Tamanna — or Mushi to her family — is mischievous around those who are close to her but also surprisingly intuitive as a 9-year-old. After school, she learns Kalaripayattu for three days a week and on the off chance that she is at home, you will find her conjuring up anthropomorphic creatures with a prized arsenal of colouring pencils or zipping about the tennis court on her scooty. It’s rare for her to sit still but she might indulge her older cousin brother Rohit Bijoy for an hour or two as she is not above striking a pose.
When Bijoy first picked up the camera in 2019, Tamanna was not sure what to do with her arms or how to control her expressions, smiles and frowns chasing each other in an inchoate medley across her face. "I feel like as our relationship grew and we hung out more," Bijoy marvels at how the child was superseded by a self-aware being who is now "ready to go" as soon as he fires the flashlight on.
Not a lot of us can boast of oddball, evocatively captured vignettes from our formative years, that just by looking back on them we may rediscover how happy and effortlessly authentic we used to be.
"I have to try a few times or wait for a good day when she has the energy," Bijoy cautions anyone working with children for the visual medium. "I have to give her a lot of breathing room in between shots for her to do what she wants to do." Tamanna's irrepressible energy, unleashed like a quantum particle, induced the choice to shoot handheld. Flipping on a 16 mm 1.4, the widest lens he owns for his Sony A7 III, Bijoy was able to elicit the meaningful immediacy of Tamanna's interactions with her environment through the prism of an almost Alice In Wonderland distortion.
"I thought I was going to take photographs of her inside the house," citing an earlier series he did in 2021 but he decided to draw her out of her comfort zone, lugging the ephemera of her playroom into the blue outdoors. Wary of losing light around the golden hour, Bijoy decided that her school uniform would work just fine, but insisted that she bring along her soft toys and LEGO set to make her feel more anchored.
Growing up in Kuwait, Bijoy was used to a different, more arid landscape. Moving to Kerala in 2012, he pursued architecture and the visions around him began blooming with the effulgent lushness of trees, as if nature had thrust a gnarly claw into his consciousness. His tryst with image-making began with sculpting the natural light, falling in ways he hadn't experienced before, upon his friends and in mesmerising shafts across subliminal spaces. But moving to Bengaluru in 2021 propelled him into the grasp of industrial suburbia, with his colours turning more high contrast and a rediscovery of texture expanding the dimensions within his photographs into a tactile panorama. He would still find time to segue back to Kottayam, where Tamanna and her mother Surya, were starting a new life together.
With the Y2K era making a comeback in the last couple of years, Bijoy's style also took on a telling vibrance, turning crisper under the hard lighting and he began to explore in the dawn of contemporary sensibilities. Shooting the Skater Girl series, he could almost hear an Avril Lavigne background score, as Tamanna debunked the after-school somnolence that we believe afflicts most children on barmy summer days. She had stopped colouring within the lines and her uncanny personality was beginning to take shape.
But more than anything, what keeps the artist going through self-driven personal projects and printed zines he produces with his partner, is the satisfaction of sharing an invaluable token of a person's memories.
The boundless love between mother and daughter; how they held on to each other through thick and thin, would be made corporeal with the pictures that Bijoy was taking. One day, Tamanna will scroll through Instagram and her innocence will catch her unbeknownst; reminding her that she can still keep skating through life.