CHENNAI: The focus is not on you as a person but the other little things that make up the entire experience, a meta-reality. People take on the role of unknowing actors, revealing the fact that someone is always watching, consuming and documenting. Taking this concept forward is photographer Harsha Biswajit with his curated collection titled AlterVision — works of four photographers including his, as a part of the Biennale.
Apart from the theme, City Express caught up with him and asked him about the nature of the photos displayed — scribbles over faces, a group of different pictures of yawning men and his experience walking down the streets of Manhattan and Brooklyn among others in New York City.
Sitting on the terrace of the Forum Art Gallery, where the collection is displayed, he says, “When I looked at the dog on the street, I remembered my friend’s dog and my time with him. So you see, the picture of this dog doesn’t give you the whole experience of looking at it but new layers are uncovered in the mind. This thought led me to obscuring faces of the people. They aren’t the subject; the experience is.”
Harsha also used to doodle a lot during his school days. “They were all over my text books and rough notes. When my teachers taunted me, I would say that it helped me remember what’s where on which page. But it was all crap. I just loved to doodle faces mostly,” he smiles. We believe the lines and colours drawn on the faces of his paintings is nostalgia…Harsha revisiting his doodling days.
Getting back to the concept, he adds that the camera has evolved from being a purely mechanical tool for depicting reality into an everyday act of seeing and being seen. He wants to make people think about the way photographs are being used these days. Every moment people are watching you, through lenses or surveillance.
“Photos have replaced memories. An impression of the artist is not an actual depiction of reality but only a part of it.” For instance, about the pictures of people yawning, he explains, “Anyone is bound to find people yawning in the subway. I waited for them to yawn and when they reach the peak, I would click. It’s funny, yes, but it just gives you a slice of the whole yawn. Life is like that; an image only captures a moment of the entire experience.”
Taking the conversation to a lighter note, he says, “They never got a chance to react when I shot them yawning. I’d click and walk away. It was a different story in Kodaikkanal when I tried to take a picture of a group of women carrying sticks, they started yelling at me. In Chennai, I was walking on the pavement from Boat Club to Mylapore. The pavement vendors would scream and ask me to walk on the street.” Laughing, he told us that he always carries a camera wherever he goes.
When did he fall in love with this art? Harsha was born in Chennai and lived 18 years here before moving to London and NYC for higher studies. It was in the Big Apple he found his bliss. “It was through a professor who was a documentary photographer himself. He taught me for four months and since then I’ve never put the camera down,” he says.
To check AlterVision, visit Forum Art Gallery, Adyar. For details, call 42115596.