Celebrating a life through lens & film

A year since photographer and automotive enthusiast Navroze Contractor’s untimely death, an exhibition chronicles his rich life and diverse artistic legacy
Alang Ship Breaking Yard, 1991
Alang Ship Breaking Yard, 1991

BENGALURU: If not for a tragic motorcycle accident in June 2023, photographer, cinematographer, and automotive enthusiast Navroze Contractor would have celebrated his 80th birthday this weekend. Born on July 7, 1944, Contractor was a pivotal figure in the dawn of India’s parallel cinema movement. He was also an avid photographer, with his work displayed at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC, USA.

An exhibition titled Photography Strictly Prohibited, to be held from July 5-7 at the Bangalore International Centre in Domlur, is set to commemorate Contractor’s birth anniversary, offering visitors a deep dive into his diverse artistic legacy. The exhibition will feature a thoughtfully-curated selection of Contractor’s photographs, articles, and interviews, providing an immersive experience into his life and work.

“He was passionate about motorcycling and music. He also loved sports, which he participated in during his college days and continued to be involved with later on as well. His interests were very diverse, and he was extremely fond of travelling and everthing automotive as well,” says filmmaker Sanjiv Shah, who is curating the exhibition alongside photographer Anuj Ambalal and automotive enthusiast Himanshu Pancha.

A close friend and collaborator of Contractor, Shah adds, “The exhibition aims to showcase aspects of Navroze’s life that many people might not be aware of. While his work in cinematography and his love for motorcycling are well-known, fewer people have seen the full extent of his photographic work.”

Khurrumshah, Iran, 1970
Khurrumshah, Iran, 1970

The exhibition features a curated collection selected from over 20,000 photographs that Contractor had taken since he was 16. “They are mainly shot from the early 1960s until his passing. He wasn’t a classical photographer who worked for magazines. Later in life, he did some work for car and bike magazines, but his photography was more personal and reflective of his view of the world,” Shah explains.

Accompanying the exhibition is a book of the same title that provides deeper insights into Contractor’s life. “The book is not a catalogue of the exhibition but aims to bring forward aspects of Navroze’s character and his political awareness,” says Shah, adding, “It includes parts of his unpuplished autobiographical writing, media interviews, and stories about significant events in his career. There are also contributions from friends who knew him well, offering their perspectives on his work and character.”

Furthermore, the films Duvidha and Jharu Katha – highlights of Contractor’s extensive body of work – are also being screened alongside the exhibition.

(Photography Strictly Prohibited will open on July 5, 5.30pm, at the Bangalore International Centre, Domlur. Entry is free. For more details, visit bangaloreinternationalcentre.org)

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The New Indian Express