Footnotes to a career in photojournalism. Prashant Panjiar captures the everyday and the unusual in an incidental documentation of “being Indian”
Prashant Panjiar’s work has taken him to obscure corners of India ever since he began his career as a photojournalist in the 1980s. Extensive documentation during his travels in Indian villages, towns and cities became the incidental source of a collection that he calls Indianisms. After years of engagement with his own work, Panjiar noticed a pronounced Indian narrative, which became a recurring theme in some of his pictures. These pictures constitute his Indianisms collection.
The collection captures the idiosyncrasies, the chaos, conflicts and paradoxes of India. It is difficult to define these images, except to say that they form part of the amorphous—not to mention contentious—classification of being “typically Indian”. Panjiar describes the collection as a “visual translation of Indian English”, with all its borrowings from native languages and expressions irksome to those schooled in the Queen’s English (“doing the needful”, “reverting back”, “preponing”). For all that, of course, Indian English has been conferred quasi-official status by such arbiters of correct language as the Oxford Dictionary. “What we call ‘Indianisms’ in language is the same thing I am trying to do in pictures,” says Panjiar.
Indianisms is a work in progress, a collection that is still growing. Photographs from the collection have never been exhibited or published, except on social media sites. An eponymous Instagram account is regularly updated with pictures that may have a dash of the vernacular, startling garishness or excessive sentimentality that makes the viewer think, oh well, we are like this only.
This article is part of Oct-Dec issue of The Indian Quarterly. The theme for the issue is “The Body”.
In this issue, vascular surgeon Ambarish Satwik writes on his days as a student of anatomy, Paromita Vohra traces the journey of gym-sculpted hairless bodies in Bollywood, Manjula Padmanabhan draws and describes her childhood pains, dancer Leela Samson writes on challenges faced by an Indian classical dancer, Shougat Dasgupta laments soullessness in sports, Sandip Roy delves into the story of India’s first Mr Universe who died at 104 and Jannatul Mawa reveals a lot in her award winning series where she clicks employers and their maids seated together. Elsewhere, Prashant Panjiar’s quixotic photo essay captures the “we-are-like-this-only” aspect of Indians. Kishore Singh explores the connection, if any, between where an artist lives and his work. We also have the last poem by the celebrated French poet, Yves Bonnefoy, written shortly before he died this year in our Fiction and Poetry section.