Hareesh N. Nampoothiri was always fascinated by the world of colours and images. At first these came out as little drawings and paintings. Slowly he got his hand on an old film camera used by his dad, and Hareesh began clicking pictures of the traditional art form of Kathakali. Around a decade ago, he started a blog on Kathakali and got a bridge camera for himself.
More opportunities came his way to write about different forms of dance. With each new writing, new pictures were taken, the camera turning at first into an entry-level DSLR and then a pro-range gear. Appreciation came from accomplished dancers even as a modest Hareesh says, “It is the performers who inspire me to take good pictures. When they perform well, it naturally makes my photographs better.”
Hareesh is now a visual design consultant by profession and as he’d say, an art lover by obsession. He has with him huge collections of pictures of many Indian art forms, that he not only clicks, but also studies. “I doubt if many actually see beyond the visual grandeur of these shots. Capturing a live stage performance is quite challenging. Knowing the dance form, the style of the dancer(s) on stage and having some idea of what’s happening on the stage is what really make dance photographs meaningful. That and meeting all the technical qualities of a good photograph and also making sure that the artist/art is presented in good light.”
All this knowledge come out as captions like these: “Most people will see Arya (the dancer) or her colourful attire. But it speaks much more than that. She is portraying Anandanartana Ganapathi, so the mood is that of anandam and the mudra is that of Ganapathi.”
Post-processing is an important step for Hareesh. “Unlike film-based photography, in digital photography, the photographer has to be familiar with post-processing as well to be more effective. It is not unusual for a venue to have poor lighting or bad stage setting. It poses additional challenges to the dance photographers to click and then post-process their images so that these shortcomings don’t show up in the final image. Not that everything will be done in post-processing. You need a fine balance and the aim should be to capture the scene in such a way that it could go to the final stage with minimal post-processing applied.”
He has also authored three books, the last one being a title on digital photography published by State Institute of Languages. And the first documentary he has directed — Thouryathrikam — is on Kathakali....