August Issue 2008

By | Art | Arts & Culture | Published 16 years ago

Upon entering Unicorn Gallery, at the opening of the photography exhibition titled ‘Of Space and Substance’ one can immediately spot the eager, energetic young photographer, Sara Hashim conversing excitedly with visitors. She urges them to engage with the photograph. “ A photograph is a dialogue,” she says. “It’s a conversation between the picture and a person.”

The Indus Valley School graduate and current Pratt Institute student has focused mostly on objects for this exhibition. As I look around, I notice that her pictures have a contemporary, almost commercial feel to them. Hashim has succeeded in providing fresh perspectives in these cityscapes.

In a fast-paced bustling urban environment she has captured lingering stillness. There is, for instance, a trapped eerie stagnation within the circular dynamism of a  carousel. In a picture of a fire escape staircase, the eye instantly follows its repetitive zig-zagged descent, creating dynamism in an otherwise still object. Another still picture that seems to be bursting with activity is the photograph of the brightly coloured scores of tables and chairs that appear to be mid-dialogue with each other. They appear homogenized, cookie-cutter, manufactured yet somehow hauntingly alive.
Hashim’s photographs seem to be trying to tell a tale of their cities. A tale not of the obvious glamour of the glittering cities but that of the hidden yet omniscient, chilling isolation of a burgeoning metropolis.

One picture of a pigeon on a tiled floor is particularly clever. The photograph is completely scale-less, save a tiny pigeon that sits off-centre. The viewer realises the latent sense of scale after finding the hidden pigeon- the converging point that puts the picture into perspective.

Hashim works best with angular perspectives of the industrial; steel, iron, architecture and anything synthetic for her most eye-catching pictures. With a couple of exceptions, the organic shots barely make it to average post-card material. If you’re looking for an overwhelming photo experience, my advice would be to skip two and look at one. This is not to deny that the work is the kind that keeps you coming back for a second or even a third look. Her photographs are tantalising.

Hashim has used design tools extensively and cropping was not the only editing tool that had been made use of. Colour editing was also apparent, judging from some obviously colour enhanced photos. Some argue that one does on the computer now what one did before in the dark room, making digital manipulation  quite acceptable. So much so that Kodak, the pioneers in photography have completely stopped making film cameras. One wonders though whether there is any value left in learning the skills of composition and colour when everything can be changed digitally. Are Adobe Photoshop or even the simple Mac photo editor all too convenient replacements for the more subtle decisions made in the darkroom?

When asked about whether she plans to take up photography professionally, Sara answers “Photography is not something I want to make money with. It’s just something I want to do because I’m passionate about it.” With a degree in communication design and a background in advertising, things look bright indeed for the budding artist.