The view from within

Photographers across the country showcased a slice of life from windows and rooftops during lockdown 2020. In 2021, these three photographers continue to do so

“All the photographers are on their way to the rooftop; it looks like they will be sitting there for the next three months,” remarks Aditya Arya. The photographer’s photo series Silence of the Millennium City presented glimpses of empty streets during lockdown 2020. Now, with new guidelines as COVID-19 cases surge, three photographers who continue to capture glimpses of life, speak about what has changed since last year.

From the rooftop

Rooftop – Streets in the Sky A photograph by Madhu Gopal Rao | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Hyderabad-based photojournalist Madhu Gopal Rao’s first capture on the rooftop during lockdwon 2020 was of a family relaxing on the terrace and a group of boys playing cricket. Little did he realise that his way of surviving the lockdown would pave way for a series.

In the first two months of lockdown, his photos spoke of silence. “I remember one photograph of a man sitting on a water tank; I could feel his loneliness,” he recalls. Then, as seasons changed, Madhu captured how the attitude and behaviour of families too changed.

Later, even after lockdown was lifted, Madhu continued to go to the terrace to document life from there, but his ‘subjects’ became fewer. “The number of people is slightly higher during weekends,” he shares. Since most of the photographs were long shots, the focus was not an individual person but on the rooftop buzz. People began to recognise him and some even posed waving their hands. The ‘Rooftop’ project was initially ‘Rooftop – Streets in the sky’ as ‘rooftops appeared like a street buzzing with people doing different activities’ The rooftop gave him a breathing space and a way to connect. “Despite the physical distance and not knowing many neighbours, I felt relaxed at seeing a person on a terrace. This project kept me busy, else it would have been tough for me to survive the past year,” he adds.

Madhu continues this activity even now and hopes to have a book from his collection of over 10,000 photos depicting the daily lives of people and their enduring human and personal experiences. Some pictures have been published and were part of the virtual Indian Photo Festival held last year.

Capturing Nature

Dinesh Khanna photographed this tree from a same angle, in three different seasons  | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Dinesh Khanna’s tryst with lockdown photography began with four selfies of him watching Netflix on his iPad. “That seemed an appropriate thing,” laughs the Gurugram-based photographer. Confined indoors, he began to capture the garden from his window. The photographer specialises in people, travel, food and interior photography and had never shot Nature until then. It was a year like never before, as he stood at his window, frontyard and study on the second floor to shoot Nature.

Dinesh says, “Photography from home during confinement was interesting as I got to see minute details which I would never hve noticed in the house but it was also boring as there was also large extent of feeling despair.”

Now, he continues to take pictures of Nature; one of his recent works is that of a tree photographed in three different seasons between December 2020 to March 2021, from the same angle. “I saw the tree over a period of three months and captured its stages — from shedding leaves and sprouting tiny leaves to lush foliage again,” he says.

Fleeting moments

Screenshot from photographer Sanjay Borra’s ‘Life from my window’ videoseries | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Sanjay Borra, best known for his architecture, interiors and street photography, started a ‘Lifethroughmywindow’ series (Instagram) during lockdown, 2020. The Hyderabad-based photographer’s balcony forged unexpected connections. “People from all walks of life use the lane where I live as it leads to Chintalbasthi, a main street and also a market to buy household items. Many street vendors lost their jobs and survived selling vegetables,” he says.

His view from the balcony captured a slice of life through photographs and short videos of people carrying on with their lives. “The videos were interesting as I was able to capture fleeting moments starting from one side of the window to the other. It felt as if a lot was happening within that short time,” he says.

Sanjay continues to post videos in the series but doesn’t look at them as pre/post pandemic images/videos. “Life goes on for these people and it is captivating to capture it,” he says, elaborating, “Earlier it was common to hear hawkers shouting about their wares but now I capture them in photographs with a smart phone.”

Screenshot from photographer Sanjay Borra’s ‘Life from my window’ videoseries | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Shooting for over a year now, Sanjay feels his balcony has been a source of new revelations and brought out his philosophical side. “You learn to empathise, become more human and realise the fragility of life. One never knows what happens next.”

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