I chose this photograph, Ahir Boys, by the renowned artist Padmashree Jyoti Bhatt because it is an artwork that I have loved and lived with for many years. Devoid of the distraction of colour, this simple black-and-white image holds multiple stories of many worlds and evokes, at its core, the sheer delight of the freedom and liberty one imagines for oneself. As these two little children march forward towards us, shoulder-to-shoulder and in sync with one another’s journey, you become the silent witness of this beautiful moment within their world of innocence and imagination. But the more you contemplate this image the more you begin to recognise the suggestion it holds, of innocence lost. Where within the continuing wars and conflicts that we create around the globe, we lose the easy camaraderie and carefree coexistence that holds the magic of what life should really be all about.
The artist/photographer stays on the sidelines, avoiding intruding into the world of these two beautiful children, and yet, in passing one of them, acknowledges his presence with an unwavering gaze, and without faltering or changing the course of their journey. This, for me, truly sets the tone of this image – marking it with a timelessness that offers one a space of hope to imagine a life where acceptance and the choices of others can walk hand in hand without fear and intimidation.
In today’s era of smartphones, I love that the camera is now in everyone’s hand, quite literally. This image of Ahir Boys is a wonderful starting point for each of us to consider as a touchstone, for what we can choose as a frame to capture with our phone cameras, that is invested with a narrative that allows for transposed meaning.
In this fortnightly series, eminent artists suggest on important artwork that can serve as an introduction for children into the world of art.