Remembering Navroz Contractor, photography is strictly prohibited

Remembering Navroz Contractor, photography is strictly prohibited

Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Ahmedabad (1972) Photograph by Navroz Contractor

Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Ahmedabad (1972) Photograph by Navroz Contractor

Navroz Contractor was a world-renowned photographer and cinematographer from Ahmedabad who made Bengaluru his home. A series of events titled Photography Strictly Prohibited, celebrating the brilliance of his artistic abilities, marks the first anniversary of his death and his birthday. He would have turned 80 on July 7 this year.

Curated by Sanjeev Shah, Anuj Ambalal and Himanshu Panchal, the exhibition will showcase photographs taken by Navroz over a period of 60 years, many of which have never been seen before.

Anuj Ambalal recalls, “We had travelled a lot together to take photographs while working on various projects. A few years ago, I had spoken to him about a retrospective of his work and he had shrugged it off saying that retrospectives are an “end of career” activity. I replied saying we will call it a mid-career retrospective.”

However, Navroz “was quite keen to write a book on his work”, says Anuj, adding that after hearing about his demise, “the first thing that came to my mind was to write a retrospective book on it.”

Navroz Contractor

Navroz Thekedar | Photo Credit: Mallikarjun Katakol

“Sanjeev was a very good friend of Navroz and they had a long-standing relationship on both a personal and professional level. So he knew a lot about the photographs that we started browsing for this show.”

Together, the trio looked at over 20,000 photographs over a period of about six to nine months to organise the exhibition and publication. The result was that photography is strictly prohibited.

“If we were to summarise this curation, I would say there came a point when we realised that subconsciously, instinctively, the three of us were structuring it in such a way that it was more about Navroz than it was about her work.”

Anuj says, “When you look at his works, you get an idea of ​​the kind of person the artist might be. In a way, Photography Strictly Prohibited is a portrait of Navroz.”

Sanjeev Shah says, “Usually there is a catalogue as part of a photo exhibition. However, our idea was different, so I call it a book. It is an attempt to bring out Navroz's personality rather than his photographs. It basically reflects how he saw the world as he was not a conventional photographer.”

Photography is strictly prohibited

Photography is strictly prohibited | Photo Credit: Navjivan Trust

According to Sanjeev, Navroz never followed any theme in his work, except for his work on jazz musicians, which is on display at the Smithsonian in Washington DC. “He always carried a camera; it was rare to see him without a camera. Even then, I don’t think he was keen to show his work to people – it was basically his eye for the world – and he shot whatever he thought was relevant,” he says.

Sanjeev said that the title of this book is also Photography is strictly prohibited There is a compilation of Navroz's work and two interviews – one on the shooting of his film Dilemmaand another on his jazz images. “We have also included some of his writings, which explain why he was doing what he was doing. This is our modest attempt to give the audience an insight into Navroz as a person.”

The exhibition will travel across India and will have a long stay in Ahmedabad in October. Follow ambalalanuj on Instagram for updates.

The Photography Strictly Prohibited event will be in Bengaluru from July 5 to 7 and will include discussions and screenings of his films. Dilemma And Jharu Story. Book Photography is strictly prohibited will be on display for pre-order. Log on to for event details

Photography is strictly prohibited on Navroz Contractor special arrangement

Photography is strictly prohibited at Navroz Contractor Special Arrangement | Photo Credit: Navjivan Trust

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