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The weeping viewfinder

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The weeping viewfinder

For photographer Juhi Saklani, chopping trees for 'redevelopment' is not just about the environment.

In 2013, the authorities in Melbourne assigned email IDs to trees so citizens could report problems like dangerous branches.

Instead, people started writing letters to trees. Someone wrote: "Thank you for being so pretty Are you as tired of construction work as we are? I don't think there's much more to talk about, you being a tree and such. But I am glad we're in this together."

Inside an old crumbled mansion in Dehradun, a tree stands alone, quietly. It has stood witness to radiant times, heard tales, eavesdropped on gossip and kept family secrets. It has also worn sacredness on its skin. But all that in the past now.

Now it is lonely, and almost fantastic in its tragedy. There are many other photographs by Juhi Saklani displayed on the walls of Delhi Photo Com-pany at Connaught Place (until June 2) as part of her exhibition 'Human/Nature'.

Pictures of trees enclosed by old window frames, ancient ones that have been a witness to the metaphorical death and reincarnation of the Capital. Frames of trees which she has been taking for the past four years from Delhi's government housing colonies like Sarojni Nagar, East Kidwai Nagar and Nauroji Nagar that have been earmarked for 'rede-Comvelopment' by the government.

There are no people in the frames but their presence is amplified by their absence. "I was part of the people who came together last year to resist this government move which would have resulted in the cutting of 16,500 tress.

This exhibition is a result of the India Habitat Centre's Photosphere fellowship grant (2018-19) and the project was conceived under the mentorship of Aditya Arya," she says, looking at the frame of an old banyan congratulating itself on the grandeur of its roots.

For this travel writer who picked up a borrowed SLR camera post a ligament tear in 1997, looking through its lens at a crow sitting near a barsaati changed everything... the whole experience for her was meditative and transcendental.

Saklani, who likes to photograph in both colour and black & white, insists that her appreciation for one does not really come with the burden of disliking the other.

"Though this exhibition is in colour, but for a long time, I have been doing a project wherein I walk alone on Delhi's streets at night and take pictures in black & white. Let's see when I get to show them to the world," she smiles.

A late-starter, 50-yearold Saklani, is glad that several private players like Alkazi Foundation for the Arts, India Habitat Centre's Photosphere and the Umrao Singh Sher-Gil Grant for Photography are now offering photography grants.

As we wrap up, she remembers that when this exhibition opened, -many people from the now demolished colonies came. One revealed that during her daughter's wedding, neighbours had given a room each to accommodate their guests."Then, looking at the photographs, they became very silent," she whispers.