regular-article-logo Tuesday, 06 June 2023

From darkness to light

While title refers to Soomar’s experiments in darkroom a nearly-forgotten space in age of digital photography it is also rather appropriate for his images

Srimoyee Bagchi Published 27.05.23, 05:10 AM

Black and white photographs pare a subject down to its basic, editing out all excesses, according to the veteran photographer, Raghu Rai. Rai’s medium of intimate, monochrome compositions seems to inspire Hasnain Soomar in his solo exhibition, Rising from the Dark, which was held at the Ganges Art Gallery recently.

While the title refers to Soomar’s experiments in the darkroom — a nearly-forgotten space in the age of digital photography — it is also rather appropriate for his images. Repeatedly, people emerge from the dark in search ofthe light, just as the family walking from the shadows of a corridor in the Red Fort towards the light at the end of the tunnel does.


Shafts of light filter in through jaalis — a leitmotif for hope always finding a way in Soomar’s works — illuminating dark corners of the soul as well as hidden nooks and secrets hiding in plain sight. One image that stands out is of the shadow pattern of a jaali falling on a tree, imposing on its rough-hewn surface a ‘filter’ of geometric beauty. Another memorable image — one of the three colour photographs — is of a man performing wuzu (the traditional washing of hands, feet and face before offering namaaz) from the base of a fountain along with pigeons — man and bird united in a shared act of cleansing the soul for communion with the divine.

Besides these, there are Soomar’s experiments with cyanotypes — a rare craft these days — where paper is coated with chemicals before being exposed to light to produce Prussian blue-toned prints. The chemical washes add a unique texture to the paper and the blue tones become layered based on how much light they have been exposed to. This adds depth to the shadows in these meditative prints, which have an ethereal quality owing to the colour tone.

Most of the photographs are profoundly contemplative and capture moments of solitude and silence. Even when several people mill around a mosque courtyard, each seems immersed in a world of his own.

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