Wednesday, November 29, 2006
I would like to pay tribute here to Achinto, the Calcutta-based documentary photographer. I have carried several of his pictures on my blogs. He has documented people, labour, community, life,and habitat in India’s cities and villages. But it is the labouring people of Calcutta that he has worked on most extensively – reminding one of the tradition of F Engels, P Mayhew, Jacob Ris, and Walker Evans.
My long association with Achinto has been a very important element in my personal growth. His images brought to life for me something William James had written:
“…the sight of a workman doing something on the dizzy edge of a sky scaling iron construction brought me to my senses very suddenly, and now I perceived by a flash of insight that I had been steeping myself in pure ancestral blindness and looking at life with the eyes of a remote spectator. Wishing for heroism and the spectacle of human nature on the rack I had never noticed the great field of heroism lying around about me. I had failed to see it present and alive. I could only think of it as dead and embalmed, labelled and costumed, as it is in the pages of romance; and yet there it was before me in the daily lives of the labouring classes. ... There everyday of the year, somewhere, is human nature in extremis for you. And wherever a scythe, an axe, a pick or a shovel is wielded, you have it sweating and aching and with its powers of patient enduring racked to the utmost under the length of the hours of the strain.”