Jazz music flows through the café like steam. With chinoiserie wallpaper and sepia photographs from a century, time slows down in space. Madhavan Palanisamy, with his wise beard and serenity, seems to belong to a period like this when he made a name for himself as an award-winning photographer and filmmaker.
Madhavan, 44, who was born and grew up in Coimbatore, recently received the B&C Series Award from LensCulture for his work "Appa and Other Animals". “LensCulture based in Amsterdam is an authority in contemporary photography. Selected from 126 entries, I had nine pictures that celebrate my time with my father, the famous writer and literary critic Kovai Gnani, ”says Madhavan. "He hadn't felt well and when I visited my home, between discussing his work, Carl Jung and spirituality, I took long walks and took pictures of abandoned horses and stray dogs with my Contax, the" Lamborghini of the cameras ". I juxtaposed these pictures with my father's for the series. "
Madhavan's work, which choreographs portrait and documentary films, aims to create a sensitive connection between viewer and subject and is a spillover from a diverse childhood.
“My father lost his eyesight from diabetes when he was 45, but he thought it was a gift and wrote a lot of books. Even before, our home was filled with Marxist thinkers and discussions about the subalterns. As children, we saw films by Charlie Chaplin, Bergman, Fellini, Godard and Ray. They became my creative force, which urged me to approach my work with extravagance and courage. "
Madhavan followed the beaten path of graduation in science to find his art. "I loved science, but my degree in biochemistry didn't match me. I graduated with an MBA and also took part in ad-zap and storywriting competitions. I was interested in advertising images from the 90s, especially for the work of Prabuddha Dasgupta, the play of light and shadow in this era, the honest approach to telling a story that is different from Western images, resonated with me, ”says Madhavan.
"I took pictures with a Zenith when I was a child. For portraits, the Minolta with a 135 mm lens was my first choice. When I joined the advertising world, it served the service. JWT, where I worked, offered space for experimentation and exploration, short film and photography, and here I learned to prefer ambient light despite the studio setup. "
Madhavan continued to work with Bharath Ramamrutham at Graf ("where I learned a different language of photography"), founded the Magicbus Studio with Radha Rathi and made a concept series that was "cute and innocent but not strong enough". Every two years I skinned off and took a round of photography about celebrities, portraits, sustainable fashion and human stories. My language and intentions have changed and I have returned to JWT as Creative Director. "
A couple of exhibitions followed, but it was the search for the intensely personal that made Madhavan stand out on his own. At that point, Gray India offered him the ambitious Indian Army project. The commissioned advertising campaign showed the army as "India's most exciting job".
Madhavan traversed the Indian Army lathe officers at their workplaces for 40 days – Siachen, where snow falls in thick storms; the rocky impurities of Ladakh; the densely wooded practice area of the Special Forces; the fainted parades at the National Defense Academy in Khadakwasla and the Indian Military Academy in Dehradun; and the children of the Army Public School, Mhow.
“Portraying non-models and showing their vulnerability and strength was my strength, and shooting with people who had that experience helped me put it all together well. It is the most amazing project I have ever done. The task was to show that there are many opportunities for technicians, engineers and doctors in the armed forces. Shooting in Siachen without getting used to it was the most difficult, ”says Madhavan,“ but it was surreal. "
The images are hallucinatory – blazing armored rifles, soldiers with war-colored faces and robust determination residing in bunkers, and laser light from a weapon caught in the glare of a light bulb. Great pictures from the Indian Navy's International Fleet Review followed.
Last year, Madhavan shot romantic love relationships through the life of same-sex couples, magically illuminated portraits of the people of Malnad and a special portrait that he spent with his son in Shimla, where he came across a museum with wax statues.
Madhavan’s work is convincingly personal, but it resonates with the viewer, a reflection of his favorite quote from The Gospel of Thomas – If you produce what is within you, what you produce will save you.