November 14, 2015 By Ali Ahsan

Selfies Can’t Capture Indian Streets

Modern day photography is digital and is available at a single click of the button. Almost every magazine or journal is available online. The posters and photographs in the magazines of the yesteryear are long gone out of fervour. They still manage to have a following, so do the photo stories in the newspapers and the weeklies. On being enquired on how to develop a photograph in a dark room, a kid or a millennial as they are referred to, would surely give you a hard look that said, ‘Have you gone crazy?’

There are different types of photographs on show in popular culture. But one is hard bent to findmany photographs capturing the reality of the not-so-privileged. The photos of the poor and the starved often leave the viewer in a state of shock and disbelief. There are differences of opinion as to whether a photographer ought to click a picture of someone lying on the pavement. The question of whether they are being objectified solely on the basis of a few photographs is a raging debate. The haunting photograph depicting the famine in Sudan by a South African photo journalist, Kevin Carter is a case in point. The photograph has a hooded vulture landing nearby a starving toddler trying to reach a feeding centre, almost crawling.

The photographer we are looking into in this profile decided to take a road less travelled. Ajeeb Komachi’s collection of photographs of the poor and the downtrodden have over the years captured the imagination of the public especially in Kerala where malnutrition and poverty are not a usual sight. He was born in the 60’s, grew up in the 70’s and lived the 80’s, generally considered to be a good time to have been in. Son of PM Koya and Saeeda,Komachi studied at REC GHS and is an alumni of Farooq College of the year 1996. With humble beginnings, he started off as a studio photographer, then worked as a News Photographer for Madhyamam daily, a regional newspaper, and had various stints at Down to Earth, Open Magazine, The Week, Vanitha, Chandrika and India Today. He has travelled to and shot in more than 16 countries. He has to his credit conducted more than 3000 photo exhibitions.

The recent photo exhibition titled ‘Hindustani’ at the Lalithakala Akademi Art Gallery, Calicut in South India pays more of a testimony to the compassion of the artist rather than the artist or the photographical aspects of it. The fifty odd frames at the exhibition focus on the poor and the underprivileged of different parts of Assam, Bihar and mainly West Bengal, a state that is infamous for having the most number of homeless people in India. These people have to bear the brunt of the violence besides poverty. It is not much of a surprise when you have a ruling party that compares the burning of two Dalit children in Faridabad to that of the killing of stray dogs.

Many of the photographs reveal how simple life can be during an era when the elite in Kerala are busy building big houses and buying the latest gadgets and cars. The lesser said about the selfie obsessed, flash-your-camera-out-for-every-moment the better. Some of the frames on show here has a boy who kills a bird for food, a man who cannot afford a photograph clicked with his wife, an unmarried girl whose family cannot afford a dowry of Rs 50,000, children sleeping in classrooms after toiling for their families in their spare time, children longingly watching others of their age go to school and people waiting outside a tea shop at midnight looking for a morsel…

The different colours on the boy’s face below in the photograph reveals a story. It is photographs like these that can truly speak a thousand words.




The ‘Hindustani’ exhibition is sponsored by Human Care Foundation in Calicut, a philanthropic trust formed by business leaders from Kozhikode, headed by P. Sulaiman. The trust functions with a commitment for the upliftment of the downtrodden. The exhibition, which had a debut in Calicut, will run in several cities across the country.

Some of Ajeeb’s other popular collection of photographs include ‘God’s own Country – Oru SwayamVimarshanam’, a series of stunning photographs depicting Kerala in all its reality, ‘Arabi Malayalam’, a photo exhibition that throws light on the centuries-long Malabar Arab relations, ‘Kaakkathollaayirathi Onnu’, a refreshing album on crows, ‘Pen Novu’ an album on women and ‘Nashta Baalyam’, a beautiful and colourful project that has children from all spheres as its subject.

Ajeeb Komachi is one of the few artists who have succeeded in the long run as enthusiastic future photographers hunt for their first professional lens. The sponsor deserve some plaudits for their choice in a noble cause.