Photography for posterity
Chatting up journalist Vivek Sabnis, who has brought out the second edition of Pune Nostalgia calendar, which has some rare photos of the city
The reason I call myself a documentary photographer is the idea of how photographs contain and participate in history,” says Catherine Opie, an American artist.
Journalist Vivek Sabnis might not have harboured the same idea when he went about collecting old photographs of the city he was born and brought up in. But as Sabnis’ collection grew and he put them together into two pictorial calendars – Pune Nostalgia (2017 and 2018), he hopes that they will serve in documenting the city’s history.
“For the month of March, we have chosen Vasant Talkies image, which completes seven decades this year. When the picture was clicked in 1975, the talkies was screening Amitabh Bachchan-Shashi Kapoor-starrer Deewar. Outside the theatre, you can see a stack of cycles — a testimony to the city’s badge — Cyclincha Shahar or a City of Bicycles. In four decades, the face of Pune has changed. Two-wheelers are now the preferred mode of commuting,” informs Sabnis.
Pune Nostalgia has 12 images of premier academic institutes, public places like theatres, shopping areas, transport and bridges etc. Talking about the concept, Sabnis says, “I have been collecting old photographs for a while now. I have about 200 lesser-seen images of Pune and its prominent citizens. In the past, I was approached to bring out a coffee table book of the photographs. But I wasn’t keen. I was looking at more ‘mobile’ options. And, so when Jatan Bhatavdekar approached me with a proposal to use these images in a calendar format, I was enthused.”
So the team comprising Bhatavdekar, Sabnis and his elder brother brainstormed over the images, their quality, authenticity, researching on the history, enlarging the pictures and then short-listing them. “The calendar is spiral bound. The image is on one page, while the days and dates and a little history of the image and captions (in English and Marathi) are on the facing page. So you can use it as a diary, photo album, hang on the nail or gift it to your friends and relatives,” says Sabnis.
“Everyone has some fond memories of the city; some have witnessed historical events (like the flooding of Lakdi Pul when the Panshet dam burst); others have studied in either BMCC or are members of Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute; or shopped at Laxmi Road. When you leaf through these images and read up about them, you are imbibing history unconsciously, and that’s why calendars like these are important. They have a better longevity,” he adds.
The journalist mentions that the calendar is also a tribute to those unknown photographers who captured the city, and its nooks and crannies. “They might not have known it then, but they have preserved a part of our history through their work,” says Sabnis. This is something for the Instagram generation to chew on!