The AGM Lecture 2012 by Brijesh Patel
Photographer Brijesh Patel delivered a post AGM presentation on his “Salt: Land & People” project inspired by Gandhi’s 1930 Satyagraha campaign.
Brijesh opened his presentation by talking about his background, and what first drew him to photography. His parents had to flee Idi Amin’s Uganda in 1972. Brijesh was born in India and moved to England when he was six years old. This family history, its connection and relationship to India, is what inspired him to explore it with a camera.
Before talking more about his work, Brijesh discussed the arrival of photography in India and showed some photos of landscapes and architecture of North and West India in the 1860s.
Brijesh then discussed his work in the UK and India; “Photography is not an objective medium and my view is a subjective and personal view point of a country that is constantly in flux and which is open to analysis with multiple standards of what is right and what is wrong…”
He first presented portraits of former athletes who competed in the 1948 London Olympics and armed forces musicians; “I often carry out projects in the UK which allow me to explore techniques, equipments, ideas and compositional narratives on projects before going to India to shoot”.
Brijesh’s photography in India reflects his view of the country as “A democratic, capitalist, society where feudalism casts it shadow over the ever widening disparity between those in the center and those on the edges of the new social order framed by the desires and attitudes of the middle class”.
Brijesh said he has become increasingly aware of the distance that lies between the ‘idea of India’ and being Indian today in the post colonial landscape and resulting intertwining stories of the ordinary Indians is what interests him at the core of this. His photography aims to “raise questions about the transformation of the society, its people and the landscape”.
Brijesh presented photos of his landscape and portrait projects on Gujarati middle class families, tribal areas and untouchables before turning to his Salt project. Its aim is to retrace the journey of Gandhi and seek out modern elements of his philosophy. By exploring the land and the people along the route, Brijesh was seeking modern elements and inheritors of his philosophy. He wanted to isolate themes and ideas from Gandhi’s work and seek images that place them in the 21st Century context.
“This series of Land and People images of the “Salt” project are an emblematic as well as a factual representation of what today’s India stands for me. In India, and along my route, modernity and tradition battle for prominence, creating multiple narratives, which highlight the contradictions. There are two parallel lives being lived by India, and the two have not successfully crossed over. The economic gains are concentrated within the middle classes and the negative spill-over of uncontrolled developments and financial corruption is deeply felt by the lower classes”.
Brijesh will be exhibiting Salt: Land & People at the Gandhi Foundation’s Kingsley Hall East London HQ during the Olympic and Paralympic games. There are also plans to publish a book of photographs from the project.
To view the Gandhi Foundation Annual Report click on the link below:
The Gandhi Foundation Annual Report 2011 – 2012
Mark Hoda – Trustee and Chair of The Gandhi Foundation