When history beckons

When history beckons


At a time when photojournalism seemed completely unheard of or didn’t command the respect it currently does, it was the pioneering work of photojournalist Kishor Parekh that changed the equation.

Now his son, Swapan Parekh, also a photographer, has showcased 22 of his iconic images along with a reproduction of his book Bangladesh: A Brutal Birth at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts as part of the ongoing Delhi Photo Festival 2015.

“It is basically using today’s technology to showcase one of the greatest works outside India by this revolutionary of photojournalism. It is an important body of work. These pictures have been there, and shown earlier. But, this is the first time where I have restored them digitally so that they could be reproduced in a larger size,” Swapan, who decided to pursue photography the day his father died, tells Metrolife.

With a Masters degree in film making and documentary photography from the University of Southern California, Kishor came to India in 1961 and “revolutionised” the face of reportage photography. Though he died young, at the age of 51 (in 1982), Kishor is attributed to have introduced credit lines for photographers, multi-column pictures and the use of 35 mm cameras.

Best known for his seminal work on the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, Kishor’s expertise is reflected in his book which covered the atrocities committed by the Pakistani forces and the suffering of the native Bengali population. Replete with 67 photographs, the book gives a peek in to the family of refugees, women, as well as young freedom fighters raring to make their efforts count.

In 1971, Kishor had gone to Bangladesh with his Nicro-Mat camera with no presumption to annotate the genocide, or explain the exodus, or show the spirit of the people. Instead, he went there to find out why, how and what drove it.

Though it was challenging for Swapan “to source, compile the photographs and put the show together”, he feels it was a “kind of redemption”.

“I could not do enough for his archive, but I really needed to showcase whatever I had so that people get to know who the real dadas (masters) were. History gets easily forgotten today. So it was indeed emotional, but the point is that 33 years later his work has been put before a generation which is definitely seeing it for the first time,” he says.

On the essence of photojournalism, he says, “Photojournalism to me has been the most difficult type of photography because you are not going to get a second chance. It is not only about capturing moments as the cliché goes, but is about a photographer being there with one’s entire faculties. Everything has to align in an unpredictable situation where the emphasis is to give information with a unique aesthetic.”

Pointing out that there was a vast difference in reportage photography before Kishor, he says, “Pre-Kishor Parekh, there was nothing in Indian photojournalism. Newspapers only published photos of handshakes. He was the first photographer who studied photography formally and brought in the contemporary sensibility of photojournalism as it was practiced by people like Henri Cartier-Bresson and Margaret Bourke-White, among others.”

Swapan, who feels that photography now is often looked upon as a mere tool which lacks experience says, “These are challenging times for photojournalism. The issue is that there are too many conversations on photography which are right in a way, but it’s a crowded place so everyone will have to find their  voices,” he says.

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