Ways of seeing one’s lover, the desire and heartache of looking for the elusive other. Images from a photobook by Harikrishna Katragadda
In Jean-Luc Godard’s Le Mépris, Brigitte Bardot as Camille runs a roster of each of her body parts for Michel Piccoli, playing her husband, Paul Javal.
Do you see my feet in the mirror? Think they’re pretty?
You like my ankles?
And my knees, too?
I really like your knees.
And my thighs?
Your thighs, too.
When every part of her body is listed, she concludes, “Then you love me totally.” To which Piccoli replies, “I love you totally, tenderly, tragically.”
I begin with this love of body parts. And then extend it. For me, desire is not just for body parts but the entire world, reflected and refracted through those body parts. Desire cannot remain hidden inside the body. That desire creates an abyss and simultaneously leaps unencumbered like an apparition springing a fountain of images. The shadow of an absent lover can be hairy and fanged like a dog, while the screech of malignant birds at dusk and whorls of dark clouds portend doom. The cat, an animal that stands behind people on raised parapets, is like the lover who always follows us with eyes glowing with its tapetum lucidum.
Desire supports the exercise of image-making because the other is always elusive. We know them only as fragments and we understand them only through metaphors. As Billie Holiday sang, “I’ll be looking at the moon but I’ll be seeing you.”
I’ll be looking at the moon but I’ll be seeing you, co-edited by Harikrishna Katragadda and Shweta Upadhyay, has been in the making for four years. It was shortlisted for the Alkazi Foundation Photobook Grant in 2016. Last year it was exhibited at the Art Heritage Gallery in New Delhi and at the Serendipity Arts Festival in Goa.