Portraits of the Pasthttps://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/portraits-of-the-past-5071824/

Portraits of the Past

At the third edition of India Arch Dialogue in Delhi, photographers and architects lay out architectural marvels dotted around the world.

Digital Rain by Daniel Rueda. (Photo by Amit Mehra)

In 2009, Delhi-based ragpicker-turned-photographer Vicky Roy was one among the four photographers chosen by US-based Maybach Foundation in a worldwide competition to photograph the reconstruction of the World Trade Centre (WTC) Complex. Upon landing in New York, as he watched claws of large excavating machines at the site removing debris — steels rods, concrete blocks and a sea of broken glasses, Roy would often hear passers-by speak of how many victims’ bodies were still being found in the rubble, left behind from the disastrous 9/11 attacks in New York. He captured a digger removing the wreckage, and a row of workers laying the foundation of steel rods for the new towers. His photographs, which captured the faceless spirits involved in the rebuilding of WTC, now hang in the pitch dark black interiors of Delhi’s Ojas Art Gallery as part of the exhibition titled ‘Moments in Architecture’.

Part of FDCI’s India Arch Dialogue 2018, which is hosting talks, workshops and an exhibition on architecture, Roy’s photographs are among the 184 by 58 exhibitors comprising photographers and practising architects who have captured the marvels of architecture through their lens. “WTC represented the spirit of Americans, and is a historical building. The photographs also reveal how construction takes place in the US as compared to India. They give so much importance to safety. Most workers were dressed in boots, gloves and wearing glasses. But in India, one rarely sees the workers equipped with these safety gears,” says 30-year-old Roy. The show explores the idea of spatial expression and how photography is closely linked to architecture. “They share a mutual relationship. The prime focus of this exhibit is not only only to see architectural photography as a medium of documentation but as a form of art,” says architect Rachit Srivastava, one of the curators of the show.

Architect Mitul Desai from Surat captures a child and his entire family housed within the veil of white mosquito nets at night, tucked on the side of a road. “These mosquito nets have an ephemeral presence in the city. To me, it is like a building that appears and disappears at night. I am documenting intimate spaces of architecture that have not been designed consciously but have a certain value. They serve as a counterpoint that this is also a way of living and is present. Upon looking at my photographs, viewers come and say, ‘Oh,poor people’. But I feel there is an elegance in the way they set up their tents,” says Desai. In another frame by him, the length of rainbow-colored saris hang from the terrace of an old residential building in Surat and envelope its exteriors from top to bottom. The residence serves as a small textile unit and houses migrant workers who live and work in the space while they give finishing touches to saris. After the final wash, these saris are left out to dry and hung before being dispatched.

An architect by training, Spanish photographer Daniel Rueda from Valencia freezes rib-tickling stories in his frames. With the help of unique geometric elements found in building across Europe, he lets building facades become interesting backdrops, and brings out an array of quirky works. One of his photographs, Digital Rain, which has been clicked in Spain, has a lady in a simple black dress holding a black umbrella with her other hand jutting out, as if trying to grasp the raindrops formed by small black dot patterns against a white coloured facade of Almond Centre by Beatriz Cubell. I Believe I Can Pink is a portrait of Reuda carrying a backpack as he happily looks up at the sky dressed in black from head to toe, against the backdrop of the colourful facade of the Mira Shopping Centre in Munich.


Sleeping Duty serves as an apt caption for a photograph of an abandoned neoclassical castle in Belgium by photographer Francis Meslet that was ravaged by a fire in 1993. Amid cobwebs and surrounded by trees that have overgrown on its ruined walls, it continues to be haunted by the memories of its past as the tall building was never rebuilt again. There is also the 18th century Samrat Yantra at Jantar Mantar in Jaipur, the observatory constructed to measure time. It showcases the blend of science, architecture and astrology in a frame by Samir Pathak.

Architecture photographer Fabio Mantovani brings the marvel of Choi Hung Estates in Hong Kong, replete in pop colours. The space houses over 18000 people. There were rumours that the government had painted it in different colours to uplift the space and raise the spirits of people. With palm trees placed in front of it reminding one of Miami Beach, it is no wonder that Choi Hung was chosen as the name of the mammoth building, which translates to a “rainbow”.