CHENNAI: Despite being a part of the same city, North Chennai carries with it the weight of violence, pollution and marginalisation unlike its southern counterpart. But there is also much beauty and historical significance here that stays privy to people due to the preceding reputation.
Perhaps, it is time that the image of North Chennai be formed by the insiders. Carrying this mission forward, Chennai Climate Action Group, Zenith Learning Centre, and Coastal Resource Centre are hosting a photography exhibition ‘Reframed: North Chennai through the lens of young residents’ to portray the city in themes of work, play, joy and mourning.
Ranging from age 14 to 22, six students of Zenith Learning Centre were taken under the wing of M Palanikumar of People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI), who taught them the craft for six months. “We wanted to work with schoolchildren and college-going students from that area, who can depict the lifestyle, livelihood, and also, the disappointments. This way, they’d be also documenting their lives along with learning photography. People generally have an opinion of places and people (as they do of North Chennai) and this would be an attempt to reframe that,” shares Benisha BM from the organising team.
And thus, the participants spent four months in the scapes of Ennore-Manali, as well as the rustic beauty of Ennore-Pulicat wetlands to capture memorable emotions and scenes, and tell stories through images.
While the workshop seemed like any other in the beginning, students have come out the other side with more than just the skills to operate a DSLR. “They said they would teach us how to take a photograph and handle a camera, but all that was taught in a few hours. Throughout the workshop, we learned how to communicate with people, project emotions and tell a story through photographs; how to go beyond photography and look at the issues,” shares 21-year-old G
Logeshwaran, a participant whose works will be a part of the 50 chosen photographs, taken by the young photographers since they first got their cameras in July 2021, on display at the venue.
But, while Palanikumar may have taught them new perspectives to analyse and capture things, the end photographs are completely credited to the students. “I know how to shoot in Ennore, the many problems it has. They are portraying stories from there and doing it well. They do it their way. I may help with the basics and some corrections, but they shoot the issues like they want to, and since, these are issues they have grown up seeing, it is easy for them to convey them,” notes Palanikumar, urging people to visit the exhibition and follow the issues and stories they present of these important lands.
Logeshwaran promises a memorable experience. “When you mention the beauty of North Chennai, people always say there is none, only buildings and pollution. But we have shown the beauty, the smile amid the pain, the working class and the sustaining hard work,” he notes. The exhibition will be held at The Folly, Amethyst, on February 4 and 5, from 10 am to 6 pm.