The things we see in our daily lives, the people we pass by and the moments that capture our mind. Chandrachoodan, the man behind the Chennai Photowalk concept shares some of the snapshots from his photowalks across the city and the myriads of lives that make the city what it is.
IT’S 7 AM on a Sunday, and Madras is already sizzling. I am perched patiently on a pile of bricks on a corner of a busy street. Eye to the viewfinder, fingers testing the trigger, I scan for signs of human activity.
As on many Sundays, I am photowalking. Trying to improve my photography, break the routine and hunt for the strange, the beautiful and the inspiring in the streets of Madras. As is common to those who wait long minutes, hours, for their prey, I too speculate.
Imagine, I tell myself, having to walk the world on four legs. Stooped. Bent. What a tragedy that would be, for we would never hold in our hands tools, such as an Oldowan stone chopper. Or the Nikon D80.
We, the people, have got to walk on our legs. Our species, the Homo-Sapiens-Sapiens evolved, survived and flourished entirely due to a simple accident: bipedalism. While quadrupeds – deer and other game – could outrun us in the short term, they quickly lost stamina, and had to rest. Just about long enough so we the bipeds, slowly walking up to the resting animals, could hunt them, eat them and survive the violent cradle that Africa was and is.
Why bipedalism evolved is a question best left to palaeontologists and archaeologists, such as David Jordan. Perhaps because trees, in a world that was younger and fresher, could now grow taller and further out of the reach of our primeval primate fathers; who had no choice but to stand up and be counted if they had to eat. Perhaps we took to our feet because food was scarce, and energy had to be conserved; standing tall meant less surface area exposed to the harsh climates of middle Africa.
Whatever the reason, Bipedalism gave us a singular advantage. Our top/front limbs could be freed to manipulate tools, giving rise to our species’ defining characteristic: creating resources rather than just consuming them. Creating art.
The sun’s climbing steadily up the sky, a path mirrored by the mercury in the thermometer. An old man shuffles by, finds the only spot of shade in an otherwise boiling pavement: the shadow of a lamppost. He huddles himself there, and resumes watching the street. Click.
ART ON MY BRAIN
Photography: Grecian economy of words, it describes light leaving its ephemeral traces on paper. That our species can read these traces, that we can read meaning into these traces and look for, in the words of Roland Barthes, the Punctum among all the Studium, is an accident.
The early hominids’ (the large biological khandan that humans are a part of) brains were getting bigger and bigger, and before long, our heads were almost too big to go through our mother’s birth canal. We had to be born earlier. Premature. This forced us, then and now, to look up to someone bigger, better and benevolent, for our safety. Perhaps one logical reason for the birth of religion and spirituality.
In any case, the larger brains that humans inherited meant greater processing power, acutely developed senses, and wired up, highly connected, abstraction-metaphor-pattern seeking intellect. The human eye, one on each side of a forward looking face, could perceive colour, depth, motion and edges. Our visual system became closely connected to our emotional system. We could see all.
The religion and spirituality caused by our near-death birth experience, and the 3D world of our visual perception, potent forces each, when they came together, boom!
Caves exploded in colour, stones whittled away into sculptures. Sculptures that were tools. Tools, in their perfect symmetry, pieces of art.
Wait. Wait. What’s that there? Oh, brilliant. A “sastrigal”, white dhoti flapping, crosses the street, stopping the traffic with a nonchalant, disdainful little wave of his arm. HAS TO BE PHOTOGRAPHED.