Avinash Pasricha restrospective: A lensman’s 60 year tryst with the camera

Veteran photographer Avinash Pasricha’s 90 photographs, from his huge collection of three lakh photographs clicked over six decades, are on display at Museo Camera in Gurugram. The photographer looks back at his life lived behind the lens.
Carnatic vocalist, late MS Subbulakshmi, clicked during her performance, by photographer Avinash Pasricha.
Carnatic vocalist, late MS Subbulakshmi, clicked during her performance, by photographer Avinash Pasricha.
Published on Oct 26, 2021 04:48 PM IST
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BySiddhi Jain

New Delhi For artistes on stage, usually the clicking of the camera is a distraction when performing. But whenever it’s ace photographer Avinash Pasricha behind the lens, most artistes don’t mind getting clicked as the veteran lensman makes the whole process almost silent. And even if someone does hear a click, the childlike smile of Pasricha behind the camera, puts the performer at ease.

Pasricha is known to have documented some of India’s best classical performers, for decades. And about 90 treasures from his vast oeuvre — of over 3 lakh photographs — are currently displayed as part of the exhibition Avinash Pasricha: A Retrospective. This has photographs taken from 1960s, including rare images of legends MS Subbulakshmi, Pt Bhimsen Joshi, Pt Birju Maharaj, Begum Akhtar, Pt Kumar Gandharva and others.

“My cameras have been a constant companion, whether it was an assignment, a picnic with the family, or a pleasure trip... Even today, when I go to a music or dance concert, I always carry my camera with me, to capture the mood of the performance,” says Pasricha, who is skilled in capturing his subjects’ candid, unguarded moments during their performance.

Odissi dancer Madhavi Mudgal, as captured by Avinash Pasricha.
Odissi dancer Madhavi Mudgal, as captured by Avinash Pasricha.

Recalling how his interest in photography took birth at the age of 7, at Delhi Photo Company, a photo studio owned by Pasricha’s family, he says: “Since we lived in the shop Delhi Photo Co, on Queensway (now Janpath), cameras were always in our hands, especially the Brownie box camera, which was my first camera. Being part of the studio, holding a camera was very natural. But loading a roll, and actually taking pictures was very exciting.”

In the mid ’60s, Pasricha’s cousin invited him to a cultural festival, which became the turning point for his photography. “I got some of my best mood pictures of musicians at the Vishnu Digambar Jayanti at Sapru House (Delhi) in 1966. That was the start of my beautiful journey.”

Later, Pasricha worked for a magazine for 37 years, and captured some memorable moments through his lens. The 85-year-old reminisces how, “Photographing Jawaharlal Nehru and Jacqueline Kennedy (Former First Lady of the United States), going up the steps at Rashtrapati Bhavan, and asking them to stop beside a red uniformed guard” is one of his favourite pictures; which also became the cover of the magazine.

Classical vocalist, late Pt Jasraj, captured by Pasricha during one of his performances.
Classical vocalist, late Pt Jasraj, captured by Pasricha during one of his performances.

“When I look at the artist who is performing, if it is a dancer, my attention totally is 100% to see the dance, particularly to see the expression in the eyes, and to see the combination of expression and form is perfect,” explains Pasricha, who is a Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee. And explaining about his photographs of classical artistes, he adds, “The problem with most digital cameras is the very slight delay between the moment of clicking and recording. So I’ve developed this ability to anticipate when to click otherwise you miss the peak moment.”

Despite a hearing disability, Pasricha’s sense of the visual continues to dazzle lovers of photography. And his black and white clicks to document the world of classical performing arts, speak more than a thousand words. Aditya Arya, from Museo Camera which is organising the show, calls Pasricha his guru, and adds: “At the beginning of my career, fresh out of college, I’d carry his bags. I learnt the finer nuances of photography from him. He introduced me to various genres of photography and it’s an honour to host this exhibition.”

Catch It Live

What: Avinash Pasricha: A Retrospective

Where: Museo Camera Centre for the Photographic Arts, Shri Ganesh Mandir Marg, Sector 28, Gurugram

On till: November 22

Timing: 11am to 7pm

Nearest Metro Station: IFFCO Chowk on the Yellow Line

Author tweets @siddhijainn

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Friday, January 28, 2022