A photograph is worth a thousand words. But what about the other thousands of words it leaves behind? What about the thousands of feelings which the photograph transforms according to its own convenience? What about the isolation that a photograph creates around the subject? What is to the right? What is to the left? What is on top? What is at the bottom? What is in the foreground? What is in the background?

It was a sunny afternoon; she was sitting by the door looking at her child playing in the mud. I framed her face with her veil covering her head. A black white photograph where her pink sari turned white and her glowing face turned black with a subtle smile; giving the viewer a sense of contentment. It has been two years since I clicked this photograph. I don’t know her name; I don’t know her age. I don’t even remember the name of the village. The image that forms in my mind is of a camera creating an image which has isolated her from her context, her surroundings.

As the creator, I very well remember the setting, the context, and the surroundings. But the photograph has a barrier of sorts which are consciously set up. We always carefully choose what we want in the frame and what we don’t. We exclude the “unnecessary” and we include the “necessary”. In this politics, we quarantine many aspects and change the nature of the situation being documented. The story behind the photo might not remain intact. The interpretation of the photo will further take away the subject into a land of abyss. A land that the viewer builds in his mind, imagines the location, imagines the technical aspects, and imagines her.

Imagination is like graph lines. On the graph, there are innumerable line overlapping each other, crossing each other, sometimes just going parallel but never meet. They spun a web where the photograph is caught. Imagine the photograph to be an innocent fly getting caught in the web. Does the spider think about it’s past? The future is (not so) certain. Does the spider think about the fly’s perspective? Even if it does, but does that stop the spider from eating the fly? The fly just hangs there in the air, subjected to pity, awe, astonishment etc.

As a storyteller, I experience this isolation even more. The isolation of the subject from the context. The isolation of the creator from the creation. The isolation of the viewer from the reality. The isolation of reality from itself.  On one hand I try to tell a story and on the other hand it loses something. This loss is inevitable after all the photograph is also a text and once it is out, it is open to interpretation.

– Kartikeya Jain

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