Review

The photograph as a feeling: ‘Dangerous Girl’ by Azaan Shah

Azaan Shah’s photograph ‘Dangerous Girl’ is evocative. It’s a simple, but fluent composition.

I look at it and I smile. It reminds me of ‘something’. I do not know what. I only know I smile.

That’s my first, and very childish reaction to this act of looking at his photograph. The girl in the frame is leaning against what looks like a door. Though not the door, in its entirety, but I see the contour of the frame of the door at the corner of which the upper half of the torso of the girl rests in the lower half of the frame.

This arrangement is not ordinary. It’s contemplative. It is so full of details. One can say that, in sum and total, this arrangement, and in general art of arranging micro cosms in a photograph, can, over the years, develop, and be developed, as a conscious deliberate effort, into signature style of the photographer which, particularly, will force you to think about the photograph as a work of art focusing on its subtleties and nuances. That’s, I think, the purpose of all art.

Each photograph, in its respect, is unique. It is like a scattered galaxy. From the moment you look into a photograph, any photograph, to closing your eyes after looking into it, to opening your eyes and looking into it again, and so on, you engage into a dialogue with the characters of that photograph.

The galaxy, that I proposed a photograph is, scattered etcetera, suddenly acquires an order.

‘Dangerous girl’ did that to me. I looked on at the girl from a distance. I opened my eyes. I found her smiling. The elements of focus, from viewfinder of the camera, began to become apparent.

The dimple in the right cheek of the girl sunk deeper. Her gaze grew tense. She strained herself a little. Her hand rose, like this, see, in flexion, almost forming an arc complementing the arc, in elevation, that forms right behind her hand in the cull de sac.

She bent her right leg. Her trousers, with the haphazard print of danger signs on it, quietly blurred the entire composition. And, then, my interpretation of this nuance (that all objects in the frame revolve around it and it has become central to the photograph) will come at the cost of looking again at the photograph now only because of the ‘danger sign’.

I am in control of my mind. Sometimes, and very often, looking for nuances in the crowd of details makes you more conscious of what you think you are missing in the artwork (a poem, a painting, a photograph, per se).

This is the caveat to the earlier argument about carrying and looking for nuances in the photograph. Here, on a different note, very remote to the minor premise of the argument of the purpose of art; a photograph, in understanding of its reader, is art only if he connects to it, only if it reminds him of, let’s say, a memory, tormenting or otherwise.

While in conversation with the photographer, which was rather very brief, I learnt that he’d captured it on his phone.

It did not surprise me. Phone photography is inexpensive. It’s accessible. Through it, we witness elemental commonplace emotions of images as events. But, what I came to know from him was how he’d set his photograph.

In an ideal prototype of a photograph, set around a crowd of geometries, a flaw, at even a level we may overlook for being unimportant to the composition, ruins a photograph. However, talking of ‘Dangerous Girl’, it steers clear ahead of all those imperfections, dead ends.

But nevertheless it has its flaws. Its framing and accommodation and inclusion of objects seems defective. The rolled bedding and sacks at the left fringe have been included in the frame in a haphazard way. But, that is compensated by the overall effect that the photograph will have on you.

In the middle of the conversation, supposed to be very light, Azaan asked me a rather blunt question.

What do you think of my photograph?

I wanted to tell him, and now I am writing here, that despite the composition being simple, his photograph was elusive in its treatment to the non linearity of the story line. It read like ‘no, let me tell you the story of this girl only, look around in the photo but don’t think much. Rest of the photo is a frame that happens in the moment of spur.’

And instead, all that I said to him, and which in fact is truth, the juxtaposition and overlapping of two inherently tender human emotions, and how they made themselves felt, made the photo a ‘feeling’.

 

Dangerous girl | kashmir’16 #lenscultureportraits #kashmir

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