A.J.Rao's Photoideas

A poet's approach to photography

Friday, April 21, 2006

The aesthetics of nature photography

The vastness of canvas available in a digital photograph adds a new dimension to appreciation of the beauty of nature in two ways :Firstly the photograph releases you from the limits of your own awareness of the environment . Secondly the digital phototograph explores the interrelationship between the different components of the picture which play on one another in a most symbiotic fashion . It is as though the tree , the grass, the lake , the paddy fields , the sky and the clouds are singing in a chorus of joyful melody. The individual components add up to the totality of the beauty in a manner that does not happen in the real world . Thus there is no rice field without the mountains, the sky, the bush, the mud track, the palm trees and the sunlight; there is no moon without the customary coconut tree. Many times we are unable to appreciate the beauty inherent in a natural scene because our senses cannot focus enough on the essential nature of things , the luminiscence that emerges from the objects of nature acting on one another.

Digital photography expands our consciousness pushing the borders of visual awareness like nothing else does. More particularly vast spaces captured in panoramic views . Normally we have only a fleeting glimpse of expanded horizons when we are on the move , that is when we are travelling by a car and we stop by on the highway . The spaces release us from our own limits of visual awareness . We have seen such vast spaces only in paintings. For the first time , after the advent of digital photography we are in a position to capture such vast spaces

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Stray images

Stray images are beautiful in themselves when they capture a single moment in human history .While photographing the ruins of a 7 th century temple near Bilaspur I came across a beautiful scene of two villagers doing a winnowing operation by the side of a village tank .The villagers improvised a two-blade fan for blowing the wind on the wheat for separating the grain from the chaff. The scene was wonderful brooking no delay in capturing the moment. A warm sunset accentuated the brilliance of the moment :

Monday, January 16, 2006

The Leaves

This broken statue of Buddha stands among the ruins at Sanchi. The smile on his lips can be seen from a distance through the leaves.Here is a poem:


Here, the man went inward and wise,
Reluctant teacher, about to enter light
The leaves about him had a faint aura
Not a pall of dust but of wisdom’s light,
The why of all including our nothing-
We who had liquid origins and trauma.
He had an answer to all our questions
But no questions to our lucent answers
His ears were long and unhearing
As were his eyes small and crinkly.
It was not he who patted his tummy
And laughed to the vulgar crowds loud
Just a yellow figurine on dusty shelves.
Did you say he had frozen in bronze
With an enormous stomach side-splitting?
Actually our fears froze behind his ears
I can hear their crunch in these leaves.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Capturing the drama of human actions

Capturing the drama of human actions Posted by Hello

The drama of human actions

The ritualistic actions of the human race provide a fascinating insight into human nature. Our attempts to capture them in art will help in perpetuating the poignancy of the moments whose meaning is very short-lived and will not last beyond those moments. While traveling in Karnataka I came upon a fascinating sight of some people performing religious ceremonies for their dead kin at a holy site of the confluence of two rivers. From the vantage of a narrow bridge I could capture the whole scene on my camera- an extremely poignant moment indeed. I have come to like the picture very much.


Then the drama continued
The words were spoken
From the guttural depths
Of a middleman’s throat
And washed by drops
Of sanctified water
The pursuit of silver
Went on in the waters
With sonorous words
Chasing multitudes of
Life-death shadows
The waters flowed silently
Over the rocks nurturing life
And its golden-brown ashes.

The photograph is given above. My poem tries to capture the moment in a similar fashion, once again bringing to focus the essential similarities in the treatment of a subject in both poetry and photography.The only difference is that the poem has been able to capture the delicious irony of the man standing in knee-deep water trying to fish for the coins dropped by the relatives of the dead.The poem counterpoises the essentially tragic moments of the relatives paying homage to the dead with the worldly actions of one of the priests trying to gather the coins from the running waters.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

The magnificent Hampi ruins Posted by Hello

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The changing motif

A.J.Rao's Photoideas
Some times , in a photograph, a perfectly strange element creeps in assuming the central role in defining the moment . I have always wanted the photograph the way I wanted – keeping the theme I had in mind as the central motif but this does not happen all the time . Sometimes an innocuous element surreptitiously enters my consciousness before I click and some times it is a post exe affair , the element not being there in the original scheme has somehow usurped the central position after I click . A similar thing happens in poetry .

The theme before I clicked was “ the red hills “- the hills being excavated for iron ore for export.

The theme after I clicked was “ the shrub“. For some unknown reason the tall shrub has assumed the central role in defining the moment.

The picture depicts the utter devastation of the hillside wrought by the greedy iron miners. May be , the shrub is the only element that stands for hope in the bleakness of the mountainscape !

My poem tries to capture the despair of the situation :


In the recent monsoon
Our rivers felt as if
The mountains had bled
From fresh wounds
Their flesh has gone,
Across the green seas,
To the distant Chinaman
To fill out his bones.

But this is not the poem where I set out to do something but landed up with a different theme. Here was another of my poems which happened out of a photograph . I tried to take a picture of the cluster of dwellings in the lower heights of the hills seen from the elevated plains where I was standing. It was a beautiful scene more particularly due to the wistfulness of the rural scenery of a tribal village . There was smoke rising up above the houses .Unknown to me the theme transformed , as I went through the creation of the poem, to death and the cremation rites of an aboriginal settlement.
Here is the poem :


Beyond the grey hills
Thick white smoke
Rose in a column .
From my vantage
My glass eyes saw
Veiled habitations
I heard voices rising
In musical supplication
As drum-beats quickened
Existence went up in smoke.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

A boy pops out of a tree on the cliff ! Posted by Hello

Surrealism in Photography

Photography of the surreal kind produces almost a similar effect as in painting and poetry . However the viewer is not usually likely to approach the object with a similar receptive frame of mind as in case of poetry or painting. Surreal images in photography are likely to be more amusing , and less critically appreciated ,on account of a bizarreness which may or may not be intended by the photographer . In the above photograph a bizarre effect is created when you look at the figure of a boy popping out of a tree on a cliff . The bizarreness is , however, not intended .

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Stray Images

Not a care in the world ! Posted by Hello

The above photograph captures a beautiful image just like a poem does. Some times we create images which are sought for their intrinsic beauty , not because they are a part of the motif of a poem . Single images , which suddenly strike you either while you are pursuing a bigger theme or even while you are going about your daily routine are beautiful in themselves and are used , much later , in a poem or a painting.

My poem on the old man sleeping in the temple goes as under :


This creature of the earth
Sleep-talks to himself
Nobody has heard him.
As the temple bells ring
The earth burns slowly
And goes up in swirls of smoke
These lights hurt him
But the smoke does not.
It is just like then
Of comforting mother-softness
Of all-around emerald aqua.
His limbs do not move.
Nor do his eyes see.
At the tunnel’s beginning
It is like what it was
When it all began.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Capturing a mood

Look at the photograph below depicting the delicious moments of a lazy afternoon on the river bank. Notice the thoroughly relaxing fame of the man sitting on the cement bench and the man on the cycle turning his face to look towards the river. The air is full of joyful inertness . The river , the man squatting on the bench, three people gossiping under the banyan tree and the man on the cycle with one leg on the cement bench - all are components in the all- pervasive luxurious feeling of not having to do anything ! In this respect the photograph is very similar to a painting .

A poem recreating a similar lazy afternoon is given below :


Yesterday evening, as on all evenings,
The banyan briefly dallied with the river
Its tiny red fruits floated on the waters
Glistening in the sun like rubies
The woman-bather, busy disentangling
Flickering stars of pieces of driftwood
From her floating amavasya-like hair
Took no notice of the fruity overtures.
The last ferry did not bring him
Nor did the five 'o clock circular train
Which disgorged people in sweaty shirts
Onto the dusty Bagh Bazar platform
The mongrel got up from its disturbed sleep
Sniffing at the coal-smell left by the train
Went back to its sleep under the cement bench.
The beggars on the river steps ate their dinner
And retired for the day on the platform
Somehow they had prior knowledge
That nobody was actually expected
On the train or by the ferry on the day
Or for that matter , on any other day.

A lazy afternoon on the river bank Posted by Hello

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Thinking in flowers Posted by Hello

The sun rises over the sea at Chennai Posted by Hello

Thinking in flowers

"At the unlit corner where awareness takes a blind turn " ,the ghosts of the past hurts some times haunt us in all their smokey whiteness.That is when we may start "thinking in flowers" , if I may use the phrase .Just think of flowers in multitudes ,on the trees, in the vases, in the florist's and everywhere else. A digital photograph you have taken recently of the bunches of flowers in the park can be imagined to produce those images on the screens of your closed eyelids.I give below my poem written in such a moment :

Sunrise and flowers

In my nights of waiting
For sunrise and flowers
I look pain in the face
I struggle to think in flowers
And rising orange suns
My night then fizzles down
With its false props to pride
At five I wake up bleary-eyed
Trying to catch beach suns
Before they turn white.

The photograph in which I captured the sunrise on the beach is given above.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Big against the Small Posted by Hello

Minimalism as an artistic device

In photography , as in poetry, minimalism can be successfully employed to convey something with starkness and without frills . A lot of course depends upon how you compose the photograph .In the above photograph I tried to pit a man-made light-bulb against the sun by eliminating all the other surrounding details .

In the following poem I have used the same technique to describe a moment in the early morning in the Grand Hotel, Kolkata .I have tried to create the moment without the usual 'haze' that a poet usually creates :


The morning crystallises
Pure and silver. At seven
The moment swells
To an iridescent event
Amid outcry of cutlery
And bone-clatter of china
Sparrow-love on the lawns
And aromatic hotel smells.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Capturing fleeting images

Like poetry , a photograph can capture fleeting images in space and can even explore their inter-relationship in a spatial situation.A photograph cannot capture their relationship across different planes of existence ,in space and time,except through the viewer's own present level of consciousness . A back-and-forth movement in time or dynamic switches between reality and fictional situations are not possible in photography.

Take a look at the following poem :

Images in a train

They lived outside the pale of my existence
Just a few images that touched the fringe
“Hello image” :Mersault addressed Marthe
Just like only one of her other lovers did
The woman here was a mere image
The way her eyes flashed at her husband
As she changed the nappies of the child
The child swung in the cloth-cradle, gently,
Like a weaver bird swings in the fibrous nest
He cried , he gurgled ,he knocked about
A mere image in another image’s existence
Mersault knew Marthe was a mere image
Flesh-and-blood Marthe did not know this
This woman did not know she was an image
Only I knew she was an image ,like Marthe.

In the above poem the characters have been invested with a certain halo which is a product of the poet's own mind. A photograph cannot produce a similar effect.

However , depending upon the state of the mind of the viewer and the sensitivity of his perception a photograph can almost reproduce a typical human situation much like a poem does and can produce almost the same effect in the viewer.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Panoramic photography

I have tried to explore an insane mind in one of my poems . I have imagined the ever-expanding consciousness of an insane woman flowing in the form of a continuously extending line from her consciousness towards the universe , going over trees , houses , mountains and into infinity.

The Insane Woman

With a cloth bundle
In her fragile arms
She looks through
Your eyes vacantly
Her eyelids fall lightly
Amid buzzing flies
The whites of her eyes
Glisten with moist laughter.
I remember her artistic
Scrawls on the walls
And the finest lyrics
Set to taut music
She had composed
In her early married days.
She made a fine home
For her husband and
An open house for visitors.
Here on the footpath
She sits hunched up
With her unwashed head
Between her drawn-up knees
Her thoughts beam
In a thin straight line over
Tall buildings and treetops,
Piercing the mountains
And onward, into the Infinity.

Scores of busy people
Go past her every minute
The dust from their vehicles
Forms a smooth layer on
Her rain-drenched face.

Expanding consciousness Posted by Hello

Freedom of the mind

A photograph of the verdant rice fields, on both sides of the highway, stretching to the distant blue mountains is an experience of freedom of the mind, of the ever-expanding consciousness in space. The beauty of the digital camera arises out of the freedom it affords to the consciousness to expand , much like the way you feel when you lie supine on a flat ground looking at the limitless space of the sky.

Look at the above photograph: