Capturing the twilight years

by csbhagya

Ace Bangalore lensman K Venkatesh has dabbled in a range of diverse subjects in his 20-year career as a freelance photographer.

Be it eunuch models, the aftermath of the tsunami, water crisis in Karnataka or the panorama of Gomateshwara, he has been there and clicked that.

He has worked for Reuters, BBConline, The Asian Age, Outlookmagazine, and is currently employed at the leading Telugu daily Enadu.

Venkatesh naturally gravitates towards subjects with a social context. “Basically, I’m a news photographer. I’m always looking for human interest stories. I consciously choose topics that are of great consequence to the current society.

There are several important things happening around us, which we need to focus on to bring forth a positive change,” he says. “I try to capture these instances and showcase it, therefore, creating awareness.”

His latest offering is an exhibition on the trials of living in old-age homes, which is on till June 10 at ChitrakalaParishath. In this series he has attempted to capture the loneliness and destitution of the elderly who’ve been relegated to old-age homes without choice, as their families have abandoned them.

Migration to urban ghettoes in search of greener pastures has become their undoing, turning them into pariahs of their own nuclear families.

“In Bangalore, there are two kinds of old-age homes. The first type is a commercial venture, where people from well-to-do families pay for good facilities that’ll ensure a good life for elderly family members.

But the other kind is more important. Old people, who are abandoned by their children, are brought to these homes and looked after. But due to inadequate funding, they may not be able to meet the requirements of the elderly,” he says.

“Their children never come back or take them home. Their life becomes dull, monotonous and completely devoid of hope. Through this series I’ve tried to portray their condition and give a voice to their plight.”

These photographs, like most of his other works, segue open in black and white. He believes that dual-toned photographs are best capable of eliciting the essence of the moment.

“Black and white photography reveals the subject powerfully, as it lends more depth and clarity than colour photography,” Venkatesh asserts. In fact, he feels that colour is more of a distraction.

“People tend to concentrate more on the colours than what one intends to evoke in the photograph.”

Even in this series, the play of dark and light, the collusion of brightness and contrast has immense significance. It acts as a metaphor for the old-age home dwellers who’ve slipped into a dark phase in their lives.

The presence of light, however minor, denotes an indolent hope: on the part of the subjects and the photographer.

“Old age homes are becoming increasingly common in India today. The country may be witnessing change at a tremendous pace causing the generation gap to widen, but nothing justifies abandoning parents who have given the best part of their lives to their children,” Venkatesh says, adding, “This is a call for the society to stop and consider; see if what they’re doing is right. Have a heart! — that is my message.”

Published in DNA, June 9th 2010