Walking down the streets of Chennai, watching life as it passes by, and using his camera to capture those precise moments are one of the few things that he lives for. Advertising-turned-documentary photographer Sudarshan Chari has brought two collections of his photographs to the Chennai Photo Biennale – ‘Beyonder’ and ‘The Observations of a Time Traveller’.
The blurry images of buildings and the moving presence of human beings meeting in life represent Beyonder. The pictures may appear to be Photoshopped or layered with many shots into one, but no, it is a single shot. What do the images say? “We’re all just the wandering souls, connected to each other by an aura or energy – the kind that a lot of yogis are able to see and sense. This is my attempt to capture the effect,” says Sudarshan who would visit Marina Beach every evening with his camera, taking shots of people taking selfies or cops chasing away the daredevil swimmers.
Sudarshan was into advertising photography for 10 years before he realised that it didn’t make him happy. “I felt disillusioned and disconnected from the photographic process. I felt that if I had to take my camera out again, it had to go beyond just arranging and capturing elements through the viewfinder of my camera,” he frowns. “Then, I found myself spending time on the streets of Chennai, in an effort to engage with the ordinary, to discover the bustling magic of everyday life. I would seek out situations and people that would help me resolve this conflict in me. It made me understand the happiness of the under-privileged without the comforts of technology. It was amazing.”
This brings us to his second collection, The Observations of a Time Traveller. Sudarshan says, “Aren’t there times when we try something for the first time but do it almost effortlessly? Here, I’m referring to all of us, as time travellers, who travel through space and time recording incidents and experiences. Those are connected in a universal consciousness in the form of an energy. I’m trying to showcase that through my camera.” Confused? “Twenty or 100 years down the line, when people look at the images, they will get an idea of how life was in Chennai. We are the time travellers who share our experiences with someone else through a universal consciousness (or in this case, the photographs),” he elaborates.
Born in Bhopal, Sudarshan has been in Chennai since 1988. He turned to documentary photography three years ago and in time, he hopes to translate his work into a living document that would provide a socio-cultural commentary of our city.