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Framed
December 28, 2018

An Oddly Stirring Photo Essay Of The Now Obsolete Film Equipment Of Yesteryear

Text by Zaral Shah. Photograph courtesy © Nandita Raman and sepiaEYE

As we move towards a cinematic virtual reality of holograms, simulations and multidimensional motion pictures, Nandita Raman creates a visual aide-memoire of the objects, equipment and spaces which once had a place in the film industry. Verve chances upon the inspiration that led her to document these reminders of the past in her series, Do Not Forget Me

On working with various media and the message she aims to convey via her art…
I usually start with a question or an inkling, and as I explore further, I also think about what medium would be appropriate. My practice is rooted in photography, but I like to play with language, and I’ve recently started drawing and etching prints. The last two are much more tactile forms than photography, and it was for this reason that I was drawn to them.

On Do Not Forget Me being a confluence of works from her past series, Film Studio and Cinema Play House…
I wouldn’t have made the Film Studio series had I not photographed the single-screen theatres and discovered the wealth of history, architecture and a way of working that was passing very quickly. Both these works (Film Studio and Cinema Play House) focus on a subject that has fallen out of the spotlight and is out of currency. The improvisational quality of preserving the equipment from the film sets, like the bell jar encasing the lens, in light of the limited means that were available, is a thread that runs through both works.

On what ties together the images in Do Not Forget Me…
I was in Kolkata after a gap of a few years, when I photographed the single-screen cinema halls there. When I returned in 2013, I was curious to find out about the older, now obsolete, tools of film-making. In the absence of a museum dedicated to motion pictures, these apparatus became invisible. But they are a really important part of the history of cinema, and serve as mnemonic devices that invoke memories from their heyday — like the sound editing table at Technicians’ Studio where Pather Panchali (1955) was laced with sound.

On the photographic techniques that she learnt along the way…
There is an instance from when I was photographing the Arri camera that was used for some of the Satyajit Ray films. The camera was stored in a box, complete with its lenses and accessories. This kit box also had multiplier filters for the lenses and I decided to use the same filter on my large format camera to photograph the Arri for the image, Manik da’s camera. In some ways, the work in this series is self-reflexive.

On why she titled the series after an Alexander Kluge short story…
Do Not Forget Me is a short one-page account of a German actor, Harry Liedtke’s foray into poetry to reach the ‘audience’ and be remembered, as he grew aware of people’s shifting interests in the fast-moving medium of cinema. The invisible existence of the equipment in my series seemed to have a similar urge as Liedtke’s, or so I imagined!

Do Not Forget Me was showcased at sepiaEYE, New York till November 17.

Cinema Play House will be on display at The Museum of the Moving Image, New York till January 27, 2019.

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