Danuska Da Gama I NT BUZZ
Self-taught fine arts photographer Payal Kakkar lives between New Delhi and her second home Goa. For over two years, with a labour of love and fortitude Payal went about with her camera and six lenses, extensively documenting 70 churches in Goa with their 16th and 17th century architecture. Of the large body of work, 32 exhibits will adorn the walls of the Church of St Francis of Assisi.
Kakkar’s photographs don’t just radiate an aura, they also give a new dimension to architecture within the genre of documentary, the highly detailed photographs tell stories of the past, that of culture, history, art and more. The photos in the collection, she says, are a result of an emotional response from all the love and compassion she felt during the whole process.
The ecclesiastical journey
Payal who grew up in Delhi and now resides in Old Goa, has been trained in Indian classical dance, environmental protection, and dietetics; she has now immersed herself in photography and produced bodies of work in Italy and Cambodia.
After spending several years in and out of Goa and interacting with the Goan Catholics, Payal has immense admiration and a high regard for them and says that the benevolent Goans embraced her with open arms, which in turn gave her the opportunity to understand the customs and practices of Goan Christians.
Speaking about why she took up this project she says: “I was drawn to the beauty of the ‘White Mantle of Churches’ that majestically dominated the lush green landscape. My constant quest for understanding the culture and history of places made me read the works of Paulo Varela Gomes and Jose Pereira.” And thus with her camera, she was able to explore 450 years of ecclesiastical architectural history, revealing what can and cannot be seen.
Beyond what can be seen
Payal’s collection showcases her journey through a multidimensional world. While being true to the built environment, the images reveal an emotional landscape, a psychological dimension that is beyond the stone reality. Long distance journeys, repeated trips back and forth and the sultry climate in Goa were also part of her experience in the making of this body of work.
“Through digital manipulation I worked on the images and the result is a vision of the monument that stops just short of being psychedelic. Rather than hiding reality, I was able to enhance the true nature of structure, not only how it looked but also how it felt to be in its presence,” Kakkar explains, before adding that the images speak of her feelings, much more than what she saw.
The images evoke emotions by a photographic process in which one’s mind and imagination are freely but competently exercised. For Payal, this is a humble attempt to express her artistic perceptions and emotions. The photographs reveal the soul of the structures and the impact of time and experience on their growth and fall.
“The photographs in my new body of work are language, a conversation of geometric lines and shapes creating a harmonious balance within the frame. Every work tells a story of its glorious past and the grandeur,” she says, stating that she tries to highlight this element with strong compositions. “Those who are familiar with my work know that I create an image and not just capture the image. This could mean I accentuate or at times exaggerate the compositional elements to create depth, volume and balance,” she adds.
Payal prefers to shoot in ambient light, as she firmly believes that it reflects the true character of the design. It was this passion for photography that led her to travel the world and explore sacred architectural spaces. “I am drawn to angles, spaces and forms and the stories they tell. The photographs are a result of images that arise in my mind as a manifestation of a subjectively-experienced reality of the architectural form and its appearance,” Kakkar says.
Goa’s grand history revealed
Kakkar’s photographs are a documentation of Goa’s rich heritage and culture – of a time that once had confluence of the west and east, a blend unique to the land – weaving together communities, land, art and trade.
With her prime lenses she has found a way of archiving the past for our future generations. Her pictures are a witness to the involvement of local artisans. It reveals how the architecture and design work in these churches have a melange of Indo-Islamic and Portuguese styles.
“The photographs are shot to reveal the grandeur and awe inspiring quality of the monument. Compositions highlight angles that recede into the background or climb towards the sky. In the images, there seems to be something just beyond the picture plane, the structure. A mystery yet to be solved,” Kakkar says.
After the exhibition concludes in Goa on December 14, Kakkar will be taking these works to the churches of Brazil and Rome. “I am going to take this collection all over the world into different museums, churches and countries showcasing the grandeur and glory of the Goan history,” she says. Her attempt here is to channelise the essential vision of the monuments and to evoke an emotional response in the viewer.
While faith and reason are gifts bestowed upon us, it is through reasoning that we find the ultimate truth. Goa has had a rich and an eventful past that has defined its character and sets it apart from other states in our country. A lot of this local, traditional flavour is preserved in these holy sites, and churches. While Kakkar’s images not only tell those hidden stories…they demand your attention!
While Goan churches have maintained a Portuguese appearance, the churches of the 16th and 17th century showcase a legacy of global architecture. Through these works, Kakkar wishes to bring a different kind of attention to Goa. “I am trying to promote Goa as a spiritual destination which is a personal experience, again,” concludes Kakkar who will also be part of the Goa Arts and Literary Festival to be held from December 6 to December 8, at The International Centre Goa, Dona Paula.