Of vandals and roadscapes

Apr 04, 2013, 00:28 IST | Soma Das and Hassan M Kamal

Photographer Varsha Karale and Heidi Specker, a German art professor, rediscover national monuments and cityscapes of Ahmedabad, respectively. Coincidentally, both look at the relationship between tradition and the modern, The first brings her photo exhibition � Heritage through the Lens while Specker launches her photobook MG Road, in the city today

Don’t make a mark
Defacing and vandalism at prominent heritage sites remains a pressing concern across India. And putting the spotlight on this issue is photographer Varsha Karale. Karale started her career working at Marg Publications where she was groomed to research and preserve art and culture.

A photograph from the exhibition

Through a collection of 41 images on display as part of the exhibition, Heritage through the Lens, Karale explores the ethereal beauty of heritage monuments, the detailed craftsmanship and the rhythm of interweaving patterns on wall surfaces, columns, cornices, grills, doors, windows, ceilings, domes and hanging lamps. While time has impacted the monuments, the treasures have also been overlooked by government authorities such as the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) and damaged and defaced over the years.

Speaking about her exhibition, she says, “We always blame the government for not taking care of things. But as an individual we should start working on this. We can stop writing our names on the walls and stop others from spoiling the beauty of the monuments. If we have the courage to stop such vandalism and start protecting and respecting our cultural heritage then the purpose of this exhibition will be fulfilled.”

Recounting an incident that left a lasting impression, Karale says, “We were in Bhanghar, Jaipur. It must have been a very rich city in yesteryear. There were huge market places, temples and palaces. I enjoyed shooting until I reached an old temple, which had amazing architecture. It was Lord Shiva’s temple from the 16th century but it had initials and signatures of visitors. This became the inspiration to shoot after which, I started searching for such scratches.”

MG Road, revisited
Told through 27 visuals, German art professor Heidi Specker, captures elements of modern design and architecture in Ahmedabad in her new photobook, MG Road. The photographs, all tight compositions, capture some iconic buildings like the City Hall or the Ahmedabad Textile Mill Owners’ Association House (ATMA House), residential buildings like Sarabhai House and some not-so-iconic locations like an open vegetable market. Specker captures windows, walls, roofs and many other elements of the architecture in the city, sometimes extending to things like a symmetrical arrangement of red bricks.

Daniel Poller

The book, says Specker, analyses how modern concepts and traditional designs meet and co-exist. She further explains, “The city has been influenced by the rise and fall of the textile mills. Families like the Sarabhais have been instrumental in inviting architects and artists from the west to the city, who have given different representative buildings to Ahmedabad. The wooden conference room of the ATMA building seems to me the heart of the
modernist idea.”

There is a special concentration of textile (calico), politics (Gandhi) and modernism (Le Corbusier) in this city. The artist says that she walked up and down the MG Road, at least once everyday, to capture these images during her residency at National Institute of Design. But, while the inspiration came from the eponymous landmark, her photographs go beyond it.

Anders Forsmark

“MG Road is an image, a metaphor. I looked for uncommon places all over the city and titled it MG Road, mentioned more virtual than realistic,” she says. The book launch coincides with the opening of a photo exhibition Parikrama, by students from National Institute of Design and HGB, Leipzig in Germany. The works, too, go beyond the architecture of Ahmedabad. “MG Road is my visual language, Parikrama is the language of the students,”
she adds.

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