Artist Prashant Miranda and photographer Sohrab Hura invite the world into their journals, says Nisha Susan
PRASHANT MIRANDA PAINTS WITH rainwater, ganga jal, beer and icy trickles from Canadian taps. He paints all the time. His watercolour journals began as a way of remembering. Slowly he allowed his curious friends at National Institute of Design to peek in. The 32-year-old moved and became an artist in Canada’s first stop-motion animation series. His journals went with him, every month a different book, each one unique: twine-bound or leather bound by Italian monks, Moleskines and in tobacco tins. When his journals were displayed in the windows of an independent bookstore and later in his gallery at Toronto, passersby would appear in the middle of the night to see if there was a new page to gaze at.
Those who have seen his work in An Illustrated Life, Danny Gregory’s compendium of private sketchbooks, or follow his blog (prashart.blogspot.com), know that Miranda’s sketchbooks are not for sale. To explain why, Miranda tells the story of an 18th century miniature that shows Radha, her friend and a parrot. “Since it was wrested out of its context you never see the text at the back. Radha is lying to her friend about the lovebites Krishna left on her neck, blaming it on the parrot.” Like the monks who once both wrote and illuminated scrolls, Miranda is interested in the whole book.
Miranda escapes Canada’s winters in India. This is good news if you covet his lush, romantic, parallel worlds. Look out for the occasional sale of his paintings, like the Crow series shown this month in Mumbai. Or wait for the animation film (painted frame by frame) inspired by the ritual marriage of the peepal and the neem he once saw.
SOHRAB HURA IS JUST back from the Sète Photo Festival in France where he was among a handful of young photographers showing their work. He is stretching his legs at home in Gurgaon for a bit before he starts shooting for a prestigious masterclass he has been invited for later this year. The Joop Swart Masterclass has been organised by World Press Photo every year since 1994 and only 12 young, promising photographers are annually selected.
“I need to work hard now,” Hura says. It is tempting to roll your eyes at him. As if a 27-year-old who only started shooting in 2005 got here without working hard. Hura first came to the public eye with the apocalyptic work from his National Foundation of India fellowship — The Land of a Thousand Struggles. His photographs are rectangles of suffering, rage and pain in a black and white, rural India where people struggle for employment and livelihood.
Hura, who is bored by his own pictures in two days, says, “Those pictures were too easily ‘good’, too easily liked.” His newer work (still black and white, still shot on film) is being edited for the journal he is planning. Life is Elsewhere, like its namesake, is about the artist, the world inside and outside him. Like Kundera’s Jaromil, Hura examines the chaos and vulnerability in his relationships with the world, his friends and his mother. It is a shift away from shooting rural India, where, he explains, none of his self was in danger. The book changes from day to day, lavished with his love for taking risks and for his mentors such as the celebrated French photographer Antoine D’agata. Dogs romp across the lens. Beautiful girls break out of dazzling water. His mother looks pensive but the photographer remembers her younger self and himself as a child. Melting faces and frightening landscapes return.
Here is the photographer and the stars burst in the sky. The book changes from day to day but soon it will head to a place nearer to us, away from the photographer. And he will let us in.