Between shades and shadows
Ravi Dhingra’s photographs are not about the portraits or moods of people but about the manifestations of people; it’s the things/spaces that are created by people that become subjects of his vision.
To create a set of compositions in the grains of black of white realms is a rare and unique habit. In the world, today photography has moved from its first inhibitions of influential international design movements. Ravi Dhingra's show at Lalit Kala Akademi is a delight for shutterbugs.
Photography means different things to different people. For the commercial photographer Ravi Dhingra, it is a kind of oasis when he takes off from assignments and goes in search of quiet corners and explores the shades and shadows of nooks and crannies to create a suite of works that are at once limpid notes on a dulcet tranquil tapestry of time.
Perhaps at the end of the day, it all depends on one's personality. If you prefer to have more of a goal, structure, and pattern – then working in a project-based mindset may be advantageous to you. However, if you consider yourself more of a free spirit and don't like to work feeling restrained – the natural way of just reacting to what you see may be better for you.
These images are not about the portraits or moods of people but about the manifestations of people; it's the things/spaces that are created by people that become subjects of Dhingra's vision.
So when Dhingra steps out or into interior spaces, he does not just focus all his attention and energy to people. Rather, he looks for elements that might juxtapose each other and make statements about society. This can be manifested through objects of things you find on the ground, urban landscapes, and other messages he might find.
For someone who shoots most of his commercial assignments in colour, when asked about his penchant for black and white Dhingra states: "We are surrounded by colours, everything around us is colourful which at times makes our visual experience a bit monotonous. The absence of colours in an image helps in breaking the monotony, the boredom. Colour photographs are too obvious, whereas monochrome ones provide a different perspective with each colour depicting a different shade of grey."
Light and Shadow
The act of seeing is at the heart of his language of images. The window is as much a sentinel as the chair that is merely throwing its shadow against a wall. The dancers moving in synchronized rhythm as vital as the pigeons that sit or fly off the wall of the ruins of a fort. The puddles and dark silhouettes of the human form as brisk as the silhouette of the wrought iron chair that stands in front of the shutter. Light becomes the fulcrum around which he captures his compositions. In his quest for light and shadow Dhingra looks for a visual experience.
Each image tells a story, which starts with a single scene: it's like a brief, imagined film clip unspooling through projector light and developing into a story on the screen of his brain. That unfolding scene often begins with an object or image Dhingra is drawn to and had captured within and without. I am reminded of the great architect Louis Kahn who presented a treatise on light. It was the central element in Kahn's philosophy because he regarded it as a "giver of all presences": "All material in nature, the mountains and the streams and the air and we, are made of Light which has been spent, and this crumpled mass called material casts a shadow, and the shadow belongs to Light." For Kahn light is the maker of material, and material's purpose is to cast a shadow.
Dhingra presents his own rumination on the light.
"Some chase light but I prefer to chase shadows. Shadows create volume, add another dimension, and this interplay of light and shadows can make an ordinary object look extraordinary in the photographs. It is all about using the available light for lighting the subject to create shadows."