This series is the final part of Abul Kalam Azad’s digital and analogue amalgamation works that started as an experiment during his higher studies in France, 1994-95.
Three Lovers is the final part of Abul Kalam Azad’s digital and analogue amalgamation works that started as an experiment during his higher studies in France 1994-95, which eventually became a singular style that he used for almost fifteen years. Before he left to France, he had already made up his mind to quit photojournalism. His brief, yet intense, career with journalistic media, albeit being successful, was frustrating in the sense that it shattered his dream of sharing the world the “truth”, which is what inspired him to choose photography in the first place. It was in the light of this experience that he started working differently with photographs – drawing, scratching, doodling, double/multiple exposure, and other multi-media works – manipulations that intended to question the hidden manipulations of published images and their projected absolute reality/authenticity.
With his exposure to digital photography, these manipulations became complex and intense. His popular series from this genre includes Cine cést ne', Untouchables, Digital Moon, Senti-Mental, Red Room, Political Portraits etc. The major thrust in all these works is an urge to re-work, either on an old photographic print that he collected from his family album or old studios, or on an analogue photograph that he had shot few years earlier. Each series addressed issues of micro-history, identity, politics, and eroticism, and in it contained several layers of violations and re-presentations that demands further reading and re-reading.
It was this set of experimental works done between 1995 and 2010, which makes it difficult to limit Abul within the pre-established categorizations. As far as contemporary photography terminologies are concerned, there is only a thin difference between illustrative, journalistic works that are commissioned by magazines/news agencies and independent social documentary works – both being passed off as works of art.
Thus far, there is no special categorization for photographers who make their manipulations visible – manually or digitally. Furthermore, Abul’s works zig-zags – the series of works (Frontier people; Landmarks of my memories, etc.) done before Divine Façade, which marked the beginning of this genre of visibly manipulated images, and after Three Lovers, which marked the end of this genre, (My anger and Other Stories; War, Wedding, Widows; ‘Men of Pukar’ etc) are monochrome-image series with autobiographical and social documentary undertones.
Irrespective of the use of techniques and modalities in execution, Abul’s works are fundamentally autobiographical – being an independent practitioner free from the demands of the corporate world, his focus is on his immediate surroundings – social, political, and personal. He shoots only that which is familiar to him, and it is this familiarity that differentiates these images fromthe exotic images andmakes it easy to connect with his images. His photographs unsettle the viewer, with its probing gaze and multi-layered polity. When it comes to a deeply personal autobiographical work, the intensity becomes multifold.
The beauty of a photograph lies in its quality of immortalizing a fleeting moment. Etched in it will linger shared moments of love, forever. Three Lovers, similar in visual conception to theSenti-mental series (2005-2010), is an autobiographical work concerned with re-looking at the intimate moments of his own personal life. In this body of work, analog photographs and Polaroid images from his own personal album, taken between 1990 and 2009,become mirror images of that time, space, and memory. Done in 2010, when he was going through a groundbreaking change in his personal life, Three Lovers marks the end of a phase of his personal and professional life.
The photographed moments from distant and recent pasts, edited and re-created, tell the tale of love and separation, of joy and pain, of happiness and sadness. It is as if the photographer is on a trip to the memorable terrains of his subconscious mind, discarding the painful and retaining the lovable – an exercise he was going through externally as well, while packing his belongings before he left Mattancherry for good, where his Studio Mayalokam was situated for almost a decade.
Abul Kalam Azad | Modern Pigment Prints
Tulsi Swarna Lakshmi, Curator, EtP
Gautham Ramachandran, Associate Curator, EtP
Arjun Ramachandran, Associate Curator, EtP
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