Kabeer Lal's photography packs a punch
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Kabeer Lal's photography packs a punch

The gallerist whose tryst with art began 9 years ago with artists such as Jatin Das, Bikash Poddar and Jogen Chowdhury has chosen to promote Kabeer Lal- a debutant photographer who acquired formal training in Los Angeles. Anjali Dawar reports.

art and culture Updated: Jan 24, 2012 19:39 IST
Anjali Dawar
Anjali Dawar

The gallerist whose tryst with art began 9 years ago with established artists, has chosen to promote Kabeer Lal in a solo exhibition - a debutant photographer who acquired formal training in Los Angeles.

"When I started my gallery and book store, I had a lot of traditional art. So we started with Jatin Das, Bikash Poddar and Jogen Chowdhury, the ethnic traditional Indian art. Over the years trends have been changing. Though I still hold in high esteem painters like KG Subramanyan's art. Art photography is something new. It's catching the attention of buyers and of gallerists," says Quill and Canvas owner Shobha Sengupta.

"When I discovered Kabeer I was enthused. His photography is not photo journalism, it's not realism. This is what I would term art photography," Sengupta says.

Enchanted Forest: Kabeer Lal picked out this as his personal favourite. He says: "The play of colour transports me in some fantasy world."

The exhibition - On Being One With Nature, Mind and Body - has on display 30 photographs which are a heady mix of landscapes, abstracts and street photography. Twenty-two are limited edition prints and 8 are open editions. While the photographer's work has been displayed twice before in LA and twice in Delhi NCR, this is his first outing in a solo exhibition. But he almost did not become a professional photographer!

Strating afresh

Kabeer Lal studied business and fashion and slogged in the corporate grind. But something was missing. So what made him discover his true calling?

"In India it happens a lot that you need to get a job, a real job. I went to a business school. I went to NIFT, I did fashion and mastered in manufacturing. But there was always something that was nagging me at the back of mind that this is not it. When I moved to Los Angeles that's when I discovered that this is what I'm meant to do. So that's when I joined Santa Monica College. And when I moved back to India I realized there was no point looking for a job and that this is it."

Inspirations and influences

Many streams confluence to birth a sensibility and to form a perspective. How have various influences chiseled his creative eye? Kabeer feels the way the industry in India is set-up, besides the commercial part, the growth of "the photography world has been very strongly influenced by newspapers, magazines and journalism."

Since the seniors of the industry came from news media, that's where photographers were initially used and hence they extended their documentary skills into beautifully documented photographs, feels the artist.

"That's where things really take a turn and kind of bifurcate because my work is not journalistic or good documentary photography. It is art. So that's where I kind of separate from the influences within India," says Kabeer.

What about the fountainhead for inspiration for him?

"Internationally there're lots of people who I've admired, who I've studied when it comes to portrait. I do a lot of portrait. There are currently practicing senior photographers like Joe McNally, Michael Grecco, all these people are brilliant wizards with their art. And again Richard Avedon comes to mind who's a legend of photography world. And as far as landscapes and abstracts are concerned Ansel Adams, he is the guru of it all." He is also "influenced by impressionistic artists and painters."

Bad Idea: Clicked in CR Park fish market, this one's my personal favourite.

Redefining photography as art

His art is something that can adorn the walls without becoming jaded beyond a point. "There's street photography, there's industrial photography but this is what we need as art on our walls - something that will bring pleasure and at the same time is photography. And these are also going to become assets. We also have Prabbudha Das Gupta's works over here and Prabbudha Das Gupta is very highly priced. But beyond the very senior photographers we need photographers who are with it, who've travelled all over the world and can bring some globalisation into the picture." says Shobha Sengupta.

"Kabeer's photography has an amazing effect on canvas. It's a very expensive proposition, printing it on canvas which is why we've not had it for the show. Because there were too many prints. But otherwise the same pieces printed on canvas look absolutely fabulous. So it's gonna be like art photography on canvas as well," adds the gallerist.

This one's called 'Bars'.

LA versus Delhi

Comparing art scene in Los Angeles and Delhi, the lensman says: "Art every where is pretty much the same. People want to look at interesting things, they want to examine the thought behind a beautiful thing. And share your ideology. This happens here and there."

While admitting that his experience has been "fabulous" in both settings, Kabeer allowed for one point of departure. "Photography is not considered a second art or a lower art or child of a lesser god, it's taken at an equal footing as any other form of art. And that's true not only of US of where I have personal experience but also of Europe. That's the only place I feel we are not there yet."

Kabeer with his wife and 2 kids spent 7 years in California and it's been a year for them having come back to India. His favourite photographs include a series of Santa Monica piers and The Enchanted Forest shot in Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary.

In Delhi where is his creative eye transporting him next? "Everywhere! Delhi is beautiful. I probably never thought I'd ever say this, what with the dust and the grime but I think there's a photograph every inch. I've shot a lot in Delhi through the photography group that I have called Photopositive."

"Obviously monuments, nature (pointing at The Enchanted Forest image), everything beautiful doesn't make a good photograph and a good photograph doesn't necessarily need a good-looking subject," continues the artist.

Sky Trails: The nature captured at it's whirling best!

Where ideas take wing

Kabeer operates out of a home office, so is the atmosphere at home conducive for him to get his prerequisite creative space? "My family understands my need for a quiet time. Also because my daughter is a photographer. She is in 10th standard but she does some very nice things. My wife is very supportive of what I do. I do balance being a dad, being a husband and being an artist and a photographer. But that's for everybody and anybody," says Kabeer.

His wife Shalini, daughter Aashna, 15 and son Arjun, 13 are enthused by what Kabeer has achieved. Who is it that enables him to persevere and stay on the anvil? Pat comes the reply: ""My wife, a one hundred per cent. Without her I wouldn't have been able to do this. She is the one who inspired me to get into this and the fact that I could fall back on her and pursue something which was not going to make me initially a lot of money."

Shalini Lal, Kabeer's wife is an enterprising working woman, who wears many hats herself. It's women like her who prove that stereotypes can be broken without making ado. Says the beaming lady: "I'm so proud of him and so happy that he's finally been able to achieve what he's wanted to do since so long."

I part ways with the artist but not without a promise from the affable man and the profound artist: "I believe my best is yet to come. I'm growing as a photographer, as an artist."

No Further: This is one of the many landscapes of the Santa Monica pier in Los Angeles.

The exhibition will be on display till December 10 at Quill and Canvas, 122 South Point Mall, Golf Course Road, DLF Phase V, Gurgaon.

First Published: Nov 07, 2011 13:17 IST