42 - A Study in Macro
Updated: Apr 9
Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain. - Henry David Thoreau
This film emerges as a direct outcome of Covid-19 related quarantine, the nectar of staying alone, indoors for 60 days, (during April & May 2020) engrossed in house chores, wrapped in the slowness of ennui and embalmed in contemplative silence that leads to magnification of useless details and amplification of ordinary thoughts. This quiescent state of mind, one which is not ordinarily achieved, led to fermentation of ordinary thoughts into knowledge, now expressed through this film, which is also an abstract visual journal of this period spent alone, paradoxically with the swarming company of bugs, moths and ants, all of who instantly became subjects for a photographic macro study during this time.
Every solitary piece of object in my home stood still for its entirety, except for my coffee cup which moved places so very often that I forgot where I had kept it last. I would also forget what I was supposed to do or was doing earlier and often found myself doing something completely different from what I had initially intended to do or left something undone and started with something else. The fortunate discovery of teeming life in various forms co-existing beside me allowed new companions like ants, moths, flies and crickets that had somehow made their way to the 35th floor of a sky-rise apartment. Crickets, in particular, stirred my interest as I heard them chirping in a choir (male crickets - mating calls) at nights to a surreal illusion that I am amidst a forest. Slowly I started spotting them sauntering around the house. I placed them, one by one in a make-shift insectarium feeding them oats, greens and water. At one point there were 7 crickets, all-male, barring one. For the macro study, I confined one of them at a time in a half-broken borosilicate glass to restrict their movements while letting them breathe. This glass to me, became a motif, uncannily representing my own state of being (housed in an apartment).
Inspecting the insects, I noticed how they went about endlessly, living their purpose with diligence and no distractions, looking for food, shelter or to procreate. It was commendable to see their single-minded and determined nature while I was feeling caged in my own head about existential ideas. The singular thought that bothered me the most was the feeling of entrapment. Of being a prisoner within my body which in turn was stuck in a boxed house. Seeing a fly knocking itself agonisingly against a glass pane, not knowing the way out, was the simplest reiteration of what I felt and most of us go through at times. Despite this feeling, I was still in awe of nature but it was also true that nature itself held me hostage. Akin to Stockholm syndrome that makes us sympathise with our captor, we try to understand the purpose of existence upholding nature on a pedestal, forgetting that it is the mesh of nature itself that is our cage.
The bugs and insects gave me clarity and a breakthrough in understanding this matrix where energy transforms to take different forms. Our spirits being reservoirs of this energy, their transcendence is ancient, yet constantly refreshed. While I slowly began to understand the cybernetics of this matrix and its algorithm to an extent, what puzzled me was a lifetime for each “conscious” soul, either living without a karmic purpose or looking for one. Why am I here? The bugs made me realize that life in itself is a grand preparation for death. Our first steps are inevitably in the direction of our last and everything in the middle are subconscious efforts made towards meeting these last moments. Our soul is in a constant rehearsal of this concert, working secretly in the background. With or without this knowledge, our actions across a lifetime are purposed to meet this end with grace and not grimace. The sole purpose of a lifetime, I understood, is to render this purpose diligently and artfully.
The bugs, with their diligence and artful existence, exhibited the singular intent of preserving life, helping me take a few steps ahead in my understanding. I saw many moths lay around dead after having completed their life cycle. Watching their lifeless forms, which at one point had gone through a magical transformation from a caterpillar to a flying moth, now lying listlessly, convinced me that death is not the metamorphosis but yet another transformation. Watching ants carrying the dead moth was nothing short of a grand funeral procession, hailing death in all its glory. The ants desecrated and devoured the moths’ body as a function sans remorse. These symbolic acts confirmed all my doubts. Death was the final trick of this magic called life and there is no room for remorse. For what lay dead now, will reappear elsewhere with a newfound purpose. Like a bunny out of the hat, we applaud the magician’s tricks and not the one who has appeared magically out of nowhere. We cheer not a baby that is born, but the miracle that made it possible.
Is all our life, then, but a dream
Seen faintly in the golden gleam,
Athwart Time’s dark resistless stream?
Bowed to the earth with bitter woe
Or laughing at some raree-show
We flutter idly to and fro.
Man’s little day in haste we spend
And, from its merry noontide, send
No glance to meet the silent end.
All still images were shot on expired ORWO N 74 B&W film using Nikon F3 & Various Macro Optics. Film was hand-rolled using bulk loader and hand processed using homemade D-76 developer and scanned using Epson V700 flatbed scanner.
PS: I must mention the efforts of my friend Douglas Gracias in making this project possible. He put in hours, meticulously culling through 128 GB of footage to hand me a timeline that had only the best shots to be used in the edit. His dedication towards this project has galvanised this film and made it into a finality. I thank Douglas for being such a diligent craftsman and for the faith he put in this project.