From Mumbai streets to NY

Photography

From Mumbai streets to NY

But tomorrow is another day. At Ground Zero where the World Trade Centre towers once stood,  there is the work of reconstruction, infusing  tomorrow with a vision of hope. This is what you carry away with you on seeing photos by a rehabilitated street child photographer, Vicky Roy, who spent six months in NYC to photograph the reconstruction of the WTC, as part of the World Trade Centre Documentary Arts Project sponsored by the Wilhelm & Karl Maybach Foundation and Silverstein Properties.

In the past year, Roy and three other young photographers photo-documented the rebuilding of the World Trade Centre, New York. Vicky’s collection named ‘WTC: Now’ was exhibited at the Bodhi Gallery in Mumbai, under the aegis of the Asia Society India Centre which will open this Exhibition in New Delhi on January 8, 2010, in collaboration with The American Centre and Salaam Baalak Trust.

Vicky was nominated for the Maybach Foundation’s mentorship programme by the Ramchander Nath Foundation (RNF),  a think-tank on development and restoration of the arts — paintings, motor cars, antiquities, visual arts, architecture, writing, music and theatre; and to capitalise on the arts as a source of rehabilitation and fundraising for the under privileged. At Tihar Jail, for example, it employs the fine arts to help in the reformation and eventual rehabilitation of inmates at the Delhi Prisons’ Jail No.5 incarcerating 18-21 year olds.

The Maybach Foundation chose four winners to be mentored by Joe Woolhead for the WTC project in NYC, two from NYC, and two from Asia: Vicky and Nicole Tung of Hong Kong. While the New Yorkers worked on their project from July to January, Vicky told me, that he and Nicole worked from March to August. In this time, Vicky also took the opportunity to attend two Maybach sponsored photography workshops where he honed his skills in lensing.

The WTC shoot shows off his photographic acumen. In Mumbai, the show consisted of 25 large photos, mostly in black and white, a few in colour. Tight closeups of worker’s helmets, mud-caked boots, the muscular, lithe bodies of construction workers dangling from safety harnesses, a coloured fish eye view of the site ringed by high rises, another colour image of the city by sunset seen from the top of a skyscraper. Vicky has a keen eye for geometrical patterns and grids; an impressive  symmetry of lines. In the interior shots, his lens has captured some images that might spook the viewer. Perhaps, it is the imagination at play; perhaps one is seeing something that is not quite what the lensman’s intended. Whatever the case, they are eerie images.

Vicky is currently working on a new project called ‘To a better life with street kids’. New York “was a new experience for me, I was travelling for the first time abroad. The WTC has been etched into the historical consciousness of Americans and New Yorkers in particular and I felt privileged to be a part, a small part of that history by taking part in the project.”

His new project will be ready, “by 2010 hopefully.” He is working on it with kids from the Salaam Balak Trust “which helped to improve my life. Please mention them, please mention my special thanks to my Delhi mentor Anay Maan, and Anubhav Nath, director, Ojas Art and co-founder of the Ramchander Nath Foundation.” On the opening night Vicky  had shown slides of his related work and engaged in conversation with Anubhav Nath, an alumnus of  the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, and the Sotheby’s Institute of Art, London. His recent curatorial project is the aforementioned initiative involving Tihar Jail inmates and contemporary Indian artists.  

Their protege, all of 22 now, was born in the village of Purulia in West Bengal, the sixth of a brood of seven children. At the age of 11, Vicky ran away to New Delhi where he worked as a rag-picker and a dish-cleaner at a roadside restaurant near the railway station. Eventually, the Salaam Balak Trust (SBT), a not-for-profit organization that provides food and shelter to homeless children, took him in. With SBT’s support, Roy enrolled in the Open School at age 13. In 2004, the British photographer Benjamin Dix came to Delhi to film a documentary on SBT and Roy was roped in to assist him for six months.

This experience deepened his interest in photography. He joined the prestigious Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and received the  highest (gold) level in 2004. After his stint with Dix, SBT helped him enroll in photography classes at the Triveni Kala Sangram, a reputable art training Centre in Delhi. Vicky has come a long way since then, his works have been exhibited in India and in the US, UK and South Africa. And he has collected memorable experiences along the way. Vicky was the official photographer at   the visit of Prince Edward at a function in New York. During the official banquet, the Prince is said to have introduced Vicky to the audience, “as an inspiration to the young.” Certainly, Vicky wants to pay his debt back to society. “Now I want to help others. My goal is to make a difference in the lives of others.”

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