The Man Behind the Image

Dastkari Haat Samiti attempts to empower artisans through a photography workshop

Written by Pallavi Chattopadhyay | Updated: September 19, 2018 8:25:13 am
The photography workshop

A master of Mughal school of miniature paintings, artist Mohan Prajapati arrived in the Capital from Jaipur last week to learn the art of photography. He was taught by photographer Subinoy Das at the Crafts Museum in Delhi. At Das’ photography workshop, Prajapati learned how to get the perfect shot of his paintings printed behind the yellow pages of old Urdu poems and shayari. These paintings lend an insight into the lives of Mughal rulers — of what they wore and the lifestyle they led. There are scenes of them enjoying a sumptuous feast near their tent set up in a forest, of a bejewelled Shahjahan seated atop his horse, among others. Placing them on benches at the premises and against the backdrop of branches and leaves, he learned the benefits of natural light in place of using flash, photo-editing applications like Snapseed and the significance of shutter and focus, just like the other artisans who arrived from across the country to attend the workshop. The aim was to understand the concept of presenting their products online.

Another participant, Delhi-based Mohammad Tahir, who specialises in wood carving, was among the 35 artisans comprising carpet makers from Uttar Pradesh (UP), Pattachitra artists from Orissa and Madhubani artists from Bihar. A quick realisation, of how photography is in itself an artform, dawned upon him after he was briefed about technical words like aperture, on how to adjust focal length and what ambience meant when shooting his wooden printing blocks used for printing on paper, cloth and clay. Udaipur-based Durga Yadav, 35, felt she was back to her childhood days. She went about hanging her handcrafted meenakari jewellery, especially earrings, with bird, peacock and fish motifs, on leaves and gave them an interesting backdrop. She believes that her products will now have more visibility and sales with the opening up of online avenues, rather than having her stall displayed at exhibitions.

A photograph that was uploaded online

Talking about the workshop organised by Etsy, an e-commerce website focussing on handmade and vintage items, in association with the Dastkari Haat Samiti, founder Jaya Jaitly said how this is a step in the direction of empowering the craftsperson in a changing digital world and helping them in their own marketing. “The artists now recognise the value of their skills. But there is a digital world that is growing with the onset of online marketing. Many of them are not computer-savvy and don’t know how to project their products digitally. The idea was to make them online-savvy by being able to upload their products in the best possible light so that it becomes attractive to sell. I keep asking them not to waste their time in watching silly movies or taking selfies but to rather use this as a tool, which is as important as their craft tools,” she said.

The best photographs clicked by the artists were put on display at the museum after the two-day workshop. Pointing out at a red carpet full of geometric patterns placed by the carpet makers from UP in front of a replica of a primitive hut of Nagaland, Das taught the artisans to simultaneously focus on the story behind their products. “We taught them to not only click pictures but how to weave a story around it,” says Das.

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