Memories in black and white

Picture perfect

Memories in black and white

In a digital age where art is reproduced and represented in many forms, Rachna Shukla, a fine art photographer, loves working with the traditional analogue camera to capture the rich tapestries of life.

Her recent exhibition, ‘Gwalior- A Song Forgotten’, at Chitrakala Parishat held strong, visually appealing black and white photographs that brought out the colour of the cultural heritage of Gwalior. 

Rachna’s love for her hometown and interest to revisit the memories she held as a child led her to photo-document Gwalior and capture its magnificence. “I wanted to capture the still existent historicity of Gwalior. As I started taking photographs and talking to many people, I realised that there are so many dots to my knowledge about its continued history and that I had failed to make connections in the past,” she says. 

“Gwalior also holds a rich tradition of Indian classical music like the Gwalior ‘gharana’. Tansen learnt music here and his Guru’s tomb is still present here. I was fascinated by this and hence titled my exhibition as ‘A song forgotten’ as people have forgotten about the glory of Gwalior.” 

Rachna’s foray into photography started when she was a young girl when her father gave her a camera. Working as an engineer through the day, she attended classes at an art college in Oregon by evening and studied fine art photography. “I was studying fine art photography, working with dark room techniques and shooting black and white. I used a traditional camera and the techniques here are completely different with regard to fonts and printing, unlike the digital. I also learnt through books by looking at fine art images. The college had a huge hand in shaping aesthetics,” she says. 

Her other achievements include an exhibition she had showcased earlier where she documented the beauty of rural India in places like Rajasthan, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh. She also owns a studio in Whitefield where she works on portraits.    She says, “Simply put, fine art photography is when photography meets art. I try to observe angles and analyse the beauty in pictures to see how I can go beyond them before clicking a photograph.

Fine art is mainly looking into form, texture, content and composition. I’m a very visual person as I like to observe minute details like interplay of light, shadows and techniques. ” A self-funded photographer, she believes that the photography has a huge scope in India. She carefully takes her photography into a critical thinking space as she deconstructs every objects before taking a picture.

 “I am careful about hierarchy of elements as I don’t want two conflicting elements coming together in a frame and the importance of negative space.” Rachna believes in art for art’s sake and regards the function of art to evoke joy. “For me, it’s not about the subject but the impression. Commercial photography doesn’t appeal to me much because the subject is paramount. The hierarchy of elements, tonality and colour palette aren’t focussed on much.”

Having ventured into digital and traditional photography, she feels that each has its pros and cons.

 “They are just mediums but what finally matters is the impression that is created. There are subtle differences when the photographs are printed in each medium. The process of working with dark room techniques is joyful but to acquire chemicals and printing pictures is a cumbersome process. However, in digital photography, due to pixilation, the minute details get lost.” 

Rachna treads on a thin line between fine art and fine art photography and adds, “In fine art photography, your frame is the canvas and a great photograph can move to the level of art if it fulfills the artistic elements. Fine art is mainly related to painting but fine art photography is painting through a camera. It is a genre of fine arts.” Through her work, Rachna proved that visual art has no barriers. Her next project is her solo exhibition of landscapes on August 29 and 31 that will be exhibited at 1 Shanti Road.  

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