The Bengaluru Infinite 2010 marathon photography contest culminated in a lively exhibition and award ceremony on the 1st of May at the very unusual creative center Jaaga. A motley crowd of amateur, hobbyist and semi-professional photographers gathered there on a lazy Saturday evening shared camaraderie and discussed the pictures on display and their own experiences during the photo marathon.
Contestants submitted upto eight pictures shot between 8 am and 8 pm in Bengaluru on April 25th which focused on the changing face of the city. Shutterbugs walked, drove, and ambled around town looking for frames that would capture new and unknown perspectives of this city already teeming with observers. Saturday’s exhibition was the fruit of their collective labours.
Forty select frames from the 590 odd entries were displayed at Jaaga, the creative community center in Shantinagar. The photographers behind the photos on display looked on like proud parents and cheered each other on with cat-calls and good natured back slapping as special mentions were made. Pleased looking participants sported DSLRs around their necks and were dressed in t-shirts declaring loyalty to camera makers. One could tell they took their art seriously.
Meera K, co-founder of Citizen Matters (and an old hat photographer herself), whose magazine was one of the sponsors of the contest felt the recent surge in interest in photography could be attributed to growth of digital cameras at the same time that saw a rise in the number of young professionals with weekend leisure time. Nitya D, a participant who is admittedly an easy-going “auto-focus” person related how she discovered places she normally passed by, in a way she had never perceived before.
This sentiment was the flavour of the contest. Many participants spoke of how it was an opportunity to look at a city they’d known already, differently. While this was an eventuality, it also proved a challenge. One participant spoke of how the most popular places in Bangalore were difficult to shoot because they had already been clicked in various ‘perspectives’ by many; finding a new way to shoot a subject was a creative challenge.
The organizers had put together four categories that the entries were slotted into. ‘It Happens in Bengaluru‘ captured the essence of City Life and was sponsored by Citizen Matters. The winner in this category was Vaidyanathan for his photo of an old, broken window through which the Namma Metro construction site was hazily visible.
‘Heritage‘ category sponsored by INTACH was especially relevant to the city because according to Dr Satyaprakash of INTACH, Bangalore was the second oldest metro after Delhi, this being a sparsely acknowledged fact. The architect and photographer said that the most important skill photography taught him was mukha mukhi or the stance of being face-to-face with a subject. The other categories were ‘Twilight‘ and ‘Life in the city’.
To city based mediaperson Vasanti Hariprakash, who was a special guest at the award ceremony, this was a good time to express her excitement about the dichotomies of Bengaluru’s cultural character. She finds it fascinating how the city’s contrasting avatars co-exist – a fact well represented by pictures of people scrambling in markets, for water, for buses, for wares inexpensive and fine with dusty skeletons of the Metro overlooking proceedings in this mad bustling city.
Anybody who has wielded a camera for art will agree that surprise is photography’s best friend. This idea was endorsed by Pranav Bhasin of Life Blob, one the event’s partners. Their timeline based aggregated photo service taps into the “serendipity that photography involves”. The other collaborators in this event were Jaaga and Printo.
“I don’t like to shoot under pressure. I’d rather sit around, take a smoke and think before I decide to click” said Ram Reddy of his ethic (He signs his photos as Ram Morrison, as he is known, paying obeisance to his idol Jim Morrison of The Doors) “but this was pressure” he says shaking his head at the 8 am to 8 pm window. He drove around Bangalore in his car until he found scenes worth clicking. His commendable shot of a man standing at a seedy old bar drinking alone was a favorite with the crowd and won in the Twilight category. Sandesh R won in the category Life In The City. The Photographer of the Year award went to marketing professional Vijay Alphonse about who the judges Dr. Vivek and Selvaprakash felt that he ‘thought about the themes at depth’. He started off as a stand-in photographer at family dos and turned a tad more serious after he got a ‘fabulous deal on a DSLR’. This hobbyist finds the light at twilight ‘interesting’ and took a series of stunning pictures of city life mostly from North Bangalore (his part of town) that won him the grand prize. He recounted how he ventured in to buildings, pretending to visit offices on the top floor, all in pursuit of perfect perspective, as kindred souls in the crowd nodded their understanding.
The idea of Bengaluru Infinite, if Perumal Venkatesan (or PeeVee as he is better known), one of the brains behind the event is to be believed, is not new at all. “Cities all over the world have photography marathons” he says of the format. Where PeeVee and Suyog Gaidhani of InfinityF contributed to the idea was by implementing it in a manner suitable to Bangalore. They held a pilot event with Bangalore Weekend Shoots (BWS) last year before launching Bengaluru Infinite 2010. The organizers seemed suitably thrilled about the new talent emerging at the contest. “We have hundreds of photographers as part of BWS but at least fifty percent of the participation came from outside of any of these popular networks” Peevee said very pleased with the first edition’s numbers while noting that nearly fifteen percent of the participants were rank newbies.
Bengaluru Infinite 2010 was an ambitious attempt to provide opportunity to aspiring photographers to practice their art, to unearth new perspectives in a constantly changing city, and a conscious effort to “document the changing faces of the city” all at once. Many photographers will agree with Balachander, another participant who speaking of the contest declared that for him, discovering Bangalore was the best part.