The hand-bound book opens to successive colourful pixellated images. As you look closely, the blurred forms start taking shape. Clothes hanging from a line, a boy in a bright blue T-shirt and a close-up shot of a bespectacled, elderly woman. The images look like paintings.
What started out as photographs taken to remember her family evolved into Apparitions, a project on virtual reality, for Kaamna Patel.
The 26-year-old photographer’s book features screenshots of her home and family members, taken via Skype. The book is designed and published by Patel and is currently on display at Red, Blue & Yellow, a furniture store in Mumbai’s Mahalaxmi. “A few months ago, I started organising the pictures I had taken through Skype conversations with my family. I realised that I had collected so many interesting moments,” says Patel, who moved to Paris following a scholarship with Parsons Paris, an art and design school. The 56-page book, with the pictures on textured pages, became a diary of sorts for Patel. “There is a picture of my grandmother which is my favourite, because you can see the Skype buttons in it. I also like the one where my mom is sneezing, and the portrait of my brother,” says Patel.
Going through all the images made her ponder on the symbolism behind these images. The pixellated images, because of poor internet connectivity, made her realise how technology was facilitating a relationship. “When we’re talking to our family over the computer, we think of it as real, but it is actually just a bunch of pixels moving in real time. It’s only a representation of reality and can never be a substitute for one’s physical presence,” says Patel, who has been away from home for the past four years. This fact hit home when Patel visited her family in May this year. “Important details are lost on the computer. Things age, people age, time passes, and that’s difficult to gauge virtually,” she states.
Her extensive portfolio includes her dominant interests of photographing spaces and landscapes. Preludes, another project that she developed into a three-part book, explores the discrepancies of people living in organised structures, capturing the estrangement they feel with their environment. “I like narrative-based photography,” she says. While attention to detail is often the most important thing for any photographer, for Patel, the pixellated quality did not make Apparitions any less meaningful. “I like the pixels and the abstraction they create, because they reinforce the idea that Skype is not real. Skype has often led to messed up relationships and this was a reminder that technology is only a substitute,” she says.