KALLITYPES FROM HAMPI | BY SAIBAL DAS
Time & Location
About the Event
I have been photographing ‘Hampi’ the World Heritage Site from
2014 to 2018.
Hampi has never stopped fascinating writers and historians for centuries now, and with the
advent of photography, over the last many decades, it has offered itself as the most exotic
playground of light, shade and shadows for photographers across the globe. The heritage site
has been presented as a splendour of the past in ruins, reminding ourselves of our historic
misfortune, our squandering and decline. It has also constantly been made a reference or
touchstone for an imagined civilizational restoration. There are strong bonds of mythological
association too about the place that contributes to some of the most popular narratives of faith
in India. All this aside, there is yet another line of enquiry that this place has provoked, and that
has had to do with its geological antiquity. Hampi is, therefore, a magnificent culmination of
many curiosities, of the aesthetic, of the historical, civilizational, mythological and geological.
But there is one other dimension that has never been explored with regard to Hampi. This is
about the site as a physiological metaphor, as an extension of the human mind and body.
Where the rocks are about delving the mind’s aloofness, its existential backwaters and the
palpable tremors of an un-chiselled body. As the rocks and monuments lie around
communicating through their deceptive stillness and as echoes perform the whispers, the
serene journeying continues amidst them to fulfil the rituals of life. As if the rocks meticulously
trace life from conception to death.
Hampi in some sense is a living monument. The chants are alive in the temples, soot from
lamps adorn their walls, and the river in its rest has perfected the role of offering salvation to the
dead and ensuring solace to the living. In such a milieu, when the quiet life of rocks mingle with
undying human footsteps, a unique vision is imparted. Photographs are trying to capture this
transmission for the very first time.
Kallitype is a process for making photographic prints.
Patented in 1889 by W. W. J. Nicol (1855-1929), the Kallitype print is an iron-silver process. The
light-sensitive element used for the Kallitype is ferric oxalate. The use of ferric oxalate allows for
both extended shadow definition and contrast control.
Many developing solutions can be used to give a different image color (brown, sepia, blue,
maroon and black). Kallitype images generally have a richer tonal range. These prints were
popular in the 19th century, and then their popularity faded away. Sometimes known as “the
poor man’s platinum print”, when the image is toned in platinum or palladium the result is nearly
chemically identical to a true Platinotype. It is believed that many Kallitypes were passed off as
true Platinotypes and remain in collections as so. Kallitypes have had a reputation over the
years as having poor archival qualities and often fading. When properly cleared, Kallitypes are
completely archivable and will not fade. Toning with a metal such as gold, platinum, or
palladium will give extra image permanence.