Photographer Vicky Roy rolls out His Visual Path up to Biennale

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Kochi: When Vicky Roy was in New York as an invitee to photo-document the reconstruction of the World Trade Center a decade ago, authorities at the site for the 81-storey building would call out the youngster, unintentionally distracting his focus. All they wanted to know was if he was permitted to walk around the downtown area where work was on to replace the Twin Towers that were destroyed in a 2001 terror attack.

“For, I used to tilt backwards the sunshade of the cap we were given as guests. That was to ensure I could use my camera without any obstruction to the eye,” Vicky recalled before a gathering in this city ahead of its hosting the fourth edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB). The cap, it turned out, had on its front side a logo and number that would enable the authorities at the 2 WTC coming up in Manhattan to check its authenticity.

“My English was particularly poor those days, but then I noticed that the Japanese and Europeans with me were still worse in speaking the language,” he said in a lighter vein during his presentation at Fort Kochi’s Pepper House. The sea-facing structure is a venue of the fourth KMB, the contemporary art festival to be held in Kochi from December 12 to March 29 next year, of which he is a participating artist.

In the ten years that followed his days in the US, Vicky went on to gain name as a visual artist of international repute. That path was laden with immense challenges the talented photographer who grew up in adverse circumstances managed to overcome.

Vicky’s initial break did not exactly come from that stint at the foundation in 2008 though the six-month American residency program did boost his profile. A year before that the Bengal-born artist organised his first solo exhibition of photographs at a Delhi gallery. Vicky spoke about that debut show titled Street Dreams, which was supported by the British High Commission, at the Let’s Talk event the Kochi Biennale Foundation (KBF) organised this weekend.

On display at that 2007 event were photographs of destitute children. The teenager was himself once a homeless kid after having run from his impoverished home in Purulia where his parents were ‘harsh’ in their punishments. The images thus were, in a way, representative of his own years of growing up in Delhi, where he had landed by a train from his native eastern state as a 11-year-old.

The early years of a young Vicky was spent as a rag picker and doing odd jobs before the Salam Balak Trust, an NGO for street children, adopted him. It was at the destitute centre that the boy had a chance encounter with a photographer. The session altered his life, and Vicky has ever since been gaining name as an image maker.

Today, at 30, he is poised to showcase his select works at the 2018 KMB. The biennale’s curator, artist Anita Dube, was present at the 50-minute talk Vicky gave on Saturday, trailing his life, from living on the streets to taking pictures of those streets and more.

In 2016, the artist featured in the Forbes Asia 30 under-30 list. In end-2017, Vadehra Art Gallery in Delhi hosted Vicky’s solo show ‘This Scarred Land: New Mountainscape’.