Photo Feature> Zubin Pastakia

11Oct08

*An Indian By Design Exclusive*

I came across Zubin Pastakia’s work in the Spade Journal. His study of Mumbai was refreshing, and refrained from talking of its old charm or it’s rushed populace, but seemed to focus on silent, perhaps unconscious conversations a city’s built strucures have with those who live in it or visit it. His work on Cinema Halls is alive. Like a commentary in the present, of things happening now. It does not attempt to romanticise their existence and leaves the viewers to make stories of it. Featured, The Cinemas Project and Built Landscape.

The Cinemas Project

Auditorium, Bharat Mata, Mumbai

Auditorium, Bharat Mata, Mumbai

Corridor, Capitol Cinema, Mumbai

Corridor, Capitol Cinema, Mumbai

Palace Talkies, Mumbai

Storage Room, Moti Talkies, Mumbai

Storage Room, Moti Talkies, Mumbai

Project: Built Landscape

New Navy Nagar, Colaba, Mumbai, 2007

New Navy Nagar, Colaba, Mumbai, 2007

Billboards, Bandra Reclamation, Mumbai, 2007

Billboards, Bandra Reclamation, Mumbai, 2007

Middle-Income Housing Colony, Sector 105, Greater Noida Expressway, 2007

Middle-Income Housing Colony, Sector 105, Greater Noida Expressway, 2007

Indian By Design: Why cinema halls?
Zubin: I felt that a Bombay-based, photographic exploration of cinema halls was conspicuous by its absence. Most of the work I had seen was usually in black & white and/or was concerned mainly with the architecture. Also, these buildings were always being looked at in a way which seemed to deny that they actually exist and function today (albeit somewhat anachronistically). I decided to explore the interiors of these buildings in colour. Colour implies an immediacy — a present. I did include the architecture, but I was interested in looking at these sites as lived spaces, which people have interacted with, and in many ways, shaped over time. The biographical time of these buildings was compressed in little nooks and crannies throughout their interiors.

Indian By Design:You speak of a man-altered landscape and how it reflects us. What did you discover in your research for the Built Landscape project?
Zubin:I always felt that a lot of the debates that we were having in terms of how the city reshapes itself physically needed to be explored visually. The photographic narrative brings with it its own way of telling stories, which not only have the potential to bring textual analysis into the public imagination, but have a way of operating within existing narrative vacuums. When photographing for this project, I have been contemplating the built environment and landscape as some sort of a physical manifestation of our ideals as a society.

The project is still finding its shape, but a lot of the sites I am drawn to so far — slum rehabilitation projects, housing colonies, the peripheries of planned business centres, suburban townships, sites of environmental degradation seem to me to reveal a story that is different from, on the one hand, images of a new “Shiny India” that is ready to compete successfully, no matter what cost, in the global economy; an India whose future is imagined in the glitzy skylines of Dubai and Shanghai. On the other hand, I am interested in looking at an India that is a contradiction to a pictured “India” that is still so inexorably entrenched in its traditions and past glories, that it lacks a visual present; as if India is all exotic colours and people bathing in a misty Ganges.

Instead of attempting to represent the city/country photographically, I would rather photograph sites that I feel are of contemporary relevance to us as a society, and hopefully add a visual dimension to the debate.

Indian By Design: What do you look for in a story?
Zubin: I think a good story is one where the narrative is open to interpretation and raises questions rather than providing easy answers. This encourages reflection and, one would hope, conversation.

Zubin Pastakia was born and raised in Bombay, India. After having studied economics and film in the US, he returned to Mumbai in 2005 where he currently resides and works. Commercially, Zubin has photographed for architects, interior designers and various publications. He blogs at http://peripheralvision.blogspot.com and his works are here – www.zubinpastakia.com

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6 Responses to “Photo Feature> Zubin Pastakia”

  1. Thanks, everyone!

    @ Anu, thanks for your response. Regarding your suggestion, I should say, that the decision to leave out (for the most part) actual physical human presence and visible spontaneous and fluid action from the images was a conscious one.

    The idea was to imply and play with both presence/absence — past, present and future — by repetitively tracing the contours of these spaces; thus, ultimately doing away with the binary altogether.

    By the way, I have recently updated the site with new images taken in 2009. You can find them at http://www.zubinpastakia.com/portfolio/CinemaHalls/index.html

  2. 2 Anu Varghese

    I’d absolutely agree with Vineeta about the sense of quiet in the pictures. I don’t know how to interpret it yet. But I have a suggestion. This notion of “sites as lived spaces”… there is a manner in which this notion comes alive when we are able to capture human beings ‘in the process of their interaction’ in the places they are in — human presence and interaction with and within a space as a commentary on their relationship with their surroundings. The images shown in this series are very static in that sense.. (However there is one picture where a person seems to be sleeping with her feet up on the seat, in an empty cinema hall, in Zubin’s website. There is a manner in which the presence of that person adds so much to what the photograph speaks about the cinema hall) I feel that a further engagement, of a different kind, with the subject may be possible if one were to capture images in their fluidity and spontaneity too — that alongside the kind of pictures already shown would indeed present a very interesting perspective.

  3. Very unique subject Zubin has worked upon. Thanks for sharing this information!

  4. his compositions are something i could look at all day long!

  5. Zubin’s work (or what I see here) has an innate sense of quiet. It gives the viewer time & lets them enter the picture. Thanx a ton for sharing this work.


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