Kochi: While a great number of the artworks on display at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale'14 remain abstract manifestations of the curatorial note which is based on the umpteen number of possibilities of interpreting the ideas of time and space, "Perpetual Stills,' a suite of photographs by a Keralite stands out for the unique nature in which the history of its homeland is embedded.
The photographs in black and white by eminent photographer Punaloor Rajan which are displayed at a room in Aspinwall House, the main venue of KMB'14, have been attracting visitors from and outside the host state for the precision with which they have imprinted the political and cultural history of Kerala.
The photographs taken by the 76-year-old artist, who leads a recluse-like life in Kozhikode, during a period of around 30 years, from 1956 to 1980s, showcase all the major events and people in the history of the state.
Among his subjects are legendary Malayalam writers Vaikom Muhammad Basheer, Thakazhi Sivasankarapillai, S.K. Pottekad, M.T. Vasudevan Nair and Kamala Surayya. You can also see communist stalwarts like P.C. Joshi, EMS Namboothiripad and C. Achutha Menon.
The golden era of Rajan’s photography began after he, who was a member of the Kerala People's Arts Club (KPAC), went to the All Union Institute of Cinematography, Moscow, to get training in photography and cinematography as part of the KPAC's attempt to start its own movie production house.
Of the choice of his works for KMB'14, its curator Jitish Kallat said, "Rajan's portfolio of a life's works is not only a chronicle of his life that intersected closely with the political and the cultural history of Kerala but it also offers a window for us to view where we are today."
The works on display are chosen from a personal collection of senior journalist Mangad Ratnakaran and painter and photographer Pradeep Chandrakumar both of whom have been on a mission to archive Rajan's works.
"The range of Rajan's photography is quite wide. He has recorded the history of Kerala in his photographs. They have great archival value," Mangad Ratnakaran said. He said that Rajan who was a master in using natural light quit photography with the arrival of digital media.
Rajan had gifted around 2,000 negatives of his photographs to Ratnakaran.
Kochi Biennale director Bose Krishnamachari said that Rajan's works attains great value at a time when photography has become something that anyone can do. He said that the Biennale Foundation has plans to conduct a solo show of Rajan's photographs.