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December 25, 2016

Karan Kapoor’s Evocative Monochromes Capture A Bygone Era

Text by Huzan Tata. All images copyright Karan Kapoor; Courtesy Tasveer

The London-based photographer’s series captures the lives of the Anglo-Indians and Goan Portuguese

Two bodies of work are close to this photographer’s heart. One, on the Anglo-Indians and the second on the Portuguese people of Goa. Curator Nathaniel Gaskell compiled these images by London-based Karan Kapoor for an exhibition Time and Tide, which premiered at Mumbai’s Tarq gallery last month. The poignant prints capture the lives of fading communities that will soon be relegated to the pages of history. These are available as a limited-edition book by Tasveer that include essays by Kapoor’s aunt and actor Felicity Kendal and William Dalrymple. Shashi and Jennifer Kapoor’s son talks to Verve about his inspirations, monochromes, and most-loved images.

Beginnings
“The series on Anglo-Indians was my first big project that started out of curiosity. I was around 18 and was in Calcutta when 36 Chowringhee Lane was being shot, and my mother was playing an Anglo-Indian in it. I was interested in the older generations of the community because they knew what life was like before Independence, so I started documenting them, and continued the same in Bombay. It was more a documentary collection with historical aspects to it. The Goa series was a personal project. We had a house in Baga where we spent our early years and I had access to my neighbours and friends. I’d go there in the monsoons when it was beautiful to photograph. What I didn’t realise was that I was observing a way of life that will soon be gone. The two elements I captured were village culture and the homes of the Portuguese.”

Contrasting lives
“The Anglo-Indians series was in a way sadder because they were financially not too well off, they’d lived their lives, their children had mostly gone and settled elsewhere. You can sense the melancholy. The Goa series was more about celebration.”

On monochromes…
“Though I love photographing in colour, I enjoy the process of black-and-white photography too. There’s something about a monochrome print that gives it a timeless quality and a certain depth. I think if I shot the Anglo-Indians series in colour, it wouldn’t have resonated the same way. It’s all about the choice you make in that moment.”

Favourite frames
“Mr Carpenter with a hat, smoking a cigarette. It reminds me of old pictures from the 1930s Dust Bowl of America during the Great Depression. It was such a definitive moment. From the Goa series, it would be the one with all the villagers pulling the boat, and the portrait of my neighbour at his daughter’s wedding (Father of the Bride). It’s the only time I’d seen him wear a suit!”

Inspirations
“Mary Ellen Mark. She was a close friend of my parents’ and even dedicated her book on Mother Teresa to my mum. She was working on a project in Calcutta and helped me while I was there. She edited my first contact sheet for the Anglo-Indians series, and was the biggest influence I had.”

On his wishlist…
“I would love to do something on the Bollywood stars of yesteryears. To photograph Waheeda Rehman and others of her generation…that would be really fantastic.”

Time And Tide is published by Tasveer and is available on www.tasveerbookstore.com. The exhibition will be on display at Tasveer, Bengaluru from December 9, 2016 to January 20, 2017

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