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The resonant montage

French photographer Pascal Monteil is not content just photographing people and places. He mixes, matches, fudges, and juxtaposes images to create a montage, a collage and, in the process, opens the core and reveals their multiple layers.



Some of the images incorporating Indian cities did not seem to have the same charm and effect as the other pictures.

IN TODAY'S world, travel and photography go hand in hand. For an innovative mind, however, shooting places or people is not just a routine pastime, but also a creative lift-off. The outcome goes far beyond being the snapshot for a plastic album, fated to be tucked away in the dark corner of an almirah.

"Nothing can be more decisive for human life than the conception of space and time," writes Frederika Fenollabbate, in his foreword to Pascal Monteil's photographic exhibition, titled World Cities. "... (However), time and space in their essence are empty cores with multiple levels of intertwining.... (and) human being is not a hard, fixed and stable, autonomous, closed core but also a core open to a thousand layers, a vibrant crossroad of multiple transformations. This new conception of time and space with new ontological consequences could also be called the Cities of Pascal Monteil."

The 17 poster-like pictures at the recently concluded exhibition at Alliance Francaise bore testimony to the fact that the French photographer is not content just photographing people and places in different countries.

Instead, he proceeds to mix, match, fudge, and juxtapose images in order to create a montage, a collage and, in the process, "opens the core" and reveals their multiple layers. That he is successful in some and pedestrian in some others was obvious. Yet, the spirit of experimentation and the sheer endeavour to unravel an "alternate reality" that transcends a mere visual formality needs to be cheered.

In Seattle, 2000, the melange of melting ice, naked tree, metal bridge, brick-layered building, frozen lake, and majestic mountain are suddenly brought to life with the image of a man in red, with his back to the camera, standing in a corner of the picture. Fudo V brings in an even more dramatic element, created by the viewpoint of a wooden window through which one can perceive a panorama of activities along the waterfront. Colours swamp the rather simplistic visual, Caracas 1997, where the white walls of a chapel in the background are contrasted by a dark sky, even as the man in a wheelchair is pushed along a dramatic green compound arrests the viewer's attention. Helsinki, 1998 brings together man and machine in a rather theatrical fashion, while Hong Kong incorporates the predictable urban street scene with its large hoardings and tall buildings, along with the crisscrossing trams and buses. Fudo II is another engaging visual statement of two adjoining buildings separated by a pathway — the multiple layers of the buildings structurally, cleverly, and creatively enlivened by some dramatic lighting.

Casablanca, 1999 is noteworthy for its intriguingly placed figures of two men and a woman, the interiors of the room adding to the overall mood and interest.

Unfortunately, some of the images incorporating Indian cities did not seem to have the same charm and effect.

An attempt to collage buildings of Naples and Varanasi in a single picture appeared to be technically correct, but visually uninspiring. Bombay, 1998, with its cutout-like figures inside a room, seemingly oblivious of the chaos outside, also betrayed a lethargy in its treatment of a complex city.

Even more flat images come out in La Havana, Taipei, and Dubai, where the deliberately static elements do not endear themselves to the viewer.

ATHREYA

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