Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Pictures In My Mind

If a man approaches a work of art with any desire to exercise authority over it and the artist, he approaches it in such a spirit that he cannot receive any artistic impression from it at all. —Oscar Wilde

Reproduced for your viewing pleasure are the obverse and the reverse sides of the invitation card of my first ever solo photography exhibition titled ‘One for the Road’, held at Lahore’s Alliance Française from 5 until 18 March 2005.

The director at the Alliance Française, Matthieu Pinel, was most cooperative from the beginning and matters such as image selection, print size, and framing were left entirely to my Pakistani imagination mainly because his immediate superior, mademoiselle Giselle, had already appreciated my work in private.

Hectic were the days leading up to the opening night but excitement left panic knocking at the door. To be honest, photography seemed an easier job compared with organizing a major public display of it.

More than half of my images were in colour, with no digital manipulation in Adobe Photoshop software. Long hours spent at yet another photo lab that only processed black and white (silver gelatine) prints paid off as well. Ah, the lengths one must go to satisfy discerning eyes.

The cameras I used were good old film cameras from as far back in time as the 1950s. Nothing was digital, all was either shot using the square 6x6 cm format or standard 35mm negative film. Whenever interested viewers or interviewers wished to know what camera bodies or lens I had used, I laid great stress on the power wielded by something considered quite old-fashioned: the negative.

It was odd to note that ordinary people seemed to equate quality images with unusually expensive and complicated digital gadgetry. There is no short cut to hard work and just about any camera in capable hands automatically becomes a powerful creative tool, and the greater the artistic vision, the less important the fixation on equipment becomes, but even this truth takes time to absorb.

At home, I spent endless hours getting the photograph’s titles and the pricelist right. Since I knew that photographs always sold less than paintings did, the prices were kept affordable.

Mine was the first event to be held at the new Alliance Française premises located at Scotch Corner, Upper Mall. The opening day was extremely busy as nearly all the media people and members of civil society descended in time for free snacks—if not fine Scotch—that the ‘French Centre’ had arranged in the front lawn.

The first ever exhibition of my work was a solo show—a great breakthrough for me. Friends, colleagues, neighbours, strangers, famous names and perhaps unrecognizable old flames, all turned up at the venue during those fourteen days. If the public got any wrong impressions from seeing certain images, it was because it did not look long and hard at them.

The public’s comments in the visitors’ book that I had placed there were equally amusing—I learnt nothing new about myself. While the literati used the same book rather wisely, the ignoramuses of our society abused it by penning thoughts that actually showed me how unhappy they were to witness genuine creativity. The latter group—unable to appreciate the meticulous printing, expensive glass-covered frames and the witty titles of the photographs—expected from a first time solo exhibiter, quantity and not quality, inability to expound and not lucidity, mistakes and not perfection. And hence, the shutter-bugs imposed themselves on my work and took little home to brood over. It was their loss, not mine, and that made me very happy.

Alliance Française invited people from the print and electronic media to cover the exhibition. Interesting were the questions of journalists, some of whom wrote entire articles without having laid eyes on me, preferring to plagiarize the text of the invitation card instead. It made me glad that for a change they wrote fine English.

Interviewers from various television channels, woefully unfamiliar with matters of Art, made me feel they were at a political rally. And by the time the gentlemen from Pakistan Television got over, they imagined I taught photography professionally, something I vehemently denied.
 
I was asked, “What should the gore-mint do to promote the art?”

Unexpected for them was my reply, “I think the government should only concentrate on running itself without meddling with Art and artists”.

One TV channel aired my interview so many times I was convinced their viewers had absorbed plenty of Art and knew all my words by heart.

Not everyone came as a buyer but some bought what they liked at the exhibition. With urban and rural landscapes, abstractions and street photographs, there were forty-two prints on display. In any case, I exceeded my sales target and was happy to share the cake with my French sponsors.

By the end of the exhibition, director Matthieu Pinel too was a happy customer who bought a black and white photograph titled, Lord of the Rings, which was a street portrait of man selling rings that common folks can be seen wearing in Pakistan.

I had plans of taking the circus to the Federal capital but decided to spare the capitalists so in love with bad policies plaguing this country. Then I thought of Karachi but decided to let the unhappy ethnicities first decide matters relating to ‘the art of war’ between their rotten selves.

These days, everybody needs a painting to match the interior decor, and calligraphy of Qur’ānic verses seems safe since many believe that if they hung depictions of human beings on the walls, God will ask them to breathe life into them. God has better things to do than that.

Art is one’s individual expression and pays tribute to the unity in diversity. Art is the opposite of organized religion and this is the reason why artificially pious persons, unable to attach unverifiable dogmas to each stroke of genius, hate its unfathomable abstractions.

Lahore now has many art galleries and some still wish to put up my work for sale. Since March of 2005, I have not decided if I should become famous as a photographer or as a wordsmith.

©Tahir Gul Hasan, 2011

Further reading:

12 comments:

  1. "I have not decided if I should become famous as a photographer or as a wordsmith."
    Who says it can't be both?

    It was a great virtual tour of your exhibition. Waiting to be e-invited to the future ones.

    Wishing you success!!!

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  2. Thanks 'M'!
    Both? Then they'll demand that I become a three-way plug which might be a bit less painful for me! :)

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  3. Interesting read tgh,

    I view photography as an art and science both; through photography we express our emotions & feelings but we do not necessarily need to master the scientific part of this medium.

    The scientific aspects of photography are fascinating and over whelming at times for the onlooker & the photographer himself comes to be the master of this scientific process in his lifetime. A great achievement for Him no doubt.

    The artistic side of photography is as important. Unfortunately, there is a much lesser amount of information on photography as art. Far fewer essays are being written, far fewer discussions are taking place, and far less information, help and tips are available. It is as if photographers, for the most part, discovered how much they have to learn about photographic science and, overwhelmed and enchanted by equipment and technique, stopped there and looked no further. It may also be that some photographers, or photographic instructors, are uncomfortable writing about photography as art, or lack the practice and knowledge to do so. Here you become the master TGH, you are not only blessed with that eye for taking outclass captures but at the same time you are enriched with the treasure trove of Vocabulary. Its not a bad idea for you to start writing a piece on Photography; your passion. Passion explained in expert way becomes even more attractive for people who have less knowledge of this art/science.

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  4. God, Ayesha, that's a blog you wrote there! Thanks very much for expressing it so well. :)
    If you read the obverse side of the card, it says more about what I think and do.
    I never say, "I'm the master" but the onlookers seem to mind if I resist accepting such labels. [Banda, karey to kia karey?]
    In any case, experts always make it all look easy. Please remind me to post a few images, especially the last one on display at the exhibition. It'll crack you up!
    In any case, as far as the public and the media are concerned, I set the record straight with this piece. :)

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  5. Lol, well Photography is my area of interest since childhood, I ve taken some shots too,but I dont have time to bring them into a proper portfolio for now,lets see with less pressures of my writings I may one day make one. I will show you first to get your views and thoughts.

    "My Reflections on Photography and Art", a title that I continue to find appropriate for this endeavor since this is after all a reflection, albeitedly one based on years of experience in taking shots of my choice which range from babies, to rocks, to petals to leaves and my pets...lol

    A painter is not separated from his subject by a mechanical device. All that is involved is his subject, his canvas, and himself. The brush and paint are the medium between the painter and his canvas, but the painter does not see through his brush and paint the way the photographer sees through his camera. Brush and paints are just tools used to carry the painter's vision onto the canvas. So you my friend is the best painter for this passion that you so fondly keep in your talents. Who better than you, in my view to give information and spread knowledge to the masses.(Watch the Indian movie"Guide".....lol)

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  6. Sure, I want to see those rocks and babies and things!
    Dev sahib had Waheeda jee dancing away by his side. I know what you mean here. :)
    Whatever talent one has or develops is worth hanging on to. I'm happy to know you have more than one. :)

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  7. There is no short cut to hard work and just about any camera in capable hands automatically becomes a powerful creative tool, and the greater the artistic vision, the less important the fixation on equipment becomes...

    I was asked, “What should the gore-mint do to promote the art?”

    Unexpected for them was my reply, “I think the government should only concentrate on running itself without meddling with Art and artists”.


    These days, everybody needs a painting to match the interior decor, and calligraphy of Qur’ānic verses seems safe since many believe that if they hung depictions of human beings on the walls, God will ask them to breathe life into them. God has better things to do than that.


    beautifully put :)Tahir Gul Hasan!

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  8. Thanks Miss MS! You've arrived at the right place but have left half of yourself at home. :))

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  9. :)) yeah I have to pull myself out!! of my home. Wish me luck.

    so you picking up your camera?

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  10. I will if enough people beg me to pick it up!
    Good luck!

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