Telling stories through photos
September 23 2015 12:12 AM

Aparna Jayakumar was nominated for the international photography award Prix Pictet in 2009.

By Umer Nangiana

Pictures speak for themselves. The ones taken ‘at the right place, and the right time’ go on to narrate stories without needing even a single word to describe them. But what is the right place? Where do you find one and how do you ascertain the right time? These are some of the questions that often intrigue a budding photographer keen on creating photo stories.
Engaging a prolific photographer, Aparna Jayakumar, with experience in visual story-telling, Virginia Commonwealth University-Qatar (VCU-Q) in collaboration with IAID (Academy for Dance, Music and Arts), is all geared up to assist such photographers who are eager to go beyond just single images in one of its community classes this year.
Likely to start early November, the convenient once-a-week class on ‘The Photo Project’, to be mentored by Jayakumar, targets those photographers who know how to take images but want to embark on a larger body of work, develop their visual language and sharpen their practical, technical and conceptual skills.
Jayakumar, 31, is a photographer from Mumbai now based in Doha. She was a student of Art History and Photography at the Aegean Center for the Fine Arts in Italy and Greece. Previously, she studied Photography, Film and Psychology in Mumbai.
“I am interested in documenting the lives of different kinds of people. Themes such as migration, clashes of culture, religion, gender and sexuality, social contradictions, and anthropological studies of communities have engaged me the most,” says Jayakumar.
The course will teach how to tell your stories through images by working on a long-term photography project under a mentor. Participants will be encouraged to create new bodies of work, from conceptualising and shooting to editing and sequencing to form a narrative.
“Ever since I began my career as a photographer, I have worked independently, with generous doses of encouragement, criticism and counsel from my mentors – Eli Reed, Sooni Taraporevala and Jeroo Mulla,” says Jayakumar, adding that her greatest artistic influences have been Egon Schiele, Andre Kertesz, Raghubir Singh, Woody Allen, Wong Kar-Wai and Iranian cinema.
Jayakumar’s work has been exhibited in Paros (Greece), New York City, Rome, Budapest, Bratislava, Mumbai and New Delhi. She was nominated for the international photography award Prix Pictet in 2009. Her work has been published in Monocle, Christie’s Magazine, The Telegraph, Inge Morath Magazine, Le Journal de la Photographie, Travel+Leisure,, IQ, The Sunday Guardian, The Sunday Times, BBC TopGear and other publications.
She has shot campaigns for brands such as GEOX, Qatar Airways, The Vodafone Foundation, Ford, Cadbury’s, Etisalat Mobile and publicity stills for films with directors such as Mira Nair, Sooni Taraporevala and Vishal Bhardwaj.
Jayakumar taught Photography to media students at Sophia College (Mumbai) from 2009-13, and has been an instructor at the Anjali Photo Workshops for the children of Anjali House, an NGO in Cambodia providing food, shelter and education to underprivileged children.
She founded the Bombay Photo Club and ran photography events in the city featuring photographers from the world over.
One of her projects, ‘Goodbye Padmini’, narrates the story of Padmini taxi and the romance associated with it. Available to be viewed on her website,, the project visually explores the idea of intangible human emotions attached with a material object that has lived amongst them for a long period of time.
Contextualising the photo project, the photographer tells the viewer that 1100D, or the ‘Premier Padmini’ as it is called here (Mumbai), was originally manufactured in India between 1964 and 2000 by the Italian company, Fiat.
“The charm of the Padmini taxi is unique, with its disco-lights, brightly coloured seat covers, over-the-top taxi art, icons of various gods, or Bollywood stars (or both side-by-side). There is much old-world romance associated with the black-and-yellow taxi, any local will have nostalgic stories to tell about riding around town in a Padmini,” explains Jayakumar.
“The first taxis arrived in Bombay in 1911. A 100 years later, a sad love story ensues between man and machine. The government has issued a notice that says that taxis over 25 years old must be officially removed from the streets,” she adds.
The Padmini has been the primary source of livelihood for thousands of immigrants who come to Mumbai in search of a better life. The shiny new vehicles recommended by the government to replace Padminis are unaffordable for many taxi drivers, making their lives very insecure in this expensive city.
Through the disappearing taxis, Jayakumar has narrated the story of Mumbai which she says is a city in flux, rapidly changing, ever-ready to throw out the old and embrace the new.

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