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Axel Breutigam
Axel Breutigam
Axel Breutigam

Axel Breutigam

Country: Germany/Canada

Axel Breutigam is a German-born Canadian Fine Art Black and White Photographer, located in Vancouver, BC, Canada.

Breutigam started photography at an early age, with an Agfa Box Camera, gifted to him by his father. His interest in photography developed into a serious practice around the age of sixteen, when he purchased his first SLR camera and turned his bathroom into a darkroom to self-develop his b&w photos.

However, his photographic practice was cut short as his career as an attorney and CPA as well as family took precedence for much of his adult life. Although he practiced photography during any spare moment available, from family vacations to business trips around the world, it was not until he sold his law firm in 2002 and moved with his family to Vancouver, BC that he was able to devote his time fully to his art.

In 2013/14 Breutigam got the chance to study with Alan Ross (Ansel Adams' former assistant and the exclusive printer of Adams' Yosemite Special Edition Negatives). Under Ross Breutigam enhanced his technical skill and was taught how best to use digital processing techniques that emulate the darkroom prints of earlier decades. Both Ansel Adams and Alan Ross have been influential artists for Breutigam, and although he emphasizes that he deliberately does not replicate their styles, he is inspired by the exquisite tonality and quality of their works.

Breutigam shoots in black & white exclusively; rather than dictate the colors of a particular image to his audience, monochrome encourages them to imagine, from their own unique perspective, how the scene may have appeared at the time of the photograph; also, monochrome photographs give room for the viewers' own interpretations of his photographs.

Breutigam, meanwhile an award-winning photographer, hopes that his compositions inspire people to reflect upon their surroundings, and enable them to appreciate the often overlooked beauty found in urban environments and nature. His attention to detail, visual aesthetics, and unique perspective indeed empowers his viewers with this opportunity.

Since 2014 Breutigam's work has been exhibited at seven Solo- and eight Group-Shows.

Breutigam has published three Photography Books.
 

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Michal Cala
Poland
1948
Michal Cala was born in Toruń, Poland in 1948 and studied aircraft construction in Warsaw at the University of Technology in the early 1970's. From 1974 to 1983 he worked as an engineer in various companies in Silesia, and began photographing in the area. In 1977, he moved to Tychy in Upper Silesia, where he co-founded the photographers' association KRON and become a member of the ZPAF – the Union of Polish Art Photographers. Relatively unknown outside of his native country, his work is in several museum collections in Poland; in the Silesian Museum of Katowice, the Silesian Library in Katowice, the Upper Silesian Museum in Bytom, the Coal Mining Museum in Zabrze as well as local government building in Duisburg in the Ruhr (Germany) and various private collections. His work has received much acclaim and won numerus awards; among which are the Grand Prix at the Polish Landscape Biennale in Kielce twice, 1979 and 1983 and won the first prise at the Pilsner International Photo Awards in the Industrial category in 2007. His work from Galicia series and the Paysages de Pologne exhibition was shown in France in 1980's. The Silesia exhibition was shown widely in Katowice (1984, 2002, 2008), Krakow (1986, 2006), Warsaw (1986, 2009), in Enschede, the Netherlands, (2012), at the Photo Biennale Mannheim – Ludwigshafen – Heidelberg (2007) and part of group project at the Noorderlicht Photo Festival in the Netherlands (2008). In 2007 he was classified as one of most important Polish photographers in last century and participated in the group exhibition Polish Photography in XX Century (Warsaw, Poland and Vilnius, Lithuania). In the same year, Cala's photography was featured in British Journal of Photography and Foto8 magazine. Publications on his work include The Anthology of Polish Photography 1839 – 1989, The Masters of Polish Landscape and The Polish Photography in the 20th Century. His past exhibition Metropolis on Silesian urban landscapes was held at the Silesian Museum in Katowice in 2013 and a solo show Silesia and Galicia in the Museum of History of Photography in 2016 in Krakow (Poland). His photo book based on the same series was recently selected in the Open Submission at Belfast and Athens Photo Festivals respectively (2017). The latest solo exhibition at MMX Gallery; SILESIA 1975-1985, was the first time his work has been shown in UK.MMX Gallery about the exhibition Silesia 1975-1985 Michal Cala is regarded as one of the most important Polish photographers of the last century. Cala started taking pictures in his youth and has been working professionally as a photographer for nearly 40 years. Silesia is an industrial district in Poland which at the time of 1970's and early 1980's was experiencing its peak of development and activity. Although providing massive employment for the area, the environmental issues were ignored. Stepping off the train, Cala encountered the other-worldly landscape for the first time and decided this is what he wanted to make of photographic record of. Fascinated by the subject matter, he devoted himself to photographing the Silesian landscape between 1975 – 1992, which resulted in the series entitled Silesia (Śląsk in Polish). Cala's photography took on various influences ranging from surrealism, which inspired a movement in Poland called "fotografia kreacyjna" (creative photography), and the realism of British New Wave cinema of the late 1950's and early 1960's. Poland's isolation during the Cold War made it very difficult for photographers to obtain artistic publications. However, some Czech and Polish magazines were publishing Western photographers work such as Edward Weston, Bill Brandt, Robert Frank and Diane Arbus who acted as a window for inspiration. Cala was influenced by landscape, reportage and social documentary photography, which he always portrayed in his personally stylised images. In Poland, political and material conditions were harsh under Soviet influence. Using a basic 35mm Exa 500 camera, he managed to produce images of such a lyrical beauty only to be emphasised again with a dark graphic printing style, to further enhance his vision of the sometimes-apocalyptic looking landscape before him. A single house surrounded by huge cooling towers, majestic slagheaps, lonely figures microscopic when compared to the massive scale of industrial surroundings are subtle metaphors of living in a communist reality. The majority of photographs in the exhibition are vintage silver gelatin prints, made by Cala at the time they were taken.Source: MMX Gallery
Randy Bacon
United States
Randy is an American photographer with an extensive history in portrait, commercial and documentary photography, both motion and still. Randy is also co-founder and artist behind all of the photography and cinematography of the nonprofit, people empowering story movement, 7 Billion Ones Randy has pursued photography professionally since 1984 and is in high demand with a client base extending worldwide. He travels to destinations across the United States, as well as numerous countries for projects. At the core of Randy's photography is the ability to present emotive visual stories with an underlying sense of narrative. His unique style reflects elements of influential film noir and old masters in painting and photography - Randy is especially influenced by photographers such as Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Diane Arbus, Ed Weston and others. Considering these influences, the connecting thread is the unending artistic mission to capture the art of people In their real, authentic, raw self. For Randy, this simple, yet complex, truth, "you were born an original", is still the creative seed that continues to grow his artistry for photography and film. In 2011, Randy expanded into the motion picture arena. Almost instantly he secured multiple commercial film projects. In 2012, his film career exploded with the release of his directorial and production debut, "The Last Days of Extraordinary Lives". The movie garnered a significant amount of coverage and awards, including having the film being broadcast on PBS to rave reviews. "The Last Days of Extraordinary Lives" ran the film festival circuit and accumulated an impressive fifteen film festival official selections and won fourteen awards, including Best Documentary, Best Picture and Best Director. Shortly thereafter, Randy released his second full-length documentary, "Man Up and Go" which received official selection to nine national/international film festivals. Both films are signed to Academy Award winning film company, Earthworks Films, and are distributed nationally by Filmrise. In 2015, Randy founded and launched the nonprofit humanitarian story movement, 7 Billion Ones, which documents lives, shares stories, connects community and empowers mankind. 7 Billion Ones is fully dedicated to using the art of photography, motion films, and written words to present people's unique stories in an artful, raw, impacting form, so that human transformation occurs exponentially. The story movement reaches a worldwide audience via sharing and connecting people through the enormous power of the world wide web. In consideration of Randycs ongoing work with 7 Billion Ones and other humanitarian projects, he was named as Presidential Social Change Artist in Residence at Saybrook University. In addition, Randy won the Award for Homeless Advocacy with the Alliance to End Homelessness. The Road I call Home For over 35 years I have explored the art of portraiture and I am still mesmerized by photography just like when I got my first camera at 15. It's a love affair that not only endured, but has grown as an essential part of my being. I am more in awe of photography as an art form each day. As a photographer and filmmaker, I have always been intrigued by the fact that each and every person is a one-of-a-kind original - a never before created miracle. This simple, yet complex truth, "we are ALL original miracles'' is the creative seed that flames my passion for photography and represents the connecting thread with all of my work. Over the years, I have photographed thousands upon thousands of people, across America and around the world, propelled by an infinite fascination and commitment as a photographic artist to capture the miracle of each person - the 'ones' on this planet of over 7 billion. I am finding that after all of these many years, of tending to my relationship between me and this thing called a camera that I am artistically driven more and more by people and their stories. With my photography, no matter the walk of life, I strive to present each 'one' in an authentic, no frills manner as to truly relay their inherent beauty, uniqueness and value. With the narratives, I provide the accepting, safe place, so each person can truthfully share their raw, unfiltered story. In the end, I hope the work will punch people in the heart and help create positive change, new understandings of humanity and connection within our world. This is my mission. The Road I Call Home is a powerfully direct extension of my mission - portraits that reveal their special qualities and dignity versus stereotypical attitudes and perceptions society commonly has of homelessness and often presented by the media. The impetus for this approach relates directly to my own life - I was guilty of being negative and uncompassionate towards the homeless. Yes, I judged the book by the cover; however as I opened the pages of each homeless person's life I saw the enlightening truth - homeless people are important 'ones' in this world of 7 billion and deserve love and compassion. The Road I Call Home represents my most ambitious single project to date. What began as a small idea to photograph a handful of homeless people now stands at over 170 homeless lives recorded via portraits, stories and short films. The Road I Call Home continues its path as we push forward chronicling more of our homeless friends' lives. The project has been exhibited at numerous museums and galleries, including several states, with more being planned. A corresponding coffee table art book for The Road I Call Home was published in 2021. Articles The Road I Call Home The Amazing Winning Images of AAP Magazine 17 Portrait
Yasmine Chatila
Yasmine Chatila was born in Cairo in 1974, growing up between Cairo, Italy, France, and Canada. She graduated with a Bachelor in fine Arts from Parsons School of Design in New York, and Masters in Fine Arts from Columbia University School of Arts in 2002. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including a Tag Heuer scholarship for eight consecutive years, and a Columbia fellowship. Her work has been exhibited worldwide, including locations like Centre Pompidou in Paris, The Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid, and Ludwig Museum in Cologne. Stolen Moments have been published by Rizzoli press in the book New York: A Photographer's City and World Atlas Street Photography published by Yale Press. She has been featured in international publications including Vogue Italia, NBC News, IO Donna, Interview Magazine, Foam Magazine, Art in America, Exit Art, New York Post, Wired Magazine, Blackbook, and many more. Her website has attracted millions of viewers, making her work synonymous with voyeurism in art and conceptual photography. All about Stolen Moments On a quiet winter night, I looked out a window. I could see a building far away, the windows were illuminated, and I could vaguely make out people inside their apartments. When I imagined what they might be doing, my mind fluttered between wild fantasies and mundane clichés. I was curious to compare my expectations to the reality of their lives. After months of continuous observation in different parts of the city, I collected hundreds of photographs of strange, comical, and often haunting moments. At times, I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of human nature when it was not guarded, not self-conscious, and completely uninhibited. This provided me with a stage where it was possible to observe myself in the most secret and vulnerable moments of others. In order to render the subjects unrecognizable, and in an attempt to render them more archetypal, they are taken out of context and displaced from their original habitat.
Francesca Woodman
United States
1958 | † 1981
Francesca Woodman was an American photographer best known for her black and white pictures featuring herself and female models. Many of her photographs show young women who are nude, blurred (due to movement and long exposure times), merging with their surroundings, or whose faces are obscured. Woodman attended public school in Boulder, Colorado, between 1963 and 1971 except for second grade, which she attended in Italy. She began high school in 1972 at the private Massachusetts boarding school Abbot Academy, where she began to develop her photographic skills and became interested in the art form. Abbot Academy merged with Phillips Academy in 1973; Woodman graduated from the public Boulder High School in 1975. Through 1975, she spent summers with her family in Italy. She spent her time in Italy in the Florentine countryside, where she lived on an old farm with her parents. Beginning in 1975, Woodman attended the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in Providence, Rhode Island. She studied in Rome between 1977 and 1978 in a RISD honors program. As she spoke fluent Italian, she was able to befriend Italian intellectuals and artists. She went back to Rhode Island in late 1978 to graduate from RISD. Woodman moved to New York City in 1979. After spending the summer of 1979 in Stanwood, Seattle whilst visiting her boyfriend at Pilchuck Glass School, she returned to New York "to make a career in photography." She sent portfolios of her work to fashion photographers, but "her solicitations did not lead anywhere. In the summer of 1980 she was an artist-in-residence at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire. In late 1980 Woodman became depressed due to the failure of her work to attract attention and to a broken relationship. She survived a suicide attempt, after which she lived with her parents in Manhattan. On January 19, 1981, she committed suicide by jumping out a loft window in New York. An acquaintance wrote, "things had been bad, there had been therapy, things had gotten better, guard had been let down." Her father has suggested that Woodman's suicide was related to an unsuccessful application for funding from the National Endowment for the Arts. Source Wikipedia
Jonas Bendiksen
Norway
1977
Jonas Bendiksen is a Norwegian photojournalist based near Oslo. He has published the books Satellites (2006) and The Places We Live (2008) and received awards from World Press Photo, International Center of Photography, National Magazine Awards and Pictures of the Year International. Bendiksen became a Magnum Photos nominee in 2004 and a member in 2008. In 2010 he was its president. Bendiksen was born in Tønsberg, in Vestfold county, southern Norway, on 8 September 1977. He lived in Russia for several years. The time he spent there resulted in his book, Satellites - Photographs from the Fringes of the former Soviet Union, about separatist republics in the former USSR, published in 2006. For three years he photographed slum communities in Nairobi in Kenya, Mumbai in India, Jakarta in Indonesia, and Caracas in Venezuela, for The Places We Live, a book published in 2008, and an exhibition containing projections and voice recordings.Source: Wikipedia Thinking back on the series of events, and “ill-advised” actions he undertook as a photographer in his 20s, Jonas Bendiksen says one of the driving forces of his landmark project, Satellites, was luck. Happening to be in a specific place, at a specific time, is what led the photographer to make some of the series’ most unique and most memorable images. Yet, through all of his reflections on the project, it’s clear that a keen sense of observation, determination in the execution of an idea, and a certain streak of recklessness were all part of the mix. During the collapse of the Soviet Union, economic, political and ethnic disparities gave birth to a series of lesser-known unrecognized republics, national aspirations, and legacies. Crafted from a series of Bendiksen’s photoessays made from 1999 to 2005, Satellites documented these places in transition. Six regions undergoing great social shifts formed the six chapters of the book: the “non-existent” state of Transdniester; the beach resort of Abkhazia; the contested region of Nagorno-Karabakh; the Fergana Valley, lying across Uzbekistan, Kyrgyztan and Tajikstan; the spaceship crash zones of the Altai Territory; and the Jewish Autonomous Region of Birobidzhan. Through this collection of vignettes, little-seen in the West at the time, Bendiksen provided an insight into how daily life was lived in liminal places, documenting communities that were experienced the breakdown of Soviet communism in varying ways. Jonas Bendiksen’s sharply evocative images explore themes of community, faith and identity with unsparing honesty. He has made major bodies of work all over the world, at the same time as he always also photographs the daily rhythms of life at home. As well as many critically acclaimed long-form projects he has also produced significant work for many commercial and editorial clients. Bendiksen most recent book The Last Testament from 2017 told the story of seven men who all claimed to be the biblical Messiah returned to earth. His editorial clients include magazines such as National Geographic, Stern, TIME Magazine, Newsweek, The Sunday Times Magazine, The Guardian Weekend. On the commercial side, he has done projects for HSBC, Canon, FUJI, BCG, Red Bull and Land Rover. Bendiksen lives with his wife and three children outside Oslo, Norway.Source: Magnum Photos
Rosita Delfino
I started getting interested in photography in 2009 and since then I have been emotionally struck by the picture's power of communication. Photography is a dimension where pictures enhance the words and become means of expression of our inner world, through the filter of our eyes they have the power of changing the reality. It is a never ending dialogue between appearing and being, a wonderful journey in the female dimension, where the body is no more bound to space and time but opens to a dreamlike atmosphere. I often think of a sentence by Francesca Woodman, 'you'll get excited when looking at an image but you'll never know what's behind it'.Rosita DelfinoAll about Rosita Delfino:AAP: When did you realize you wanted to be a photographer?In 2009 I realized that the camera has a big power for communicating the feelings of my soul. So I decided to start taking pictures. When I take picture I feel free.AAP: What or who inspires you?I bought a lot of photographic books and I was amazed by Francesca Woodman, Christy Lee Rogers, Alexei Vassiliev's pictures and so on. They express the concepts of their soul through a non-objective representation of the reality, where the time is hanging and feelings, fears, desires are mixed. I find myself through the style of these photographers.AAP: Do you spend a lot of time editing your images?I usually work with a photographic project. Using digital editing I feel in front of a painting and I create the pictures depending on my state of soul and it takes a lot of time.AAP: An idea, a sentence, a project you would like to share?I imagine myself in this Francesca Woodman's sentence: "Ti ecciterai osservando un'immagine ma non saprai mai cosa vi è dietro". ("You will be excited seeing a picture, but you'll never know what is behind that.")
Cornell Capa
United States
1918 | † 2008
Cornell Capa (born Kornél Friedmann; April 10, 1918 – May 23, 2008) was a Hungarian American photographer, member of Magnum Photos, photo curator, and the younger brother of photo-journalist and war photographer Robert Capa. Graduating from Imre Madách Gymnasium in Budapest, he initially intended to study medicine, but instead joined his brother in Paris to pursue photography. Cornell was an ambitious photo enthusiast who founded the International Center of Photography in New York in 1974 with help from Micha Bar-Am after a stint of working for both Life magazine and Magnum Photos. Born as Kornél Friedmann in Budapest, he moved, aged 18, to Paris to work with his elder brother Robert Capa, a photo-journalist. In 1937, Cornell Capa moved to New York City to work in the Life magazine darkroom.[4] After serving in the U.S. Air Force, Capa became a Life staff photographer in 1946. The many covers that Capa shot for the magazine included portraits of television personality Jack Paar, painter Grandma Moses, and Clark Gable. In 1953 he visited Venezuela to make a photo-report of Caracas, on this trip he had the opportunity to photograph the artist Armando Reverón. In May 1954, his brother Robert Capa was killed by a landmine, while covering the final years of the First Indochina War. Cornell Capa joined Magnum Photos, the photo agency co-founded by Robert, the same year. For Magnum, Cornell Capa covered the Soviet Union, Israeli Six-Day War, and American politicians. Beginning in 1967, Capa mounted a series of exhibits and books entitled The Concerned Photographer. The exhibits led to his establishment in 1974 of the International Center of Photography in New York City. Capa served for many years as the director of the Center. Capa has published several collections of his photographs including JFK for President, a series of photographs of the 1960 presidential campaign that he took for Life magazine. Capa also produced a book documenting the first 100 days of the Kennedy presidency, with fellow Magnum photographers including Henri Cartier-Bresson and Elliott Erwitt. Capa died in New York City on May 23, 2008, of natural causes at the age of 90.Source: Wikipedia Cornell Capa (originally Cornell Friedmann) was born in Budapest and moved to Paris in 1936 to join his brother, Robert, who had escaped from the increasingly anti-Semitic climate of Hungary in 1930. Although he had intended to study medicine, Cornell was drawn to photography through his brother and began making prints for him, as well as for Henri Cartier-Bresson and Chim (David Seymour). This experience encouraged him to become a professional photojournalist, and in 1937 he moved to New York to pursue a career. After he had worked in the darkrooms of the Pix agency and LIFE for a few years, his first photo story was published in Picture Post in 1939. During World War II, Capa worked for the US Army Air Corps Photo-Intelligence Unit and the Army Air Corps's public relations department. In 1946, he became a staff photographer at LIFE, based mainly in the American Midwest, and covered some three hundred assignments over the next three years. He was the magazine's resident photographer in England for two years, after which he returned to the United States, to produced some of his most well-known photo essays, on subjects such as Adlai Stevenson's presidential campaign and the education of mentally retarded children. Upon Robert's death in 1954, Capa left LIFE to continue his borther's work at Magnum, the international cooperative photography agency co-founded in 1947 by Robert, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Chim (David Seymour), and George Rodger. Over the next twenty years, Capa photographed many important stories for Magnum, including the activities of the Perón government in Argentina; the Democratic National Conventions of 1956, 1960 and 1968; and John F. Kennedy's first hundred days in office. Capa's photographic production slowed in the mid-1970s as he devoted himself more to the care and promotion of other photographers' work through his International Fund for Concerned Photography. In 1964, he organized the exhibition The Concerned Photographer, which led to the establishment of the International Center of Photography, an organization dedicated to the support of photography as a means of communication and creative expression, and to the preservation of photographic archives as a vital component of twentieth-century history. Capa received ICP's Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995. Capa served as ICP's Director Emeritus until his death in 2008.Source: International Center of Photography In Mr. Capa’s nearly 30 years as a photojournalist, the professional code to which he steadfastly adhered is best summed up by the title of his 1968 book “The Concerned Photographer.” He used the phrase often to describe any photographer who was passionately dedicated to doing work that contributed to the understanding and well-being of humanity and who produced “images in which genuine human feeling predominates over commercial cynicism or disinterested formalism.” The subjects of greatest interest to Capa as a photographer were politics and social justice. He covered both presidential campaigns of Adlai Stevenson in the 1950s and also became a good friend of Stevenson. He covered John F. Kennedy’s successful presidential run in 1960, and then spearheaded a project in which he and nine fellow Magnum photographers documented the young president’s first hundred days, resulting in the book “Let Us Begin: The First One Hundred Days of the Kennedy Administration.” (He got to know the Kennedys well; Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis would become one of the first trustees of the I.C.P.) In Argentina, Mr. Capa documented the increasingly repressive tactics of the Peron regime and then the revolution that overthrew it. In Israel, he covered the 1967 Six Day-War. The vast number of picture essays he produced on assignment ranged in subject from Christian missionaries in the jungles of Latin America to the Russian Orthodox Church in Soviet Russia during the cold war, the elite Queen’s Guards in England and the education of mentally retarded children in New England. His work conformed to all the visual hallmarks of Life magazine photography: clear subject matter, strong composition, bold graphic impact and at times even a touch of wit. In his 1959 essay about the Ford Motor Company, for example, one picture presents a bird’s-eye view of 7,000 engineers lined up in rows behind the first compact car all of them were involved in developing: a single Ford Falcon. “I am not an artist, and I never intended to be one,” he wrote in the 1992 book Cornell Capa: Photographs. “I hope I have made some good photographs, but what I really hope is that I have done some good photo stories with memorable images that make a point, and, perhaps, even make a difference.”Source: The New-York Times
Madhur Dhingra
I was born an only child to my parents, in Delhi, into a family torn apart by the aftermath of the India-Pakistan partition. Hailing from a affluent background in Pakistan my family was now struggling for survival in the walled city of Delhi totally penniless. Imbedded with deep insecurities and freshly bearing the scars of partition my family was now setting up trade in the walled city dealing in fabric. It is relevant for me to mention this background for these very insecurities I too inherited from my family and they remain with me till date even with the changed times and lifestyle. Things improved gradually financially, with the trade flourishing and much because of the sheer hard work of my grandfather, father& chachas(father's brothers).We settled in Delhi at the start as big joint family. I have grown up hearing tales of how we had started life selling fabric on the pavements of the walled city where we now own several properties. My father could never get over those scars of partition. I too was repeatedly made to realize that ( for better or for worse) even though I was born much later in Delhi. At the age of five I was put to school at St.Xavier's High School, Raj Niwas Marg, Delhi. That period was to become the most memorable part of my life. I remember enjoying that period thoroughly. I was always an above average student with a lot of love for extracurricular activities. In school I would love going hiking, camping, swimming & cycling with the boy scouts. From the very start I was naughty and mischievous and was a regular in getting in and out of trouble. After school I went to the Delhi University and took up English Hons as my subject. But nowhere was it in my mind to take up studies serious. Restless from the start I wanted to travel the world. I now join the Merchant Navy at the age of seventeen ,as a deck cadet leaving college in the first year itself. I loved this new experience and was good at learning navigation. Very soon I was promoted to become the navigating officer. For the first year I never came back home at all. I was fulfilling my desire to see the world thoroughly meeting different types of people and experiencing different kinds of cultures . Once while travelling in the city of Jeddah near Mecca during Ramadan I was amazed to see gold slabs and coins being sold on the pavements of the city. On the loudspeaker I then heard the azaan (prayer call) and to my utter astonishment I saw people leave all this gold unattended and enter the nearby mazjid for prayer. Such was the strictness of the prevailing law of the land that anybody caught stealing would have his hand chopped off. Nobody dared to steal. Now quite a different experience was when my ship first entered Thailand. To my utter surprise I saw hoards of women entering my ship. Their numbers must have been no less than a hundred odd. I was on duty and I objected to their entry and was immediately informed by my senior officer to back off as they were entering with the permission of the captain. These were prostitutes who stayed on my ship till the time it stayed there. Nobody was questioning the morality or the ethics. It was gala time for all officers, crew, and the Captain. This was the way of life for most sailors . One horrific incident I remember was when our Burmese radio officer died on the ship due to a liver problem. As we were still some days away from the next port,his body was put in the deep freezer of the ship, the same place where all vegetables and other eatables were stored. Life was going on as if nothing had happened and everybody was eating and drinking as any other day. In a ship life all relationships and friendships are very temporary and the moment a person gets off the ship all these are left behind and forgotten. My bag of experiences was filling up fast. The restlessness and void was again setting in fast. I was getting bored again after about five years of sailing. The novelty had worn off and my inherent nature and upbringing was not that of a sailor in any way .I finally decided to say quits and joined the family business which was waiting for me to return. My dad was overjoyed at this decision of mine. I had no problem settling into this environment as it just happened to be in my blood. I now decide to get married too. I get married and soon after become a father of two adorable children. My age at that period would have been early twenty or so. Time flew by fast earning bread and butter for my family. Nothing was more important than bringing up the kids properly and with a lot of love, something which I was deprived of badly during my childhood days. But now again the same restlessness and void was setting in. I was in a dilemma, now trying out new ways to end this emptiness . I initially tried my hands at learning sculpture at Triveni Kala Sangam Mandi House, but I soon realized that medium was not meant for me. Destiny seemed to have other plans for me and it was during this period that I was gifted a SLR by someone, a Ricoh 500 as I now try to remember. The camera body had a dial with some numbers and also some numbers on the lens of which I had no clue. There were photography classes also being held in Triveni Kala Sangam and I joined these classes with sculpture classes I was already doing. It was here I met my photography teacher and now a lifelong friend Satyasri Ukil for the first time. The Basic course was about learning the techniques of Black & White photography. Satyasri was a dedicated, honest & straightforward teacher. His likes and dislikes purely dealt with the merits of the image and not with the person who had shot the image. I was learning fast with my association with Satyasri at Triveni where he was teaching then . A few of us guys(now renowned photographers), formed a sort of a team under the guidance of Ukil (as we address Satyasri,till date).We were shooting developing and printing the whole day long. Photography was now no longer a hobby but a frenzy. I soon set up my own darkroom in my house and would develop and print negatives all night long. I now start trekking again now with a new SLR in hand going to high altitudes and to very difficult locales. I remember showing my first serious work to Ukil and found him overjoyed. Soon my ambitions grew and I start shooting product for the advertising agencies. My first breakthrough as I clearly remember had come from the agency 0& M whose creative head then was Benoy Mitra, who was one day present at the colour lab called "MultiColour in Jhandewalan, when my portfolio prints were coming out of the lab. He saw my work and quietly handed over his card asking me to see him in the agency. I was overjoyed. This was breakthrough I needed desperately. I soon started getting assignments from most major agencies. But now I started getting bored again shooting mountains product and off and on some fashion. I still needed to express myself in a different way. I decide to work towards my first solo exhibition and I show my landscapes and mountain work to the management of INDIA INTERNATIONAL CENTRE. After seeing my work they agree to sponsor my show fixing the date to 28th November 1998.It is pertinent to mention here that I had then "only" shown them my beautiful landscapes and mountain TP's as I had nothing more at that time in my kitty. I started a new journey, first shooting Ladakh. I found immense peace and tranquility (acting as a balm for my troubled mind )in the monasteries I visited. The filtrations of light from the windows and doors into the dark interiors of the monasteries were indeed very beautiful, tranquil and peaceful. I would sit inside these monasteries for hours at a stretch calming my taut nerves. The prayer gong would echo inside the main hall and seep deep inside my soul. I have always equated light with God and have believed that the darkness of the human soul will ultimately come alive with the play of Light (God) on it. My next visit was to Banaras. Here I found people visiting the Ghats in very colorful attires. A activity on these ancient Ghats like the Dashashwamedh Ghat would start very early in the morning. People from all over India visit Banaras to perform various religious rituals, right from the birth of a child to the cremation of the dead and also later to perform rites for their safe and comfortable passage after death. The quality of light that I found in Banaras was very warm & golden and I wouldn't hesitate a moment to call it heavenly. Now a special reference to the Manikarnika Ghat " the ghat of the dead" is needed. People from all over India come to Kashi (ancient name of Banaras)to cremate their dead at Manikarnika.It is believed by Hindus that a cremation at Manikarnika Ghat gives the human soul an unhindered passage to heaven. Pyres are being lit here continuously without getting extinguished for the last 3000 years. But it was on this BURNING GHAT that my worst nightmare was to begin. I would visit this ghat daily looking at the activities. It was not very long before I realised that whenever a body of a poor person would come in, it would be cremated in a bizarre manner. It required two mun wood at the least (mun is an Indian measure of weight equivalent to 20 kgs) to cover a human body completely for cremation. But the person accompanying the dead body did not have that much money in his pocket. So only that much wood was purchased in which only the torso could be covered by wood. The legs and head were left hanging out and the pyre lit. The head would get burnt in a horrific manner with the head and feet falling away from the torso partially burnt. Then these torn away parts were picked up and put into the pyre or thrown into the Ganges. This whole sequence was so bizarre that I decided to get it on film and show it to the world. This I did manage to photograph secretly even after a lot of objections and hindrances from the people in charge at Manikarnika. Man really "was" meeting his God in Kashi, though in a very bizarre manner. So much for Kashi, our GATEWAY TO HEAVEN.I have posted only a few of those pictures on this website just to avoid unnecessary disturbance to people's minds. In the meantime the Purn Kumbh was being held at Hardwar. This again has become a very interesting event to relate. I was aghast to see completely naked so called Naga "sadhus" storming the streets of Hardwar. It was here I came to understand from the local inhabitants of Hardwar that this whole show was a complete farce. These so called ascetics only stormed the streets during the Khumb. Neither do they live in the remoteness of the Himalayas leading a renounced life, but on the contrary live in air conditioned lavishly furnished akharas in Hardwar itself. They were a weird sight. ( I have shown some photographs of them in my Black & White section). Here I saw them fight pitched battles with the police before the procession. DOWNRIGHT CRIMINALS TO THE VERY CORE, MOST OF THEM. On the day of the procession I got up early in the morning and positioned myself on roof top of a house near the Niranjani Akhara.This was very early in the morning and I was testing the auto focusing of my telephoto 300mm Canon lens when I saw a group of nagas in the akhara compound. I was taken aback when I saw one Naga fiddling with the genitals of the other Naga, "AND I TOOK THE SHOT".(later to appear on the first page of THE INDIAN EXPRESS). There were hutments built for sadhus by the kumbh authorities across the river bed. I would visit those and sit with some real sanyasis and listen to their discourses and hear them sing bhajans. This was a very nice and peaceful experience. The Kumbh ended and my exhibition date also was drawing near. The IIC Gallery wanted to see the final prints that I had decided to display. Nowhere in my final selection were those beautiful landscapes to be seen. Their place had been taken by naked sadhus with Trishuls and burning ghats & corpses. The Gallery management told me in no uncertain terms that they will not allow the show to go on unless these pictures were withdrawn. My dilemma was that my photo essay "Where Man Meets God'" was a story of a man's passage of life, his wanderings, his search for God. This essay was incomplete without these pictures. I told the management that I will show my work as it is and will not remove any picture from the list. Much courage to take this right stand was coming from Satyasri Ukil who stood by me all this while withstanding this massive ONSLOUGHT . IIC Management banned my exhibition. It was during this period that me and Satyasri Ukil were introduced to Suneet Chopra a reputed Art Critic. He later introduced us to Siddharth Tagore, a gallery owner at Art Consult Hauz Khas Village. Siddharth Tagore offered to hold my preview party at his gallery inviting respected artists like B.C.Sanyal, Jatin Das and many other artists of repute. The preview was a major success with all these stalwarts in their respective art fields giving their nod to my exhibition. Mr.Khushwant Singh the famous and a very respected writer too came up with an article on me in his column "Malice Towards One And All .Now IIC started shifting its stance and a compromise was reached. "That the images will be allowed to display but only facing towards the Gallery wall, whoever who wanted to see them could do so at his own discretion". Almost everybody saw those images.. Many reputed people visited the exhibition, some of them I mention in my TESTIMONIAL column. Eight major newspapers wrote elaborately on this exhibition. There was a TV interview also held by a channel also. The exhibition was a huge success on the whole. I am now planning another exhibition with a different theme and gearing up to hold another show in Milan. Life for me as a photographer continues...
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