Yantra Mantra and its Spatial Art
Sanjay Nanda explores the complex architectural structures at the Jantar Mantar to create vibrant abstract artworks.
- Description Capturing thought-provoking abstracts of the geometries, textures and colours of the structures in the Jantar Mantar, Delhi
- Duration: Over a period of one year Notes All images were shot handheld in available light and composed as is, without any cropping.
Jantar Mantar drew me with its many different colours, patterns, textures, shapes and forms, which I have not seen anywhere else. In this body of work, I have focused on two-dimensional surfaces and the abstract images formed through time, weather or human interaction with building materials.
These images document the history of ordinary (or perhaps not so ordinary) moments—and the end result is incidental beauty. Each of these photographs attempts to show a connection between the physical and non-material worlds, by making visible what others may not have seen.
I have always been fascinated by the geometric architectural structures within the Jantar Mantar astronomical observatory, and the instruments that were used to keep track of celestial bodies in space. Jantar Mantar—or ‘Yantra Mantra’ (‘Yantra’ for instrument and ‘Mantra’ for formula)—is not just a timekeeper of celestial bodies. It also tells a lot about the technological achievements of Rajput kings and their attempt to resolve the mysteries regarding astronomy.
These seemingly abstract structures create fascinating graphical forms that change throughout the day, with the movement of the sun across the horizon. The Jantar Mantar can introduce you to infinite opportunities for beautiful abstracts—from the moment the first rays of the sun strike its precisely calibrated surfaces and bathe them in soft glowing light; to the midday sun creating strong patterns and bringing out fascinating textures; and finally, to the golden glow of the setting sun, setting the earthy colour of the structures on fire from deep yellows to ochres and reds. But today, it has fallen into disuse, and is lost in time and space.
This involved persistent scouring of the urban landscape for the uniquely unseen; compelling moments of light, texture and form; and decaying elements in the constructed environment. I looked for stirring colour combinations in scenes that I could compose in a thought-provoking way. As a graphic designer I reduced all the raw visual material into basic forms—lines, shapes, patterns, colours—and then played around with these till I finally composed the image.
Most of the post processing was done in Aperture, where I adjusted levels, and enhanced saturation using black point, contrast and saturation tools. They were finally sharpened in Photoshop after creating different sizes of artworks.
My Equipment: I used a Nikon D80, with Nikkor 28mm f/2.8 and Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 lenses. I also used a Nikkor 18–200mm for some wide-angle shots (18mm), since I did not have a wide-angle prime lens. I chose these prime and fast lenses for the extreme sharpness/ DOF I needed, to bring out the textures especially in low light conditions.
Tips to Shoot Stunning Abstracts
- Composition in abstracts is critical for the image to work visually. Evaluate different elements: lines, shapes, textures, colours, and light. Look at how lines flow within the frame, how different solid areas balance with each other, and how different colours work with each other. Then, seek out a composition that appeals to you, study it, and see how you can further enhance it. In this process of abstraction, you will be able to remove all clutter; thus bringing the image down to its essence.
- Abstracts are more than lines and colours. Shooting an abstract is a way to get in touch with the unconscious part of your existence, even if you do not realise what you are doing. In this sense, create something that evokes unconscious feelings and emotions in the observer.
- There is no such thing as a single meaning for any abstract photograph. Each image can have a number of meanings, depending on who is looking at it. Although it is possible to sometimes agree on the general meaning, it is important to keep in mind that truly abstract images usually trigger thoughts that stimulate the mind, emotion and imagination of the viewer. Each person determines their own version of what a picture says or does not say. In the end, all meaning is subjective.
- Abstract photography is an art form, and all art exists truly in the eye of the beholder.
To see more of Sanjay Nanda’s work, visit http://indipixgallery.photoshelter.com/abstracts, aperture, art, colours, Composition, Graphic, march 2009, New Delhi, nikon d80, On Assignment, processing, Sanjay Nanda, shapes, Yantra Mantra