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In pursuit of the right frame


IN THE fall of 1997 when a freak accident took the life of Princess Diana, ghastly images of the incident were splashed on the front pages of all dailies and on TV screens. Even as the world grieved and mourned the death of the people's princess, it took a brief interlude and shifted the spotlight to the men behind the lens. A raging controversy engulfed the media. Would the press go to any lengths, even invade the privacy of public figures to get its story? Or were photojournalists simply doing their job? Even as the debate continues the fact of the matter is that to get the right picture the lens man often puts his own life in jeopardy. A case to point is photographer Victor George who was trapped under a landslide that he was shooting for his paper. His body was found under the rubble as he lay clutching the camera, having clicked the right picture for the paper to carry the next morning.

It is a tribute to this significant section of the Fourth Estate that the Press Photographers Guild and Ernakulam Press Club have got together to present the works of 36 news photographers at Durbar Hall Gallery. Each of them was asked to select three of their best works of the previous year, which were then printed to size 18 x 12.


A walk around the hall is to relive a moment in history, which is not forgotten but merely pushed to the background. The Search is a poignant, moving picture by Manu Shelly of Kerala Mid Day Times. In the photograph a parched earth cracks and splinters in the hot sun, as a young girl not more than five or six shares her family's load of desperately searching an oasis of water. The essay displays the power of the camera, which can tell the complete story sans text. Water scarcity is a perennial problem for thirsty India and photographers document this in their own unique way.

In The Endless Trek, The Hindu's Mahesh Harilal depicts the hardships that village women face in their search. In the composition, the continual flight of stairs parallels the unending hunt for this essential commodity. On his beat the shutterbug's creativity is on trial; rummaging through heaps of incidents to home in on the right one. In a flash he has to snap the rare experience before the moment is lost.

P V Sujith of Desabhimani was at the spot of a collision on the Thrissur-Palakkad highway and clicked just as the completely shaken driver is pulled out of the burning inferno that was his car. The New Indian Express' K Rajesh Kumar's camera captures the graceful and lithe body of a diver in action, seconds before it slices through the water.


No amount of column words can describe the heart-rending condition of those affected by the endosulfan effluents as the picture by K Mohanan of Desabhimani. The distorted and disfigured body of a man from Kasargod who waged a long battle against the use of this chemical deepens the viewers' insight into its destructive effects.

Portfolio 2004 brings some of the most treasured images in the inventory of news photographers from the region. Mounted on the walls is the award winning picture of a quarry by C.K. Jayakrishnan of Mathrubhumi. As seen through the lens of the photographer the picture highlights the environmental damage that the highway-under-construction has created. Meanwhile, cartoonists and lens men alike have never shied away from putting on view the hostility that exists between politicians A.K. Antony and K. Karunakaran. This is amply on display but one that stands out is a satire by K.G. Dilipkumar of Kerala Kaumudi. The occasion is a reception hosted by Karunakaran; where Antony is the lone ranger, lunching by himself.

The exhibition closed on January 4.

SUNANDA KHANNA

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