A decoy used to safeguard the fields, the humble scarecrow, photographer Gireesh GV notes, is also a silent witness to the problems faced by the farmers and their growing “marginalisation by multinational traders”. In the exhibition titled “Walking the line – Living Together/Apart” these inanimate stuffed creatures photographed by Gireesh across India — including Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Delhi and Madhya Pradesh — seem to tell stories from the fields.
“I had photographed scarecrows earlier but it came to me as a conceptual project after the farmer suicides. Meant to safeguard the fields, the scarecrows can’t really help the farmers in debt. So many farmers have died because of a few thousand rupees,” says Gireesh, 51.
Curated by Avijna Bhattacharya, the exhibition at Galley 1000A in Delhi brings together 50 photographs by Gireesh shot over 20 years. “During Covid, I began looking at my earlier photographs and editing. I shared some of them through online exhibitions and the response led to the conceptualisation of this show,” says Bhattacharya. “All my projects are ongoing. Wherever I go, I am looking for possibilities,” he adds.
The earliest set comes from the mid ’90s, with Gireesh exploring the city after dark. Shot amid the usual sources of light at night, including moonlight, street lamps and automobile lights, the series ‘Paint After Dark’ shows us colour even where there seems to be none. “Even as a student, I liked shooting in the dark. We would cycle at night around Hyderabad and take photographs,” says Bhattacharya, a postgraduate in painting from SN School of Fine Arts and Performing Arts, Hyderabad.
As a teenager, he would engage with his surroundings through a camera gifted by his father and also assist him in developing film. Years later, as a professional, he has worked in numerous news publications and has participated in exhibitions across the country. “During outstation assignments I would travel by train so that I could shoot for my projects. As a photojournalist we see everything, we can’t tell all that through one story or a picture… For my own projects, I would look for metaphors where things may not be as direct but I could put my thoughts across. I would not stage photographs but wait for the right frame,” says he.
While journalism offered opportunities, the photographer’s eye was keen to capture the unnoticed. If he ponders over shadows and how they represent “degradation in our life” in ‘Shortening Shadows’, in ‘Abandoned Hoardings’ he portrays the sorry state of the economy through huge hoardings that were blank for months. “Unseen, Unheard, Untold Stories” also uses metaphors to depict the abuse of women and children. “It started after the Nirbhaya case and the reporting of several rape cases from across India,” says Gireesh.
The exhibition at Gallery1000A is on till October 27.