More than words can say
Opening at the India International Centre (IIC) on September 5 is Shiju Basheer's photography exhibition 'Unscripted Lives'. For once these are not pretty pictures. These are pictures that dwell on the last chapter of human journeys, even as they speak to us about pathos and pain and the agony of being alone as well as old.
Shiju's travels to Ethiopia and other places have left an indelible impact on him and this modest portfolio of photographs from these countries tells more than a thousand tales. Faces, fascinate Shiju especially when the faces belong to old unknown people who live out their existence in the debris of abject poverty and society's margins. Each image of the faces has a story to tell. And yet without words, the faces talk to us about timeless tales writ large between wrinkles and sad evocative eyes. Perhaps more about tragedies and loss and personal battles fought long ago.
"I decided to buy a camera after watching a documentary on war photographer James Nachtwey. I loved photography even before but didn't have the money to buy a camera," says Shiju. "I got my first camera in 2005 and have been clicking photographs since," adds Shiju, who belongs to the town of Kayamkulam in Kerala. While, at first, Shiju would click anything that caught his fancy, he soon started focussing on topics. "I did a series called 'Life in trash' on the garbage collectors in the Middle East."
"Photography is my language and my medium to communicate, to identify with my subject, to make myself heard. As a photojournalist, I have always felt an intense desire to unravel the unseen story and let the true light fall on the dense darkness which is often found clouding our vision," says Shiju.
"I like to travel extensively and was lucky enough to traverse India and several countries across Asia. I have studied and reported various social issues and some of my works were featured in reputed publications. I have also had opportunities to conduct exhibitions featuring my photographs in Europe, Middle-East, and India, which have won wide acclaim."
Three images stand apart for the abject desolation that they convey of the depths of disillusioned dependence within a lonely isolation. Eyes taken in Ethiopia is a grey subdued image of a pair of eyes peering through the straw-thatched hut -it holds the promise of hope as chained in the sadness of time's many travails. Breast Feeding is another signature of poverty-stricken angst. Mysteries of human faces can be read from different angles in photographs that are portraits. Faces and people from different milieu get set as frames of posterity. As Shiju captures these unscripted lives etched out in dimensions of expression and evocation, we see that every frame is scripted in a state of solitary angst and deep pain.
One image of Varanasi is both evanescent and ephemeral. "When the sun rises over the quivering waters of the sacred Ganga, when the gossamer evenings eventually meet the dark and the holy lamps are lit to restore their golden glory, when silence conceals itself at the epicenter of all the bustling human activities, witness every ephemeral thing revelling in its own transience and transcending into your timeless memory scape." States Shiju.
The exhibition is on view from September 6 – 12, 2018.