Photography = Drawing by light. I Embark upon this journey as I time travel through Bhimbetka Rock Shelters and take a slight liberty of using the above-cited definition of ‘Photography’ to suit this time travel …
It was 793 years ago. I wanted to get away from the mundane fighting and hunting that my species was perpetually engaged in. I took off in search of a quiet place that could provide an outlet to vent the artist in me.
I walked up the hill and stood in front of the gravelly pathway that led to a cluster of rocks. Those rocks looked inviting. I slowly and purposefully strode down to the massive formation.
I trudged up and found myself at a vantage. As I gazed down, I found the vast greens and browns of the plains below underlining the blue skies. Here’s when I spotted a giant tortoise. Careful observation revealed it to be yet another nature-crafted rock-wonder that resembled a tortoise.
The view did it for the ‘creative me’ – I decided that it was going to be my home for some time. As I ventured around the narrow burrows carved by times in those sandstone rocks, I realised that those had turned into ortho-quartzite. I did not know then that this place would later be called Bhimbetka Rock Shelters.
I placed my leather satchel on a ledge in a cave and pulled out my cleaver and axe. Suddenly, I heard the sibilant sound normally produced by a slithering snake. I threw my cleaver hard in the direction of the sound and heard the reptile slinking away.
It will be dark soon. I stepped out to scrounge around for some food. The trees were bent double with fruit. I took what I needed and prepared to retire. The connecting cavity between two caves seemed the best option as it gave me an alternate exit in case of danger. I decided that will be my bedroom for some time.
At the crack of dawn, the sunrays penetrated the cave opening and bathed me in a luminous glow. After lazing around for a while, I finally galvanised myself into action.
Morning routine, followed by a quick hunt and breakfast, and I was all set for my photography (or drawing by light). Caves would not get any light after sunset; so my photography will have to happen when there was light !
I surveyed the area and realised that many before me had found similar inspiration here and had stopped by to create works of art over the centuries. The caves around had a plethora of paintings (or photographs, as I am wont to call them).
The colours used in these photographs were mostly white and red, though in some rare cases, yellow and green had also been used. I favoured the red colour. And that’s what I would be using.
The earth around provided enough ingredients for my paint requirements and the tree extracts made sure the paint would last. Collecting all I needed, I made my way to my chosen studio.
For the next few years, my routine was to get up, gather food, find a place in the cave cluster where I would do my photography or drawing, take breaks whenever I was thirsty and go across to the watering hole, work some more, and retire when light would fade or when I would feel tired, whichever was earlier.
Soon enough, I found my work embracing that of my unknown ancestors from fourteen millennia before me. I was making sure that it must harmonise with the themes created by those before me. I stayed with depiction of lifestyle – hunting, fighting, gathering, taming, riding, etc.
Now I was old and could not paint any more. I knew soon enough, a day would come when I may not get up any more. These last few days, I went around admiring what I had created and embellishing those paintings that needed some more work.
And one fine day, I slept. I slept for a long time – in fact, for 781 years. When I woke up, I realised I was still there – except instead of walking, I had arrived in a car and instead of a cleaver and an axe, I was carrying a 5D Mark III. The rock formation seemed shaped like a dinosaur.
Now, instead of using cave rock as the surface, I was using a silicon sensor, but the photographer in me still lived. I did what a photographer must. I shot the works of art I had created almost 8 centuries back.
I did that with a determination of sharing my work with the world all over again. I knew that by this time, this place was already a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I also knew that this status had been bestowed upon it, as it was a site of continuous man-landscape interaction over many millennia – almost 15 of them, actually.