Book Review | 'A Family Portrait', Akshay Mahajan on Kushal Ray's photo novel 'Intimacies' | Visual Culture and Communication |

'Young wavering photojournalists, such as myself, often go in search of pictures with a sometimes wanton thirst. They move cities, living their days out of cheap bus-stand lodges or friends’ apartments, and nights drinking outside cheap bars on Church Street. Anything that provokes a narrative. They probably think that like Nan Goldin, they’ll make pictures representing the transgressions of young urban dwellers. Faltering, perhaps they’ll meet a young queer poet and dance writer and find a subject. Over the next six months — furtive conversations over cheap whiskey at watering holes, words punctuated by drags of cigarettes and post-ganja confessions in bedrooms — they will take pictures of their friends, teasing out nuggets of a story. Rolls of film fed by curiosity. As Goldin put it, “It’s the form of photography that is most defined by love. People… take them to remember people”. This love is born out of a long-standing relationship between the observer and the subject.


On the face of it, Kushal Ray’s Intimacies is a series that could be seen as a representation of domestic decline, even a “human catastrophe”. Critiques of Ray’s photographs as an episodic representation of the decline in Kolkata’s middle class, the 12-room, family home of the Chatterjees, seem to encapsulate the slow withering of a joint family. They see Ray’s interiors as a metaphor for the politics that aims to unmask the accident of poverty. Perhaps, even a representation of his working class family’s poverty and violence; stages of personal degradation and suffering...'


Text by Akshay Mahajan | Tehelka

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