| 1980 – 2000 |
Encouraged by his father, Haneef Rahman, Abul Kalam Azad started taking photographs of his locale at a very young age. A majority of his photographs from the seventies are from his native land of Kerala. As a school drop-out, he had the time to travel, meet people from different walks of life and understand cultures. His early subjects included poets, writers, musicians, painters and filmmakers who used to frequent his studio, his friends, neighbourhood, the locale and its architecture. These photographs offer a glimpse into the landscape of Mattanchery, before it became a cultural hub. Quite a few works from this period were lost in a fire accident. Abul started traveling across India in the early eighties. His interest in formal experiments can be seen to be developing in this period. He also became more active in artists’ movements, and simultaneously, his images began getting more exposure, getting printed in magazines and periodicals. Abul Kalam Azad’s continuing interest in totemic animals, mundane everyday imageries and local micro-history can be seen in the images made in these years. He has always had a strong inclination to boldly present his personal life, and his autobiographical works stand as a timeless witness of his encounters with social and political dilemmas of the time.
In the early nineties, Abul moved to Delhi, where he worked with the Press Trust of India. He shifted to photojournalism as a choice of career, and after indulging in it for a while, rejected this path in favour of a more personal approach to the medium of photography. Even though a majority of his photographs from this intense five-year long photojournalistic career was handed over to the News Agency, a few negatives are with us. This period also influenced and shaped his thought process and ensured his presence in the mainstream Indian photography. Abul Kalam Azad continued his formal experiments, almost always using the print as the base medium. With the support of different scholarships, he traveled to Europe for higher studies. Returning to India after completing his courses in Europe, he started practicing photography as an independent visual artist and accelerated his efforts in experimental and innovative photography. His inherited passion for design and fashion are reflected in the works from this period. Sociopolitical and autobiographical elements continue to dominate the images, but an even more versatile approach can be seen compared to earlier works. Abul Kalam Azad indulges in eroticism and abstractions, and resorts to unconventional means such as scanning and working with found images.