The French Gallery at the Alliance Francaise (AF) Ahmedabad was packed with the city’s glitterati and expatriate crowd on Friday for the opening of Wakaliwood, Slum Cinema Studio, a photographic exhibition by Frederic Noy. Speaking on the occasion, AF Ahmedabad President Pavan Bakeri compared Noy with Henri Cartier-Bresson, another great French photojournalist, who played a major role in setting up the photography department at the National School of Design (NID) Ahmedabad. “AF did not exist those days, so we could not have an exhibition for Cartier-Bresson. But today, we are glad to be featuring the work of Frederic Noy,” he said.
Ahmedabad is now set to feature prominently in the 58-year-old photographer’s work. Frederic moved to the city six months ago with his wife Ahlem, who works for Total France and has been deputed to Adani Total for three years. Since then, Frederic has been making regular forays into the city from his apartment on Ambli Road, looking for subject matter. “My work is called Slow Photography,” he says. “It involves capturing daily life, nothing sensational. You go into the depth and try to understand without judging. Ahmedabad gives me a lot of opportunity to do that. So far, it has been like living on the planet Mars.”
Frederic has photographed communities in Tanzania, Nigeria, Sudan, and Kazakhstan, telling some incredible stories. The Wakaliwood exhibition tells the story of one Nabwana Isaac Godfrey Geoffrey (ICG for short), who placed Uganda on the world map of cinema, shooting action comedies with Kung Fu, car chases, special effects, and explosions, all out of Wakaliga, a slum in the capital city of Kampala, for a cost of less than $200 per film. In 2010, the trailer of his film “Who Killed Captain Alex?” went viral on YouTube, triggering world-wide interest. “I walked the alleys of Wakaliga for three years documenting ICG’s work,” says Frederic. “He is a pop-up prophet. From his shantytown studio, he preaches the gospel of the 7th Art.”
The Wakaliwood exhibition features some fantastic pictures taken during the shooting of some of ICG’s zombie/action films. Does Frederic expect to find something like this in Ahmedabad? “I need friends who can introduce me to such subjects in Ahmedabad. In Kampala, I had a friend who took me to Wakaliga,” he says.
Frederic has been taking shots of Ahmedabad’s Old City, of a Big Fat Indian Wedding and of migrants, all the while checking for the light, colour and intensity, which are crucial to his art. “I am still discovering, taking notes. I have travelled out of Ahmedabad, to Mumbai and Goa as well. India is such a vast and diverse country, it takes time to understand. Luckily, I have three years to figure things out,” he says.
As a freelance photojournalist, Frederic is also on the look out for photo features that might interest magazines. Meanwhile, he has been teaching at NID Gandhinagar and says, “Interacting with the students was very interesting for me, since I have never done a formal course in photography myself.”
The Wakaliwood, Slum Cinema Studio, exhibition is open till 7 May 2023 at AF Ahmedabad, Manek Bagh.