April issue 2010

By | Arts & Culture | Published 14 years ago

Malcom Hutcheson is one of those rare photographers who refrains from capturing the beauty of his subjects. Instead, he lives by a philosophy that focuses on using photography as a means of highlighting society’s real problems. “I try to point my camera at things that are a little bit ignored by society,” he says. “It is important not to ignore these issues. I believe that if we can see it, we can discuss it. And if we can discuss it, we can change it.”

His current exhibition is titled “Ganda Nala,” and is being displayed at Photospace gallery, Pakistan’s first photo gallery of its kind. The collection displays a series of candid shots taken in natural settings that attempt to capture not glimpses, but the realities of people’s lives. These are people that have no choice but to live or work around polluted ganda nalas, or open sewers, that are largely contaminated and have untreated water that is released into the city by mercenary industries. “Pakistan is facing a water crisis. Our only real source is the water that comes from the Himalayas, unlike other countries that benefit from annual monsoon rains and fresh-water rivers,” says Hutcheson. His concern lies in the fact that most people are unaware of the dangers that come from relying on toxic water, and the overlooked diseases that are pushed through the veins of this country as a result. “In reality, more people die from water-related diseases on a daily basis than the violence from bombings that consistently makes its way to our newspaper headlines,” he says.

Hutcheson’s photographs have a very intimate feel about them, which allows one to connect with the subject matter. Most of them feature a person, or group of people, that dauntlessly look towards the camera, and silently share their story with the viewers. “The photographs are meant to be interpreted literally,” says Hutcheson, “so when someone is pointing his finger at the earth, the photograph is literally expressing that he’s a part of the earth.”

The method of his photography is not to be ignored either. Hutcheson takes his shots with a basic, handmade wooden camera, using a method traditionally referred to as “Ruh Khitch” photography, where instead of using a modern shutter, the photographer has to manually replace the lens after achieving the desired exposure, which can take anywhere from one to four seconds. This name quite literally translates to “spirit pulling” photography, as the photographer has to instantly place his hands inside the camera box to manually develop and pull out the polaroid image. This largely requires the cooperation of the subject to remain still while the photographer takes a few seconds to expose his desired shot. This method is also the reason viewers can spot scratches and dust marks on the pictures, which are deliberately left untreated to preserve the austere conditions under which they were shot.

Hutcheson, who, is currently running the photography department at Beaconhouse National University in Lahore, is also planning to exhibit a new collection of photographs of Lahore’s transsexual community in Karachi later this year.

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