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Remembering Navroze Contractor: A Retrospective Exhibition to Honore His Legacy

Navroze Contractor, a globally acclaimed photographer and cinematographer originally from Ahmedabad, had made Bengaluru his home. This year marks the first anniversary of his passing and what would have been his 80th birthday on July 7. To celebrate his life and work, a series of events titled “Photography Strictly Prohibited” has been curated, encapsulating the profound brilliance of his artistic abilities.

Curated by Sanjiv Shah, Anuj Ambalal, and Himanshu Panchal, the exhibition showcases a comprehensive collection of photographs taken by Navroze over a span of 60 years. Notably, many of these photographs have never been displayed to the public before. “We had traveled extensively together, capturing moments while working on various projects. A couple of years ago, I broached the idea of a retrospective with him, but he laughed it off, saying retrospectives were an ‘end of career’ activity. I countered that we’d call it a mid-career retrospective,” Anuj Ambalal recalls.

However, Navroze was indeed interested in creating a book that featured his work. “When I heard about his passing, one of the first things that came to my mind was to do this retrospective,” Anuj reflects. Alongside Sanjiv Shah and Himanshu Panchal, Anuj embarked on the extensive task of sifting through more than 20,000 photos over a period of six to nine months to curate the exhibition and the accompanying publication. The culmination of their efforts is “Photography Strictly Prohibited.”

“If we were to summarize this curation,” Anuj notes, “there came a point when we realized that subconsciously, intuitively, the three of us were structuring it in such a way that it was more about Navroze than just his work.” The photographs serve as a window into who Navroze was as a person. “When you look at their works, you tend to get an idea of what kind of person the artist could be. In a sense, ‘Photography Strictly Prohibited’ is a portrait of Navroze,” he adds.

Sanjiv Shah also shared his thoughts on the uniqueness of the exhibition. “Normally, there is a catalogue as part of photo exhibitions.

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. However, our idea was different, which is why I call it a book. It is an attempt to bring out the person that Navroze was rather than just his photographs. It was essentially about how he looked at the world, as he was not a conventional photographer,” he explains.

One significant fact about Navroze’s work is that he rarely adhered to a theme, with the exception of his notable work on jazz musicians, which is displayed at the Smithsonian in Washington DC. “He always carried a camera; it was rare to see him without one. Yet, I don’t think he was keen on showing his work to people—it was basically his eye to the world, and he shot whatever he thought was relevant,” Sanjiv shares.

Sanjiv further elaborates on the composition of the book, which bears the same title as the exhibition. “The book ‘Photography Strictly Prohibited’ is a compilation of Navroze’s works and includes two interviews—one on the shooting of his film ‘Duvidha,’ and the other on his jazz images. We have also included some of his writings, which provide insights into why he did what he did. It is our modest attempt to give viewers an insight into Navroze as a person,” he adds.

The exhibition is not confined to Bengaluru; it has plans to travel across India, with an extended stop in Ahmedabad scheduled for October. For the latest updates, one can follow Instagram handle ambalalanuj. The exhibition in Bengaluru from July 5 to 7 will also feature talks and screenings of his films “Duvidha” and “Jharu Katha.” Additionally, the book “Photography Strictly Prohibited” will be available for pre-order during the event.

For more detailed event information, one can visit bangaloreinternationalcentre.org.

This retrospective stands as a testament to Navroze Contractor’s lasting impact on the world of photography and cinematography, capturing not only his exceptional eye for detail but also the very essence of his persona. The exhibition and book offer a poignant and insightful tribute to a man whose work has touched many, ensuring that his legacy continues to inspire future generations.