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     Volume 4 Issue 52 | June 24, 2005 |

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Forest Rediscovered

Mustafa Zaman                

Scenic beauty is what BKS Inan has the eye for. As a photographer his prime object is to delineate the physical reality in their stark formal beauty. Thus, black and white is his preferred mode of articulation.

Inan is an architect who has the knack for photography. In fact his introduction to photography goes back to as early as his childhood. "I was five and a half years old when 'Shahid Bhai', a photographer who used to work for the police department taught me the darkroom techniques. He gave me a contact box -- a small one that he himself made," Inan gleefully remembers. His introduction to photography was through learning the technique of making prints using the contact box. The experience of using the box and the chemicals that Shahid gave him for the purpose of making prints was a "sheer joy" to the little boy. This was in 1966 and at present Inan is "overwhelmed" by the response he got from his first solo photography show at the Bengal Shilpalaya.

"From children to adults, everybody has responded to my pictures. It is the subject matter that has primarily alighted the passion in most people," Inan emphasises. His theme for the show was "silent beauty". He even calls his show "Sound of Silence", and his composition, choice of subject as well as the use of chiaroscuro speaks of the theme. "Sound of Silence is a virtual trip through the Sunderbans seen through the eyes of a man who is prone to depicting his world in its elemental form. As for the formal aspect the chiaroscuro, or the play of light and shade is one thing that inspired the photographer most.

The photograph that ended up in the walls of the Bengal Gallery was not meant for this purpose. Inan did not have this show in mind when he took them. In fact, when Inan went to the Sunderbans on a three-day trip it was entirely for a different reason. "The trip was part of a project of the University of Asia Pacific where I teach architecture. It was in 2003 that, I along with my students went to the Sunderbans with a view to design a Bungalow fit for forest environment," he relates.

Inan took only six rolls of films with him, but in the end the outcome inspired him to plan a show. "At the Bengal Shilpalaya getting a schedule early on was impossible, so I had to wait for my turn," explains Inan. It was the gallery people who suggested that the prints be large.

"There are 26 prints in this show and I have printed them by my own hands. Black and white photography is in danger of extinction nowadays as papers are scarce. I had to import papers from Singapore for this series of photographs," Inan informs.

He spent only three days in the Sunderbans but he captured an array of scenery that bring into view the majestic beauty of the forest and the life at its periphery. "It was the first time I went to the Sunderbans and the experience was astounding. The silence struck me the most, it felt uncanny and I wanted to capture that," he says.

As a man empa-thotic to wilderness, Inan is of the opinion that the experience of being in the midst of the forest is far from what one experiences looking at the photographs. "A picture can never do justice to the ever-encompassing reality. The vastness can never be brought into view through the camera," Inan opines. To compensate for what he failed to encapsulate, Inan resorted to poetic gestures. "All my titles or rather accompanying texts are lines taken from poems, I downloaded them from the net. They also had an effect on the viewers. Many liked the idea of a text accompanying the image, some did not," he relates.

Inan's glimpses of the Sunderbans aesthetised the empirical to augment their poetic quality. But the photographer also feels that they also hold value as a document of the largest mangrove forest of the world.

"Sound of Silence" kick-started on June 9 and lasted till June 18.

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