A towering temple standing at a ghat, a man washing his face in a fountain of water while few pigeons dance in the vicinity, two children jumping in a river keeping their fears aside—these are a series of vivid photographs displayed as part of Hasnain Soomar’s exhibition at Dhoomimal Gallery, Connaught Place. His work, which includes a series of evocative photographs that convey contrasting emotions, is an exploration of “memories, duality, reality, and moments of simple pleasures”.
Soomar is greatly inspired by veteran Indian photographer Raghu Rai—a pioneer of black and white photography—and uses monochromatic tones to amplify emotions he has attempted to capture through photographs. “I like the sensibilities of monochrome images. I think it expresses the theme far more effectively,” he shares. The photographs on display have been clicked before as well as amid the pandemic.
‘Meeting Point’, the exhibition title, is apt as it substantiates the idea Soomar has tried to communicate. Talking about the title, Soomar explains, “‘Meeting Point’ is about meeting your true self, and the name allows one to interpret it in different ways. In the human experience, there are a lot of other things we meet with. It is an exploration of the human experience, the spiritual world, our mind, and body; questioning an understanding of who we really are.”
Etched in memory
The first set of Soomar’s photographs showcase religious institutions—ghats, mosques, temples—that juxtaposes the emotion of seclusion with hope, thereby bringing disparate qualities together. Visual space and a balanced frame adds depth to these images, through which Soomar has managed to capture people in their natural habitat, seeking faith, and an assurance from a higher power that’s often induced in the presence of religious symbols. “The ghats, mosques, and temples are a spiritual reaction before and during the pandemic.”
One of the images from this set showcases a man performing Wazu, a cleansing ritual before offering a prayer, at a mosque. “The image addresses the present and the future, holding time in a delicate balance, creating a ‘meeting point’ between what is and what is to be,” writes Soomar in the concept note.
Clicked during the pandemic, the second set of photographs is where Soomar assumes the role of a voyeur, attempting to capture individuals through jaalis (lattices) that are integral elements of Indian architecture. According to Soomar, these jaalis symbolise the filters we use in this digital age. “The jaalis photographed in the images represent a filter we have put on during the pandemic, social media that has become a part of our daily life, and the fact that most people photograph themselves while wearing a filter,” he concludes.