It was two decade ago, when the rust eaten cars caught Shahid Datawala’s attention and he decided to capture them in his lens. Like trees grow in the middle of nowhere, like nostalgia and the distance we seek from it, like unresolved knots, these silently parked cars were like complex portrait of a journey.
“The main idea behind this entire body work was to discover these beautiful machines which were glorified at one point of time but now have become part of the soil. Moreover, it was about the strong emotional connection, which they had with the owners, and that’s the reason they are here till date. When I decided to work on this theme, in my back of mind it was to bring on something that was dead and secularized,” says Datawala.
The body work that includes 32 precious cars, took around 4 years to be captured. Recalling the entire research work Shahid says, “The only way to know about these cars was through walking down the lane. And that is the reason it took me good four years to capture them.”
For Shahid the cars were a metaphor and something that was at rest. As he says, “I wanted to capture something that was at rest and was speaking for itself. And I found them as ‘talking cars’, and that’s how the theme or name of this exhibition ‘I Once Was Alive’ came into my mind.”
“In this collection the cars are telling their story that I was once alive. Moreover, for me as a designer the old designs and machinery have always inspired a lot and somewhere working on this project was discovering the old design and machineries which are no more but fascinate me,” he adds.
Interestingly, just like humans these cars too had some kind of fascinating stories related to them and Shahid came to know about it while doing the research and he realized why the cars that are 30-35 years old still exist and have become part of the soil.
“Well, the body work is more than what is visible at the Focus Photography Festival. I am just showcasing 32 works of the entire project. While I was exploring the whole idea, I interacted with the owner of these cars and realized that it’s all about memories that they want to keep alive even after decades. And I decided to bring it on the canvas and let the world know how precious they are and all we need to do is to take care of them.” he signs off, adding, “and it also helped me think and speculate across the unsolved debates-such as machine, nature, culture change and habit-these objects encompassed, he adds.
Focus Photography Festival I Once Was Alive by Shahid Datawala is on at Gallery 7, Kala Ghoda, Mumbai from 12 March-26 March