In the end, it was all about unfinished conversations. This issue, dedicated to the memory of Prabuddha Dasgupta, is about the dialogues he was in the midst of – with friends, contemporaries, curators and writers – before he passed away at the age of 56.
When we started talking about this special issue of Art Varta with photographer friends, there were predictably diverse suggestions and ideas, pluralities that eventually shaped the content. Conversations and emails were exchanged about what should be included, what to leave out, and invariably, whom to include or exclude, given the limitations of space. My initial anxieties were soon quelled when each and every photographer and/or writer accepted our invitation to contribute. I hope I am not wrong when I say that what has emerged finally is an extraordinary collection of images and text that segued into an interpretation of life (lived and imagined). What coalesced into images through the camera reflected individual perspectives and arguments, prophecies and memories.
Then there were longings, and Prabuddha said, “I want to have a long string of images, held together by grace, because grace is that indefinable, non-rational, non-linear word that I am looking for.”
Some agreed, others subscribed, perhaps, to Susan Sontag’s belief: “Through photographs, the world becomes a series of unrelated, free-standing particles; and history, past and present, a set of anecdotes and faits divers. The camera makes reality atomic, manageable, and opaque. It is a view of the world which denies interconnectedness, continuity, but which confers on each moment the character of a mystery.”
The ongoing moment was thus captured for posterity in ways that depended on the person behind the lenses, her or his unique vision of seeing that moment.
The issue would not have been possible without the support of the contributors and of friends who went out of their way to offer their help. I am indebted to Geoff Dyer, Naveen Kishore, Shahidul Alam, Devika Daulat Singh, Raghu Rai and Nemai Ghosh, among many others.
Prabuddha was deeply involved in the making of this issue and put me in touch with Dyer who had written a beautiful piece on longing and memory, in the context of his work in Paris Review earlier. Geoff revised the essay and mailed it to me as he sat at the Edinburgh airport awaiting a flight to Iowa. I am immensely grateful to him and touched that he responded to my email within the hour and stayed in touch thereafter.
Geeta Kapur’s essay on Richard and Pablo Bartholomew is one of the most significant writings on the art of photography and I’m honoured to have her contribute this to issue, and to Devika for facilitating this. Pablo, Ketaki Sheth, Gauri Gill, Swapan Parekh, Sudharak Olwe, Sohrab Hura, Vidura Jung Bahadur, Saiful Huq Omi, Abir Abdullah and Kushal Ray have given this issue brilliant pieces of work, and so have Raghu, Naveen and Shahidul.
Suvendu Chatterjee of DRIK introduced me to Shahidul and the others from Dhaka and I’m grateful to him for his help. Abhijit Lath allowed me all the freedom to decide how I wanted the issue to shape up, never once questioning any decision of mine and for this I am thankful. Jyotindra Jain, Sunil Gupta, Radhika Singh, Kishore Singh and Malavika Sangghvi readily came on board as well – my salaam to them.
Aveek Sen was to interview Prabuddha in Goa, but when that did not happen, he gave us a beautiful piece, which he said was a letter to his friend, now no more. In the dedication section, we have an interview Naveen had recorded earlier and it is in Prabuddha’s voice. Alongside are the pictorial tributes to Prabuddha by all the photographers who are part of this project, who have individually sent us images in a dedication that are as abstract as they are poetic and evocative of moods they associate Prabuddha with. Later, it is our plan to have an exhibition with the same artists in Prabuddha’s memory.
These were the essays we had longed for, these were the images that had come to mind when Art Varta asked me to be the Guest Editor for this issue. Abhijit plans to follow this issue with another on video and performance art, so the journey is not over yet, but remains, like some conversations, unfinished. Ina Puri