Tag Archives: Photography

People – His Finest Portraits by Raghu Rai

people-cover1 Title: People: His Finest Portraits
Author: Raghu Rai
Publisher: Aleph Book Company
ISBN: 978-9383064137
Genre: Photography
Pages: 184
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

A picture does say a thousand words and sometimes even more. No one better than Raghu Rai to demonstrate that through his brilliant photographs of people over the years. The portraits in this collection are mostly black and white.

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It is not a book which can be read in the technical sense of the word – but yet it is something you read. You read the faces of common people, the faces of celebrities and common people – people who come to his house, his family and people who you and I wouldn’t look at twice. Raghu Rai, being Raghu Rai manages to capture each and every face so beautifully that is feels surreal and almost magical.

image-2-people

Most people might think that it would be easy to read (sic) a book of this nature. It is a fast page-turner literally and then you forget about it. If you one of those who would forget about it, then perhaps this book isn’t for you. I don’t mean it in a condescending manner. I just mean it as a matter of fact.

“People” are portraits that will leave you stunned and I am not just saying it because some of them look nice or glossy or pretty or all of them. Most of them are also just caught in the moment and you can see that – the sense of imbalance of the picture, of what it hides and what it conveys and mostly the gaze of the master photographer at work.

image-3-people

I am not a fan of books such as these but this book has changed it for me. I also have his other book “Picturing Time” with me and I will get to it soon. But for now, I will bask in the skill of this book and how it has managed to convert me. And you must most certainly read the foreword by him on making pictures. It is a concise piece on what photography means to him.

Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes Title: Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography
Author: Roland Barthes
Publisher: Vintage, Random House
ISBN: 978-0099225416
Genre: Photography, Art, Non-Fiction
Pages: 144
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

I was never interested in photography. Somehow, it just did not interest me. However, after reading “On Photography” by Susan Sontag and also “Ways of Seeing” by John Berger, I started taking some interest in the subject and I had known of Roland Barthes. Coupled with this was the fact that he had written on photography, so it was just only a matter of time before I would read it.

What the Photograph reproduces to infinity has occurred only once: the Photograph mechanically repeats what could never be repeated existentially.

“Camera Lucida” is about photos, life, and death and about the cultures we inhabit. The book is not just about photographs and photography. It is a lot more on actually how we see and how we are conditioned to see.

“The photograph is literally an emanation of the referent. From a real body, which was there, proceed radiations which ultimately touch me, who am here; the duration of the transmission is insignificant; the photograph of the missing being, as Sontag says, will touch me like the delayed rays of a star.”

The book is all about art – about how paintings came to lose some significance with the invention of the camera and how that was not the case after a couple of years. “Camera Lucida” is a collection of essays on “the photograph by onlooker” than what a photographer may think of his or her photograph. He questions what it means to take pictures and what the probable outcomes of it are.

It is not an easy read, but it is highly satisfying. Barthes draws on examples from life, what surrounds us and how it feels like to have a relationship with a still image in an age of constant movement and newer digital means.

“Camera Lucida” is about interpretation, imagination and art. It is more so about living and what it takes to make sense of art that is all-pervasive. The book is short and just right to know more about photography and the medium that it is. I will of course go back to it at some point. I must also say that it is not a read that you can fly by, however once you sink your teeth in it, it is an excellent read.

Book Review: Art as Therapy by Alain de Botton & John Armstrong

Art as Therapy by Alain de Botton Title: Art as Therapy
Author: Alain de Botton
Publisher: Phaidon Press
ISBN: 9780714865911
Genre: Non-Fiction, Art, Essays
Pages: 239
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

It is the end of the year and I close the year with a book I just finished and cannot stop talking or thinking about – “Art as Therapy” by Alain de Botton and John Armstrong. May be a lot of people know Alain and are aware of what and how he writes and then there are others who are yet to discover his style and works. I envy the latter set of people. They are so lucky to discover his works and his line of thought. At the same time, because this book is co-written, it is always good to see another perspective, in this case of John Armstrong.

Alain de Botton according to me is a master at what he does – he integrates human behaviour across a range of topics and we have witnessed that through his works. “Art as Therapy” on the other hand is a different matter altogether.

“Art as Therapy” speaks of art in the manner, which is accessible to everyone. It is not about wine glasses in hand and appreciating something on the wall, and acting all pretentious. It is about nonetheless, life and how we live art and also sometimes its therapeutic and redeeming nature in our lives. The bigger question that the book seeks to answer is: What is art’s purpose? What does it do or not do for humans? Why is it needed at all?

In this book, de Botton covers different aspects of life through art – love, nature, money, and politics and how art acts as a catalyst to solve the daily worries of life. A photograph then becomes more than a photograph. A painting then becomes something that you connect with so strongly, that you can never let go. Alain looks at everyday problems, everyday issues and uses art to solve them. May be solve is an incorrect term here, he uses art to get an understanding of life and then perhaps cure the soul.

With examples and more illustrations throughout, Alain and John reveal how we as humans cannot lose sight of the bigger things, and how sometimes art is the only solace. They talk about looking at art with fresh eyes and viewing it the way you never would have thought of. Each painting, each art form transforms itself in their hands and that is more than reason enough to read this book. They show us how art heals us in ways we cannot even imagine. Art is then an imperative force in our lives, which perhaps we do not pay attention to – given the hustle-bustle of our technology-ridden lives. They remove art from the shallow galleries and bring it out to readers and the so-called common man through this fascinating concept and even more wondrous book.

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Here is he talking about Art as Therapy indeed and it is brilliant:

Book Review: Levels of Life by Julian Barnes

Levels of Life by Julian Barnes Title: Levels of Life
Author: Julian Barnes
Publisher: Jonathan Cape, Random House UK
ISBN: 9780224098151
Genre: Non-Fiction, Biography, Memoirs
Pages: 118
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

There are things that are connected in the world. That perhaps come naturally to people – either as a phrase – like chalk and cheese or like the way it is meant to be – like a button and a shirt. They go hand in hand. There are some things that just are not meant to go hand in hand. That maybe by some twist of fate some things just happen or they make you think of them together, in Julian Barnes’s case – love, grief, photography and ballooning. They all strangely come together in his latest work, “Levels of Life”.

He uses ballooning as a metaphor for love – raising us to a higher level and then what happens when we come crashing down. At this point, the focus moves to the crux of the book, which is his grief – the gaping hole left by his wife when she passed on after thirty years of togetherness.

Julian Barnes writing is sparse and very striking. He writes with a lot of emotion (but obviously given the context) and somehow transfers the feeling in his reader/s. Somehow I have found very few writers capable of doing this.
Barnes’ writing is too intense at times, however that is because he was writing with the emotion that could not be faked, which converted superbly into words and sentences. The book scorches you from within – because grief after all is a universal emotion. We have all felt it at one point or the other, and Barnes only connects to that with almost every sentence. It does take some time to get into the book at the beginning, however once the reader does, it is all a breeze, where you wish Pat (Julian’s wife) was there with him, healthy and alive.

“Levels of Life” may be a short book, however the emotion and the construction of the memoir, which is only close to The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, to me is sure going to be one of the best reads this year. I would recommend everyone to get a copy of this work.

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