What an engaging evening! Prashant Panjiar

by Samar S Jodha

What an engaging evening!  Prashant Panjiar launched his book with a perfect combo of Shekhar Gupta walking us through not just the images but the times they both were out there making the reporting. 
From hanging out with the Mujahideens while dodging bullets from the Soviets in Afghanistan, frozen on a bridge on top of the Tigris River while the Americans were bombing from above, reporting through the collapsing of the USSR while running through the Eastern block in Sri Lanka on its peak of conflict or closer home in Punjab facing Bhindranwale and his parallel country, to bringing down of the Babri Masjid with Advani, which turned the political climate of this country. One could sit through and hear the contemporary socio/political/cultural history in the making of today’s India.
These were the days at the peak of print media. The editors, writers, and photographers brought the experience to you and not the loudmouth hyper television studios of today.  
The book “The Which Is Unseen” is not your conventional photojournalist’s body of work. It’s beyond just layered photo pages after pages, but the stories and personal experiences of the making of these fabulous imageries. 
As many of us know, any day, Prashant’s work speaks volumes and volumes more than he does. But his crazy nerve wreaking anecdotes and photojournalist career is a documentary film. 
These are the kind of warriors who not only risk themselves in the middle of various conflicts, but they have lived to tell the story. Having dealt with both sides of the opposing parties, they didn’t suffer from cynicism. The pragmatic spirit keeps them passing the storytelling to the next generations of this profession.  
And that is why I believe, on top of the photography pyramid, sits the Nobel profession of photojournalism, and Prashant very much belongs there! 
If you are at the Museo, grab a signed copy! Thanks, Museo camera. Centre for the Photographic Arts for such an engaging evening!


by Samar S Jodha

Viewer Discretion: Nudity

Having worked in fashion photography at the start of my career led to one clear understanding. It’s mostly about selling perception, vanity and other self-image projection. Once I met a designer in Milano, and she put it perfectly, “When you walk into a room full of people and knowing you want to be the center of attention, and that first impression, where your individuality is everything (I say like an elevator pitch), And this is where the brands/fashion comes in, and the Italians have cracked it the best.”

So there came a time I felt shooting frocks was just not my bag. But I was very fortunate to have worked with designers who gave me the more significant meaning of clothes (ok, we can call it fashion), the education on weavers, traditional crafts and the larger ethos of that ‘fashion’ would come through. This learning even ended up with a textile book with Christie’s. But what always fascinated me was the human shape, the originality. The all kinds of shapes (not limited to size zero), flaws (to some), ageing bodies (part of life) and most importantly, is not living under the influence of photoshop and post production (pitfall in fashion photography for most). The raw and the uncooked is indeed the original cool. And we celebrate this with our lover/s, friends or even the self in the mirror.

Over the past three decades, I have been celebrating this idea of picture making with my friends, lovers or even professionally for women who wanna document themselves for posterity.

I believe this is the space away from that world of fashion and perception where a person’ confidence doesn’t need to ride a brand.

Fashion trends come and go faster than one can blink. But the natural us stays, grows and evolves on the path of life. It’s the non-judgmental space of life. And that is the ultimate signature of our individuality, the true freedom to celebrate self

The Analogue Days Of Photography

by Samar S Jodha

The Film Camera: 

The Principal was to observe, absorb and then hit the shutter. No carpet bombing /No screen/No instant gratification.

Darkroom Printing:

No assembly line looking/digital spitting prints cause there was human intervention while printing in the darkroom. The more one mastered the printing process, the better one managed to standardise the print quality.

Films and printmaking were not affordable, so you put a lot of thought before indulging in the darkroom set-up process (unless it was a paid gig or your daddy was rich)

The smell of chemicals in the darkroom, the emerging image in the developing tray and the tones settling in as the print dried had the unique pleasure of anticipation and the joys of Slow Photography.

Folks obsessed with printing could disappear into this space forever, living into infinity. The engagement of self or mindfulness in the world of analogue photography!

Photography & The Real Heroes

by Samar S Jodha

To me, photography practice is like a pyramid—nothing to do with what is more or less creative. So the way it goes, the most significant amount of professionals are passport, school-student photographers, above sits weddings, then comes travel ones, on top sits commercial & advertising, followed by a lesser number of professionals in the field of personal, documentary and artistic narrators. And above all sits photojournalism, who I have tremendous respect for, But what I think is at the pinnacle of this pyramid are the professionals who work in conflict zones. What we call the “war photographers.” They are the brave ones; they risk their lives, knowing very well that a bullet or a bomb blast is waiting for them. Also, let’s not forget, they are photographers and not combat trained for any of these situations. And to get that image, they are in line of fire between the two warring parties. They don’t do pictures that can be rescued/ saved/ retouched in the comfort of a photoshop studio. They are driven by courage and grit in these dangerous situations. In our non combat world, documentaries and Hollywood movies are made on these fearless men & women.One such person was Danish Siddiqui (not a pal other than connected on social media). His work leads him into hotspots of conflicts across South Asia; the work on the Rohingya refuge crises even got him the Pulitzer.Unfortunately, yesterday he took that bullet, and we lost him in Afghanistan. But this man not only leaves precious work behind but will inspire generations of young photojournalists into the future of this profession.It’s beyond words for the vacuum he leaves behind for his wife and children, his friends, professional associates and countless people he inspired through his photographs Thank you, Danish for the courage you represent, the compassion you always carried and for telling us such powerful stories driven by your pure passion!

Our Salute!



Website: https://www.danishsiddiqui.net/

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danish_Siddiqui .

Olympics and Activism Art

by Samar S Jodha

Bhopal-A Silent Picture

Two Olympics back, in 2012, London was hosting the summer games, with DOW chemicals as their sponsor, yes, the owners of Union Carbide, the MNC with blood on their hands of thousands in that chemical poisoning. The “all is well” brands are very good at Profits from all but Responsibility towards none.

The first challenge was that it was March/4, months before the games opened. London was under a high-security alert with planning/permits already in place. And I wanted to arrive with the Bhopal project with no location plans during the biggest show on the planet.

The second challenge was there was no way we could build this enormous container in India and put it on a ship for its timely arrival into London, and sail it through various security apparatus.

The first step, the super Divya Thakur, as the designer steps in (who had earlier designed the India showings), we set off to create the experience of that cold Dec. night of 1984. Fabricate a 40′ container, a metaphoric train journey with a sound piece, smoke machine, single degree temp to match that night and names/tribute to the thousands who died on that dreadful night.

While sitting in Dubai, struggling with budgets, fabrication, location, permissions/security clearances, logistical issues etc., I get a call from Amnesty International out of London (a journalist friend John Elliott had ref/reported this project on BBC) wanting to know if they could host the showing (but with a low budget)

So, where is the money for this big gig in the sky? My stretched $s were short of a make-or-break situation. There walks in another gem of a human being, Raza Beig (who runs more than a successful fashion brand, is a significant collector of art and a prominent philanthropist), with an open chequebook to take care of this venture should happen.

The next task, buy a 40′ container in London and store & insured (liability issues are critical in that part of the world) plus the contracts and the legal paperwork. And in comes Suzanne Alexander, who puts on her “Can Do” hat and makes sure no glitches and logistics run seamlessly.

Meanwhile, in Rochester, with all the designs/drawings by Divya, we set off a customised fabrication at an industrial design outfit. Also, with the capacity to handle crowds (so far in Asia/Europe/ US, we have clicked in over 250K walkthroughs)

Finally, Amnesty launched Bhopal-A Silent Picture/installation art project in London, with all their fanfare (prominent environmentalist activists, including Bianca Jagger, show up)

Post the show; one can’t pack up this gorilla and put it under the bed. So, after each show, it goes to a storage yard (with painful rental costs/insurance) But each time, hoping to take it to the next gathering, so when one has the $£€, ship it across oceans (Houston photo Biennale 2018), & at times miss a few like the Tokyo Olympics.

Bhopal is not some forgotten suffering but a reminder that daily BHOPALs are happening globally. Corporates and their lobbies in the public policy space are destroying not only the human lives/future of our children but also our planet’s fragile environment. Plus, throw in the hyper-consumption habits.

Personally, Bhopal is also about what can one do with the art practice, both for creativity (not art for art’s sake but a more significant social change/advocacy) And a voice (if one has discovered) you want to amplify in forums where you take the message to people on the street (why we love public art) and not limit oneself in a white cube gallery syndrome.

The most significant takeaway, your biz, talent, and ability to earn can get you the name, money, fame, or a slab of posterity when you are six feet under, but what will keep it shining is how you lived through the NOW.

I have been fortunate to have some seriously moneyed/collecter friends with wealth beyond ordinary imagination. And then I also have some superbly talented friends who are beyond billing their talent. What is impressive is some of them have always extended the above to my causes. They are the NOWs. They believe their money or talent can make a significant difference on issues I work on (at times, I am their personal CSR). My biggest gratitude to all of them.

Each of you is my Olympic Hero