"Off the carousel" is Girish Menon's narrative of the events and challenges behind the making of twenty-one of his most treasured travel photographs. He talks about cameras and lenses, people and places, cultures that amaze us. Girish Menon is a professor of Photography at the University of Mumbai. "Off the carousel" is Girish Menon's debut publication.
I had my first set of photo exhibitions in Bangalore and Mumbai back in 2004. The exhibition was titled "Carousel". I think that back then, my life, my thoughts and my actions would always bring me back to where I had started - like a carousel does. Four of the photos in the book were part of those exhibitions but I think that there has been a change in the way I look at life and photography. I have gotten off the carousel. I encourage every photographer to print and exhibit photographs; however locally.
High tides in Mumbai
JULY, THE BEGINNING OF the monsoons is an exciting time in Mumbai. It’s a highly anticipated event especially since summers have been getting progressively humid and uncomfortable. In recent times, we experience little or no rainfall in the month of June – a decade and a half ago, we had rains on the 10th of June.
It was the 9th of July but we have had no signs of rain. Then all of a sudden, the morning newspapers warned us of high tides coupled with the possibility of heavy rainfall. The weather or MET department and the police advised us to avoid going out at all; if possible. Disaster Management troops were on high alert all across the city.
The thought of photographing such tides excited me. I remember watching people getting drenched in tidal waves that lashed the walls of Worli’s Sea Face. I especially remember the joyfulness that engulfed the group of boys and girls – college students who had come to avail of the free entertainment that an angry Arabian Sea had on offer, half a decade or so earlier.
Discounting every warning, I got hold of my Canon AE-1P camera and loaded a roll of Fuji NEOPAN 100 ISO. My Uncle Philip had gifted me that camera during my first visit to Canada in 1998. It was the only camera that I had used between 1998 and 2003 and the camera that I used throughout my yearlong training in Editorial Photography under the guidance of Mr. Girish Mistry at the SHARI Academy. But now its 50mm f/1.8 lens had started fogging up and the shutter wouldn’t work at all in moist and humid conditions; resulting in blank frames. However, I couldn’t risk damage to a DSLR and so I went with the AE-1P and hoped for the best results. Fuji NEOPAN 100 ISO was the only black and white film readily available in the markets of South Mumbai.
Coming back to the events of the 9th of July, at 11 am more than five thousand people had already gathered along Marine Drive – a coastal promenade in South Mumbai. Every wave – the tallest that the city had experienced in over one hundred years was welcomed in with song and dance. The police and disaster management troops were dancing to a completely different tune – trying earnestly to get people off the wall that stands between the promenade and the tetrapods at the edge of the sea; to no avail.
This photograph got me thinking editorially; about life and the events that I would like to photograph hereafter.