ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Archiving Visual History

Preliminary Approaches and Methods from the North East

Systematic archiving of visual media, which offers a visible feel of people and places, can help understand and appreciate diverse communities.

The researchers thank Ahmad Hossain and the Arcadia Trust-funded Modern Endangered Archives Program, University of California, Los Angeles.

In the heart of Shillongs famous Police Bazar is an innocuous photo studio, Karuz Photographers, owned and operated by the octogenarian, Ahmad Hossain. These times of digital and mobile photography may well make photo studios such as Karuz defunct, yet this studio hides in it visual histories of North East Indias eight states, chronicled passionately by Hossain over a career spanning four decades. Hailing from a well-to-do family, Hossains vast photographic collectiondeveloped between the 1960s and the early 2000soffers a rare and detailed insight into the social and cultural lifeworlds as well as the historical changes that communities of the North East have undergone since Indias independence. Though Hossains photography has been commissioned and displayed by a number of public agencies over the years, today, most of his nearly 15,000 photographs are stored privately, lacking an institutional home and the care befitting endangered historical material. For us, a group of visual media practitionerresearchers, documenting, preserving, and making accessible Hossains photographic collection is one way to advance historically sensitive understandings of the landscapes and peoples of the North East, thus correcting the long-standing under- and mis-representations of the region. Photographer Ahmad Hossain and researcher Raja Das developing photographic inventory in Shillong (2021). Credit: Pallab Bharali

Photographs and films bear documentary value for their immediacy, the ability to depict an exact likeness of events and processes in a given place, at a given time. These visual media can be seen as constituents of cultural heritage that can aid in writing recent and contemporary histories. Offering depictionsa visible feelof places and peoples, visual media are especially suited to promoting understandings about communities removed from mainstream society, like the north-eastern states of India that are sparsely known in any serious way to outsiders. An information and perception gap operates in relationship to this cradle of diverse ecologies, histories, and culturesa gap that we feel can be bridged through the promotion of systematically and rigorously researched materials, including visual media. Visual media can offer representations that can enable outsiders to learn about, relate with, and appreciate the varied and distinct ways of living practiced by communities that call the North East their home.

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Published On : 20th Jan, 2024

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