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Victor George


Victor George (April 10, 1955-July 9, 2002) the talented Photographer from Kerala, India who died in 2002 while taking pictures of landslides in Kerala. He was working in an Indian Publication (Malayala Manorama, NewsPaper) as Chief Photo Editor. His works include Portrait of "Rain". This was Victor George, ace lensman of the Malayala Manorama. Victor set out from Kottayam, on July 9, 2002, to cover a landslide that had claimed three lives near Thodupuzha in Idukki district. That afternoon, the torrential rains unleashed a second landslide. Cameramen and reporters, who had gathered on the slopes of Venniyani Mala, ran for their lives. But Victor lingered, unmindful of the rocks hurtling down or the shouts of his colleagues, his camera focussed on the diabolic beauty. In a flash, he had disappeared - lost in the rushing water and avalanche of rocks that tore down the hillside.

For two days, they scoured Venniyani Mala, while people all over Kerala watched, hoped and prayed. The third day, a friend saw fingers raised above the mud, a hundred metres below the landslide. Army men and villagers gently retrieved the body, the broken strap of the camera coiled around the neck.

For Victor, there was drama in the ordinary and the everyday, not just in events making headlines. His acute eye could frame a riveting picture from an elderly pavement dweller's defeated face or an excited crowd at a village football tournament. He found as much lyricism in a group of crows perched on a bridge in the rain as the gazelle-like stride of P.T. Usha burning up the tracks.

Born on April 10, 1955, in Kanakkary village of Kottayam district it was his brother who introduced him to photography. What began as a hobby developed into a serious interest. In 1981 Victor joined the Malayala Manorama. From 1985 to 1990 he worked in their Delhi bureau. His pictures of the 1986 National Games first won him recognition. The captivating shots of the plump, animated mother of swimmers Anita and Kavita Sood cheering them from the gallery during the women's 400 metre freestyle brought Victor a clutch of awards and instant recognition, as did his frame of the Indian relay team dropping the baton in a disastrous finish at the South Asian Federation Games, Kolkata in 1989. From 1990, Victor was chief photographer of the Manorama, Kottayam. Readers knew that if a picture was remarkable in its depth, unusual in its theme and told a story in black and white, chances were that it would carry Victor's by-line. Victor was never satisfied with an ordinary angle. When he went to Kottayam District Hospital to take the picture of a boy in the last throes of rabies, the shot he took was of the helpless child clutching his father's hand, capturing the poignancy of the situation by showing only the face of the child and the protective hand of the father.

Victor's smile and understanding manner instantly put people at ease when making a portrait. He was persuasive without making the subject realise that he or she was being effortlessly manipulated into the pose the camera required.

His gallery of portraits of poets, artists and authors for the literary magazine Bhashaposhini is a tribute to this unfailing ability to strike a chord with his subject.

After an extended stint in Kottayam, Victor began to chafe at the confines of news photography and the monotony of covering local events.

The best of his later work in his nature photography, particularly the thought-provoking shots of the ravaged environment and man's destructive greed. His restless mind teemed with ideas for theme books, on life in the backwaters of Kuttanad, on the hoary river, the Bharathapuzha River, on wildlife (he was fascinated with snakes), a picturisation of O.V. Vijayan's classic Khazakinte Ithihasam. But to start with he decided he would capture the monsoon - the Kerala monsoon.

For two years Victor had been working on his "rain book". He travelled to Kanyakumari and Kovalam and the Shankhumukham seashore of Thiruvananthapuram, waiting for days on end to capture the onset of the monsoon. He sought the beaches of Alappuzha to capture the fury of the torrent, and the hills of Munnar and Nelliampathy for silken, moody rain and mist.

It became an obsession. Friends recall his plan to take a unique photograph of a priest conducting pooja from a boat at the Ayyappan temple in Idukki that is submerged in the monsoon and his excited description of a "number forty rain," so called by the locals to describe the fine, delicate strands of rain. The fairy of the monsoon in the High Ranges that unleashed landslides and floods fascinated him.

When his colleagues opened his desk after July 9, they found a well-thumbed copy of a book Alexander Frater's ode to the rain, Chasing the Monsoon.

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