We might begin this tenth edition of DRUKPA by posing a specific query relevant to this particular issue, namely the question “what is a photograph?” Images are mental graphs, transporting one through time and space to precious places, moments and the context within which those particular events took place, evoking emotions ranging from ecstasy to despair, attraction to revolt. But one aspect remains crystal clear – there is no denying the power of imagery and no indignity in knowing that a photograph speaks a thousand words and brings about as many memories, both bitter and sweet. That and the innate fact that nothing quite captures change like the camera, from black cloth and big-bulb flashlights to the digital age, the images produced thanks to photography have shaped the hearts and minds of many through the decades, and none so boldly as the 20th century.
It was with this particular picture in mind that DRUKPA decided to do a photojournalism themed issue with ‘transformation’ as the narrative. It is nigh impossible to present every conceivable story through photographs, for the simple fact that taking on such an endeavor requires the patient perusal of literally thousands of photographs and then compiling them in such a way that the order and sequence in which they are presented is both balanced and weighed in with the right tone.
Just as every picture tells a story, every frame in which that picture appears and is placed in and displayed with also lends depth. One of the toughest tasks we faced was in trying to find out how and where to layout the images. When we finally rolled the films, there was only one way we could try telling that story and that was in terms of the layout and design, imparting, we hope, a sense of transformation and change.
Thus this edition, in a manner of speaking, is an attempt to tell the story behind the story. Together with the method we’d chosen, the other task awaiting us was the use of language in the form of the accompanying captions. If a photograph is the soul, then captions are like the physical characteristics; tools that help one navigate and understand the photograph one is looking at better and clearer. A friend helped. He sent in this memo one morning:
“Captions are short prose with a tall job: to address photographs in a brief, clear way while imparting information – without cannibalizing copy from the accompanying article. The motto is ‘Brevity, Clarity, Bight.’ It is the performing art of distilling the essence of every story into a few allotted lines appearing with the photo. The language is forceful and efficient.”
That is what we have aspired to do with the photographs presented here.
Henri Cartier-Bresson, a French photographer, considered to be the father of modern photojournalism, amongst many other things related to photography, also said “As time passes by and you look at portraits, the people come back to you like a silent echo. A photograph is a vestige of a face, a face in transit. Photography has something to do with death. It’s a trace.” He also added “In photojournalistic reporting, inevitably, you’re an outsider.”
We certainly hope that that was said with that positive attribute about reporting; ‘neutrality and without fear or favor’.