water water everywhere

March 19, 2010


Numerologists must be laughing all the way to the counter. After SMS has truncated and de-grammerised the way people communicate, language has become a series of numerals and disturbingly Americanized, 24×7, 9/11, 7/11, 26/7.

The show on at the Piramal Gallery curated by Fawzan Husain is called Mumbai 26/7.

Isn’t it bad enough that most photographers talk numerals, f8, F50, 1/125, 400 ISO, 3200K! The 40 or so photographers whose work in on display hopefully speak a thousand words give or take a few more for the captions.

You would expect to see images showing a lot of water given that the monsoon that year decided to out perform its 100-year-old history and precipitate 954 inches in a day and you perhaps wont be disappointed. There is water on the tracks, water in people’s homes, streets and flowing unceremoniously onto and out of spaces where it has no business to be there in such quantities.

But the most amazing fact is that photographers were there. When such a spectacular photo opportunity presents itself most sane and well mannered photographers might want to protect their expensive equipment against the biggest enemy of fine optics and electronics, moisture, and wrap their precious Nikons and Canons in silica gel and curl up with a stiff drink, that they were out there given the fact that all transportation came to a liquid halt, and making images that are at least documentary is nothing short of wonderful. Happy of course that news agencies provide the equipment and the insurance, there were the odd free lancers taking the bigger risks.

Some of the images make you wonder about serendipity or is it that chance favours the prepared mind. Nitin Sonawane – Economic Times has a beautiful shot of Rukhmini Mankar stranded in a train at CST with her new born child after having just been discharged from the Cama and Albess hospital. Sweet photo to have in your baby scrapbook.

Mandar Deodhar – Bombay Times, has a spectacularly sharp, monochromatic image near Nilje station  of the tracks submerged on the Konkan Railway that looks like an etching.

Soumik Kar – Business Today has an image that could not escape the irony of the day with the commissioner of police A. N. Roy sitting heroically dry in an inflatable dingy while his flunkies in wet suits and other locals in very sodden tee shirts waded waist deep, pulling his survey craft through the deluge. After the comedy you begin to wonder where Soumik was to make that shot.

There are some awesome compositions in all that misery of loss of persons and property, Santosh Harare – Hindustan Times, has a beautiful shot of the residents of Diva recovering from the deluge that had their homes completely submerged. You wonder at the decisive moment or was it great art direction. There is a lot going on in the frame.

There is a ghastly/wonderful photograph of a gangrenous hand emerging out of the wet with a reflection of a man and a bus. What is going on outside the frame is suggestive and intriguing.

There are dead persons, live persons, dead buffaloes, dead transport while Neeraj Priyadarshini – Indian Express has a decapitated man pushing his bicycle laden with bedraggled chickens through a Venice like street.

And of course there is always someone who is going to make ‘vasool’ while the rain pours, a person leaping into the ad hoc swimming pool that just got constructed on the busy thoroughfare was captured in a wonderful 1/250th splash.

The images have their own stories, sometimes the captions are the only way of knowing what is going on. And on the demographic front it is perhaps noteworthy that there was a 1:39 ratio of women photographers out there.