The elusive, alluring ‘perfect’ moment

The elusive, alluring ‘perfect’ moment

By NIRMALA GOVINDARAJAN | | 24 October, 2015
Indira Gandhi and (right) Aruna Shanbaug, two of photographer Mukesh Parpiani’s most famous subjects.
Photojournalism and art photography, divergent as their perspectives may be, converge when the picture transcends aesthetic boundaries and holds its own. Mukesh Parpiani, seasoned photojournalist and head of the prestigious Piramal photo gallery at NCPA, Mumbai has journeyed 37 years with the medium, leading photo teams in publishing houses, taking street photography to galleries and the homes of connoisseurs.  
“During my first job as a photojournalist, my colleague and I, with the earnestness to make a difference, rode the streets of Mumbai coming back with pictures that filled pages of the daily we worked for. With our pictures gaining acceptance, we had broken traditions and moved away from pictures of people cutting ribbons and dignitaries lighting lamps,” Parpiani says. 
The veteran photographer has shot some telling pictures down the years, including those of Aruna Shanbaug, the late nurse whose petition for a mercy killing grabbed the headlines in 2010. Parpiani’s pictures of Shanbaug have been used by news agencies worldwide. Years after Parpiani took the snapshots, he talks of the challenges he faced in order to gain access to her chamber. “The room in which she was being looked after was under lock and key. I had to visit the hospital at least 10 times before I was able to get a picture of her lying on her bed. The door to her room was open that day and I managed to shoot a few frames, which the Indian and worldwide media have been using thereafter for the past 35 years,” says Parpiani.   
“I could see the pain she was going through and went back to shoot her several times thereafter. The other nurses in the hospital did everything possible for her. They celebrated her birthday, gave her new clothes, all of which I refrained from shooting despite having access to her, because I no longer wanted to intrude on her privacy while she was suffering in silence.”
The veteran photographer has shot some telling pictures down the years, including those of Aruna Shanbaug, the late nurse whose petition for a mercy killing grabbed the headlines in 2010. Parpiani’s pictures of Shanbaug have been used by news agencies worldwide.
Through his lens, the streets of Mumbai come alive with religion, politics, the bizarre and the mundane. Parpiani has a personal connection with Mumbai and his camera completes this connection. “That’s because I took to happenings in the streets at a time when the rest of the media was covering events in star hotels. As a result, in close to 40 years of my work as a photojournalist, I have more than 1,000 memorable pictures of dignitaries, politicians and common striving people, including those of Aruna.”
When you’ve spent such a long time chronicling a city, you are bound to see growth and disaster, celebrations and riots. “When we are involved as photojournalists, we are breathing and living with the city. The camera bag is with us 24/7. For a large part of my career, there were no mobiles or pagers, just the landline phone. The moment we got a call, we rushed to the scene and were bound to get something that was out of the ordinary. Amitabh Bachchan on his 4.30 a.m. walk from his Juhu home to the Siddhivinayak temple. We had the best picture simply because we took our positions at midnight, soon after we received news of his walk to the temple. As a result, we had the scoop picture, which even news channels weren’t able to capture on video,” recalls Parpiani of his experience as the head of the photo unit at Mid-Day. 
His unrelenting energy has made him capture the grand Ganesh Visarjan in Mumbai, year after year. And the result has been rewarding aesthetically and professionally. “The year I captured Ganeshji being immersed in the Arabian Sea, I had decided to hire a boat from Cuffe Parade and wait at the sea for an hour until the big idols arrived midwaters. The next day, my capture of a large 30-ft-tall Ganesha, head disappearing into the Arabian Sea, made a six-column splash. In an attempt to beat my own efforts, the following year, I hired a chopper and got an overhead shot of the people and the idols at Chowpatty.”
After his retirement from mainstream media, Parpiani has taken over as Head of Photography at NCPA’s (Mumbai) Piramal Gallery, carefully selecting upcoming artists and exhibiting their works. This apart, he constantly organises workshops, teaching photography. Today, away from the streets, mentoring and nurturing new talent, he is conceptualising, preparing and chalking out a community initiative for the upcoming NCPA photo festival in October. This fest will include photo talks and tutorial sessions with photographers and models as well as portfolio review sessions. Participants can also access a huge photo library filled with rare books.  
 
To participate in the NCPA Photo Festival between October 22 to 26, 12 noon to 8 p.m. each day, email Mukesh Parpiani at mukesh.ncpa@gmail com. Tel: (022) 2202 9483/6622 3709. Entry Free. 

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