The heritage sites have been talked about, the statues and mementos have been written to death, the history of Madras has been dissected to its final thread. But Ramaswamy, in his 1,700-odd collection of photos, posted each a day, brings out the city in its crudest form, having the frames capture the common man, the narrow streets and the slightest of bustle.
From being warned against taking photos of a temple on the Bricklin Road, to being confronted for clicking his picture by one of the priests, all his photos have an interesting story behind. “Once I was followed all the way from Gandhi Mandapam to Madhya Kailash by a drunk who wanted to have his picture clicked,” he says with a laugh. One of his pictures that was flooded with reviews was that of King George V with a broken nose, at Panangal Park.
Posted on an Independence Day, he had captioned it ‘nose cut,’ taking a dig at the retract of the British Rule in India. Now, the statue has been replaced with that of Thyagaraja. Another picture of the Statue of Labour on the Marina, was used by researchers from the Tata Institute of Labour Science in their study about its history. Yet another picture of boards nailed on to the trees, taken at Pallavan House on Anna Salai, was used by the NGO Nizhal for their campaign to save trees.
Unlike many who buy a camera stung by an interest in photography, Ramaswamy developed the interest after he got a camera in 2008.
“I wanted to do something with it. So I started posting a photo a day. I did not realise that five years have gone past!” he says.
Started in May 2008, his blog, Dailyphoto Chennai, stays up to date. “I would have missed a few days due to work pressure, domestic issues or travel,” says the 40-year-old self-trained photographer. With 1,571 followers currently, the absence of a day’s photo has people enquiring him about his health.
An administrator for a few Chennai Photowalk groups, Ramaswamy says he chooses a street on a weekend and clicks a lot of pictures. From this collection, he releases one photo a day. When he is not wandering around with a Nikon around his neck, he works as a HR consultant with a high resolution mobile camera in his pocket.
While he doesn’t foray much into history, he feels that it is something which is intertwined with every part of the city. “Take a walk and you will see a modern cafe outlet on one side and a Mariamman Thiruvizha happening on the other,” says Ramaswamy, who compares Chennai to an ‘accommodative grandmother.’ Fascinated by the wrong English on shop boards and the street names ‘which could make the Englishmen turn in their graves,’ a bunch of pictures on his blog can get you laughing out loud.
Every frame clicked by Ramaswamy has a tidbit accompanying it. There is this picture of Queen Elizabeth with the then TN Chief Minister K Kamaraj, taken at the the Bosotto Brothers Bakery on Anna Salai.
The excited cashier at the cake shop had pointed this out to him. Yet another is of the D’Angelis Hotel which is now a Bata showroom on Anna Salai. The hotel, as he puts it in the blog, was where Douglas Jardine, known for his bodyline bowling to Don Bradman, had stayed during his visit to Chennai.
The hotel was also the first one to have an electric lift in the city, he says. The photo of the CMDA building, known as the ‘Thalamuthu Natarajan’ building, also has an interesting piece of information — that Thalamuthu and Natarajan are names of two anti-Hindi protestors. Ramaswamy is also part of the International blogging forum, citydaily photo, which has people from 140 cities participating in it. This, he says, also helps propagate ease of access for those visiting the city. Like one of his blog followers from the US, who was physically handicapped, came to know about Chennai’s lifestyle, traffic and the roads through Ramaswamy’s blog before coming to Chennai, or Nehul Kamdar, a Chennai-born Canadian, who tells Ramaswamy that he lives the city through the photos. “Now Nehul wants me to exhibit my works in Ontario next year,” Ramaswamy says .Guess it’s time for him to capture a bit of his glory as well.