They say a photographer has an eye to spot the unusual around us. But it takes a truly gifted eye to spot the extraordinary in the ordinary. On both counts Chandigarh-based photographer Vijay Ozo excels. There are photographers who travel the lengths and breadths of the world to capture stunning visuals. But Ozo’s work showcases that you don’t have to go too far. In fact he often jokes how he could cull out an entire exhibition just from a single room. Be it the corners of a wall, the lock on the door, the curve of a handle, the play of light on the floor, Ozo’s eye misses nothing. And the best part is that he captures it all so well on camera that it becomes a work of art. A master of black and white photography, he is a reticent artist who is recognised for his frail frame and signature round spectacles.
Currently, residing in Kharar, he is working on his next show. We caught up with the photographer at his home one afternoon. Here are some edited excerpts from the conversation.
Q: When did you first come to Chandigarh?
A: I am originally from Moga in Punjab (born in 1948) and I am alumnus of the Government College of Art where I pursued diploma in Applied Art in 1967. My family wanted me to take up a regular profession but I was quite taken in by photography. While I pursued photography passionately, I also worked as an artist for Punjab Agricultural Department and an audio-visual officer at Rural Development and Panchayats Department, Punjab.
Q: How did you choose photography?
A: That is difficult to answer. It all started one afternoon back in my home when I was perhaps eight or nine years old. My cousins and I were playing and I happened to lock myself in a room. There was light coming from a hole in the door and catching the shadows. I managed to put up a white sheet as a screen and watched the images all day. We didn’t have a camera but I wanted to capture the play of light and shadow. I was mesmerised. When I could finally afford to buy a simple camera, I began to capture it all.
Q: When did you start shooting Chandigarh?
A: It was in the early 1970s. I couldn’t afford much equipment but I made the most of what I had. Ordinary objects used to excite me, they still do. I feel all you need to do is hone your observation skills. Look around and you will see the beauty in the most unusual spots. For example, I did an entire show on a stretch of road that was recently carpeted. The patches made for interesting patterns. It was one of my most popular shows.
Q: What was your last show about?
A: In January last year, I exhibited his pictures in a solo show at Government Museum and Art Gallery, Sector 10, Chandigarh after a gap of 15 years. Titled as ‘Pushkar dar-o-deewar’, the exhibition was of black and white photographs that featured closed doors and walls in the alleys of Pushkar, Rajasthan. It showcased the old temple town of Pushkar in Rajasthan and focused on locked doors, cracks on the walls and the plants making their home among fragile bricks and the shadow play of light and shade.
Q: What are you working on these days?
A: Currently, I am zooming in on what we miss to see in an art exhibition. My focus is not the works on display but the area around it and the effect light has. It is difficult to explain. Like when light falls on the frame, the shadow on the wall is multi-layered with different tones even in black and grey. I am working on this theme for my next collection.
(This article first appeared in Life in Chandigarh)