February issue 2010

By | Art | Arts & Culture | Published 14 years ago

“Out of the Ordinary” is Daanish Tapal’s first solo show. Keeping in mind the fact that Daanish has been a keen photographer for 25 years, we’re dealing with either a person who’s shy of publicity or a perfectionist. Or both.

The show opened at Photospace Gallery’s new home. The gallery is bright with natural light, and one walks in through a sort of Zen garden into a spacious room. A change for the better, considering the jostling for parking and limited space at the gallery’s old Khadda Market premises.

Tapal has both colour and black-and-white images up in the show. The black-and-white images are conversions from digital images in colour — soon these may be the only black-and-white we know, given the shortage of film and scarcity of skilled printers. That said, the conversion is skilfully done, and the printer has managed to achieve a pleasing tonal gradation.

The work comes as a surprise. Much of Tapal’s work that we know is based on colour as a primary component. Reds, greens and vibrant blues found in the fishing village of Ibrahim Haidery come to mind, as do a variety of portraits, mostly taken on the street.

The work in this exhibition, although the artist describes it as a retrospective, has taken a different turn. There is not a single person in sight and although colour remains an arresting component in many images, composition and an almost geometrical symmetry play the greater role.


Found objects, man-made and natural, provide a focus for much of the work. Thus the card image is that of a textured, time-worn door; subtle splashes of colour provide a counterpoint to the pale background. One of my favourite images is that of an old fashioned sink with two tiles of soap, one red and the other yellow, complementing the red and blue spots on its faucets.

Studies of a blue bottle placed against a neutral background remind one of the old Tapal, but a series built around compositions of sand and clay is entirely new. This is graphic work, and it is as striking in colour as it is in black-and-white. The colour images were made in Sri Lanka, while the black-and-white photos come from one of Tapal’s favourite haunts, Karachi’s own Kumharwara.

Daanish Tapal is one the founding members of the Photographic Society of Karachi, a camera club better known in its earlier days as the International Photography Club of Karachi. He has worked tirelessly to keep the club going and to create a forum for the creative use of photography. Many photographers, well known today, made their first forays into the medium at the club, participating in group exhibitions as well as its monthly show-and-tell sessions.

It is good to see a photographer of the old school finding the way to a new path.

Click any photo to begin the slide show.