Saturday, March 30, 2013

A photographer who captures ‘the usually unseen’

An exhibition of offbeat albeit engrossing photo images by Sooni Taraporevala at Mumbai-based Chemould Prescott Road revolves around her seminal book on the Parsi community. It also comprises many of works, yet unseen. The photographs have been shown across the world, but this is the first exhibition in Mumbai, her city of inspiration.

Though Sooni Taraporevala spent her childhood surrounded by captivating images in an art-loving family of avid amateur photo artists, she only took to photographing in 1977. As an undergraduate at the renonwed Harvard University she, in fact, borrowed money from one of her roommates to get a Nikkormat, her first camera.

Her foray into the domain of photography was mostly self-taught. Henri Cartier Bresson is the photographer she most admired and still does. The blending of love for geometry and that decisive moment found a precise echo in her black & and white works. She reveals a similar instinct to capturing the usually unseen.

In 1982 she met Raghubir Singh, a maestro of colour photography,who saw amongst her eclectic collection of photos the subject, which had been staring her in the face, but something she had failed to notice: a photographic study of Parsis, the community she belonged to. What had started as a nostalgic and personal trip, her passion gradually grew into a more objective project, encompassing a world larger than her family.

Encouraged by Raghubir Singh, she began to take pictures in color. Whilst she documented the community in all its aspects in her book, the exhibit is a journey through a sensitive and observant photographer’s eye, of images, which continually draw you in, and reveal a depth, bringing something new to the viewer each time.

Sooni Taraporevala is also an award-winning screenwriter (Such A Long Journey; Salaam Bombay! Mississippi Masala; The Namesake) and filmmaker (Little Zizou). Photographs from ‘PARSIS A Photographic Journey’ have been included in Tate Modern’s Century City: Art and Culture in the Modern Metropolis in 2001; ‘India Moderna’ at the Institut Valencia d’Art Modern, Spain in 2008; and ‘Photoquai’, Musee de Quai Branly, Paris in 2009.

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