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Art: Photo

By Abhishek Anid Dutta

JJ Valaya is known for timeless clothes, the details are immaculate and the connection to India’s royal past a recurring theme. And, you can see this connect with the photographs that he has taken. It feels some characters walked out of the Mughal era and became one with today’s Delhi.

"The Indian capital has always been a seat of power and has a long history as the pivot of several empires. Today's Delhi... shows that its magic lives on its streets,” And, that magic is also see in his exhibition of photographs, titled Revisiting Beauty. The exhibition is on at Delhi's Threshold Art Gallery.

JJ Valaya at the Threshold Gallery Image

Fashion Designer JJ Valaya's collection of photographs titled DECODED PARADOX is part of a series called REVISITING BEAUTY. An exhibition of the works is on at the Threshold gallery in Delhi till 20th October 2015

JJ Valaya at the Threshold Gallery Image

The calm before the storm. I walked in the gallery a bit early and saw a worker cleaning the floor. And, the only sound that I could hear was that of the dance of the mop on the floor. And, I thought soon the bustling feet and chatty voices of art enthusiasts would add to the music of the gallery.

JJ Valaya at the Threshold Gallery Image

Valaya considers his photography a parallel journey. He concedes that he isn't very well versed with the technical side of photography, but it speaks to the artist in him. "To me, taking pictures was akin to a karmic connect, as it bestowed me almost with a celestial ability to show the world not only just as I wanted it to be seen, but also seize the moment to freeze time permanently."

JJ Valaya at the Threshold Gallery Image

About choosing to photograph in Black and White, Valaya says, "We see in colour, colour is realty and to an extent I want to stay away from reality in my works. Black and White provides an incredible departure from the obvious. And to me personally, it enhances mystery and a sense of character."

JJ Valaya at the Threshold Gallery Image

DECODED PARADOX is Valaya's tribute to the city of Delhi. Within his photographic frame, Delhi’s past and present stand still. People come and go and they are connected with the thread of time. Valaya has an uncanny eye for detail and as your eye moves on from one photograph to another, you can only admire the meticulous effort that he has put to make each photograph an objet d’art.

JJ Valaya at the Threshold Gallery Image

In these photographs you can see a fascinating dance between contrasting ideologies, economic backgrounds and sensibilities. In one, a Prince sits besides a dilapidated wall, looking out of place plucked out of his historical context and yet crucially, in the same breath fashioning a presence and relationship to the new yet unfamiliar context. Maybe, it is not just the present that has to deal with the past. The past has to adjust to the present as well.

JJ Valaya at the Threshold Gallery Image

Minute attention to detail in costumes designed by Valaya himself makes the subjects believable - a Royal on the steps of 'Agrasen ki Baoli'. Steps on which today you would normally find beautiful sights of young lovers share a quiet corner, away from the peeping, voyeuristic sunlight of society. It only signals that in the corridors of the past, beauty had existed. In the corridors of the present too, beauty continues to exist.

JJ Valaya at the Threshold Gallery Image

On the steps of the Jantar Mantar, a Royal lady from the past admires herself in the hand mirror, attended to by a maiden and a stray dog from the present. Alongside her are cracks and fissures. Are they cracks of the past? Or perhaps cracks in the present? Refusing to fit into one exclusive category, these are possibly just cracks of time.

JJ Valaya at the Threshold Gallery Image

Emperor Shah Jahan once used this pathway leading to the Jama Masjid mosque.And, no commoner was allowed to walk on it. In Vallaya’s world, a Royal figure is seated – ironically surrounded by goats and goat sellers. Today, there are no boundaries.
Time and the City are great levellers indeed.

JJ Valaya at the Threshold Gallery Image

In a photograph that perfectly captures the larger essence of DECODED PARADOX, the music from the past continues even as a young and chaotic present continues to be born everyday and grow around it. In an unending love affair of give and take, the past and the present are wrapped with the same fabric – that of the city of Delhi.





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