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How a photography show tries to preserve Bengal’s past

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The ideas ruins evoke in me are grand. Everything comes to nothing, everything perishes, everything passes, only the world remains, only time endures. How old is this world! I walk between two eternities ………Denis Diderot, 1767

Like a fisherman who goes to his daily work without knowing what he will catch, Kounteya takes his camera and dives into streets and by-lanes, finding scents for an adventure when he chooses to freeze the frame on architectural buildings that stand as a testimony to time. “I have my favorite places and I never come with the same photos. It is always different: the places, the light and shadows, the atmosphere. This is the fun part. The hard part is when I come home and try to make a selection of the best photos.”

 

Street is his studio

These images of buildings are like silent sentinels. Our present is intrinsically bound up with our past, our sense of identity shaped and moulded by the cultural legacies of our forebears. These images in more than one way protect the cultural heritage of the world for current and future generations.“The street is my studio,” he affirms. “Sometimes, I stand and wait for things to converge – a building in ruins-the reflection in a pond – an element of architecture that has Gothic/colonial echoes-moving along. When I shoot, I am aware that I am moving towards a certain landscape or urban ruin, but I am conscious of the fact that I am hunting for serendipity, I am not just stumbling upon a scene.”

 

Poetic decadence

There is something nostalgic about the poetry of decadence in photography. Something powerful about picturesque decay –and photojournalist Kounteya Sinha (urban monk) treads that pathway of lust for ruins in his suite of architectural buildings from all over the world that opens to public on 17th March in Kolkata. This suite of works reflects Kounteya’s obsession with the aesthetics of decay –indeed it can risk a fall into mere sentiment or nostalgia but here are facades and reflections that stand like silent sentinels in the milestones of time and memory-telling us to preserve heritage.We are reminded of those ageless words in The Duchess of Malfi: I do love these ancient ruins: / We never tread upon them but we set / Our foot upon some reverend history.

 

Aesthetic album

This is a black and white album, that encompasses an aesthetic theory, it holds within romantic poetry’s excursions and the dark secrets of gothic novels. Over the years writers and poets and artists have portrayed ruins as the triumph of time over strength, a melancholic meditation at once a flashback. And let us not forget that the English romantics took to ruination with a paradoxical energy, Wordsworth uncovering his poetic self among the remnants of Tintern Abbey, Coleridge in "Kubla Khan" deriving a whole aesthetic of the literary fragment out of architectural fantasia.

 

Picturesque Rot

Kounteya belongs to the cult of explorers of stony silence and picturesque rot as he takes hold of images that mirror solitude as they stand in the landscape of loneliness full of the language of artistic fervor.Capturing the elusive, special moment after which things will never be the same and making it eternal, that is Kounteya’s goal. Forgotten, insanely gorgeous buildings, abandoned in classic surroundings are granted their moment of grace. The shadows, fragile outlines, reflections within the rooted landscape, these are precious echoes of time past and time present.

 

Power of posterity

Decadence adds to the legitimacy of the landscape. Recent years have all too clearly shown the need for protection of architectural heritage, with wars leading to the destruction or looting of many ancient monuments, while others are lost to natural disasters, cultural vandalism and iconoclasm or neglect. What can we do to prevent the loss of precious cultural heritage in the future? These images across Europe and Kolkata talk to us about the power of posterity and preservation that photography holds in the light of a world that goes to war in the twinkle of an eye. The ruin is a cultural touchstone.