The moving feat

What drew you to the photography of performing arts?
I have always been drawn towards the performing arts. My involvement is at least 45 years old with art forms such as dance, theatre, music and so on. My tryst with photography goes back to 1969-70 when there was no autofocus photographer. In 1996, Ebrahim Alkazi (veteran Indian theatre director) discovered me. I would click performances for personal reasons but Mr Alkazi took all the contact sheets of the plays that I had clicked and had already arranged an exhibition at the Shridharani Art Gallery. He invited all my friends and family and in a sense, discovered me.

The Golden Egg - Radhika L, Shivani Chawla, Shri Ram Bharatiya Kala Kendra, Shashidharan Nair

Sadhya, Santosh Nair

Please tell us about what adjustments you make for different dance forms while photographing them?
It comes naturally. I never use a tripod or flash. For me, film is the soul of photography. I never use a digital camera, which I have tried as you can cheat with it, and increase the ISO speed, and so on. To me, movement is the primary thing. No one has captured motion in dance. I want people to see in every photograph what I may have gone through of the performance while clicking it. One can see music and hear dance in the photograph. You need to have a third eye to be able to see the motion.

Astaad Debu, Modern

Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra, Odissi

How did the idea of the book originate? Your favourite photograph or performance?
One of my favourite photographs is of the cover, which is of one of the Shriram Bhartiya Kala Kendra’s performers. The dancer’s lehenga is so fluid; it is like a painter’s brush going through it. I admire painting, which is fluid and abstract. This book is my twenty years of work and I have cut down 3,00,000 negatives to 300 shortlisted out of which only 70 made into the book. My dancers look like a form and I have maintained that my photographs don’t have captions as I want them to speak for themselves.

Pandit Birju Maharj, Kathak

Dancescapes: A Photographic Journey by Shobha Deepak Singh; Roli Books, Rs 2,999. Available at leading bookstores

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