The City and Its Chords

Music and Chennai. The two things that I simply cannot exist without.

By extension, it is only fitting that I’m head over heels in love with bands from Chennai.

Chennai or Madras, as I still like to call it, has always boasted of a culture richer than most other countries of the country. With carnatic music and Bharatanatyam and various other art forms still thriving in this pulsating city, it captures the true essence of what this part of the world stands for.

But I’m talking about a whole other side of this city. One that doesn’t receive the recognition and appreciation it deserves, The rock and indie music bands of Chennai. Not only are these bands fantastic, diverse in content and technically sound; these young men and women exude passion and zeal when it comes to their music.

Fortunately, I’ve had the chance to get an inside view of the music scene Chennai and I was amazed.

Amazed by the dedication, by the hard work, by the homework and by the sheer skill that this field demands.

Friends and friends of friends in bands have ensured, over the past couple of years that I understand both sides of the picture, the glamour as well as the extensive labour.

Bands like Adam and the fish eyed poets (http://adamandthefisheyedpoets.bandcamp.com/) and The shakey rays are really putting Chennai on the map, with regard to their music. They enjoy a fan base pan India and most deservedly so. They make music that makes you think. Sadly, an aspect that seems to be slowly perishing.

Other bands such as SkratFrank’s got the funk, Greyshack and Public Issue are all popular bands that play some of the best live music in India. Tight, entertaining and unbelievably fun is what these bands promise and indeed, what they deliver, consistently.

It warms my heart to see that these bands are finally getting the backing and support they should, due to the right kind of publicity and marketing. This was a phenomenon that was virtually non-existent when it came to bands in Chennai.

So, if you’re still complaining about how old school Chennai is, maybe it’s time you went to the right places and spoke to the right people.

Get out there and keep a ear out for the right note!

Cold Hard Bitch

“Why are you so bitter, man?” a friend asked, genuinely concerned.

It wasn’t the first time I was asked that either. I’ve had to brave various versions of the same question numerous times in the past. So much so that I would be shocked if anyone even remotely thought I was a “cup is half full” sort of person.

This particular instance, however led to a long chain of thoughts about how, why and most importantly when I got this way. Usually what I would brush under the carpet had become too dirty for me to avoid.

So I began rewinding.

I couldn’t have always been like this, surely.

Then I realised some of my oldest and sharpest memories from childhood are centred on frustration about not possessing the control I desired. That remains so, even today. If there’s one thing I could never stand, it was this nauseating feeling of helplessness. I feel it in the pit of my stomach.

What has been the trigger for such a reaction then? Maybe it’s the constant pursuit of peace, maybe it’s the constant unrest. Or maybe it’s the longing for stability. I can’t put my finger on it yet. Writing is my only path to that knowledge.

No doubt, the quest for control has resulted in falls aplenty. Albeit becoming a regular affair, I could always pick myself up as long as I knew that I and I alone was the reason for the fall to begin with. Here, I can’t help but wonder if it’s just me. Or if everyone secretly crave that control?

Then again, this isn’t about any of those people. While most people seem to shirk responsibility, I thrive in situations that demand a level of accountability from me. Even if that means coming off as someone who is insensitive or intimidating.

The flipside to all of this though is that being this cynical could also be a positive trait. I have learnt to be direct, honest and critical about not just all around me, but most of all, myself. It has proven to be a blessing in a rather ugly disguise, in that regard. The constant intrigue and questioning is what drives me. It makes me the fast and in many ways, passionate person that I am.

Well, whether with age, I will become utterly, unbelievably cold or whether I will mellow down and learn to give myself as much as others a chance, is something only time can tell.

But until then, cold hard bitch doesn’t sound too bad to me!

A Photography Manifesto

“A picture paints a thousand words”.

Today, there are a thousand pictures of a thousand different things being taken by a thousand different people.

Where is the quality? Where is the divinity associated with this art form?

It is lost in the dizzying and confusing digital world that is, today.

Bring the authenticity back!

The conversion and so called evolution of this art form from analog to digital is marking the death of this phenomenal art form. It is the forewarning of the inevitable doom that is set to follow. There was once respect for this art form. Now it being degraded by amateurs and rather self-centred teenagers yielding to peer pressure, taking photographs of just about anything and flaunting it like it were the masterpiece of the millennium. The passion and the dedication that is an absolute necessity for photography, just as for any form of art are evidently non-existent. The sheer motive to increase the number of photos one is ‘tagged’ in, on facebook and other social networking sites is a shame and disgrace to the entire profession and art that is photography.

They talk about storage, about introduction of photography into the lights of the youth and about ease in the digital age.

I ask, what is the point of having an image that can last hundreds of years when the ‘memory cards’ and ‘hard disk’ that store them can lose their data in fewer than twenty years?

I ask, what is the point of introducing photography into the life of youth and amateurs when all they are going to know and be, is an amateur, even at the end of a life time of taking photographs?

I ask, what is the point of the ease and convenience when you know nothing about the art itself? When you have no legitimate basis to even compare it with what is supposedly ‘difficult’ and “pain staking’?

Now I say, the entire art of photography is based on how one wishes to portray an object/ individual/ incident. Which instant preview in a camera can give a better preview of the photograph than the human mind? Devices like these kill the instinct and drive within photographers while choosing a subject. It destroys the perspective that one has about the subject because it is so readily present before the eye. It demands zero effort from the human mind. And thereby, it manages to greatly reduce the odds that the frame a photographer chooses is the spectacular one. Since the previews so easily available, the thought that goes into the selection of the frame and subject is cruelly ignored. This is no less than murder when it comes to this sacred art.

As a result of this, there is hardly any attention paid to HOW the photograph is being taken either. When the WHAT is given such low priority, perhaps it is only fitting that the HOW is given even less priority. This is what happens when there is nothing at stake; when the cost per shot is virtually nil. It is so convenient to keep taking shots and just disposing of them at the touch of a button. Who wants to learn from mistakes that cost nothing? Only when you pay for the film and know that WHAT you take and HOW you take it will determine the beauty of the photograph and by extension the utility of it, does its value drastically rise. Thus, there is more time, care, thought and ultimately creativity that goes into the capturing of a moment rather than reckless pointing and shooting.

DON’T USE TECHNOLOGY AS AN EXCUSE

Films and prints which have been developed, processed and stored in ideal conditions have the ability to remain substantially unchanged for over a hundred years. It is greatly ironic that the initial purpose and foremost motive behind taking a photograph was to preserve a memory or capture a fascinating moment. Especially today, when there is no distinction between what is worth capturing and what is not. Worst of all, almost all the trivial and nonsensical photograph are being preserved.

WHY?

Because it CAN be.

And it hardly takes up any space on the computer.

These are the infuriating and frustrating answers that people have come to give, thanks to the digital era.

So, I say again, film photography not only makes you think about what exactly what you are capturing, it also CAN preserve it. Silver halide black and white film has proven to be ‘archival’ and can last for centuries. Kodachrome colour transparency film is also considered to be ‘archival’ and has been seen to preserve images for more than half a century without any loss of quality.

Now to the most important part- the quality of the final image obtained. The superior quality of the image that the analog camera produces is due to the chemical reactions that takes place when light falls on the film. As a result, an exact, crisp and inverted i.e. negative representation is obtained which is almost impossible with the digital camera. Because the images shot with film are actually at a very high resolution to begin with, whereas the resolution at which one shoots a digital image is final and simply cannot be improved.

As many ‘digital- savvy’ people may not be able to look past megapixels (MP) when it comes to image resolution (image resolution has so much more to it than just that), a 35 mm film has a resolution somewhat equivalent to a 25 MP digital sensor i.e. a full frame sensor. And to simulate a medium format film it would be closer to 100 MP and for large format film, 500 MP. Such resolutions have simply not been achieved till date using digital technology.

Furthermore, digital cameras have the problem of noise. ‘Noise’ is the speckles of bright colours that appear in the dark areas of digital images. This is because, as the number of MPs that are crammed onto a chip increase, the noise increases. Colour film has no noise, thus resulting in crystal clear images. Also, digital could not hold a candle to film when it comes to black and white imaging. Black and white is a single silver halide layer and the de-saturated RGB (Red Green Blue) which is the digital greyscale can never be made to look as magnificent and authentic as a print made from film.

Also, the unethical and rather fraud practise of ‘photoshop-ing’ an image, has come degrade the wonderful process of developing a film to produce an image in a dark room, manually. The care and effort that goes into the latter is incomparable with the former. If experimentation is the pathetic excuse for the use of that dreadful software, there is absolutely no lack of it in the realm of film photography. When you shoot a photograph on film you are simultaneously making choices that determine the final quality of the image- the film, the exposure, the chemicals etc. One type of film can produce several drastically different results by simply changing the way the film is processed. Slide film can be cross processed with non-deterministic results and wildly variable colours. Colour negative film can be bleach bypassed to produce and also non deterministic results. Thus, the estimation and generalisation of the presets, tools and actions of Photoshop can never surpass the outcome of alternative processing real film.

So, rather than dwelling in the virtual monotony and losing yourself within it, revive the spirit of photography again!

Stand out! Speak for yourself! Express yourself uniquely and embrace the magic!

Because nothing outweighs the magic and thrill of finally seeing the printed version of your photographic venture. It simply cannot be mimicked or compensated by the digital technologies.

There is nothing like the sense of achievement and pride that film images instil in the photographer.

REVIVE IT! RESURRECT IT!