Photography in the contemporary moment, that is defined by conceptual, interrogative and narrative art, has largely moved away from an earlier documentary mode. Artists today are attempting to push the boundaries of the medium, both through its technical aspects and its aesthetic idioms. Within this context, Sameer Raichur’s work stands out as a reminder of the beauty of an older tradition; of images that are moving in their simple honesty and essentially shaped by framing and composition.
Raichur’s black and white images in ‘Because We Come From Somewhere’ use light and motion (as also, inversely, stillness) to guide the viewer’s eye — and draw attention to what lies at the centre of these photographs, indeed this project — people. Even in the few instances that human figures are entirely absent from the frame, there is a palpable presence of their intentions, their activities, and their existence just beyond the captured moment.
With the air of a amused observer, Raichur chronicles the everyday with a non-judgemental, non-didactic and yet, playful perspective. Even while this project is weighed with personal relevance for him, as he explains in his statement on the work, its capacity to stir emotion and resonate with a wider audience, lies in its unpretentiousness and its lucid fidelity to its subjects.
This ongoing project was the co-winner of the TFA–Tasveer Emerging Photographer Award 2015.
BECAUSE WE COME FROM SOMEWHERE
– Sameer Raichur
My father’s job took us all over the country and that experience, while wonderful, made it hard for me to relate to my family’s traditions, customs and especially their religious heritage. Although I was witness to puja being performed every day at home, my parents never struck me as overly religious.
Which is why it came as a surprise to me when my father, a recently retired investment banker, decided to take on the duties of puja and administration of our ancestral family matha (temple) in Savanur Haveri district for a year, my mother in tow. Essentially, they would be living as priests.
I sensed a certain idealism in their decision and felt that the best way I could support them would be to document their experience. At the time, I just wanted to take pictures for posterity. I identify myself as an agnost and during my first few visits to the temple, there were many instances where I was taken aback by people’s blind devotion. The anachronistic rituals seemed like a charade, performed with the sole and selfish intention of getting in ‘God’s’ good graces. Making pictures became my way of expressing my angst without having to say it out loud, it became a mask for my skepticism.
I started observing the light just as a way to pass the time, especially in the kitchen, where a sky-window enables a beautiful play of highlights and shadow as the sun traces it’s trajectory in the sky. This window is the inspiration for many of the shots in this series. Pretty soon, I had begun carrying my camera with me everywhere and photography gave me purpose in a place that I’m still coming to terms with.
The project is ongoing and will last the duration of my parents’ stay at the matha (which ends in March, 2015). Essentially, the project is about the temple, and my perspective of the same, presented through the lives of its inhabitants and the objects that occupy, enrich, and in some cases, adorn it.
The jarring disjuncts between modernity and tradition that I saw in the environments of Bangalore and Haveri, propelled this project in many ways. My parents have gone from living in a gated community in Bangalore with modern amenities, to a rural hinterland where the idea of ‘creature comforts’ is a tube of Odomos, a mat to sleep on and the dream of a future with 16 hours of electricity in a day! (The current average is 12) Eventually, I am interested in bringing forth this duality of differing environments by documenting my family’s adjustment back into city life to juxtapose their parallel existences.