For photographer Juhi Saklani, life can persist in most unexpected places, like a grand tree braving traffic, pollution, and dirt of a busy Delhi road, what she exclaims as almost a "national monument". Displayed in 2019 Habitat Photosphere on 'Bhu/Earth', among many others, the trees photograph reminds humans of their oneness with nature.
With this year's theme as 'Bhu/Earth', the ongoing exhibition is currently blooming with photographs, installations and interactive events.
Saklani, one of the four awardees of the Photosphere Fellowship, is exploring art and ecology through photographs of trees growing through old walls and buildings, and inhabiting books, maps and newspapers.
Some exhibited works in her series 'Human/Nature' use "regular headlines about trees being felled for buildings, roads, river interlinking, smart city projects, parking and more" as images.
The series emerged from her "reading and conversations around deep ecology and the nature of the ecological crisis we find ourselves in today - how to live with climate change, species extinction, dramatic loss of biodiversity, depletion of water, massive deforestation, critical levels of pollution", she told IANS.
"I am still a student of ecological issues and philosophies, but some of it has seeped into the photographs. I truly feel that humans need to start thinking of themselves as a part of nature, as opposed to controllers or 'conquerors' of nature," Saklani, who has previously been an editor and writer with Outlook Traveller for nearly a decade, said.
Saklani, whose passion for photography started with taking photographs to support her articles, believes trees to be companions and healers that give solace. For her, the images featuring trees are not works of art - what is art are trees themselves.
A special section 'A Window Into Redevelopment' is a tribute to the people of Delhi who in June-July 2018 protested the "proposed cutting of some 15,000 trees in Sarojini Nagar and Netaji Nagar" - government housing colonies which were to be "redeveloped" to host commercial spaces.
"In face of official reports which said Sarojini Nagar was a place of 'no significant biodiversity', experts found 26 bird species and 11 types of butterflies in just a two-day survey.
"Activists conducted tree surveys in Netaji Nagar and found an irreplaceable wealth of bargads, peepals, semals, neems, jamuns, amaltas...," a note on the section said.
'A Window Into Redevelopment', interestingly, has been curated as a combination of photographs and rustic-looking wooden windows allowing one to peep at the collages in which the threatened trees and demolished houses of these colonies are still trying to co-exist.
"It's also a protest against the top heavy planning that does not involve people in the decisions about their city's future. And a reminder that people need to stay informed about what is happening to their city."
Along with other awardees and more varied exhibitors, Saklani's earthy take on the Photosphere theme of 'Bhu' is open for the public to view till March 18 at the IHC here.
(Siddhi Jain can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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