A Conversation on Reading, Photography and Landscape
There is always more to it than that which meets the eye. This is particularly the case when it comes to photography and cameras. There is so much more that a camera can capture than what a human eye can perceive. The fourth session of Valley of Words Literature Festival 2019 in ONGC Lawns was a conversation along these lines. “Lines, lenses and landscape” was conducted on the topic of publishing books on the Himalayas by Trisha De Niyogi in conversation with Ganesh Saili and Stephen Alter.
The conversation was packed with light hearted humour, relevant and elaborate discourses and an air of intrigue surrounding photography and the Himalayan landscape. Stephen Alter commented on his personal experience of going through illustrated books and stated his observation that photographs and texts share an interesting relationship. Ms. Niyogi carried on this line of thought and referred to her experience of looking at photographs of Mussorie which allowed her to see the place in a completely new perspective. She stated that visuals are really important.
Mr. Ganesh Saili gave a description of the timeline of the camera. Technology, he said, had made it a lot easier to film and shoot. He recounted with a degree of nostalgia his early days as a photographer and the immense consideration he had to keep in mind before taking a picture. Due to the limited number of pictures that can be captured on a film roll, one had to be extremely precise in taking pictures as there was no scope for mistakes. This demanded a great deal of expertise and proficiency of anyone wishing to become a photographer. The onset of development in photography technology simplified this art and opened it to a larger audience. Technology, Mr. Saili said, has added flexibility to photography.
While talking about the landscape of Mussorie, Stephen Alter pointed out the importance of archival pictures. Photographs of Mussorie captured decades back tell a different story of Mussorie. It is a popular belief that the hills of the Himalayan range are becoming less greener as the years progress. However, archival pictures of Mussorie show the place with considerable less trees and more grassland. This is an intriguing observation. This finding points to the fact that government policies have been effective in afforesting the hills, its preservation and the increase in green cover of Mussorie. Alter also highlighted the importance of photographs in giving solid objective evidence of natural history. This observation was followed by comments and personal accounts narrated by Mr. Saili and Ms. Niyogi.
Diverse stories from local cultures such as those of the tribes of Arunachal Pradesh pertaining to the creation of the Himalayas were narrated by the panel members. This drew the close connection between traditional narratives and scientific findings and elucidated the contribution of folklores in interpreting landscapes, particularly the Himalayas.
The session ended on a cordial note giving the audience an insight about the connection written texts have with visual elements and landscapes. The understanding of the complementary nature of this relationship will augment reading experience and make it even a greater delight than it already is.
~Samson S Haokip, St. Stephens College