Monday, March 1, 2010

128.A rare Picture of Sree Narayana Gurudevan

Restoring a rare picture of Gurudevan

About two years ago my brief visit to the Alummoottil Meda (manor) at Muttom, Mavelikkara, was primarily to shoot pictures of that old manor. At the time, I noticed a large framed picture of Gurudevan that donned the wall of the Meda's hallway. Being familiar with most of Gurudevan's real-life photographs that are currently in the public domain, this ageing picture on the wall struck my attention as one not seen nowadays in the press, websites and journals. I clicked a couple of shots of the picture from off the wall and compared it to many of the similar looking pictures of Gurudevan, only to confirm that this was indeed a unique one. Also noted that the picture was deteriorating due to the affects of tropical weather.

Last week one of the current heirs of the Alummoottil family, Mr. Radhakrishnan Madhavan, and I met at Muttom to have this picture restored and digitized for long term preservation. We opened up the heavily misted glassed frame, gently cleansed the emulsion layer of the photo-paper and using macro lenses copied the original print on a high resolution DSLR camera.

Photograph or painting

The reason I am still calling this a 'picture' (and not insisting it is a 100% photograph) is because it is evidently a highly "touched-up" photograph ~ most likely shot, touched-up, re-photographed, enlarged and printed by 'Sree Krishna Photos, Kayankulam' as indicated on the mount ~ not sure whether the studio exists today.

I have run the picture through art experts, who concur that it is a "touched-up" photograph and not a painting; as in the early 20th century there were hardly any artists who could have achieved such a high degree of perfection in portraiture painting in Kerala. Aso there is no artist's sign-off or dating. Details of the 'untouched' portions (such as clothes, hands etc.) are of a high photo-realistic quality.

It was rather common practice in the early days of black & white plate photography that photo studios employed artists to cut & paste the subject on new backgrounds and to give finishing touches to portraits; sometimes doing the 'touch-up' work directly on the large format negative plates itself. Where the original shot was not under ideal lighting conditions and background settings, these artists often replaced the background by painstakingly blending the cut-out edges, by touch-up artwork, to a backing paper, and finally re-photographing on a second negative plate. Thus achieving the kind of results we easily get today in Photoshop.

History of the picture

Information collected so far indicates that the original picture was most likely created by the Alummoottil family through a photographing commission, during one of Gurudevan's private visits to their Meda circa 1920; when Alummootil Channar was celebrating his Sashtiabdapoorthy and the Guru graced the function and stayed at the Meda for a couple of days. It was not unusual in those days that prominent families arranged for a photographing session on Gurudevan's private visits.

With the kind permission of senior members of the Alummoottil family (Dr. Ravindran Madhavan and Mr. Radhakrishnan Madhavan) I am pleased to release this picture today into public domain.

Attribution on the digital edition

This digital edition would be available for public use, but shall bear 'Creative Commons' attribution to the Alummoottil Family. Wherever the picture is to be used, 'attribution of source' is expected to be disclosed as below.

CC Attribution: Alummoottil Portrait 1920

For attribution type refer:

28 February 2010



Dr.C.K.Radhakrishnan said...

Sri Narayana Guru stands different from other saints of India as his entire life is a message with a social vision .He never cared for individual Moksha and Sri Narayana Guru marked a new era for castless society and a new doctrine for temple worship.

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