A twenty year stint in publishing seems time enough to get a fair insight into the journey of printing. Instead of a routine essay on the subject, publishing veteran Ananth Padmanabhan, chooses to convey that story via photographs.
“Calcutta – Walking in the City” – an exhibition of photos on show here leads the uninitiated on a walk through history through Kolkata, a city that Chennai-born Padmanabhan is fond of and one which holds significance with respect to growth and development of the printing press in India.
“In a generation of paperless documenting, I felt that I must get back to where it all started for a publishing house.
I wanted to show what goes behind publishing a book, which our future generations might not even know” says Padmanabhan, a self taught photographer.
The 30-odd mostly black and white photos depict Swapna Printing Works Pvt. Ltd, a printing press in Ganganagar near Kolkata.
The dimly-lit press has been captured with machines and mechanical instruments strewn are depicted with rolls of papers and other equipments lying around. The photos bring out a certain degree of romanticism behind the act of publishing a book and as Padmanabhan says terms as “the nostalgia behind the books“.
“I chose this printing press in Kolkata, since it has a history attached to it. This is where most international publishers published their books, like Penguin India did in 1987”, says Padmanabhan who is also Vice President, Sales, Penguin.
It also has to do with the fact that Padmanabhan had first visited a printing press when he was learning the ropes in the publishing industry and had witnessed the process of transformation of rolls of fresh paper into a morning newspaper, a book or a magazine.
“I picked the Swapna Printing Works Pvt. Ltd printing press, first due to the legacy it carries, secondly due to the fact that Kolkata itself is a blend of modernity and the past, which makes it unique” says Ananth, who felt like going back to the city, after he visited in 1998.
“I came back with memories of the steady hum of the machines which I felt somewhere in my underbelly, of the smell of ink and sweat and the delightful feel of fresh paper,” he adds.
Graphic novelist Sarnath Banerjee who paid a visit to the exhibition says,” I find the photographs to have a depth to it, it is like time has just stopped for a moment when that the photograph is taken, which I find is wonderfully executed by Ananth.”
The photo exhibition is being held at the Experimental Art Gallery here till November 10.