CultureSuffocation in imagery: Photographer’s portrayal of the choke of...

Suffocation in imagery: Photographer’s portrayal of the choke of Pandemic

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The ongoing pandemic is making me wonder- What is suffocation? Is it a feeling of being trapped or that of being oppressed? While pondering over the question, I came to the conclusion that it might mean both. There are many layers of perspective to understand suffocation.

We’re all in the same state of being right now, essentially, locked at our homes, yet, many of us are freaking out. As the global COVID-19 caseload continues to spike up, the light at the end of the tunnel is apparently fading further into oblivion.

Where is the end of it? When will I be able to make a way out, without having to worry if the face mask is tight enough? or if I am touching something I should not; If I washed my hand with soap for ’20-sec before eating’ and if others in my family are doing everything that I am doing to stay away from the virus?

The list is so long, so unusual, and exhausting, it is suffocating, to say the least. The very fact that my freedom to breathe the free air on a bike ride around the town, or the freedom to sip a cup of tea fearlessly at the little vendor in the corner of the street has been forfeited, makes me feel claustrophobic, suffocated.

As I said, suffocation is not restricted to any dimension. It is a sensation as much as it is a perception. Suffocation is a stimulus as much as a thought!

My friend Nilanjan Ray just recently shared some images where he specifically tried to reflect the current state of the world. These images are simple, black & white captures of daily life, but there’s something off-putting in them.

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Because pictures are taken at the juncture of subjectivity – of the photographer, and the viewer’s – it is impossible to define these personally. Yet I’ll try to mention what these images sought to me from the prelim intro Mr. Ray gave me while sharing these pictures.

Take a look:

Suffocation in imagery: Photographer’s portrayal of the choke of the Pandemic (Image courtesy of Nilanjan Ray / Copyright intended. Do not reproduce without permission)
Suffocation in imagery: Photographer’s portrayal of the choke of the Pandemic (Image courtesy of Nilanjan Ray / Copyright intended. Do not reproduce without permission)

Did you notice the above images? How did it feel?

First, they’re black and white, and second, they are slightly blurry and shaky. Notice the first image you just saw – it is closed windows, painted dull in the absence of colors, and the zig-zag of shadows are stripping the view off clarity.

Symbolically, closed windows, droopy curtains, and the overall haziness give a sense of quarantine or seclusion – words we want to get rid of our life.

The second image is self-explanatory. Black, the color of suffocation is dominating, and the subject, too, is pretty unclear. But we can make out it is a human figure holding a candle.

Suffocation in imagery: Photographer’s portrayal of the choke of the Pandemic (Image courtesy of Nilanjan Ray / Copyright intended. Do not reproduce without permission)

This (above) image is probably the most self-explanatory in the pack. It is the moon seen from somewhere closed-off. The image evokes a sense of a prisoner gazing at the moon from the cell. Is it?

Suffocation in imagery: Photographer’s portrayal of the choke of the Pandemic (Image courtesy of Nilanjan Ray / Copyright intended. Do not reproduce without permission)

Mental trauma or feeling of being oppressed cannot be fixed during this time – it can only be suppressed and ignored by continuous engagement into daily activities.

Boredom is another major reason for feeling suffocated but that has to be dealt with by keeping oneself active in any possible way that one can.

Suffocation in imagery: Photographer’s portrayal of the choke of the Pandemic (Image courtesy of Nilanjan Ray / Copyright intended. Do not reproduce without permission)
Suffocation in imagery: Photographer’s portrayal of the choke of the Pandemic (Image courtesy of Nilanjan Ray / Copyright intended. Do not reproduce without permission)

This image (above) is the same as the moon’s image. Black is all-pervading giving a sense of claustrophobia just by the glance of it. Below, the images are pretty much on the same note as explained above.

Suffocation in imagery: Photographer’s portrayal of the choke of the Pandemic (Image courtesy of Nilanjan Ray / Copyright intended. Do not reproduce without permission)
Suffocation in imagery: Photographer’s portrayal of the choke of the Pandemic (Image courtesy of Nilanjan Ray / Copyright intended. Do not reproduce without permission)
Suffocation in imagery: Photographer’s portrayal of the choke of the Pandemic (Image courtesy of Nilanjan Ray / Copyright intended. Do not reproduce without permission)
Suffocation in imagery: Photographer’s portrayal of the choke of the Pandemic (Image courtesy of Nilanjan Ray / Copyright intended. Do not reproduce without permission)
Suffocation in imagery: Photographer’s portrayal of the choke of the Pandemic (Image courtesy of Nilanjan Ray / Copyright intended. Do not reproduce without permission)
Suffocation in imagery: Photographer’s portrayal of the choke of the Pandemic (Image courtesy of Nilanjan Ray / Copyright intended. Do not reproduce without permission)
Suffocation in imagery: Photographer’s portrayal of the choke of the Pandemic (Image courtesy of Nilanjan Ray / Copyright intended. Do not reproduce without permission)
Suffocation in imagery: Photographer’s portrayal of the choke of the Pandemic (Image courtesy of Nilanjan Ray / Copyright intended. Do not reproduce without permission)
Suffocation in imagery: Photographer’s portrayal of the choke of the Pandemic (Image courtesy of Nilanjan Ray / Copyright intended. Do not reproduce without permission)
Suffocation in imagery: Photographer’s portrayal of the choke of the Pandemic (Image courtesy of Nilanjan Ray / Copyright intended. Do not reproduce without permission)
Suffocation in imagery: Photographer’s portrayal of the choke of the Pandemic (Image courtesy of Nilanjan Ray / Copyright intended. Do not reproduce without permission)
Suffocation in imagery: Photographer’s portrayal of the choke of the Pandemic (Image courtesy of Nilanjan Ray / Copyright intended. Do not reproduce without permission)
Suffocation in imagery: Photographer’s portrayal of the choke of the Pandemic (Image courtesy of Nilanjan Ray / Copyright intended. Do not reproduce without permission)

As I have mentioned earlier, the divide between the photographer’s perception and the viewer’s capacity to understand photographs makes this form of art one of the most intriguing and endearing out there.

Did you find any interpretation of the above images that were left to your imagination? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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