Coimbatore-based Sridhar Balasubramaniyam won the Alkazi Theatre Photography Grant 2020

“Every art form should be documented for it to survive through generations. This is relevant especially in folk arts and one way to do it is through photographs and videos,” says Sridhar Balasubramaniyam over a patchy cellphone name from Tiruvannamalai. This 29-year-old photographer from Coimbatore has been documenting theatre for the previous seven years, and lately won the Alkazi Theatre Photography Grant 2020, issued by the New Delhi-based Alkazi Foundation for Arts. The grant is for ₹1,50,000. “The grant was announced three weeks ago. There will also be a felicitation ceremony and an exhibition of my work,” he says.

The jury consisted of eminent names together with Diana Campbell Betancourt, inventive director of Samdani Art Foundation in Dhaka; Richard Schechner, professor emeritus, Performance Studies, New York University; and Aveek Sen who’s a trainer in visible arts, music, and literature. “I was introduced to them through this fellowship. I have not met them yet, but I admire their work,” says Sridhar.

Sridhar’s entry consisted of a photograph story with 30 monochrome pictures. “I called it ‘The Space between the Body and the Land’. I am always at peace when close to Nature,” he says. What feelings does Nature exhibit when it’s exploited by people? “Much like how people use their bodies to express themselves in theatre, I decided to use them to portray Nature’s feelings,” explains Sridhar.

It was his acutely aware choice to keep away from vibrant colors. “The aesthetic experience provided by black and white was perfect to convey the emotions that I wanted to share. Usage of bright hues would have diluted the effect,” he provides. The pictures consistof those who he shot over the previous couple of years. “I had to select from thousands of photos. I was at home during lockdown and had enough time to sort it out,” says Sridhar.

Sridhar developed an curiosity in documenting theatre after he began working with Manal Magudi, a theatre group. “I joined as a photographer but with time, I also explored acting. I have been a part of around 50 plays by the group. It widened my perception of humans, emotions, and cultures,” he says.

The highway forward

Besides theatre pictures, Sridhar additionally enjoys capturing tribal and inter-cultural weddings. “It is a project that I am working on. One of my photographs showcases the wedding of a Canadian woman and a North Indian man in a tribal hamlet in Kodaikanal,” he explains.

Sridhar plans to make use of the grant to doc the completely different landscapes talked about in Sangam literature. “It consists of kurinji (mountains), mullai (forests), marudham (fields), neithal (coasts), and paalai (deserts). I plan to make use of theatre artistes for this mission as effectively. I additionally hope to carry out a e-book with my pictures quickly.”

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