Freedom |

The Image ‘Act’

Rahaab Allana

In this issue of PIX, we acknowledge that photographs in the contemporary are bound together by metaphors, movements and ideals. However, the abstract function of an image’s impact or afterlife cannot be read in isolation of its own ‘time’ and its own struggles. Though vehemently engaged by practitioners as an independent media tool, and a creative, social image-making format, its ability to influence our perception is based on a premise—that the power to create an image rests with everyone. Photography then is an instrument of the ‘Citizen’—assuming his or her right to use it for personal, intellectual as well as political reasons.

The metaphor envisioned for this issue is photography’s unleashing and spontaneity, affecting a wider locale, beyond the control of either the photographer or photograph. With the ambit gradually enlarging to a South Asian community, the works here are photo-chronicles, where the journeying eye of the lens has sought to frame propositions for ‘freedom’: more often than not communicating a sense of irony and resistance. Hence the challenge—they must be faithful to narrative and experience, yet theorise the notion of space, local or global: open and free to wonder.

The thematic for this issue attests all that is embroiled in the search for ‘freedom’: how it critiques itself, bears arms against itself, duplicates and emulates itself, and finds new vistas to explore and invigorate when it is provoked or curtailed. It is as much a right as a reason, a privilege or excuse, as much a latent experience as a doormat for the authoritarian. How do we evolve and refresh our commitment to it? Or become the benefactors of true, liberated expression, yet find that the more we search for it, the less we will see as its ‘actual’ face. How may we capture the ‘Arab Spring’ for posterity?

An old muslim woman tries to save her belongings at the Municipality Juna Quarters, a predominantly muslim area, after an angry Hindu mob set her house to fire in Ahmedabad, Gujrat. Clashes between the majority Hindus and minority Muslim communities have complete stopped normal life the city for the last few days.1/3/2002 untitled-4 untitled-7 Students protest at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, against the Indian Army’s presence and its atrocities in the seven North-eastern states untitled-11

The photographic ‘act’ is therefore one of deflection as well as insinuation. It changes country-to-country, person-to-person, informing us that there will never be enough to satisfy the needs of images, just a cleaver waiting to alter its form and interrogate its means of survival through an autopsy—a surgical act of discovery and information exchange. What would we see inside the photograph? Perhaps that in our present it is more plausible to ‘show’ a contemporary moment than to contain it—in one or two or infact a hundred thousand images.

Freedom and photography therefore act as ‘propositions’ that must be compared, juxtaposed and united, as together they form an enlarging force field around the Earth, generating a shuffling, seamless image of it at every moment.