A few years ago, I was completely immersed in photographing the Fatehpur Sikri Fort, the city that was founded by Akbar the Great and served as the capital of his Mogul Empire from 1571 to 1585.
I barely noticed the flurry of activity at the far end. A slight man with a shock of white hair was sitting calmly painting. It can’t be I said to myself. It was HE! The late M.F. Husain the great painter! WOW! I changed direction, thinking, “Forget the Palace, I can always shoot it; here I am in the presence of a great Master!”
In India, he is often spoken in the breath as Cezanne and Matisse. Always eccentric (I confess to be a fan of his eccentricity), his paintings resonate with his bold personality that broke with tradition and created an avant-garde eclectic style that was uniquely his.
My motor drive was on overdrive all over him. I thought he would; at any time unleash his tempestuous personality on me. He didn’t bother.
His definitive strokes continued to capture the red stone Mogul architecture and all the elements around it. He was so completely absorbed that I didn’t exist.
A medley crowd of onlookers was kept at a respectable distance by his personal guards. I didn’t seem to have a restriction. As I photographed him, I realized that he was totally focused with the details! It was the minutiae that he observed; the bird in the air, the stray dogs, the people, and their mannerisms, all began to sprout to life under the swift magical flight of his brush directed by his unusual mind and insight.
“The dude is building emotions, man”, I muttered excitedly to myself.
I learnt that whatever I shoot, it is in the tiny details that powerful stories of emotion – whether it is grief, longing or wonderment, are made. It was all in the so-called ‘trivia’.
That’s how masterpieces are created.
Wow! I learned a lot that day!
(Maqbool Fida Husain passed away on the 9th of June 2011 in London.)