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  • This is the best body of work in infra-red photography that I have seen in India.
      Shri S. Paul
    Photographer, on the infra red exhibition Ladakh Huess
  • I am proud to know this couple- Shamim and Sasmita. This book reflects the labour of their love. We could reach the place because of the power of his lens.
      Janab Arif Mohammed Khan
    Former state minister, at the inauguration of the book
  • Words fail me; outstanding!
      Mr. Rajiv Lochan
    Director NAGMA, on "One Fine Tuesday"
  • At times Delhi looks beautiful but the kind of flavour Shamim has brought about in black and white is not only very beautiful but after this book we all will see these monuments from a fresh perspective.

    ( while unveiling of the book 'Forgotten Dilli - Portrait of an immortal city')

    Extraordinarily taken pictures. Akhtar is someone we are proud of.

    ( on 'Ladakh Hues " )
      Mrs. Sheila Dixit
    Ex-CM Delhi
  • When stones burst into songs

    Qutub Minar must count among the most sketched, painted and photographed monuments of the world. What the Eiffel Tower is to Parisians, the Big Ben to Londoners, the Brandenburg Gate to Berliners and the Statue of Liberty to New Yorkers, the Qutub Minar is to Dilliwallahs. It is older and more spectacular than all the other monuments.

    I have seen hundreds of photographs of Qutub Minar but none to match the cover of Forgotten Dilli, Portrait of an Immortal City by Sasmita S. Akhtar and Shamim Akhtar. Shamim is a Bihari Muslim, now in the IAS, posted in Delhi. Sasmita is an Oriya Brahmin, a sociologist, who is a product of Jawaharlal Nehru University. Between them, they produced a pictorial album on Lakshadweep and now one on the old monuments of Delhi.

    Sasmita has written the text; Shamim has taken the photographs. They have limited their work to the end of the Mughal dynasty in 1857. They have pictures of baolis (step wells), dargahs (Sufi shrines), forts, mosques, and mausoleums. What arrests the readers attention is the interplay of light and shade on trees and clouds to highlight every monument.

    It is a sheer joy to turn over the pages of the book again and again. It reminded me of an old film song, 'Geet gaaya paththaron ne ' 'The stones burst with songs'.
      Mr. Khuswant Singh
    The Telegraph, 6th March 2010
  • 'A stunning exhibition, highlighting the unique beauty of Ladakh...extremely impressed by the quality of his images.'

    (on the exhibition, Rode to Heaven in 2008)

    'I have great pleasure in commending this book to all those who love mountains. Packed with photographs, there are short descriptive notes which are useful.'

    (In the foreword of the book, Rode to heaven: Ladakh in 2009)

    ...I myself have not been able to go to Kailasa nor will I be able to go to in this life; but after reading this book I feel I have also done half parikarma.'

    (At the inauguration of the book, 'Kailasa: A journey within' , at the Shanti Stupa, on the 30th of Jan. 2011)
      Dr. Karan Singh
    At the inauguration of the book, 'Kailasa: A journey within', at the Shanti Stupa, on the 30th of Jan. 2011
September 13, 2014
The apathy of India Islamic Cultural Centre towards art.

Before I share why this title, let me tell you my long journey of fascination with the medieval monuments of Delhi in short first.

Since my early childhood, I have been in awe of Qutub  Minar. In My fascination with these enigmas kept growing and as a budding photographer,  I have been taking pictures of these monuments since the age of 11 in our annual trip to Ajmer Sharif.

By the time I came to Delhi for higher studies, in JNU, 100s of my photographs of Delhi's monuments were published in various magazines ( colour). I was far from being satisfied.

Then I started shooting these monuments in black & white films. The results were satisfying  , still I was not convinced that I could to capture the grandeur and timelessness of these beautiful monuments.

Then I started my experiment on Infra-Red films. A medium, that even grandmasters of photography have not been able to 'understand'. In my passionate efforts, Raj Kapur of Madan Jee ( the oldest photographic firm in India at Chandni Chowk ) was encouraging.

Since 1992, I have been trying to capture these timeless beauties in Infra- Red. After  prolonged failures of 12 years, finally I was able to take a perfect shot of Safdarjung Tomb in 2004. Unfortunately, The film era ended and I was heartbroken.

Then I explored the digital world , and through my own alteration of the camera ( many got spoiled in the process) , I was able to shoot Infra-Red in digital format as well.

And thus, after 18 years of pure passion, the book was published " Forgotten Dilli - portrait of an Immortal City ". That book has reached the world and is appreciated by the historians and ace photographers.

I showed the book before the launch to Late Shri Khuswant Singh, and he was so pleased to see that he wrote a wonderful review of the book. The best part was his words "........ The cover of the book ( picture of Qutub Minar in Infra- Red) is the best picture that he had seen so far ."

I was moved with his blessings, and gifted him one 2 x3 foot canvas print of that picture and he was kind enough to place it in his living room instantly.

The book was unveiled by Smt. Sheila Dixit, the then Chief Minister of Delhi and she had a bag full of praise. As a token of regard, I made one large ( 4 x 6 foot ) canvas print of Humayun's Tomb and presented that to her.

She was so pleased that , she got it placed in her personal chamber in Delhi Secretariat and later it was shifted to her personal conference room no. 3.

Photography to me is not a commercial activity, rather I earn my living to be able to make pictures. So , taking the Infra-Red photography to the next level, I held an exhibition of Ladakh in 2013 in India Habitat Centre and the legendry photographer Shri S. Paul was kind enough to endorse by saying " this is the best body of work in Infra-Red that I have seen in India".

Till then, I myself was not aware of the worth of my pictures. When I realized that by the grace of God, I have achieved a unique method to capture the timelessness of Great Traditions, I decided to sort my best pictures of Delhi's monuments.

I selected 20 pictures, got them printed on archival German canvas through Epson printer. I also imported the special varnish to be coated on the canvas. That cost me a lot.

Then, I held one day exhibition in India Islamic Centre in July 2013, which was also unveiled by Smt. Sheila Dixit . She was mesmerized at the collection.  I gifted the entire body of work to IICC, for preserving and showcasing.

After that , I visited IICC several times, but could not see any of those pictures anywhere in the premises. I was told that renovation work is going on , and my pictures will be displayed properly after that.

One year passed, and still my pictures were not visible at IICC. So, I wrote an open letter to the Chairman, IICC, requesting him to return my pictures.

After receiving my letter, I was pursued and told that it was the mistake of the CEO , who " forgot" about those pictures and soon my pictures will be displayed .

Being an artist in my own right, It was painful for me that IICC " forgot" my gift. I insisted on taking back my pictures.

India Islamic Centre was kind enough to return them.

My assistant Prateek had gone to collect the pictures. The pictures were " kept" in room number 319 (literally trashed ).

When I saw the condition of those frames, I could not stop crying. All the pictures are totally spoiled. There are irreparable marks on the canvas and even the frames are all scratched. What else could have happened to these priceless pictures if trashed.

I am in extreme pain and that's why I felt like telling this story about India Islamic Centre. They neither understand anything about art and culture , nor its value.

Yes, if you are a meat lover, that's the right place for you.

Shame on India Islamic Cultural Centre.

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