A photographic study of urban memory

Magnificent ruins are what remains of Hampi's rise and prominence from the fourteenth to the seventeenth centuries. In its prime, Hampi was three times the size of contemporary Paris, and second only to the imperial city of Beijing during the reign of the Ming dynasty at that time.

As today Hampi lies silent and deserted in the wake of its own departed magnificence, new cities are rising out of the rural soil. One of these, eponymously called Newtown, is waking into being in another part of India.

A collection of photographs by Rajib De providing the visual binary of a great Indian city of the sleeping past and a future city waking into shape is on display at India International Centre. Titled 'A tale of two cities: Hampi and Newtown', the art show will be on view until August 20. In one of the pictures, we can see the past perfections frozen in stone. Within the other, we witness the emergence of the forces of change – with a phalanx of distant buildings gaining upon the virgin soil. Yet this too, in time, will inevitably become the habitat of the past, and this new city, too, will become a part of the abiding and elegiac music of history. And the two sets of images play their parts – as in a diptych – of being and mutability.

The photographer's use of panoramic images is predicated by this amplitude of vision. His photographs hint at the scenes of ordinary life in a busy city of the past.

The contrast – and the nexus – of the two sets of panoramic photographs from Hampi and Newtown make for a thought-provoking connection across the ages. The Hasselblad palette of these exquisite black and white photographs is made up of visual octaves through the many subtle shades that lie between black and white, stillness and movement. The depth of these images capture the cadence of time within which we live, think, and learn to see.

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