King, Commoner, Citizen
Publisher: India Picture
Price: Rs 495
As Sanjeev Saith, the curator of the exhibition that marks the publication of this enthralling monograph, says in the foreword, “Ordinariness is a term used by documentary still photographers to describe what lies within the frames of their images... It is a rare privilege, then, to view the work of a master photojournalist who has reached out to the ordinariness of the documentary tradition.”
The master photojournalist in question is Prashant Panjiar.
Apart from capturing the multiple ‘Indias’, what makes this such a visual feast is the drama each image holds, not to mention the hidden narrative the picture pairings have lent to the photos. Take the photo of a mess waiter carrying a bottle of champagne on the tarmac of an IAF base.
The opposite page depicts two youngsters wrapped in shawls sitting on a stationary cycle on the Patna-Gaya Road. There is some magical connection between the fighter planes and the supari trees in the backgrounds of the two pictures. Similarly, a billowing Indian flag being unfurled in Delhi is ‘juxtaposed’ with a farmer in MP — two of his cart wheels visually echo the Ashoka chakra of the first photo.
Same with the hormonally-charged exuberance of Naga sadhus rushing into the river during Mahakumbh and party animals in Mumbai. All these images are charged with their own rich text.