Lensman stirs potent cocktail of nudes and wildlife

September 10th, 2008 - 10:51 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 10 (IANS) Models are beautiful from outside but wild from inside, while animals are wild from outside and beautiful from inside, says award-winning photographer Akashendu Das. Nearly 100 black and white frames shot by the ace fashion, advertising and wildlife photographer as part of his new show “Asian Nudes in the Jungle” probe the correlation between the subjects of Das’ glamour photographs and his passion - wildlife.

“It is a little cerebral. But both are wild in their jungles,” Das told IANS.

His exhibition opened at the India Habitat Centre here Sep 6.

The photographs of models and wild animals taken by Das, popularly known as Akash, are bound by a common thread although they are contrasting in nature. His studies of glamorous nudes in their natural habitats - on catwalks, against transparent glass surfaces, beds of rocks and bathtubs full of rose petals - and his elephants in the wild have a tale to tell.

They are stripped of their stylised, pretentious and embellished forms to become works of primordial art in their natural surroundings. Das does not stop here, he captions every frame intelligently so that they become “photographs with stories”.

As a result, a striking photograph of two full-grown bulls locked in an elephantine battle in a forest clearing relate themselves to readers as “The Montagues and the Capulets: Two Bulls Fight For Five Days For Family Supremacy. Sadly, One Gets Eliminated”. A double-image of a shapely nude against a mirrored surface tantalises the senses with “I am. Therefore I exist”.

“Captioning is an experience. You have to give your photographs to the viewer, who will ask how did you capture it? That is why a tiger sitting alone in a jungle has to be called a Maharaja, so that people know why it has been attributed a particular degree of space and light. The photographs have to be made interesting,” Das said.

His elephants are almost human compared to his tigers, which are lonely and ferocious - battling extinction. In the frame, “Those Wise Old Eyes Have Seen Everything”, the soft brown eyes of a wizened pachyderm have a knowing look about them - sad and wistful.

A lone tiger caught in vertical shafts of sunlight trickling through openings in the green canopy overhead stands like a demon, waiting to unleash its orgy of blood. The frame is aptly captioned- “A Ray of Hope. The Tiger is Dying. Long Live the Tiger”.

The nudes are almost lyrical. A reclining woman in a bathtub full of rose petals acquires a Renaissance like quality of an old master in the frame “Flower in the Water”.

A keen environmentalist, social consciousness has always been the hallmark of Das’ work. Even in the highly commercialised world of advertising, he has managed to create ripples with his socially conscious images.

“My love affair with the jungle started in 1999. I visited Corbett National Park, where I saw elephants day and night. I clicked some of them and the photographs were appreciated,” Das said.

“I also realised that they were very soft and affectionate about the way they treated their young ones and greeted each other. I fell in love with them,” the photographer recalled.

Das started experimenting with models in the course of his shoots.

“I realised they had the same kind of jungle wildness and they are doing something extraordinary. But from outside, they are so soft when you interact with them. A couple of days ago, I was shooting with a South African model in Dehradun and she spent three days shooting round the clock and partying wildly at night. She was so comfortable with the schedule and lifestyle,” he said.

“It is this cerebral correlation that I tried to bring out in my exhibition by juxtaposing wildlife with Asian nudes in the jungle,” he added.

Das, who started out with fashion photographer Prabuddha Dasgupta as a team after passing out of the Delhi College of Art as a designer, went on to become a full-time fashion photographer. “Fashion is my bread and butter, while wildlife is my passion,” he said.

“It was fun working with Prabuddha. We almost lived together for eight years. Sometimes, I used to write his copies and he would give me ideas for the visual,” Das said.

The two campaigns that he remembers most are the ones he executed for the Times of India Group when it completed 150 years and one for The Pioneer. “I love shooting people and working on a broad canvas,” he said.

The photographer plans to go to east Africa to shoot wildlife very soon and is talking to two galleries in Paris for two shows - wildlife and nudes.

“In India, it does not work. Yesterday, the Shiv Sena threatened me and I had to pull out two of my best nude shots,” he said.

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