The Telegraph
Sunday , February 2 , 2014
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On thoughtful subjects

Justin Maxon at the workshop. Picture by B. Halder

This award-winning photographer does not want to capture Calcutta on his lens. He prefers subjects lost in their own thoughts instead. Meet Justin Maxon who was on his first visit to the city recently to hold a four-day workshop.

“Calcutta is a complex organism, sort of an organised chaos. In the US, there are strict boundaries, you cannot breach into each other’s space unnoticed. Here boundaries aren’t that rigid,” said Maxon, sharing his first impression of Calcutta.

But the winner of several prestigious awards, including World Press Photo Award, Unicef Images of the Year and Pictures of the Year International (POYi), did not want to photograph the city. “I will never photograph Calcutta. I don’t understand the nuances of life here. To document the city without that connect would be unfair,” he said.

What he loves is to take “shots that capture that rare fleeting moment when the subject knows there is a camera in the vicinity but somehow gets used to it or simply forgets about it”. Those are the ones that get Maxon thinking.

The workshop at Pomegranate Studio, organised in association with Manik Katyal, editor-in-chief of Emaho magazine, saw Maxon spend the first day getting to know his batch of 10 students better. On Day 2, each student shared his personal work with the rest of the group and it was analysed and suggestions were given. “I wanted to make it a personal experience. Talk to your subject. Stay vulnerable with your work,” Maxon said.

Maxon’s first subject was his father, who he “got to know at a very later age”. “As my first project I decided to photograph my father for one whole day. I had a very negative view of him earlier but through the photographs I got to know him better. It helped me go past my trauma. It was a sort of emotional navigation.”

Mitsuo Kawaguchi (right), the consul-general of Japan in Calcutta, at an exhibition on the history of Japanese martial arts at ICCR. The Spirit of Budo showcased battlefield combat techniques and popular sports through weapons such as bow and arrow, katana, commonly referred to as the samurai sword, and suits of armour, Picture by Sanjoy Ghosh

Greek expedition

Space Odyssey at Science City will now reveal the secrets and treasures of Greek civilisation. Greece: Secrets of the Past

explores the Bronze Age and the classical period when great works of art and literature flowered in Athens and other places. The film takes the audience back 25 centuries along with a Greek archaeologist of the 21st century who uncovers secrets of an ancient civilisation. The 3D large format film has seven shows daily and will be screened for the next six months.

Heal the self

Stay connected with your inner self — this is the message Archana Lakhotia has been trying to spread for the last 10 years at Prithvi Self Management Institute. “I set up this organisation particularly for women. A woman’s role in society is multi-dimensional. If she decides to change things around her, change will inevitably happen,” said Lakhotia. There are several self-help courses that one can enrol into at Prithvi. These are book reading, meditation, reiki, healing and parenting workshops.

“For most of my clients this is a home away from home. I spend quality time with them, educate them about a world that lies beyond this material world around us. People come to me with all sorts of problems — depression, emotional drawbacks, etc. I help them come to terms with their problems,” she added.

Portrait of an artist


Two contemporaries share their creative journey on screen, speaking about Bengal, world history, their struggles and also some unforgettable people they have encountered in their lives in Shuva and Me, a film by Goutam Ghose screened at the ICCR for a select audience recently.

The film on the artist and his work and labour of love, Arts Acre Foundation, was full of clippings of films by Ghose and his comments. The icing on the cake was the filmmaker and artist’s journey to Germany to meet Gunter Grass and enjoy interactions with other artists as well.

“Shuva and I are contemporaries. We began our journey in the late 60s. We wanted to share our ideas of art together. It was a very interesting journey,” said Ghose at the end of the screening. “I always need inspiration from painters, musicians and great people for my work. Shuva and I have been friends over the years. This filmmaking was a whole new learning experience for me,” Ghose said.

Shuvaprasanna sat quietly and preferred the film to do the talking. “Here you have seen a glimpse of my creative journey,” he said. The event was presented by Bengal Initiative.

Tagore tees

Tagore’s poetry has inspired different people in different ways. It inspired television personality Chaitali Dasgupta to create a line of clothing that would spread the bard’s message about love, peace and humanity. With Sravasti — set up 23 years ago — Dasgupta organised an exhibition of her unique range of clothes on January 29 and 30. “On January 29, 1914, Governor Lord Carmichael actually handed over the Nobel Prize to Tagore. I wanted to commemorate the day in my own little way,” she said.

Dasgupta had earlier used illustrations from Abol Tabol on T-shirts. “A lady once came up to me and said her son was so fond of his Abol Tabol T-shirt that he had begged her to buy a copy of the book. That is my achievement. I want to spread awareness about the richness of Bengali literature among the youth. Clothes are my canvas,” she said.

A scene from Chandpara Acto’s Chhach Bhangar Gaan directed by Subhas Chakraborty at Sisir Mancha. Picture by Arnab Mondal

Talking heads

“It’s my life, it’s my choice” was the consensus as eminent personalities of the city attended a talk on sexuality, security and empowerment, presented by ISB&M and Primarc, in association with Shriek of Silence, at Crossword, Elgin Road. Sujoy Prasad Chatterjee hosted the talk. The panel comprised Ringo Banerjee, Rii Sen, Paramita Saha, Anchita Ghatak, Neel Adhikari, Kakoli Dey, Baishali C. Dutt, Indranil Dasgupta, Niladri R. Chatterjee and Soumyajit Majumdar. The panel talked about rape, homosexuality and empowerment.

Activist Anchita Ghatak blamed the “divide and rule policy of a patriarchal society”, while Kakoli Dey of CINI pointed out that education at all levels would positively make a change. Danseuse Paramita Saha felt a woman needs to understand a woman first and musician Neel Adhikari advocated the “introduction of art in a child’s life from an early age”.

(Contributed by Showli Chakraborty, Chandreyee Ghose and Samabrita Sen )