Last February on a walk through the Ridge Forest in Delhi a friend told me about the Prince and Princess of Oudh. They lived in a ruin in the same forest and their life story was by for the most extraordinary I have ever come across. I decided to pay them a visit and ended up meeting Prince Cyrus. His sister had past away a few months earlier. We developed an interesting friendship; I would visit him now and then and we would call each other very often.
Prince Cyrus was a difficult man to be friends with. His requests became harder and harder to answer, up to the point where he asked me to buy him a gun for his protection. I backed off a little bit and didn’t visit him for a while. Last week I discovered he had passed away a month ago. A natural death, but all alone in the remains of his royal past.
When he was still alive, Cyrus had asked me to photograph his home and had given me some photographs from himself and his family. Now that he had expired (as the Indians call it) I photographed what remained of his now ransacked home. I found more photographs and documents that I have saved and scanned.
This assignment brings together my images and the found material. I have tried to tell about the Royal Family of Oudh, their extraordinary lives and strange dynamics that made them the way they were and led to their tragic ends.
I realize that there is much more that can be done with the material. This book lifts the veil of their mysterious lives and aims to give an insight in the feelings and hardships of the prince and princesses.
You can find the digital version of the work HERE
Demonstration of technical and visual skills – materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills
This focus of the end result of the assignment is not so much my photography, but the way my own images work together with existing materials to tell a story. I believe I managed to do that effectively, there is a distinct difference in the images that I took when Cyrus was still alive and afterwards, the added texts and old photographs. I think I managed well to let it all support the text of Princess Sakhina’s notes and lift the veil of their feelings and strange life. I struggled with the design of the book, but it really helped to use a template and make changes according to my tutor’s suggestions. I would like to learn more about principles of design and especially take the time to work on developing my own taste and style.
I think I have shown observational and visual awareness skills through my photographs, but also through the way I have selected the images and documents and brought them together.
Quality of outcome – content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualization of thoughts, communication of ideas
I am content with the outcome, although I realize that there is much more that could be done to tell the story and that this book is only a personal impression of a very small part of the history of Cyrus’ family. I had first chosen an other subject for this assignment and had found myself completely stuck at a certain point. I noticed that when I changed to this subject I found myself knowing much better what to do and how to approach the materials. Looking at the final product, I believe I have met the criteria, realizing that next time I have to look for help sooner if I ever get stuck again.
The final printed version brings together my experience of meeting Cyrus and being in their ruins and the feelings and thoughts of Cyrus and his sister in a way that does justice to my short lived friendship and their lifelong struggles. Even though it is a small book, I am pleased with the way the essence and tragedy of the lives of Sakhina and Cyrus shine through.
Demonstration of creativity – imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice.
There is still a lot to be learnt in this area. I find that I still lack the technical skills to take a leap in becoming more creative and let the conceptual juices flow. But this being the last assignment of the course, I do see a difference in outcome compared to the first one. I have grown, but feel that there are so many areas in which I can develop more. I hope to build more coherence in all my assignments and develop a stronger personal voice in my practice. However, I am getting there and am happy to see that I have grown in these past years with OCA.
Context – reflection, research, critical thinking (learning logs, critical reviews and essays)
Without having done the exercises in the reader, reading and looking at other artists’ work, I don’t think I would have ever gotten where I am today. I feel very inspired and pushed to go beyond my comfort zone. This assignment is the result of thinking about the function of spaces and objects, the value we add to them and how photography adds on to that. I feel that especially in the older photos a lot can be learnt from the gazes of the members of the family, it also shows that captions enforce images and make new connections and connotations with the subject matter.
I have struggled with the ethics of using material that is not mine. I feel I let down Cyrus as a friend and didn’t want to let him down again by using his material in a way he wouldn’t have wanted. I ended up giving everything I got to a journalist who works at the New York Times. She used to be a friend of Cyrus as well and is doing thorough research about the origins of his family, their claim to royalty and what actually happened to Wilayat.
I trust she will be able to write an article that will honour Cyrus the way he deserves. I hope my work will be a nice addition to that.