Of Delhi monuments and the stories they tell

The 72.5 metre high Qutub Minar can be seen in the background, partially veiled by a blanket of mist. In another image, the words ‘I love my India’ scribbled on a wall, are lit up due to the light falling on them through the jaalis of the tomb. Shot in abstract minimalist style, these set of images present three historical monuments of Delhi in all their beauty, captured from different angles and in myriad styles.

“Like most other photographers, I also wanted to shoot the historical monuments in Delhi. But, I wanted to do so differently-in my own way, picking up unusual angles, subjects, composition and the overall style. This collection has photographs largely in abstract minimalist style. Together, they tell stories of life after death,” Dr Ahmed S Firoz tells Metrolife.

Explaining his images of the Qutab Minar, Humayun’s Tomb and Safdarjung Tomb, Firoz says that while some images have a strong interplay of light and shadows, some are silhouettes, and few are focused on a small area with aperture wide open so he could get nice bokeh.

“I have been shooting the monuments, except for Qutub Minar, for several years. It was only last year around this time that I had first gone to Qutab Minar for photography, with a couple of very old non-digital film cameras. So, its photos are of recent origin. The Humayun’s Tomb photos have been shot over the last five years or so, except for one. All photos of the Safdarjung Tomb are about three year old. It took me a couple of weeks to organise the entire series as the total number of photos was large,” he says.

On display are 19 images, both in colour and monochrome, a decision Firoz says depends on the subject. He adds that he always shoots in colour first and then decides upon the colour scheme, without binding himself to any rule.

“I do not plan much. The subject is more important to me. There are subjects where colour goes well, and is necessary. For example, I have photos in vibrant colours when it comes to macros and documentaries. For fine art photographs, whatever subject may be, I prefer black and white as they provide a better aesthetic depth and make them more abstract. A lot also depends on lights.”

“I always have a dilemma when it comes to street photographs, whether to put them in black and white or retain the original colours. But, for portraits, where expressions captured are more important, I prefer black and white,” he says.

Titled ‘Monumental’, the images also have human presence. Ask him the reason and Firoz says, “Human presence, in most cases, makes photos of static objects such as monuments interesting, sometimes filling them up with some drama.”

He further says that human presence has been introduced “selectively and do not play an overwhel-ming role”. “They are part, and not the main focus of the shots. People here represent the present and monuments the past. They are part of the continuity of the cultural heritage of the city.

The people, wherever they have appeared, have brought in some elements of mystery. I also used a pigeon in one of the shots prominently. They are part of the monuments, living with them all the time. The aeroplane does also bring a sense of the modern times in contrast. You have a chance here to look at each work your own way and come with your own interpretation,” he says. Monumental is on at Delhi ’o’ Delhi Foyer, India Habitat Centre, till August 31.

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