Ajeesh Puthiyadath and Salim Abdulla, the Indian photographers living in Doha, narrow in on Doha’s popular corniche, Islamic art, souks and the FIFA World Cup to be hosted by Qatar in 2022 to define life in the Gulf nation.
Jean-Luc Godard once said photography is truth. The four photographers — two Indian and two Qatari — behind a new photo exhibition in the national capital may have been listening to the famous French film-maker close.
Where Cultures Meet: A Photographic Encounter Between Qatar and India has Qatari photographers Hamad Eid Al Shamari and Aisha Mubarak Al Sadah and their Indian counterparts Ajeesh Puthiyadath and Salim Abdulla engage viewers in a fascinating conversation about the truth in what we see. The four of them achieve that by wrapping their art around two fascinating places —Ladakh and Qatar.
Presented by Qatar Museums, a state-run cultural organisation comprising museums and heritage sites in the Gulf country, the exhibition is borne out of a cultural exchange between India and Qatar. Celebrating the Qatar-India Year of Culture in 2019, the organisation sent two photographers from Qatar to Ladakh for two weeks to “create an inspiring portfolio that will help foster mutual understanding”. It also chose two Indian photographers based in Qatar through an open call to create their own portfolios around Doha and the rest of the country.
On at the India Habitat Centre, Where Cultures Meet offers a kaleidoscopic view of the relationship between a place and its people. The artists move their cameras from faces to places to build a curious connection between people and the environment. Ladakh’s majestic mountains are as alive as the desert sand in Qatar. The bustling souks of Doha teeming with shoppers and horses appear to share a philosophical calm with the narrow bylanes of Ladakh walked by monks and tourists.
The vast array of photographs mounted at the atrium of the India Habitat Centre until January 12 skillfully meet the Qatar Museums’ aim to celebrate the two cultures. Aisha Mubarak Al Sadah, a photographer for the last eight years, believes in the art’s ability “to capture a moment of time”. One of Al Sadah’s works on Ladakh shows a girl gathering water from a river. An elderly craftsman is carving wood in another. “I would like to transfer the picture naturally without any exaggeration so that others could feel the extent of the nature of life and emotions,” she adds.
“She (Al Sadah) captures the life and vibe of Ladakh very well,” says Mayanak Garg, a photography enthusiast and an undergraduate student at his fourth-year at the Shiv Nadar University, Greater Noida. Al Sadah takes her camera into Leh’s villages to capture provincial life, and returns to the town to reveal colourful masks, dances and prayers. Hamad Eid Al Shamari, a professional photographer for the last one decade, turns the lens on people in Ladakh to create a series of portraits. In one such portrait, titled What do you see in my eyes, a young Ladakhi girl with her head covered in a blue scarf is standing with her hands resting against a stone wall.
Ajeesh Puthiyadath and Salim Abdulla, the Indian photographers living in Doha, narrow in on Doha’s popular corniche, Islamic art, souks and the FIFA World Cup to be hosted by Qatar in 2022 to define life in the Gulf nation. Both are born in Kerala and work in Doha. Both rely on a steady mix of coloured as well as black and white images to address the challenges offered by space and time. “My works are all familiar spots in Doha that everyone can identify with,” says Puthiyadath, who is from Tellicherry in Kerala. “What we see is what I have clicked,” adds the photographer, who believes there is art in every sight. “If you have a mind to enjoy, you can find art in everything,” says Puthiyadath, who went to work in Qatar three years ago. His compatriot, Abdulla from Kozhikode, arrived in Doha more than a decade ago. The exhibition first opened in Doha’s Katara cultural village — inaugurated by India’s ambassador to Qatar, P Kumaran — on December 1 before it travelled to Delhi.
Faizal Khan is a freelancer