For Gireesh Marengalath, mobile phone photography wasn’t something he imagined he would ever do. It happened to him by accident. From the moment he touched his first camera phone for his maiden picture to wildlife photography, everything seems like a pre-written script. However, Gireesh thinks of it as divine intervention.
Gireesh holds a record in the Limca Book of Records for having conducted the most number of exhibitions of photographs taken through a mobile phone. Gireesh is a Malayalam teacher of Kalikavu Basar U.P. School in Malappuram.
In an era when selfies and DSLR cameras dominate, people may be amused by Gireesh’s specialty of mobile phone photography. He is the first person to have conducted a mobile phone photography exhibition. But other than this aspect, what is special in his photos is the captions he gives. His captions breathe life into his pictures.
“This one time I was in Trivandrum. From the Medical College premises, I got a click where a lady was selling food items on the road and at the same time a corporation cart full of waste also got in the frame. I gave the caption – Chorethu Chavarethu (which is food and which is waste). That particular picture has been selected for the Kerala Lalitha Kala Academy State Exhibition,” he says.
For another photo, where an MP’s luxury car was clicked on a muddy road, Gireesh has given a striking caption – Car parliament membarudeth aayirikkaam, pakshe road njngaludethaanu (the car may be the MP’s, but road is ours). This caption even made the then Chief Minister Oommen Chandy laugh at an exhibition.
Being a Malayalam teacher has helped him a lot in coming up with captions for his photos.
“It was in 2007 that I got my first camera phone. I had an ordinary phone till then. Subhan master, a friend of mine, asked whether I wanted a camera phone he had. It was a Nokia 6630 with a 1.3 mega pixel camera. I got it for Rs.11,000,” Gireesh says.
In the early days, his own school and students were the subjects. “The first thought of having a mobile phone photo exhibition was an impromptu one. When I was returning after visiting a friend at a hospital, on the way I saw a coconut tree being uprooted by a JCB. I clicked that picture. I used to write satirical poems, so I found something relatable in the photo. I asked my friend Shihab whether somebody else has done something like a mobile phone photo exhibition. He said he had not heard of such an exhibition before. So, I decided to conduct the same. In June 1, 2007, at Kalikavu, my first exhibition with 115 photos was held. It was the first exhibition in India in such a category,” says Gireesh.
In total, he has conducted 113 exhibitions till now and the 100th exhibition was conducted in Trivandrum Art Gallery and was inaugurated by Mr. Chandy.
One unique thing about Gireesh is that he never uses social media sites like Facebook or Twitter to promote his photos. And you can hardly find any of his pictures online.
Gireesh has changed four mobile phones, ever since he started holding exhibitions. After the Nokia phone, he used a Sony Ericsson, again went back to a Nokia phone with a 41 mega pixel camera, and now he is the owner of a Samsung S4 zoom.
After the success he tasted in mobile phone photography, Gireesh now specialises in wildlife photography using his mobile phone.
“I started wildlife photography with my phone last year. I have conducted exhibitions also on the same. It is really challenging as we have to go close in order to click the subject. Light also becomes the villain sometimes. During the time when animals are seen, there isn’t enough light. I have to hold the camera in a steady manner in order to get good quality pictures using mobile phones,” he says.
At a time where even children carry DSLR cameras, Gireesh is creating wonders with his mobile phone. Though he owns a DSLR, he enjoys taking pictures using mobile phones more. He usually captures rare moments from life, including those of children and nature. His pictures are a commentary on society and he clicks many of them while he travels.
He has written two books – ‘Randuperkkum Leavilla’ and ‘Ho’. He has also won the Prathibha Puraskaram given by Air India for the best teacher in Malappuram district in 2007. In 2015, he won the Global Teacher Role Model Award.
Gireesh believes that a photo should strike the mind first and then the lens. At a time when mobile phones seem to be doing harm as well, Gireesh defends them by using them for creativity.