Posts Tagged ‘T.S. Nagarajan’

Dayanita Singh’s #1 tip for young photographers

12 November 2013

The photographer Dayanita Singh in conversation with Shougat Dasgupta of Tehelka:

What also may appear archaic to young photographers is your insistence on reading. You advise photographers to take a course in literature rather than photography…

I don’t think there’s anything to go to photo school for. I could teach you how to make a photograph in two days. Where does that leave photography? So I say to young people, what you need to become is the author of your work.

How do you find your voice? Literature shows you something about life. The family portraits I could have taken had I known William Shakespeare when I took them. Who understands jealousy, betrayal, treachery, all these human emotions that are so much part of family life, better than Shakespeare?

A comparative literature course is a great one for anyone interested in photography. You can study how Italo Calvino finds a new form for every work; how Geoff Dyer completely takes the idea of the novel apart and stitches it back together, how he has the courage to write a book [Out of Sheer Rage] about a book that never gets written; how Michael Ondaatje knows just when to stop, to keep you guessing.

When I read [Dyer’s] Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi, I was on a grant from Harvard to photograph ‘social issues’. It was a lot of money and very prestigious and it was a trap. I took the photographs I thought Harvard wanted during the day, and photos for myself at night. I was obsessed with this hallucinogenic colour of Calcutta at night. I learned from Dyer how you can weave together two different books and complicate both.

Photography: courtesy Arts Collaboratory

Read the full interview: Dayanita Singh

Also read: Raghu Rai on photography

T.S. Satyan on photography

Prashant Panjiar on photography

T.S. Nagarajan on photography

From Our Staff Correspondent: R.K. Narayan

8 June 2011

On the 10th anniversary of his death, The Guardian, London, has a long piece on the legendary creator of the fictional town of Malgudi, R.K. Narayan, who did a short stint as the Mysoe correspondent of the Madras newspaper, The Justice:

“After graduating in 1930 from the Maharaja’s College – prototype of the Albert Mission College in Bachelor of Arts – Narayan decided to “throw [himself] full-time into this gamble of a writer’s life”.

“In his memoir, he recalls with affection his first typewriter – an “elephantine” Smith Premier 10, which had separate keys for upper and lower cases, and which he had to sell to a shopkeeper to pay an overdue bill for sweets and cigarettes.

“One of his first professional assignments was as the Mysore correspondent of a Madras newspaper, the Justice.

“All morning he “went out news-hunting” in the bazaar and the law courts and police stations, gathering everything from crime stories to gymkhana results. At 1pm he returned home, “bolted down a lunch”, typed up his report, “and rushed it to the Chamarajapuram post office before the postal clearance at 2:20pm”.

“He aimed to produce “ten inches of news” a day, at a rate of about 15 annas an inch, but “thanks to the news editor’s talent for abridgement” his earnings were minimal.

“Though he dismissed this work as “a little bit of pot-boiling”, one can see that the news-hunting Mysore stringer is an important forerunner of the chronicler of Malgudi – an ambulant, inquisitive figure, “going hither and thither”, his antennae tuned for stories.”

Read the full tribute: Rereading: R.K. Narayan

Illustration: courtesy R.K. Laxman/ The Tribune, Chandigarh

Also read: R.K. Narayan on Mysore

Ved Mehta on a day in the life of R.K. Narayan

T.S. NAGARAJAN: The R.K. Narayan only I knew

T.S. SATYAN: The R.K. Narayan only I knew

R.S. KRISHNASWAMY: A day in the life of R.K. Narayan

CHETAN KRISHNASWAMY: As Mysorean as Mysore pak, Mysore mallige

‘I thought she would live forever': A love story

21 February 2010

For reasons they (we) know all too well, journalists’ marriages have (generally) become the byword for short, rocky, if not wholly unhappy, relationships.

Not so, T.S. Nagarajan‘s.

The renowned photographer, master of the black-and-white form, was happily married to wife Meenakshi for a full 50 years till two Decembers ago.

In his privately published book ‘A Pearl of Water on a Lotus Leaf & Other Memories‘, Nagarajan describes living her, loving her and then losing her.

***

Photograph: “The very first picture I took of Meenakshi after our wedding. It was done on the lawns of Rajghat in Delhi. She was trying to give me the good news that she was carrying a baby!” (courtesy T.S. Nagarajan)

Click here for the full story: ‘I thought she would live forever’

5 photography tips from ace lensman Raghu Rai

9 May 2009

Master-photographer Raghu Rai, who was nominated by Henri Cartier-Bresson to join Magnum, in conversation with ASRP Mukesh in The Pioneer, on his entry into photography and what it takes to be a good lensman:

# “Skills are never taught, they are acquired. I can give you a camera, but can’t feed your vision.”

# “Photography is a strguggle to respond to the situation and realise its importance. Death and life don’t wait for anyone. One has to understand this hidden meaning before picking up a camera.”

# “Non-professional photographers should begin clicking portraints as it teaches them to connect with emotions better than juggling between doing overambitious pictures.”

# “If your mind is not connected to what you are shooting then you are not a good photographer.”

# “A creative photographer is one who either captures mystery or reveals things, everything else is useless.”

Photograph: courtesy Magnum

Also read: Raghu Rai‘s Magnum photo gallery

T.S. Satyan on photography

Prashant Panjiar on photography

T.S. Nagarajan on photography

‘The camera, like the brush, is just a tool of art’

22 October 2008

T.S. NAGARAJAN writes from Bangalore: Spencer Tunick is a New York photographer who prefers to be seen as an artist, not a photographer. He convinced 18,000 Mexicans to take their clothes off for him. The volunteers posed for Tunick at the Zacalo square in Mexico City on a Sunday morning, last year.

“I just create shapes and forms with human bodies. It’s an abstraction, it’s a performance, it’s an installation.” he says.

He has photographed over 75 similar installations in which hundreds of people posed in the nude in artistic formations at various locations all over the world. He calls his work “flesh architecture”. Though his images are both technically sound and even striking, most critics have ignored him.

Here’s a photographer who is prepared to go to any extent, even convincing a mass of people to strip in public, for his picture, just to acquire the label ‘artist’.  It is this unholy dalliance with art that has made the world treat photography as its poor relation.

Spencer Tunick and those of his ilk don’t realise that the camera-brush relationship is a myth.

Ever since the day it was born, photography got entangled with art. Daguerre discovered photography as a substitute to drawing, a kind of a short-cut to art. It became instantly popular because the technique made it possible for everyone to create art and with much less effort.

He never imagined that photography would be seen as a competitor to art and even treated as a stepchild of the art world.

Over the years, many have attempted to reduce the difference between the painter and the photographer to almost nothing. They say camera is an instrument that the photographer uses to create his images while the painter uses the fur of the sable as his brush to paint.

This is indeed an over simplification.

There can’t be two objects so unlike each other.

Neither the camera nor the brush creates art. Both are just tools. The camera, unlike the brush, is a complex pile of metal, glass and electronics. Hundreds of people may use the same camera but few would produce worthwhile pictures. Even today, I’m almost certain that there are fewer good photographers than painters. The reason is simple. The instrument does not do the entire thing.

Is photography art?

The controversy aroused by this foolish question has been going on for several decades. The first time an attempt was made to question the status of photography was in 1862 when a French photographer sought a legal definition by taking another photographer to court for using his photographs.

The French court ruled that only art could be copyrighted, and since photography was not art, it was not subject to copyright laws. But this decision was happily overturned on appeal and photographers were permitted to copyright their work.

Discussions are endless only concerning the camera, a machine in the hands of the photographer—not the marvellous things the machine is made to do by the photographer. Whenever this question about photography is discussed among photographers, painters and art critics, three distinct views come up for discussion.

The first view is that the camera is a lifeless object with no inspiration of its own. The second is that Photography is not art because it is produced by a machine using a chemical process.  The third argument is that photography is at best an aid to art because it is similar to lithography and etching.

As far as the actual image is concerned, photography is an instantaneous process.

Edward Steichen put it well when he said:

“The photographer is served by a technique differing completely from that practiced by the painter, who begins with a blank surface and then by more or less complicated procedures, always under complete control, is able to achieve a growth and a realization of his concept. The photographer begins with a completed image; and compared with the painter the controls available to him are hardly worth the mention.”

Those who compare photographs with paintings ignore this basic difference. But it is possible that there can be art which is not photography and photography which is also art.

In recent years, the prestige of photography has suffered because of modern technology which has given a new tool, a kind of a super camera, in the hands of photographers (and even to those who are not serious practitioners) called ‘digital manipulation’ using latest softwares on a computer. This has certainly damaged the integrity of photography and moved it further away from art.

Though this development has influenced the art world too, but the influence is more in the area where art works are used for promoting easy and effective communication as in advertising. The work of artists in its purest form still remains largely untouched by technology.

It is not clear what direction photography will take after the invasion of digital technology into its world. There is an opinion that digitisation has made photography more of an art than ever. But what is certain is that it has democratized photography by giving everyone numerous ways to express vision. But some, especially the old practitioners, feel that in the process photography has “lost  its soul”.

It seems to me that it is time photographers distanced themselves from this unending debate of whether photography is art and thought themselves as privileged practitioners of an extraordinary process which  rides on high technology. All the arguments in its favour or against are futile; nothing more than piled up verbiage leading everyone to an useless dead-end.

Photographers should not foolishly get caught up in this fatuous debate about art and photography. This is a piece of intellectual debris. The photographer’s goal should be to look at life by an honest use of the camera and produce inspiring images that record or reflect its various aspects with thought, understanding and sympathy, and enjoy the process of creativity.

Photography is not art like say painting or poetry. It is an enterprise of another order. It does not belong to the realm of art. The photographer need make no apologies for his profession. The camera is only a versatile instrument which “teaches people how to see”.

Photograph: courtesy Laughing Squid

T.S. NAGARAJAN: The Sharada Prasad only I knew

4 September 2008

'A man of few words who was a master of words'

More than a few people have been intrigued by sans serif‘s description of H.Y. Sharada Prasad as the ultimate exemplar of the “Mysore School of Writing“—not too light, not too heavy. And the questions have come flying at us: Is there really such a thing as “Mysore School of Writing”, like the Mysore School of Dance or the Mysore School of Yoga? Has any scholar done some research on such writing? Why the double-quote marks? Who are the other practitioners? Etcetera.

We named R.K. Narayan, R.K. Laxman, and T.S. Satyan as good examples of the “Mysore School of Writing”. We could have added other luminaries like Raja Ramanna, M.N. Srinivas, and A.K. Ramanujan.

And T.S. Satyan’s brother, T.S. Nagarajan.

A former photographic officer in the photo division of the government of India—a job that saw him work closely with Sharada Prasad on Yojana mgazine—Nagarajan is best known as (probably) the only chronicler of the interiors of turn-of-the-century houses.

In this sans serif exclusive, Nagarajan remembers his days with “Shourie”.

***

By T.S. NAGARAJAN

While I was in Mysore, after my graduation, waiting to find my feet in life, I met H.Y. Sharada Prasad for the first time when he came to our home in Saraswathipuram to visit the family and especially to meet my mother whom he liked and respected.

He was dressed in khadi kurta and pyjama with a jacket to match and wore Kolhapuri chappals.

I had not yet taken to photography and journalism and so he didn’t interest me much. But I liked the way he talked and looked—like a bright young Gandhian. He measured his words when he spoke and gave brief answers to my mother’s queries as he enjoyed the the cup of tea that she made for him.

I didn’t know that after a few years, I would have the opportunity to work with him.

Sharada Prasad succeeded Khushwant Singh as the chief editor of Yojana, the journal of the Planning Commission.  By then, I had joined the journal as its photographer. Yojana was already two years old. My colleagues and I wondered whether the new editor could adequately fit into Khushwant’s place and make a success of the journal.

The bigger worry was whether Sharada Prasad with his reputation as “a man of few words and somewhat reserved” would be bossy and officious in dealing with his colleagues.

None of these happened.

Khushwant Singh produced a very lively and readable journal without resorting to the famous Khushwant formula which he successfully tried later as the editor of the Illustrated Weekly of India. His hope of making the journal the talk of the town in the country had failed miserably because of the utter inability of the government to organise a good network of distributors. He had left the journal an unhappy man.

It is against this background that Sharada Prasad, took over the reins of the journal.

Yojana had its office in Yojana Bhawan on Parliament Street. The chief editor had a spacious room on the second floor. The rest of the editorial and administrative staff was located on the fifth floor. I had a room for myself: Number 508.

By background and temperament Sharada Prasad was very different from Khushwant Singh.  But within weeks after he took over, he gave the impression that he found the job very satisfying. He retained most of the regular features that Khushwant had introduced as also the emphasis on field reports and their conversational tone but gave more space for discussion, debate and controversy.

He found Yojana Bhavan a ‘civilised’ place because of its atmosphere which resembled that of a university. It didn’t function like a government office. There was a total absence of bureaucratic stiffness. There were many men and women of ideas and achievement working within its portals. Instead of politicians, many celebrities and academicians, acclaimed internationally, came there to meet their Indian counterparts.

It was just the kind of environment that Sharada Prasad loved.

The editorial staff meeting in his room, once a fortnight, was more like a journalism class. He lost no opportunity to tell us how to edit articles and do field reports. He was an expert in wielding the ‘blue pencil’ and a miser with words, but had the unique ability to cut a long story short without in any way affecting its meaning or reducing its impact.

He advised us to read whatever we wrote, more than once, and rewrite, more than once, if necessary, until the piece was trimmed to its right length to make it interesting and effective.

“Beware of the introductory paragraph, make sure it is the best way to begin or else delete it. Most first paragraphs are often mere starters,” he would say.

He believed that writing doesn’t just communicate ideas; it generates them.

Among the new features he had introduced in Yojana was a talkative character called “Ignoraman”, who never failed to appear in every issue asking very inconvenient and often tongue-in-cheek questions.

For example he would ask: “Ignoraman wants to know what is needed? Centralised Civil Service, or Civilised Central Service?  The bespectacled genius, whose caricature was a creation of the Yojana artist R. Sarangan, looked like a Thanjavur intellectual. He was very popular not only among the readers but among politicians and bureaucrats too.

Sharada Prasad made Yojana, a journal well respected in university circles and among economists. Most economists who came to Yojana Bhavan didn’t leave without meeting him. His room or my room on the 5th floor, which was adjacent to an unit of the Indian Statistical Institute located on the same floor, would turn into a kitty lunch room for a group of economists who were friends of Yojana.

Most of them came in to the room  with their lunch boxes and shared the food with others. Among the regulars were B.S. Minhas, T.N. Srinivasan, Jagadish Bhagavati, and A. Vaidyanathan—all well-known economists. Many a time the lunch hour would turn into a debating session when important matters of economic policy were seriously debated upon. Thanks to Sharada Prasad and Yojana, I made lasting friendships with most of them.

Sharada Prasad was able to get away with publishing articles critical of the government in an official journal. When asked how he was able to manage this, his answer was “by not seeking anybody’s clearance or permission.” He made it a rule (which Khushwant Singh had also made) of publishing no photographs of ministers and officials, or of ceremonial inaugurations of projects.

The only time he published Nehru‘s photograph was when he passed away.

His stay with Yojana was suddenly cut short when Indira Gandhi became prime minister and chose him as her Information Advisor.

Even while at the South Block, he distinguished himself as a brilliant writer and a dependable consultant on matters of national policy. Even though he left Yojana, both of us kept in constant touch with each other. We edited some books together (mainly The Spirit of India) and worked on major expositions on India abroad.

I met Sharada Prasad frequently in his office room which was very close to that of the Prime Minister. On several occasions, while we were working, there would be a soft knock and the door would open a little. The prime minister would peep in and say, “Sharada Prasadji…”

He would excuse himself and leave the room.

Though he remained in the Prime Minister’s office for long, his close proximity to power  never changed the principles and motives that controlled his life.

He remained the same shy, graceful and a delicate gentleman all his life. Possibly elfin is a word that might describe him physically though it is inadequate to perceive his formidable and sometimes unadorned intelligence.

Ostentation never impressed him.

He hated acquiring things. His most precious possession was his pen.  His house resembled a library and reflected his personality in a way houses rarely do. Most certainly, he was the best-read man I have ever met.

No politician ever came into his home. Those that frequented his house and sometimes remained as house guests were either singers, dancers, artists or men of letters.

I talked with him on phone a few months ago to tell him how much I enjoyed reading his brilliant piece on Ustad Bismillah Khan. I liked the elegant way he had described the artist’s funeral in Varanasi. He wrote: “The newspapers made much of the fact that a state funeral was given to the Bharat Ratna. It must have sounded most incongruous that such a meek man, who symbolised melody, was laid to rest amidst gunfire.”

Sharada Prasad was a master of words.

Photograph: T.S. Nagarajan

Also By T.S. NAGARAJAN: My most unforgettable picture

The R.K. Narayan only I knew

The most memorable house I photographed-I

The most memorable house I photographed-II

Jiddu Krishnamurti on love, death, god, and more

Right people, wrong place, wrong time, right ho

The maharaja’s elephant made me a lensman

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,696 other followers

%d bloggers like this: