Photo Focus: Krishna Tummalapalli

Welcome to Photo Focus, where I examine a single photograph. These short essay’s will give a greater insight into the individual image beyond its context within a group of photographs. Furthermore, this is inspired by an idea a professor of mine always discussed in graduate school. He would talk about what about the photograph brought the viewer in and kept his or her attention. I discuss what personally draws me to the particular photograph and hope that that gives you an entrance as well.


I really enjoy humorous photography. I am always amazed at the things people find interesting. This is one of the greatest things about photography, all the perspectives. The things individuals choose to photograph says a lot about their personalities, I think. Looking at photographs gives us a way into the photographers thoughts, their interests, their way of seeing. For this week’s Photo Focus, I am examining a photograph by Krishna Tummalapalli from his series Sleeping Beauties.

The photograph above employs the deadpan technique. This means the photographer made the photograph in a direct manner, approaching the subject like a planned task. The bottom one-fifth of the photograph is filled with a cement road. At the bottom center is the subject of the photograph, a car covered by a blue tarp. Just behind the car is a curb and fence. Along the fence on the right hand side of the photo is a pile of dirt and rocks. Behind the pile of rubble is an open gate. From this point the rest of the photograph is filled with foliage. At the fence level there is a plant with magenta flowers and the top two-thirds of the photograph is filled with tree leaves. Along the top of the frame four power lines run across the image.

The texture of the leaves provides a nice contrast to the more smooth surface of the tarp. The colors are also nicely balanced in the frame. The dominant green makes the spot of blue stand out, while the magenta flowers add a pop of interest. While deadpan is often seen as mundane it really works for this composition and subject. It directs the viewers attention to the car.

Many times the composition of a photograph is what initially draws my attention to a photograph, but not this time. Here I am interested in the subject matter, the car. The United States is a car culture. We love cars. It is a wright of passage for us to get our drivers license on our sixteenth birthday and to get a car. However, India does not have the car culture of America. Cars are out of reach of many Indians and many have motorcycle or scooters. I have also seen many a car sitting on the side of the road totally neglected and un-driveable. I see the covered car in this photograph and wonder why it has a tarp on in. I question if the tarp is there because the car is rarely driven or because it is in disrepair.

The title, Sleeping Beauties, implies the car is a precious object in need of care. However, if you have ever been on a road in India you know they drive crazy according to North American driving standards. Earlier in the week I was going down a narrow road in a tuk-tuk. We were stopped and hugging the side of the road to let a car pass. There was not enough room and the car and tuk-tuk slid along side one another. I am sure the car got scratched. Thus, I do not feel like many cars in India get treated with love and care.

Car cultures are different everywhere I suppose. My idea of caring for a car may be completely different from an Indian’s perspective. I think this photograph brings home the idea that multiple viewers can see the same photograph and have a totally different reading of it based on their background. My interest in this photograph stems from my own experience as a car owner. In many ways, thinking about one’s self as a car owner is quit mundane, like this photograph. However, this photograph rises above it’s subject matter to reveal thoughtful content.

By |2018-09-08T19:24:07-05:00October 14th, 2016|Photo Focus|0 Comments

About the Author:

Betsy Williamson is an assistant professor of art in the state of New Mexico. Before coming to New Mexico for this job she was an adjunct professor throughout Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, teaching photography and art appreciation. Between September 2015 and May 2017, she took a break from teaching to pursue art, research and life in India. Now she is back to teaching and part-timing it in India.

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