteen year career with his works in private and institutional collections in India and abroad.

For more on the artist go to shibuarakkal.com
To follow the artist go to facebook.com/ShibuArakkalPhotoArt


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