Meter down

Chennai is well-know for its beautiful beaches and mouth watering South Indian cuisine, but there is one more thing Chennai is famous for – its exorbitant rickshaw fares. The uncountable complaints that have lately been pouring in the Road Transport Office have made this under the wraps chaos come to the surface.

The statutory revision of the auto-rickshaw fares in our every own city of Chennai has not happened for as long as 5 years now. This lack of attention from the government has its adverse effects on the commuters. The commuters not only pay almost double the amount of money, they also end in frequent dispute and fights with the auto drivers. The severity of the condition is understood only when the auto drivers pay no heed to the passengers complaints and as a union decide the rates themselves.

However, if we lift our heads and look on the other side, the auto drivers are also the ones suffering. Due to the lack of revision over a long period and the increasing prices of various commodities along with petrol, it is almost impossible for the auto-drivers to sustain a living with the old Government. After speaking to a auto driver who on the basis of anonymity revealed that they as a union have been trying to make talks with the government for the past for 4 years and requesting for a revival, but like it is clear from the situation, least has been done

We also spoke to Mr. Narayanan, founder of a Auto-driver’s welfare association called “Rickshawala”. He was of the same opinion that to regulate and implement fair fares is the Governments job. He also went on to blame the present Government and how they are not taking a step forward to force a iron hand down instead turning a blind eye to the scenario.


Thats what he said

Controversy Cartoon

Recently a very unusual thing happened. At the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai where I study, we were given a beforehand statutory warning about this one particular speaker. This speaker was Kancha Illiah, an eminent activist and the author of book “why I’m not a Hindu”. Now, with a book like that, we can kind of figure that the man on the podium is not going to be easy or pleasant. He to all our surprise attacked the three main institutes of our existence. Our religion, our family and the constitution of the country.

One of the first things that you will notice about him is that he is a strong believer of his Dalit grounds. Infact, he introduces himself like that. There were many issues that Illiah touched upon out of which one caught my interest the most. He spoke about the recent Ambedkar cartoon controversy that created a ruckus in the parliament. A cartoon that showed Ambedkar sitting on snail called ‘Constitution’ and Pandit Nehru who stood behind and was hitting the snail. This cartoon indicated that Ambedkar had made the process of making the Constitution slow, whereas Nehru was for speeding it up.

This cartoon which was in my opinion directed to tickle the funny bone, received quite the opposite reaction. The reaction of Dalits towards this piece of work was said to be flabbergasting. They saw this as an intentional damage done to Ambedkar and his stature; they have seen it as trivialising their prophet.

Okay ! wait! Did they call him their prophet? No doubt, Ambedkar did all the good he could for the Dalits in his time, he was our constitution-maker and he is way above being merely just a leader in the minds of the Dalits. But is it justified to place him next to someone like Prophet Mohammed   who literally introduced Allah to its people. Maybe, yes, the Dalits of India were godless untouchables. Ehp exploited, worshipping local idols, living in oppression and superstition—at the time Ambedkar arrived on the socio-political scene of India. He was the one to introduced Buddha to soulless Dalits.

However, this is not even the point anymore. The point here, the question I want to ask is, since when did we start taking our cartoons so seriously? They are cartoons, meant to look at in a light manner. Take the recent case of Aseem Trivedi, a 25 year old activist and cartoonist is held and put in front of the court for sedition charges. Why? Because he spoke the truth? because he just drew what was in everyone’s minds ?.He is being charged for sedation.  And whatever happened to constitution of India that guaranteed us freedom of speech and expression. The funny part is that here the const5itution is claiming to be the “victim”

Whatever the problem maybe, whatever the solution to the problem maybe, but a cartoon is all that it takes to disrupt the working of the parliament? First FDI, then uninterested MPs and now cartoons!! quite deteriorating standards I must say.


In possibly what was a fit of anger, J.A Anderson, stormed out of that rammschakled place. Came back with an idea; with what was to be the world’s largest camera. This man then went on to capture a handsome train in its entirety without any faults and ridges, just as per the need of the client.

The Mommoth Camera- First BIG camera

In today’s world, there are wackier cases of art and some much more serious. The point is that the world, even in its history, has borne resemblance to photographers and photographs that go much beyond the imagination of the general mind. Was it genius? Was it pure workman’s ship? What was it and what is it today that drives people to accomplish such feats is what we are looking at.

The beginning

In 1900 the Chicago & Alton Railway had built, what they believed was a faultless train. The authorities were very keen on getting the train photographed and have an 8 feet long picture. The photographer told them that the train could only be clicked in sections and then these sections were to be put together. But the authorities did not agree to this and were more than adamant; they insisted. At last a truce was called, and the railway photographer left the boardroom with an idea. This crazy incident gave birth to the ‘Mammoth Camera’. This was the world’s largest camera back then. This camera was of 600 kilograms and could only be moved by the strength of 15 men. This gigantic instrument is now considered as one of the greatest inventions in the field of photography

Modern day Conversions

Truck Camera

We talked about History, but does anybody know the largest camera of the modern times? You would be more than surprised to know that Guinness book of world records certified biggest camera in world is actually transformed from an airplane hangar. That is not all. The Photograph produced by this camera is also the world’s largest photograph and is as big as a three storey building. The photograph is a glorious honor to a historic turning point in Orange County history as well as a mile stone in the evolution of photographic medium.

A stupid joke cracked while having a beer was all that took Shaun Irving to make yet another world’s biggest camera. This big camera actually happens to be in a truck. A few years back Irving bought a truck on eBay and constructed the world’s biggest pinhole camera in it. The concept of darkrooms and pinhole camera can be traced back into centuries .but the thought of a moveable camera inside a truck is just what anybody would call absolute brilliance.

Diamond in the sky

Would you feel safer if you were told that scientist now could spot an asteroid coming towards earth better? Jokes apart, but that is true. The world’s biggest digital camera is place inside the PS1 telescope Observatory in Hawaii which scans and takes images across the sky. The images produced by this camera, if printed will be huge enough to cover half of a basket ball court.

A One and half minute click.

A graffiti garage door in Manhattan is what is hiding the world’s biggest Polaroid camera behind it. Truth to tell, this camera actually  resided in the basement of a museum for quite a few years where Mark Sobczak was taking care of it. According to him he had develop a strange bond with the camera and got it back into working condition. The camera works like wonder and produces 40 inches wide and up to 106 inches long, or, to put that in a better way: it can produce a full-colour, powerful, head-to-toe image of possibly anyone and anything present on the planet.

Rendezvous into the Wilderness with Harish NN

Meet Mr. Dependable. Meet Mr. Harish NN, an advocate who is also a photographer. A person who would rather have an intellectually stimulating discussion than sit around and make his life revolve around only one beat. It is also a large possibility that this discussion takes place on a safari, for that’s where he likes to be, clicking the dog years away.

He, of course, has been on the scene for some time now. Especially where and when it concerns wildlife. What with his whole family’s interest in wildlife photography, Harish actually makes trips to the forest and regards it as much of a family get together.

In the Jungles of California

 No plan

Now one can’t help but question, how come a man so involved with his work and his family, and well, life got down to photography anyway. And then we know. Passion. And as always, a life experience, this time in Kenya.

“I have always loved travelling and during my college days, I would borrow my cousin’s film SLR camera while going out on treks. During October 2007 when we planned a wildlife safari to Kenya, my brother insisted that even I buy a DSLR and a decent lens. Without much idea regarding the basics of photography like ‘shutter speed’, ‘aperture’ etc., I embarked on this journey. The trip to Kenya kindled a new interest in me and I took up wildlife and bird photography as a serious hobby which has later turned into a passion.”

Passion and more

This passion was what reflected just about last year, when he won our magazine’s Photographer of the Year. The day was when he knew, that this would be more than a just a lingering passion. This also helped him talk about things, through pictures of course, other than the beasts around and he found himself in a rather ‘uncomfortable’ situation, doing street photography.

However, even after that brief stint he returned to his true passion, wildlife photography and more precisely, bird photography. He has his reasons and he actually listed them down to us. And we couldn’t help but admire his keen eye for details.

The Birdy love

He says, and with much enthusiasm “Birds are swift, restless and full of action. This is what makes bird photography a challenging task and this is what I am drawn towards.”

A rare capture

Abundance in their variety, colour, shapes and sizes make photographing them a pleasure, as would be with anyone. He adds, “looking through the lens, it helps me connect with them while I try to understand their behavioural patterns. At the same time, sheer unpredictability of their behaviour provides good photographic opportunities.”

As one knows, the difficult part of bird photography is approachability. Most birds keep a very large distance from humans and fly away the moment a camera is aimed at them. He in fact advises, “A good telephoto lens and patience are the key to getting good photographs of birds. More important is to approach in a manner that is least threatening to the bird. Let the bird relax and be at ease. A stressed bird does not make a good image.”

Meeting the Extreme

He also goes on to describe what is possibly one of the best bedtime stories, if you are up for true adventures. This one is about a tiger and this one is in the sweltering summer heat. And this is how it goes:

“Last summer, the temperatures were soaring in Bandhavgarh and on a particular day we started out in the afternoon in about 45 deg. Cel. of dry heat. We came across a situation where we knew that a tigress was looking to hunt and we had to wait in the extreme heat in the open safari vehicle for about two hours until the hunt took place.

In Kenya and also in Assam, I experienced very low temperatures early in the morning and the chill does really bite into the fingers. As a wildlife photographer you have to endure these conditions and it is important to train your mind to ignore them and focus on the job at hand. Of course, prior knowledge of the conditions helps you in preparing for the right kind of clothing or other accessories that would be required.”

An Insight

At the same time, Harish also presents to us a rather simple dish. The recipe for being a decent, if not brilliant, wildlife photographer. His first tip, and this one goes out especially to the beginners, is don’t buy expensive equipment. Start basic, that is a wide angle lens, and make sure you know the environment well enough so your first click, if necessary, can be of the subject in the environment itself.  Offering some other tips, he suggests and quite clearly at that, to know one’s equipment and environment well.

Personally, that is one of the best advises I have heard. Also, as he points out, it is important in wildlife photography to capture action for that provides a very good image.

Tiger at lake in South African Jungle

Last few words

Alongside, all that Harish also has a few other words and in an odd way, they sound rather inspiring. “Wildlife photography gives one an opportunity to explore animal behaviour”, and understand it.

It helps one to understand the nature of other beings, and thus, helps one grow. We say grab a camera and go out and hit the forests and have a conversation. Just make sure the conversation is between the lens and the beast, in his/ her home.



Image Copyrights: Harish NN

Gordon Parks- Story of a Legend

Anyone who knew Gordon Parks knew that he was full of stories. His life, his career, his photography, and in fact even his birth, have stories behind them. It is said that Gordon was stillborn—his heart was not beating at the time of his birth. The doctors had almost declared him dead, when one of the doctors picked him up and put him in a bucket of cold water. The shock was enough to bring Parks to life. Shocking, as it may be, this incident gave us the chance to experience Parks’ groundbreaking journey—from a high-school dropout to someone who became a pioneer and left behind the legacy of iconic photographs, movies and music.

Gordon Parks

The Revelation
Parks left home at a very early age and started supporting himself by doing odd jobs. He had worked as a waiter at the railroad cars. One day, he found a magazine left behind by a passenger, which contained a collection of photographs of migrant workers and the dreadful conditions in which they lived.Parks was so touched by these pictures that he decided to buy a camera. He went out to a pawn shop and bought his first camera and went on to use it as a weapon against poverty and racism than a camera itself.

The Right Reasons
Parks began his career as a freelance photographer, and he made a good portfolio of portraits and fashion photographs. But his main subjects were the lost, needy and the poverty stricken. In 1941, an exhibition of those photographs won Parks a photography fellowship with the Farm Security Administration (FSA).There; he worked as a trainee under Roy Stryker, the head of Information division at the FSA.

Parks was the first African-American to work at the FSA and in a lot of the other government departments too. It was then that he did significant work and also joined some of the finest documentary photographers in the country. One of his assignments was photographing the training of the first unit of African-American fighter pilots.  However, Parks was not allowed to accompany the pilots and document their participation in the war. Soon after, Parks left the government service.

The Assignment
Parks was asked by Stryker to leave his camera on the table and go to out to the opposite store, buy anything from there and then go to a restaurant. Finally, walk up to the closest theatre and watch any movie. Puzzled, Parks left the office to do his first supposed assignment.

He went to the store, restaurant and theatre. He was denied service everywhere because of his race. He came back to office angry and entered Stryker’s cabin. Stryker looked at him and said “Did not go well, did it?” Parks looked down and nodded his head. To this Stryker replied, “This was a small way of showing how things actually work in the national capital”.

The Big Picture
From his repertoire, Parks’ most famous is the one he shot on his first day of FSA in WashingtonDC. The photograph was of an African-American charwoman at FSA named Ella Watson. Parks walked up to her and asked her if he could photograph her. Then he made her stand against the American flag that was put as a drop down on the wall and asked her to hold a mop in one hand and broom in the other. Once she was ready with her position, Parks asked to simply stare into the camera.

Gordon Parks BIG picture

The picture, as we know, is now legendary as ‘American Gothic’. He took the picture to Stryker, who said, “Boy! It’s brilliant. But this might make us lose our jobs.” One glimpse of the photographs makes you realise that there is much more to her stare. The photograph reveals the depth of her understanding, making an attempt of giving it a deeper meaning. Soon, this Ella Watson photograph became the identity of both America and a unique individual.

The Last Phase
A year before Parks passed away, during an interview he said “I’m still 92, and there is a lot to do. But I think time is calling for me. I’m not frightened, though I’m not happy about going. So I’m going to shoot my pictures and life is still ahead of me. But time is calling”. Like it’s said before and it’s being said again. Gordon Parks was full of stories. His stories were not only inspirational for African Americans but also for everyone who struggles through life and wishes to follow his dreams.



Image Courtesy: Creative Commons