In appreciation of Prabhat’s photography, by Punya.
Last month Prabhat sent me (in four emails) a selection of photographs with these few words:
“Let’s start with the photos. I will send you my favourites and see which you choose. Or if you want more…”
Though I love curating artists’ posts, I am always a little bit apprehensive in making the choices. On the other hand, Prabhat has always been so very graceful and has accepted what I have done, including the sequences I have come up with. I hope I will hit the bull’s eye this time again.
It’s always a sad task to tell a photograph, “No, you are not coming with us!” and put it in the ‘discard’ folder. Maybe I’d better make another folder and call it ‘choice,’ and put in it ‘those I’d not want to live without’. Another solution would be to avoid this ungrateful operation and publish them all, even if the post will screech at its seams. In this case, we are going for that!
There was recently an article in the Guardian about another photographer, Krass Clement. I had sent the link to Prabhat, pointing out that I was particularly touched by the text. It managed, in my view, to put in words something I would always have wanted to write about Prabhat’s photography. I was particularly impressed by this sentence written by the photographer himself:
“The street is a fantastic space wherein everything unfolds, everything is possible and everything is seen. In other words, the street reveals existence. If I want to frame my own existence, I can just go out on the street and mirror myself in the lives in the streets. It’s what street photographers do. It’s a way of getting closer to the reality they are part of.”
As an aspiring street photographer in my youth, I had learned a) how to make myself invisible with my camera (Leikas were the smallest at the time) b) be aware of best the light c) catch the split second of the ever-changing composition of the many elements in the frame d) never cut the photograph (use the whole slide). But there was one thing I was not consciously aware of, something which I have learned being around Prabhat’s photos: the story!
In all of Prabhat’s photographs you can see the story, you could even verbalize it in your mind. I have a particular photo in my mind’s eye which I saw a while ago; a mother is holding her child’s hand. Her head is looking away, in the direction the boy is pointing to. He has discovered something! Maybe he’s asking a question, “Mom, look there, what’s that?”
The man standing close to them must be the father as the body is still facing them, but his head is turned towards a group of youths. Maybe he remembers the exuberance of his own youth, or is he annoyed at the reverberating ruckous they are making that disturbs the silence in the square?
Another couple is approaching with a long, focused stride. They are going to visit the church, or maybe they have an appointment? They are in conversation. What are they saying to each other?
Of course this is all in my head. In somebody else’s the associations would go in a different direction and provoke different feelings… But you will be engaged! You become part of the scene.
“A certain mystique is attached to photography, a secretiveness which is what makes photography significant. It’s not what it shows, but what it suggests – that which is hidden in the layers below, its secret message, you might say.”
Then, in Prabhat’s collections there are also photos of buildings. As I know him well by now, I have learned to look at all the details attentively, because maybe somewhere there might be a human figure – but maybe also not. At any rate these photos never remain merely a display of light & shadow or composition. There is always something more: a celebration of a mood in the sky, of the evening sunlight on the house facades, of the early morning emptiness, that emptiness meditators have learned to welcome and appreciate. Those empty spaces…
- On the bright side – Photographs taken in Tel Aviv, Israel, during the coronavirus lockdown and social distancing time (March 2020)
- Every place a gem – Photos Prabhat took while travelling in southern Italy (2019)
- Strolling through the Eternal City – Prabhat with his camera in Rome (2017)
- More by Prabhat on Osho News
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