Editor's Note

In any artist’s life and artistic practice, there exists a special address. It’s an address where intellect, imagination, experience, inspiration, and human serendipity all congregate to share a communal drink in an unnamed bar. It’s often this address, more than any other, where an artist will find herself or himself stirred by art forms other than the artist’s own—a poet takes flight in a piece of music; a dancer witnesses a creative rebirth in a still yet moving sculpture; a painter will identify oceans of texture and possibility in a scene from a film; and, as here, a photographer will find herself in a sort of clandestine tango with works of art upon which she has never previously laid eyes.

As Zahra Amiruddin journeys through The Hague, Amsterdam, Bruges, and elsewhere in Europe, she lays herself vulnerable to this glorious happenstance. Works of art she chances upon in museums and galleries point her towards scenes and frames she has witnessed earlier in life, on this very journey. At times, the tango reverses itself. The effect is mesmeric—twin pairings of paintings & photographs striking either in physical resemblance, splashes of shared prominent colour, an emotional allegiance, or simply the manner in which both unfold to the eye.

Amiruddin speaks of family. She considers the trajectories of artistic legacy. She ruminates on the pleasures of unexpectedness. And through ‘The Photographer Looks Twice’, she invites us into the gaze of this custom-made camera obscura where that which is, is also something else.

— Siddharth Dasgupta
The Bombay Literary Magazine

Since childhood, I’ve been lucky enough to be surrounded by conversations about creation and its meditative quality. My dada (paternal-grandfather) was a poet and passionate listener of qawwalis; my nana (maternal-grandfather) was a fervent traveller and food connoisseur, while my great-grandfather was an ardent painter whose paintings now grace the walls of my family home. The women in my family have all played multiple roles of being photographers, embroiderers, chefs, authors, and singers, whether professionally or otherwise.

While I specifically break down my ancestry’s interests for the sake of this piece, it is their unbound zest and enthusiasm for the arts that has nestled firmly into my subconscious. Being a writer, photographer, and art-enthusiast myself, I’m a strong believer in this notion that all art is derived/or arrives from art. I hold the words of American novelist and photographer Wright Morris closely, as he once said—“I don’t give up the camera eye when I write, merely the camera.”

As I experiment deeper with my own practice, I see a growing amalgamation of words, paintings, and photographs finding shared homes in my work. On a recent visit to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, as I stood transfixed in front of his painting Undergrowth, I had the sudden realisation that the day before on a stroll through Den Haag (The Hague), I had captured a version of the painting—even before witnessing it. I thought it would be an interesting experiment to research artworks I had never seen before, and pair them alongside photographs I had created during this month-long sojourn.

The result has only further deepened my belief in the fluidity of creation and serendipitous encounters, as I witness scenes in Bruges, Belgium akin to impressions in a painting of an Italian town made by an Indian painter. I guess it is testament to the fact that while an image may be still, it isn’t always truly static.

— Zahra Amiruddin

Trees in Bloom (1872) | Claude Monet
Trees in Bloom spotted while on Germany’s oldest cog railway descending into the valley from a 19th–century castle known as Schloss Drachenburg.

A Window (2019) | Lucy Roleff
Atop a hill in Prague, a quiet moment by A Window.

The Kiss (1908) | Gustav Klimt
The Kiss witnessed along the wayside in Prague.

Italian Village (1953) | S.H. Raza
Midnight descends on gothic rainbow roofs in Bruges, and I wander into an Italian Village by an Indian artist.

Blanou House/ Blossom House (1985) | Zarina Hashmi
Shifting shapes and abstractions in Bruges, a peek into Blanou House (Blossom House), by Zarina Hashmi.

Undergrowth (1889) | Vincent Van Gogh
Parts of Self emerge from the Undergrowth. Den Haag, The Netherlands.


Zahra Amiruddin

Zahra Amiruddin is an independent writer, photographer, and educator specializing in visual practices and contemporary art. Her interests include ethnographic studies, astronomy, personal narratives and family histories. Her work has been featured in national and international publications, and in solo and group exhibitions in India, Greece, South Korea, and Indonesia. In 2021 her work was published as supporting text in Between Doors, a photo book about North Korea. She is currently developing a collaborative project with Eight Thirty, a women’s photography collective that works across different locations in India.

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