Fig. 14. Gokul’s and Narji’s outstretched arms hold a memorial photograph of Hira. Hira’s portrait was featured on the cover of Camera Indica (it depicted Hira’s brother, Ramlal, holding a portrait of Hira holding a portrait of his father) in a mise-en-abyme, a kind of visual black hole through which the image fell backwards to an impossible moment of past capture. The image of Hira I encountered in 2019 in the breakaway Dalit settlement near the village railway station where his brothers now live seemed to move in the opposite direction, falling forward into a future in which he served as a guide. Gokul, the son of Hira’s brother Naggulal, “thrashed” with the presence of Hira at least twice a year (during each of the “nine nights of the goddess”). The memorial photograph of Hira directly animated the thrashing, Hira’s pret passing from the surface of the image into Gokul’s body. These two iterations of Hira’s photographs dramatize two different modes of photography, one solemnizing the past, as in the famous Bourdieusian formula, and the other prophetic and future-oriented and filled with unknowability, something close to what Azoulay describes as the recognition that “not only were the photographed people there [at the moment of exposure], but . . . in addition, they are still present at the time I’m watching them” (2008:16). Photograph by Christopher Pinney; PHOTODEMOS: Citizens of Photography: the Camera and the Political Imagination

Image

Image