Documentary Photography


Documentary photography

The theme of our workshop this Sunday was documentary photography (DP). DP or reportage photography is a very interesting form of photography and has been so since the invention of photography. All mainstream photographers started their career with documentary photography.

Anybody who is familiar with Rai’s work will tell you, that his images leave an indelible print on your mind. Be it the stark and gruesome pictures of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy that spoke of the atrocities on humankind or the poignant images of Mother Teresa in prayer or the stellar portraits of Indira Gandhi, Rai’s photography have given a new meaning to photography itself, and his images are indeed so enthralling because each of them have a story to tell, something that your naked eye will not have seen.

That is the very essence of DP. DP is storytelling, and documenting.  It is not magic or trick photography or does not (or rather should not)  require post processing. It is the simplest form of photography and indeed the most popular.


Small little crabs, the kids of fisher folk who played with gaiety, small tea cups, and women cooking modest meals in traditional rice pots. The weather was such that it brought out the best in people and we were lucky enough to have captured some priceless moments of Koli dancers who were  dancing as if they was no care in the world! We braved the harsh sunlight, and some of us ended up having bad headaches, but we shot relentlessly for more than two hours. The edit sessions indoors came as the much needed relief as even hardcore photographers need air-conditioning and cold coffee after rigorous shoot!



Surrealism in photography

A perfect example of a surrealistic image, this picture depicts the veiled threats that exist in society in the form of child sexual abuse.                                    Photo credits: Jyotika Keswani 

“Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision.” Salvador Dali

At Breaking Rules my attempt has always been to go beyond the ordinary. So this Sunday, the theme I chose was “Surrealism”. Surrealism came into being after the First World War as a part of the Dada culture. Dadaism was a rebel movement and gave artists a platform to express their anger and frustration at the death and decay around them.

Surreal form of art was that which blatantly rejected the prevailing standards in all forms of art, literature and music. Uninhibited emotions of fear, dread, hunger and sexuality were explored as themes. Though this movement peaked in the 20th century, this blatant form of rejection of the norms remained an influence on many artists and photographers till many years later. One of the most noted photographers who made his mark in surrealist photography was Man Ray. Man Ray’s surrealist representation of the female form remains an inspiration to modern photographers till date.

Shot within the frames of a spectacle, this image highlights the loneliness of modern life. The blurry outlines of  the couple in the background enhances the loneliness and dilemmas of the subject. Photo credit – Jyotika Keswani

So much for history, but to explain the techniques of surreal photography was challenging. I took it upon myself to explain the concept to newbie’s who have barley learnt camera techniques. To me surrealism means to break the mode of discipline in photography. It’s not just landscapes or portraiture by itself, but using both or either to create another meaning altogether. To put it simply, a very heightened sense of things, the unusual, that you see in dreams, the surreal. In such photography one has to consciously break all rules of composition.

But breaking rules doesn’t mean you can get away with anything! There has to be a larger purpose. The images you create must be visually appealing and not appear to be some careless out of focus mistake. Surrealistic pictures turn out to be visually stunning, complex, unnatural and even shocking. Nonetheless they can be very interesting. The end result is always a “different” picture, and what’s more it doesn’t require much post work.

Wondering how to shoot such images, how to think, what aperture, which lenses… then my friend, you will have to join us to know the little secrets of fine art photography!

Till then enjoy the images !

This is an image to the heightened senses or emotions that one feels due to nicotine. Photo credits: Kaushik Chakravorty


Juxtaposition of faces showing myriad emotions of a woman.                             Photo credits: Kaushik Chakravorty