Pain and Photographs

Pain and Photographs

It is my last day in London today and I will take a flight to home tomorrow. My generation was in awe of the USA and to some extent the UK too. But I never had a fascination for going abroad. I did not have a passport till the year 2000, and I had to get one because of travel for work abroad which was nine years prior to my retirement.

Since then, I have travelled to forty countries. There were some memorable moments. It was important to capture those moments in photographs. In those days aim and shoot cameras were available and the mobile cameras were quite a few years away from the market.

Lion House of the noble laureate VS Naipaul

When I travelled to Trinidad on work, and I did it several times, I carried my camera. The Indian diaspora was of great interest to me. I met a lady who was 103 years old and who had travelled with her parents from India. The family had migrated as indentured labour. It was a pleasant meeting and I clicked a few photographs with her. But my camera was stolen at the airport. (The loss still hurts!)

I visited Trinidad later a few times. And have blogged about it too, this blog about V S Naipaul’s home is my favourite one.

Look at this temple, a Shiva temple. Going to this temple was an emotional experience for me. SewDass Sadhu, an indentured labourer (his parents had reached there from Uttar Pradesh, India) who reclaimed some land from sea to build a Shiva Temple. The original temple which he had built was on somebody’s property so it was demolished, and SewDass built a new one by reclaiming a short patch of land from the sea! Interesting, nay, inspiring story of how ‘A will will find a way!’ His statue is erected near the temple.

In photography, the subject is sometimes more important than the aesthetics. The above photographs are good examples.

In the Caribbean, I visited Kingston, Jamaica on many occasions. And I always stayed at Hotel Pegasus. Very near to the hotel is the Emancipation Park, and this sculpture, a man and woman looking toward the sky, is at the entrance. It is called the ‘Redemption Song’ which is the name picked up from Jamaican Music great Bob Marley’s song.

The sculpture symbolizes uprising from slavery. It is very deeply moving; one must experience it. While in Jamaica, I read about slavery. Now there are a few docuseries depicting the trials and tribulations of slaves. That may be the reason that the sculpture stayed on my mind for long.

Art, they say, is borne out of pain and human suffering. “Pain doesn’t show up on a body scan and can’t be measured in a test. As a result, many chronic pain sufferers turn to art, opting to paint, draw or sculpt images in an effort to depict their pain” wrote Tara Parker-Pope in an NYTimes article. Human beings have this exceptional ability to communicate pain and feelings.

One sculpture inspires though it also communicates the pain of an indentured labourer. The other conveys the emancipation from slavery, their pain and immense violence humans can cause to other human beings and destroy their lives!

I clicked these photographs placed above. Their subject trumps the considerations of aesthetics in photography.

I think so, what say you?

Vivek S Patwardhan

“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”