Beyond Light , The Hindu

August 22, 2008

Ladakh as a landscape lends itself naturally to photography with its stark peaks and bright colours. But in Rode to Heaven, Shamim Akhtar throws a different light on the region, with his unique Infra Red (IR) photography. While being an experiment with a new form, the exhibition also chronicles Akhtar’s solo bike ride from Delhi to Ladakh.

Akhtar’s large panoramas are remarkable for their unusual colour and vantage angles. He explains the technique and method of IR photography, “IR is nothing new. But in India it’s not been explored much. It’s a particular way of looking at things.”

Having experimented with IR photography for 15 years he has to manually alter his digital camera.

He replaces the hot mirror of his camera with an IR censor. He first sets up his camera on a tripod, searching for the best shot through the viewfinder. Once he places his IR censor, it becomes “blind photography”, as the filter is opaque. What attracts him to this form? “It can’t be explained. But I like the old way of doing things,” he replies.

The photographs are also displayed chronologically by date and time. Akhtar explains, “I purposely gave the time. I wanted to do Ladakh on a time scale. Ladakh has been shot by the best photographers from India and abroad. So, I wanted to do something different. I want to show that I’ve not taken lakhs of shots. It’s been done in real time.” He elaborates, “Photography is not about waiting for that right moment. Photography is about reality.” It is the reality of Ladakh that most appeals to him.

Solo sojourns
Having ridden even to Kathmandu solo, Akhtar revels in his solitary tours. He explains the joy of riding on his own, “I want to be one with the element. I can’t do that with a companion. If I’m talking to even one person then I can’t enjoy the music of the silence.”

Working also on a coffee table book, “Ladakh in a Fortnight”, Akhtar is hoping to attract more Indian tourists to Ladakh.

“Rode to Heaven”, runs from today to the 28th at the Lokayata hall at the Hauz Khas Village.