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In Search Of Cohesion

Pamela Philipose

By Deepak Nayyar
Roli Books, Delhi, 2015, pp. 160, Rs. 1495.00

VOLUME XXXIX NUMBER 9 September 2015

This book is rife with curiosities—like this image of a smiling dog keeping company with four men, all fashioned out of stone; a Mandrake like figure poring over The Times London with his hat sitting jauntily on the blank space where his head should have been; or the voluptuous beauty of a protea neriifolia growing in a Cape Town botanical garden. Yet none of these oddities evoke half as much interest as the existence of the book itself. What drives an internationally known economist and the author of some 15 well-considered works within his discipline, wish to venture into a space now being increasingly peopled by anyone with a smartphone and a Facebook account and author a volume of photographs? Nayyar anticipates the question and offers an explanation. The desire to get others to see the world as one has seen it was an obvious motivating factor. ‘Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still’, as American photographer Dorothea Lange, whose black and white images told the story of the Great Depression, once observed. In this instance, it is not so much about what one sees, but the way one sees it that becomes important. There were other motivations too for Nayyar—among them the allure of being the amateur pursuing what is essentially a pastime in a world that is fixated on specialization and professional-ization. The schoolboy of 1958 with an Agfa box camera graduated in time to a Coigtlander compact 35 mm camera. As an undergraduate in Oxford in 1968, Nayyar purchased for himself a sturdy, German made Praktica LTL#(2.8/50) and from then on there was steady upgradation. In time the digital era asserted itself and the photographer had to, albeit reluctantly at first, graduate to a Canon G10 (14.7 megapixels) in 2008. But the world is hardly interested in the photographer’s tools; it is what the tools produce that is of the essence. An engagement of 50 years that had the world as a backdrop—only a third of the photographs in this collection focus on India and Indians— is bound to yield a rich harvest of images. Nayyar confesses in his preface that selecting the 160 images that finally made it into Faces and Places, turned out to be a ‘difficult and time consuming process…not just in terms of the quality of photographs, but in terms of choosing themes and finding cohesion’. Did he succeed in ...

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