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Photography series shines the spotlight on Chennai’s lightmen

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Photographer Madhavan Palanisamy on his newest black-and-white mission, The Reflector

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The solar throws mellow afternoon mild by way of the home windows. Dancing keyholes of lancet-shaped leaves exterior type patterns on the tiled flooring. Like an summary portray. Like Chennai-based photographer Madhavan Palanisamy’s footage.

The 44-year-old award profitable lensman has, in most of his initiatives, shot photographs that mirror the true world however cloaked them in a veneer of the fantastical and imaginative. His newest The Reflector, created over two days in October, is a tribute to the lightmen of Chennai.

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“They’re cupids of sunshine, brokers of the moon, human boom-rods. They’ll climb any mountain prime or tree or something to mirror the sunshine. A jovial bunch, they run round shouting directions to their fellow-agents and responding ‘ready-sir!’ to the DOP or the photographer. These males are super-heroes in their very own proper. The Reflector is their story,” says Madhavan over cellphone.

Madhavan Palanisamy

Coimbatore-born Madhavan received Lensculture’s B&W Sequence award in 2019 (Lensculture is among the most complete and far-reaching assets for locating up to date images expertise all over the world) for his work Appa and Different Animals, a tribute to the time spent together with his late father, the well-known author and literary critic Kovai Gnani.

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Madhavan’s work that choreographs portraiture and documentary goals to create an empathetic hyperlink between viewer and topic, a mirrored image of his personal journey with detours by way of a level in Biochemistry and work in promoting earlier than he discovered his calling in images. He has since metamorphosed into portraiture, photographing celebrities, sustainable trend and human tales.

“The pandemic restricted journey and business jobs but additionally gave artists time to dwell on sure points of life which are usually hijacked by standard work. The award pushed me to work on telling extra tales of strange people,” he says.

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Which is how Madhavan got here to inform the story of the lightmen, who’re among the many silent sentinels of the movie, tv and images industries, going about units and studios lugging lights and strobes with an earnestness that ensures productiveness.

“They know the right way to form the sunshine and the temper, however with the business shut down because of the pandemic, a variety of these males had been with out jobs, earnings or meals. Even now, because the business opens up slowly, they’re unable to discover a sustainable residing. The roles are high-risk, however most of them will not be a part of any union which makes it tougher for them to seek out work. The Reflector is a part-docu, part-fantasy story about these males who use their dinner plates to mirror the sunshine and convey consideration to their situation,” he provides.

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Madhavan shot the collection on movie utilizing a Rolleicord TLR digital camera, a 60-year-old vintage for the sq. footage, and a extra fashionable Contax G2 for the horizontal footage.

He rounded up outdated faithfuls — some like Ramesh Kumar, a darkroom printer and photographer had taught him in his early years. Some like “well-known lightmen Mohan and Mohaideen, fondly referred to as bhai had introduced their staff for the shoot. Suresh, who runs the studio Setfire, Pandian and Vasu who work there, and Amal, a contract assistant, had been additionally a part of the mission”.

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The 20 individuals who featured had been shot at deserted units, on sand heaps and atop sliding boards and staircases. Some had crowns and wings superimposed on them. Others had billboards for faces. However the one object that linked them was a dinner plate — that shone just like the solar, the moon’s reflection in a puddle, a beam of sunshine from a lighthouse, and because the passion of a person who is aware of he holds the sunshine to illumine a very good image.

The images shot in black-and-white had been processed by Karthik Thorali at Madras Atelier. The result’s a surreal, palpable portrait of a group — obscure but recognisable, acquainted but enigmatic.

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