World of monochrome

Written by Garima Pant | Updated: Sep 12 2010, 05:52am hrs
Its just two shades that the eye sees, but for photographers, its the best artistic rendition. With a slew of photography exhibitions enthralling photography lovers in Delhi, love for the monochrome is clearly evident. With Homai Vyarawalla's retrospective on at the National Gallery of Modern Art till October 31, Delhi-based photographer Madhvi Swarup has also brought together her solo show of nearly 24 life-size photographs, titled Duality. For Vyarawalla, lack of technology was a restraint from exploring colour photography, but for Swarup, it was a well-thought choice.

Having started her professional tryst with the camera later than is commonher first solo show titled Corridors, of black and white images capturing Delhis architectural splendour in 2003, was an instant hit. And with Duality, Swarup has again shown her soft spot for the monochrome. Though the world is seen in colour, black and white has its own charm. You get to see the perfect mood and tones, says Swarup.

In her current show, Swarup has chosen to juxtapose one image that is predominantly black with one that is serenely white in form and texture. This is the duality of our lives. While white is a metaphor of uplift of the consciousness, the outer side and even heaven as we know it, black stands for our very physical being, the earth. Putting two together one can create an emotion of universality amongst all. And the use of just these two shades highlights the two sides of our lives, she adds. Swarup has used space as a metaphor in her current exhibition, which has photographs clicked during her various travels and journeys over the past two yearsto Rajasthan, Greece, London, Vatican City, Agra and even in Delhi.

Yet another exhibition, Wide Angle 2010, a photography and video art installation by art gallery Wonderwall and The Stainless, has a number of monochrome works by Dinesh Khanna, Ram Rahman and Ajay Rajgarhia on display. So, has the black and white medium made a comeback I don't think the monochromes ever went away. But people have started seeing it as an art form, says Swarup. Her show has been curated by her mentor, S Paul, the celebrated photographer, from whom Swarup has imbibed her passion. Interestingly, Paul still considers himself a student.

Even amateur photographers find the missing colours a better medium. Swarup's views are echoed by Rajgarhia and Rahman also, who feel that B&W photography has always been there. It's a creative decision of the photographer that dictates this choice. But yes, B&W does give a better composition and there is an innate, old-world charm associated with these monochrome pictures, says Rajgarhia.

Photographer Ram Rahman, who is known for his monochrome works, says these dual coloured images have a certain stylisation and have an intellectual appeal, while colours have easy seduction. While making a photograph, the world is reduced into a two-dimensional image. Monochrome images flattens it even more. One tends to read the images differently, in depth and tone when it comes to B&W photographs, says Rahman.

And for the upcoming photographers, its still the monochrome that captures the imagination. The details are better captured, life of the B&W photo is longer, plus there is some character in the B&W photos that colour can never match, says Priyanka Khot, who is learning photography at the Triveni Kala Sangam.

However, photographers feel that with the advent of digital cameras, photography has become easier. Earlier, one had to think before clicking an image on whether it should be colour or monochrome. But digital cameras have changed the thought process completely. One can change colours after clicking, says Khanna. Though Rahman feels there has been a spurt in the number of lensmen choosing colour, yet there is no comparison. It completely depends upon the creative instinct and the subject, he adds. But it's still the exotic appeal of the monochromes that catches the eye.