Seeing the world through a camera: V B Anand


[By Frederick Noronha] If you came across Verapaneni Brahmanandrao
Anand, the name wouldn’t strike you as familiar. But when a slim South
Indian was introduced to me at V.B.Anand — outside that age-old
resource of reading material, Varsha Book Stall in Panjim — the name
immediately struck a bell. My mind immediately went back to all those
scenic picture post-cards I had come across years ago. This was a
photographer one was just waiting to meet.

V B Anand’s claim to fame is that he showcased Goa (he
subsequently moved on to other areas) in a way few did. Not
only was his photography markedly superior, but he also moved
away from the low-quality, low-cost viewcards that earlier
dominated the market here.

How and why did he enter this field? “My father was a
photography. From childhood, photography has been a passion.
I was interested in it since my schooldays. Then, I joined a
fine arts college in Madras (subsequently renamed to
Chennai), and learnt painting and drawing. But I’ve stopped
using the brush and shifted to ‘painting’ with the camera,”
he explains.

Being an artist by training does help, he feels, specially
since ‘writing with light’ involves creating the right
effect, the right mood, and the apt composition in the world
of photography.

V B Anand has an interesting story of how he got involved
with the world of the viewcard. “I once went on a trekking
trip to Himachal Pradesh, that was around 1988. It was in my
college days, and I wanted to send some viewcards home to my
dad. But I simply couldn’t find any good ones. On returning
home, I mentioned this to my father, and he shot back to say,
‘Why don’t *you* make some viewcards of your own)?'”

As fate would have it, V B Anand already had made some very
good photographs of his trip to Kulu Manali (in Himachal).
“So I made some post-cards and took them back there there (to
market them). Then the craze started. There was a very good
response (to that set of cards),” he elaborates.

Back home, his sights next settled on Goa, which was suddenly
booming as a tourist-destination-in-the-making in the
‘eighties. “It was my second place (for entering the
viewcards market), starting from 1988. First I started with
six postcards. Now I have about 120 designs (on Goa). Goa
Tourism map also carries my photographs. Likewise, a lot of
Indian tourism offices also use my photographs,” he adds.

What are his most-liked settings in Goa? Without hesitation,
V B Anand replies: “Palolem and, in the north, Vagator. I
like nature and beauty more. People and markets also
fascinates me.”

Like many other visitors here, he finds the people here
“frank, loving and affectionate”. Is this for real? Or is
this just a case of running into what we expect to see? But V
B Anand also says he got an encouragement in Goa which cannot
be compared to the feedback in other destinations.

His cards were among the very first set of quality, if
higher-priced viewcards put out in India. At a time when
poorly printed cards were sold at fifty paise to a rupee, his
sold for many times that price.

Says he: “Earlier, the potentiality on this front (quality
viewcards) was not explored, and nobody seemed to know the
need of the customers.” Initially, his stockists were worried
about the price. “But when they put it out for sale, these
viewcards started moving fast. Many then stopped stocking the
cheap cards and started selling my cards,” he says.

After Goa, his next destination was the diverse south Indian
state of Karnataka. “I started there in 1989. And, after
that, almost every year I added one state. Tamil Nadu,
Kerala, later North India. Rajasthan, Delhi and Maharashtra
followed. Presently, I’ve started working in the east and
north east (of India). And Kolkata, Darjeeling, Orissa, Bodh
Gaya (Bihar), Varanasi (UP) too. Along with these, my main
interest is to collect pictures for coffeetable books,” he
said in an interview.

Is working in a new place, specially in a country as diverse
as India, really a challenge? Is it tough? Says V B Anand: “I
never felt anything, probably because I’m so involved in the
art. Taking photographs, so much so that nothing ever
disturbs me. Language is never a barrier while taking
photographs.”

“They say love is blind. I say the same of photography,” he
says, suggesting the love of the art blinds you to many a
problem. “I’ve been so much into it that I’ve never bothered
where I’ve been and what I’m doing.”

What are the main subjects he prefers to work on? Lifestyle,
beauty of the place and landscapes, and places of historical
importance are his priorities. “I prefer rural settings…
places that depict that the real Indian culture is there.”

Would he agree with the view that India is still a very
under-photographed place?

“There’s much to be done. In the meantime, we are also losing
our photography heritage. Abroad, they have better
collections (of early Indian photographs) than we ourselves
have of India. In Mahabalipuriam for instance, in 1870s,
there was an artist who has come and painted the place. But
these works are not in India, but in a museum in London. Why
not have similar museums collecting work here too?”

Of late, V B Anand says he’s beginning to feel comfortable
with digital photography. Says he: “Working with film
involves a lot of constraints. Now, one feels (a sense of
freedom). If you had ten rolls, you needed to think of 360
photographs. Now, if I go to any event, I take a thousand or
twelve hundred pictures.”

How does he store all this? On five cards that store a total
of 3.5 GB of digital photos! Once each is filled, he
downloads the pics to his laptop and then starts again!

When asked about his preferred camera, he shoots back without
hesitation: “Nikon”. His wife has been his strong supporter
in his pictoral mission, says V B Anand, and she has also
accompanied him on his travels.

His dad V K Rao died in 1990. He started in the career with
still photograph for the then influential world of the
movies. Then he left that and launched a portrait studio in
Mylapore, Chennai, in 1959.

“He was a pioneer of sorts and produced educational
film-strips for school students. These strips were made on 35
mm film. Instead of being sildes, they were on a film-roll.
Each film had differing educational content. For instance,
one would explain the growth of a butterfly. Teachers would
display these in schools, helping students to remember
better. That was in the ‘sixties and ‘seventies. A manual
projector with a fan cost just Rs 1200 or so then. Dad had
around 70 titles on different subjects,” recalls V B Anand.

His next mission? Possibly working on Indian architecture and
religious themes, with the foreign educational market in
mind. He’s also keen to look at travel CDs. Tamil Nadu
Tourism, he explains, has made eight CDs of his photographs
and supplied it to travel agents across the globe.

What are the nice and not-so-nice things about being a
photographer in India? “Returns (can be low). Abroad, if you
take a good picture, they pay you more. In India, that
doesn’t happen. India has both the talent and potentiality.
There’s a lot of scope for the new generation. Also, a lot of
good colour printing priesses are coming up, some of which
have international standards,” says he. V B Anand sees the
lack of respect for copyrights as one issue. “People copy my
photos and put it up on their websites, which in other
countries would not happen,” he adds.

His plans also include a coffee-table book on Goa, depicting
the beauty of the place and her people. Says he, with a
smile: “I feel I have contributed to promote tourism through
my postcards. The same happened with Varkala, beach near
Quilon in Kerala. I made postcards of the place, and started
selling in Kovalam beach, which is far south. Tourists
started enquiring about how to go to that place. Along with
the tourists the shop-owners also went. So I have now 40
card-outlets there now, selling my postcards.”

Photography is still an envied profession, he feels. It gives
him time to do things he loves and travel and meet so many
people. “Earlier, I visited Goa upto five times each year. I
would even come on long stints, and stay for 2-3 months.
Lately because I’m doing work all over India, my trips have
become less,” says he.

CONTACTS:
vbanand@hotmail.com
0938 1029496
vbanand.com

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