A fearless storyteller

A fearless storyteller

A fearless storyteller

A picture is worth a thousand words’ isn’t a universal quote anymore with the selfie culture taking over the photography stream. But this saying is still relevant when it comes to describing the works of Arjun Kamath. A Bengaluru-boy who is now pursuing filmmaking at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, Los Angeles, Arjun uses still photography to narrate stories of social conflict in India.

With two photo series — ‘Coming out’ and ‘Avani’ — he has set unrest (in a positive way) in the world of social media.

Comprehensive and full of emotions, the two series capture the prevailing beliefs in the country in the most realistic way. His first series, ‘Coming Out’, narrates the story of two girls coming out of the closet (they hide from a world where only love between men and women is acceptable), who are forced by the ‘rakshasas’ (society) to go back in to the closet and are burnt to death.

Arjun explains, “I was in Scotland doing a documentary as part of my course. A conversation with a friend about LGBT led to the ‘Coming Out’ series.” Having studied in an all-boys school in the City, he says that he was surprised that he did not have any encounters with a single homosexual guy, which according to him shows that people are scared to come out of the ‘closet’.

 He did not want to manipulate the situation and give a happy ending to his series as he says, “This is not a Karan Johar movie. The issue is unsettling in India and I did not want to put a veil on it and say, ‘Yes, LGBT people are welcome in our society’. The series is not created to preach or change their mindsets, I wanted to portray the truth.”

His second series, ‘Avani’, narrates the much spoken about yet unsolved issue
 of dowry and gender inequality. Supported with words that give emotional depth
to the series, it displays the facet of reality in the slice of life.

Still an ongoing series on his Facebook page ‘Arjun Kamath Photography’, it has multiple characters who have multiple layers, which has (again) left many followers of his photo series unsettled.

“After posting a few pictures from this series, there was a lady who commented saying, ‘Are you living in a dark age? There is no more dowry practised in India’. This series is not made to be taken personally. There does exist the concept of dowry in the villages of India. In metropolitan cities too, this concept is practised in a subtle manner. There is gender inequality, where men want educated women but not working women! I did not want this series to be a positive, uplifting story. I wanted people to feel anxious, angry and unsettled,” he explains.

 Arjun, who will soon complete his course in filmmaking, completed the shoots for these two series in Bengaluru’s unexplored destinations. Drawing pictures of the characters in mind, he chose talents from within the City and hopes to work on another series and display it at large in a photo exhibition. On why he chose still photography over motion pictures, he says, “A camera has become accessible to every one — be it on mobile phones, iPads or DSLRs.

Photography, in my opinion, has somewhere stopped becoming exclusive. With the popularity of Instagram, the sharpness of crisp photography has been taken away and it has become too cluttered. I am not criticising the people who are clicking pictures and uploading them on Instagram, it is not a bad thing at all; but there is not much thought that goes into taking these pictures as there is a lot of editing that goes behind them. I wanted to give still photos the credit they deserve.”

Like many amateur photographers, he began his affair with the camera on a trip to Delhi with his family. But hard work and dedication made him what he is today and he says, “You have to be fearless and push yourself to achieve what you want.

Staying grounded, you should respect the creative space and work with honesty while also staying true to yourself.”

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