German photographer Peter Bialobrzeski, 54, could not resist himself. When he saw the frenzy during the release of Tamil superstar Rajinikanth’s Kabali in July at Kochi, he went to watch it. “The cinematography and the settings were absolutely amazing,” he says. “The sound and music was almost like a Quentin Tarantino film. However, Rajinikanth’s acting was exaggerated. In the West, we are used to subtlety. Nevertheless, I enjoyed.”
Peter was in the city to shoot photos for his Kochi diaries. “These are images of Fort Kochi, Mattancherry, as well as the main town, but will be shown in the form of a diary,” he says. Peter had secured a one-month residency from the Goethe Institute in Bengaluru and was working in association with the Kochi Bienalle, as well as the Pepper House Residency.
He had published in diary form earlier; there are books on Cairo, Taipei, as well as his hometown of Wolfsburg. Another one, on Beirut, is in the works. These have been published by The Velvet Cell, run by the Osaka-based Irishman Eanna de Freine. “These are not touristy pictures,” he says. “So the books will appeal to only those who are interested in photography, as well as artistes.”
On most days, Peter would get up at 5.30 am at Fort Kochi, and walk around and take photographs till 7 am. “I stopped when the sunlight became too strong,” he says. “I also strolled about in the evenings.” Most of his photographs are of capturing life as it happens: there are images of wandering cows and goats; a man loading goods onto the back of a lorry; a woman walking through a gap between buildings.
In one photo, taken at twilight in Fort Kochi, at a crossroads, there is a lamp post in the middle, with a red Communist flag at one side. Amazingly, a man sits, a few inches away, almost in the middle of the road, with a large container, in
which he kept fish. In the background, people are walking about. A foreigner, in a black T-shirt and blue shorts, is riding a cycle. Across the top of the frame are electric and cable wires criss-crossing each other, a typical aspect in most streets of India today.
“I am interested in the flow of things,” says Peter. “There is a lot of waiting to get the right photograph. Some figures are sharp but there is also movement in the photographs. I don’t want to take cute images.”
To get his realistic photos, Peter uses the Canon 5D Mark II, as well as the just-introduced Leica SL. The professor of photography at the University of the Arts in Bremen prefers the Zeiss shift 35 mm lens. Interestingly, of the thousands of images that he has taken, he will shortlist only 51 for the book.
When asked about the Indian photographer he admires the most, Peter says, “The late Raghubir Singh (1942-1999).
He was not much into the beauty of a place. Instead, his photos were abstract and edgy, and, therefore, authentic.”