how this photographic exhibition captures the fight against the pandemic in India

Launched in 2014, PhotoSparks is a weekly column of Your story, with photographs that celebrate the spirit of creativity and innovation. In the previous 595 posts, we featured a arts festival, cartoon gallery. world music festival, telecom fair, millet fair, exhibition on climate change, wildlife conference, boot festival, diwali rangoli, and jazz festival.

Karnataka Chitrakala Parish recently hosted an exhibition by photographer K Venkatesh, titled Depiction of pandemic havoc on ordinary people. It featured some 40 captivating photographs from India’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

With a keen eye for detail, the photographer shone the spotlight on some of the tragedies of the pandemic, as well as the human spirit of resilience. Venkatesh’s early photographic exhibitions focused on themes such as tribal life, cultural perseverance, the struggle for identity, and the loss of humanity.

Other exhibits have focused on transgender representations through the ages, the impacts of the tsunami, human struggles, and the plight of elders. Some of the exhibits involved months of patient research and fieldwork, and building relationships with target communities.

The Bengaluru-based photographer has shared highlights from his previous exhibitions on his website, Beyond Focus. The exhibits on display focus on the sculptures of Bidar, Maha Mastakabhisheka of Lord Gomateshwara, Siddi communities, natural light, the difficulties of demonetization, life in the Namma metro and even the practice of taking a nap.

“The pandemic has been a human catastrophe. I tried to capture the scale of horror and hardship, but stayed away from gory photographs,” Venkatesh says in a conversation with Your story.

Venkatesh’s works over the years have been featured by a range of media including BBC Online, Outlook, India Today, Reuters, Asian Age, Sunday Mid-Day, City Tab, Bangalore Eveninger, London Times, LA Times, Helsinki Times and Time Magazine.

He has also won accolades such as the Press Club Award for Best Photographer and the Rajyotsava Award. Photographs from his exhibitions are shared on his website, and interested viewers can also purchase prints from him.

“I remember my father and other elders telling me about the difficulties of previous plagues and epidemics. But much of this was undocumented for the general public. Through my exhibition, I try to preserve the memories of the COVID-19 pandemic for future generations,” says Venkatesh.

“The pandemic has caught humanity off guard and continues to wreak havoc, causing a trail of death and devastation globally,” he says. India proved complacent when the second wave hit, causing widespread loss of life.

The closures have also caused immense hardship for migrant workers, laborers and their families. “They were on their own,” observes Venkatesh. There have been huge losses in lives and livelihoods.

The exhibition captures haunting scenes of empty public spaces, burials, cremations and ambulance lines. But there are also inspiring images of resilience and the vaccination campaign.

Venkatesh offers tips for budding photographers. “Many photographs capture the beauty and diversity of our country. There is also a craze for selfies. But I urge photographers to capture human elements as well,” he suggests.

“There are so many stories in the human struggle and the lives of marginalized communities – they also need to be preserved and addressed,” Venkatesh concludes.

Now what have you done today to take a break from your busy schedule and find new avenues to explore your creative heart?

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Tracey L. Sweeney