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Photography on THE MOVE

One needs to train oneself to be aware of the infinite opportunities provided by nature, says photographer Ashok Koshy



Protima Gauri, every photographer's delight, captured by Ashok Koshy.

DRAWN INTO a conversation, Ashok Koshy, the affable lens man from Kerala leads you through his rich experiences and varied encounters. "I was born in Bangalore in 1949," he flashbacks on his childhood as the son of a Major in the army. "Unfortunately, my father passed away in an accident when I was just one. My mother, who came from a well-to-do family, took very good care of me. She gave me all the freedom to choose the path I wanted to pursue. In fact, she has always been a great influence on me."

He spent 10 years at a residential school in Ooty and was barely in his twenties when he packed his bags and left for London, only to realise that life could be pretty tough on a young expat. To stay afloat, he took on a variety of jobs, including selling clothes at fashion boutiques and painting high-rise buildings. Alongside, he developed an abiding interest in photography as he shot places and people in and around Hyde Park and other landmarks.

The beginning

His breakthrough came when he joined Adrian Flowers, the well-known photographer. "Initially, he hired me as his sixth assistant! I was doing less of photography and more of odd jobs like setting up the lights, preparing the sets, readying the shoots and such things. Only after watching me for about six months did he promote me as one of his senior assistants. I owe a lot to Adrian. He really showed me the way and taught nuances of photography. A master technician and a creative genius, he was also a strict disciplinarian. He was my real guru and even today we have stayed in touch with each other."

Ashok spent five years with Adrian, acquiring not only the skills and techniques but also the confidence to stand on his own. Returning from England, he set base first in Bangalore and then in Kerala, working on assignments from several corporates and ad agencies. Several prizes and recognitions came his way including the U.N. Award he won in 1985.

Ashok, whose uninterrupted bonding with the camera has spanned three and a half decades, feels that photography is all about handling light. "Every day is a new day, every hour is distinct and the `magic' of light can change even in minutes. One needs to grasp this simple truth and train oneself to be aware of the infinite opportunities provided by nature. There is so much to explore — from a simple blade of grass to the mighty mountains and rivers. Photography has taught me the power of now, the importance of awareness and alertness to make the right choices."

Today, he lives a contented life in a pleasant if secluded home on the Kerala backwaters, in Poothota, an18 km drive from Kochi. "When I first saw the place, it was a deserted property, nothing more than an isolated, marshy wasteland. But my heart was set on developing it. I designed the whole project and brought it up brick by brick."

Thanks to the exotic locale and the predominantly wood-'n'-tile structure standing on a private lagoon, Nakshatramana is a huge attraction. "Can you believe Henri Cartier-Bresson, that genius of a photographer and proponent of the Decisive Moment — whom I had met in Paris — came and stayed in this house?"

Ashok's wife, Tilottama, an accomplished dancer who also holds a doctorate in alternative medicine — and their 11-year old son, Aastik, are the other permanent residents of Nakshatramana. "Don't forget my two boxers," reminds Ashok of his favourite canines. "They are very much part of my family!"

The image of Nakshatramana, surrounded by with swaying palm trees and softly rippling waters all around is the opening shot of Ashok's photo exhibition currently on at Time and Space Gallery. The exhibition concludes on April 6.

ATHREYA

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