Different portrait of Ladakh

In pictures
Last Updated 12 February 2013, 14:00 IST

Ladakh can be photographed a thousand times, and yet discovered in a new light in every shot. Proving this is Shamim Akhtar – civil servant and prolific lensman with his new photo exhibition ‘Ladakh hues.’

In a unique photographic technique called Infrared monochrome, Shamim has captured the natural beauty and spiritual serenity of Ladakh like
never before.

In his own words, Shamim has a karmic connection with Ladakh and the Himalayas. The current Additional District Magistrate, New Delhi district, has visited the hilly terrain many times and produced many related photo exhibits and coffee books
like ‘Ladakh’ and ‘Kailash Mansarovar.’ However, he says, every time he visits the place, something new meets his eyes.

“I first ventured to Ladakh in 1992 while still in college, on my 100 cc bike. Unfortunately, the bike broke down in the middle of the journey. I then made a second attempt in 2006 on my new 350 cc bike and succeeded this time. Ladakh has been calling out to me.

Whether it is the surreal landscape, the frozen civilization or the just blissful calm, I am yet to find out, but sometimes I feel like I have a relation of past lives
with Ladakh.”

In his various visits, and two exhibitions, Shamim has covered almost the length and breadth of Ladakh. He has shot various monuments like the Leh and Stok Palace, monasteries like Tsemo and Thikse and natural features of the region like the Sindhu river, various hill ranges and Karzok village. However, in ‘Ladakh hues,’ he has tweaked his photographic technique.

This time, he has made use of an infrared filter in his camera. This instrument captures the photographic subject over a period of time, unlike in a flash, resulting in long exposures. This leads to the stationary objects in the scene to remain fixed while the moving subjects like the sky and leaves of a tree become hazy. The end result is dramatic, awe-inspiring photographs.

Moreover, he has shot them in black and white giving an ethereal timeless feel to his photographs. Shamim notes that every time he has visited Ladakh, he has seen the volume of tourist generated garbage grow. “Ladakh is soon turning into another Kulu-Manali. There are polybags, food and juice cans strewn everywhere.

It is a big threat because Ladakh is one place which has managed to preserve its centuries-old natural beauty thanks to its remote location. If it is spoilt once, there is little chance that the environment can be restored.”

“For the same reason, I request people to surely visit Ladakh but make sure to bring their garbage back. In the same spirit, my earlier photo exhibit was taglined ‘Road to heaven.’ This time it is, ‘Are you worthy enough to visit Ladakh?’”

(Published 12 February 2013, 14:00 IST)

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