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Sohrab Hura


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As darkness fell, it brought with it a sense of loneliness. I had been to Siem Reap in Cambodia some years ago when it had felt different. The roads were dustier, the people more… well, visible, and the town was a sleepier one.

It’s different now. Or at least it felt different to me. People from the streets had been cleansed out to make the town more attractive to tourists who come in hordes to visit the glorious Angkor temples next door. Just too many new bars and lounges and nightclubs have mushroomed as hotspots all over town providing a haven for tourists and prostitutes.

What I felt at night was a stark contrast. Between the empty, strange and eerie streets where I’d seldom come across shadows of humans and animals, and even those that I came across, I found them enveloped in a certain strangeness. The empty butcher shops where the meat was missing from the hooks, the blurred visions of the streets at the twilight before the first break of light… And then there were these hotspots that provided refuge from the loneliness that came along with the night.

I wanted to document the strange contradictions of a night in this erstwhile sleepy town through the perspective of a lonely outsider.


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Sohrab Hura


Editor’s Note: Please only one comment per person under this essay.. Further discussions should take place under Dialogue..

Many thanks… david alan harvey

42 thoughts on “sohrab hura – oasis”

  1. Dark, fuzzy, grainy photos. Again. Bad photography in the name of art, I guess. Come on, folks. This isn’t original anymore. If you are frustrated with the limitations of photography, take up painting.

  2. yo Sohrab,

    Great to see your work here bro.

    This is one photog quietly working away and I reckon he has a great approach to the medium! In that it’s personal.

    My bottom lip is really hurting right now….

    Best to you Sohrab. Btw… how was the Eggleston show in France? Did you get to see it?

  3. I dont know.
    a part of me thinks that jim has a point, but that he gets it across really badly(probably on purpose)
    a part of me agrees with sean in thats its a personal approach to the story. and all power to that.

    i dont personally ‘feel’ the use of this treatment for this subject. It is hard to maintain my interest throughout the series. i see noise. I feel disconnected. …Now feeling disconnected is the story right? but i want to feel the artists disconnection, not be dissconected from the photographs because then i am doubly dissconnected. if that makes sense.
    Some of the images are definite stand alones and are strong as this. Again though I just find I am not ‘feeling’ the right way on this. half way through and i have wandered off somewhere.

  4. I like this. Many of the photos gave me pause and made me think of the way I experienced Siem Reap. Going out after dark on a lonely night in Siem Reap is a bold move, and I think it paid off well. Way to go. I really liked the shot of the boys sleeping with your shadow and the very abstract closing shot.

    Jim – Where can I learn more about these limitations of photography that you’re referring to? Are you saying real photographs are defined by a set of rules? Please explain. I thought a photograph was just a captured pattern of light. I don’t particularly care for Manray, but he made that point. Anyway, isn’t the world of photography awash in people taking A+ photo essays?

  5. Hey, those pictures look familiar!

    Congratulations, Desi, on your work being hosted here. As you know, I’ve always been a big fan of the Sohrab Hura club. I’m very glad you found a platform to exhibit your work from that hectic week in Cambodia. Though to each their opinion – including the naysayers – I think this body of work is sensitive, thoughtful, and a very substantial set of photographs given our limited time there. Antoine would be proud!!


  6. Sense of place, sense of FEEL for the place, no need to take up painting, this works just fine! Thanks!

  7. I love the photographs – but I hate the banding. Pixellation as grain is one thing, but banding…?
    There is a nice sense of continuity in the essay, but it doesn’t seem to hit the written preamble. The town looks as sleepy and uncommercialized as when (I imagine) you first visited it.
    As a nocturnal walkabout, the images are very satisfying. As an essay however I don’t feel the original intention. If the point of departure is foreign to the feel of the essay, does the essay come in as a failure? I don’t know.
    Francis Bacon came to mind very soon into your story – but he hit me full force on #18. Also excellent.

  8. Sohrab

    Congratulations on being published here.

    In general, I can see what you are trying to show me here. I think there is much stronger stuff on your site however.

    I’m concerned about a couple of things here.

    First is craft. I keep harping that images need to be well crafted, whatever style you choose to work in. There is a place for fuzzy and grainy, though it seems we are seeing quite a bunch of it lately. Fuzzy-grainy used to go with the territory if one chose to work in very low light. Slow shutter speeds, and over-developed fast film gave you no choice. There are plenty of examples of how photographers use these limitations to advantage. Fuzzy-grainy has become part of our visual alphabet.

    However if you want to use the style, you need to do it well. The tones can be beautifully rendered, the grain tack sharp even if the image is not.

    I’m sorry Sohrab, but I feel these images lack craft. They look muddy and haphazardly rendered. If these are film images, which I suspect, make prints before you scan or learn to use your scanner more effectivly. There are what appear to be scanning artifacts in many images (grid lines). In my experience, b/w negs do not scan very well, especially when viewed next to a good print made under an enlarger. If you are shooting digital, artifacts like this can appear when you try to lighten a severely under-exposed file. In either case, it signals sloppy image making to me. If you want to use film, jump in with both feet and make silver prints in a darkroom. If you want to photograph in poor light however, DSLRs these days do a much better job, and the most recent ones will photograph anything you can see with ease. Why put un-needed obstacles in your way.

    My second concern is one I’ve also raised before, and will likely continue to. Why is the this side of life such popular grist for the photographic mill? OK, this exists, everywhere, but I feel as if I’m being beaten over the head with it. Can we please see some work that celebrates life too?

    Alright, I’ll step off the soap box now.

    Sohrab. I enjoyed much of the work on your site. Good luck in the future.

  9. hi
    this upload was just brought to my attention and i hope i’m not too late in replying to some of you.

    john you’re right this is noise and it is very evident in the work. i did this work over 5 nights during the angkor photo workshop and as i don’t have a digital camera a friend was very kind enough to lend me her canon 400d with a kit lens and that was the only way i could take the photographs. also as i didn’t (and still don’t) know how to work with raw files and as i didn’t have a laptop with me,i was asked to shoot jpegs which i did at very high iso. so while a part of me does hurt from inside that i don’t have these photographs on film, to be really honest, i’ve stopped caring about the noise etc so much. this work is far from perfect and i do feel that a lot more could have been done. for me it was a tribute to a friend whose presence in my life has affected me a lot but i feel i’ve moved on from it since then.

    jim, a part of me can relate to you. a part of me feels that black and white can sometimes just be a cover up for bad photography as it feels easy to pass off a lot of rubbish as good work and i feel that i do it very often. not just regarding this work, but pretty much all that i have done. which is why i guess i’m stuck with black and white right now because i don’t feel i’m good enough at the moment to find my own world in colour. but i won’t agree with you when you say “If you are frustrated with the limitations of photography, take up painting.” i’m young and in my struggle to find my own voice it is only natural that i try and seek out every place that i can. yes photography has its limitations, but i guess my limits may be different from yours and they change constantly. i hope they do for you too.

    thank you all for your thoughts. appreciate it. and thank you david for uploading the work


  10. a great essay, it hooked me straight away. there are some particularly strong images in there – 1, 5, 11, 12, 18 imo are the stand out ones. 18 especially.

    i don’t understand why people have a problem with grainy images. if you’re shooting light at that level you’re going to get grain, that’s just life, no point in being upset. but i do have a question for jim (rhetorical, of course), why should someone have to take up painting if they are frustrated with the limitations of photography?

    keep up the good work sohrab

  11. Unlike many people here I don’t mind the brusqueness of Jim’s statements when he also makes a valid point. In my opinion, sweeping generalizations are a bigger problem than harshness. Fuzzy and grainy is not necessarily bad art (or bad photography), or an excuse or a trick. However, I will have to agree with some of the commentators that the pictures in this essay seem a little too blurry.

    However, I was VERY impressed with Sohrab’s incredibly gracious and articulate response to the criticisms. Thank you for this, Sohrab, a real “oasis” among the usual back-and-forth altercations in this forum of late. Also, I am a little puzzled as to why you chose to submit this essay in particular, because I looked at your site and you seem to have a lot of really interesting work, and less burdened by the technical shortcomings of this essay. Congratulations both for your work and your graciousness, and keep up the good work!

  12. Sohrab, wonderful to see your name and photos here. I remember when you told me about your nocturnal escapades back in Siem Reap (BTW, friends, it’ s Antoine D’ Agata, #18 in the essay). Reall glad to finally see what it came to, if in part only, probably.

    It’s a world too close to me (not just the nights, but the whole South-East Asian enchilada) to comment impartially, I hope someday to add my own series to that palimpsest. Actually, I will! ;-)

  13. I am a fan of Antoine D’Agata (picture 18) too, I know and follow him since more than 11 years. What really impressed me with Antoine’s work is the way he is able to radicaly change is way to use the photographic medium and today the film camera.

    He is a real great teacher also, all among his workshops.
    What really disturb me his the way many of his students or fans just make “A.” style.

    I feel their is a contradiction between speech and reality …so it’s like only the shape. Exactly what his students should not do. “Mala Noche” is already done and that kind of approach with prositute is too much in between and far behind the teacher.

  14. Picture 18 explains a lot of the others in this essay… Maybe you were trying to immerse yourself too much in your mentor’s universe during that workshop. And you forgot it is impossible to clone Antoine D’Agata…

  15. “for me it was a tribute to a friend whose presence in my life has affected me a lot but i feel i’ve moved on from it since then.”

    of course it’s impossible to clone antoine.. just wanted to pay tribute to him :)

  16. Sohrab, I really like your work and I have a grate respect of you, infact I have your lightstalkers page saved togeder with my favorite photographers/agencies websites that I visit when I need to refesh my eyes from bullshit and see good photography… but sorry I don’t like this essay… maybe it can be cause you tried to “push it” too much… I don’t know… but in my opinion you have so much better work than this!

  17. Sohrab – the essay is awesome but your other work, as I agree with Albertina, is more striking. Mainly, because I see inconsistency ( I hate that word ) in the visual story vs written story. The visual story feels too vague of a contrast that does not encapsulate a single topic. It is about all and maybe that is what you meant. And if it were me, I would just _write_ that this is a tribute to Antoine rather than putting his photo in there – it just does not fit the way you have it shot.
    I am in great favor of the technical aspects of the essay – it really adds the provocative and contrasting bit and is well chosen. There is no doubt about that in my mind.

    best to you

  18. Did the photographer know what he or she was doing? Did they know the effects they would create? Was it intentional? Do they know the potential of modern digital equipment?
    Don’t really care.. the images are wonderful!!!!!!


  19. Hmmm, the shot of the dog silohuette is absolutely outstanding.

    The portrait of Antoine D’Agata incredibly Bacon-esque.

    Lovely work, Sohrab and gracious replies.

    I once asked an extremely successful chef (Tony Bilson for those that like eating really GREAT food- which is my favorite indulgence) what was the secret of his restaraunt and he replied that he chose his staff based on their ‘good manners and intelligence’ Two qualities that are often sadly lacking in people.

    You have both… good luck with your journey.

  20. is this a dream?
    I get such a feeling of….
    I don’t know what…
    but it makes me feel something,
    or remember something…
    in a dream….
    I dunno…
    have to watch it again…

  21. Desolate…yet capturing a heartbeat. The dog silhouette is brilliant. I feel a bit mixed…I think that just may be the point. I’ve never been to this location, but I’ve felt this way…It’s a stranger feeling strangely, and very on the outside, wondering not if they can see me, but if they care I’m here. It’s a sad state of feeling, but one which is relatable. Great job, Sohrab…and your gracious manner speaks volume about your character…

  22. These images leave me with the impression of photographic ‘sketches in progress’ – which I find ironic because your writing is quite beautiful. Perhaps in a Sebaldian sense the images could support the text rather than the other way round. Don’t take up painting, but do try writing.

  23. Sohrab, your work is magnificent. However, as many have already said, this is not the strongest example of it. But you already know that. Just keep peering deeply into the world around you there in India and your photos will reflect ever more fully your true Self. You may be young in years but when I see the essays posted on your site, I recognize an old soul. It is out of that consciousness that your best work will emerge. It’s important to have teachers/mentors whom we respect, and there are times on the path where we may walk a few steps in their footprints (I’m thinking of Antoine D’Agata in your life), but then we must venture out on our own. It is our own footprints that we are meant to leave behind. You are already well on your way.


  24. “Dark, fuzzy, grainy photos. Again. Bad photography in the name of art, I guess. Come on, folks. This isn’t original anymore. If you are frustrated with the limitations of photography, take up painting.”

    I ran that through my stupid translation filter and it came out as:

    “Atmospheric, moody, poetic images. Again. Lucid photography in the name of the muses, I feel. Come on, folks. This is very personal and daring. If you are frustrated with the limitations of your view of photography, take up painting to expand them.”

  25. Sohrab! :)))))

    Welcome to the pleasure dome! ;))…it is so lovely to see you and your work here as well and had no idea you were peaking around! :)) I’ve always enjoyed this essay since it was first produced and for sure, the ‘ghosts’ or ‘angels’ of both Antoine and Michael hover large over the work….though i prefer the essay on your mom….

    but what needs no reference to other photographers sytle/method is the very real and rich and vital relationship, physical, between countenance and memory that your photography consistantly bares..(as ‘described’ in your beautiful essay on you mother, and other work…)…

    take up whatever medium you wish! ;))

    as for some of the comments, well go figure ;)))…

    for the Burn audience, a nicer person you would be hard pressed to meet than Sohrab…and a talented photographer…

    all the best

  26. I am touched and inspired..if I saw these xeroxed on a gallery wall I think I’d feel the same..they needn’t be ‘perfect’ singles and the essay needn’t jibe to lift the imagination and stir the heart.

  27. bob

    your comment made me watching again the portfolio and go far by visiting Sohrab flickr gallery. I was really surprised to discover some tottaly different pictures and wich made me think that if that portfolio is too much A., the flickr gallery have various photographers touch, we can say “super-magnum style, Salgado included, it’s well done. Also honnestly a dozen of his pictures really touch me, because this classical style finally doesn’t have anthing too proove sometime. It become some classics, and here we have some.

  28. I, personally, have never known what Antoine D’Agata with his blurred prostitutes was trying to convey?! The oblivion of orgasm?! I am totally unclear on what his message is. Initially it seemed quite original, but again and again I just am left wondering what he is trying to do with his photography. There is more to life than prostitutes. . .

  29. Pingback: sohrab hura – oasis | burn magazine – viahe.org

  30. Davin

    One day my grand mother show me 2 copies of Mala Noche she bought. One for me and one for herself…

    She was aged of 83 years old. First of all I was really surprised because normally she was , like all personns from her ages, very discrete and ask her why she bought this book?

    She just told me ” that’s it”….. Then she explained me that she grew up in the district of the harbour in my hometown…between prostitute and clients…. And just told me that it’s exactly what girls are giving to men…more psychology than sex…but sound that you miss something….

    You should had stop at the cover of Mala Noche, this would be enough for you. You probably miss something and still make bad copy of Larry Towell…without making 7 kids and make them growing like flowers…

  31. Don’t take any notice of Jim, he’s a typical newspaper editor, if it’s not pin-sharp, or a photo that no other newspaper has of an important occurance (in which case one accepts a certain level of imperfection), then it’s not worth looking at.

    I won’t be as gracious as DAH always is. I am slightly fed up with reading Jim’s diatribes, or his wonderful “one-liners”.

    Not all the images here are of an acceptable standard, Sohrab, has admitted as much. There are, however, some truly beautiful images in this series, and I congratulate you Sohrab on your contribution.

    Christ, take a pill or something, Jim.

  32. Sohrab – well done for speaking up for your work. But personally, this is a bit TOO woolly for my liking.

    #18 is ever so slightly reminiscent of Francis Bacon. :)

  33. To me this work conveys a mood, maybe an internal one within the photographer, more than it conveys information about a place. That’s a good thing, in my book. I mean, we need information and more straightforward traditional work has a vital place in society. But work like this is needed too, in my opinion.

    While I like the noise and blur I DO wish it were analog noise instead of digital. This would be beautiful if shot on tmax 3200 or a better digital camera. But the intent and feeling of the essay is strong enough to outweigh the technical issues.

  34. @Sohrab Hura – I have a question for you after 5 years. Why did you apply for the MagnumPhotos Nominee Membership 2014? What does Magnum Nominee Membership mean to you? It is up to you completely whether to reply or not. Congratulations and all the best though. Looking forward to see your Magnum submissions. Thanks.

  35. DM

    Probably Sohrab will not see your question here…I am also not quite sure how he can answer your question except that he is quite clearly applying for membership in Magnum …this is the time of year when that happens….at Magnum it takes a few years to get in….the Nominee status is not membership in Magnum, but a chance to try for it…Sohrab now has two years to create a whole new portfolio which will need a two thirds majority vote to then become an associate member…and then two years after that can be voted on for full membership….it is often a long and painful process…but it works!! we need to know if a photographer really has that elusive authorship…this is very different from a portfolio from say one good year or one good project….

    we published Sohrab a few years ago here on Burn, and i believe he was an EPF finalist at some point…he is a very fine unique photographer in my opinion…..with a real look, and feel, and style….

    perhaps Sohrab will see your question and answer accordingly….

    cheers, david

  36. Dear David sir,
    Thank you for taking out time from your shooting and responding. This came as a surprise. Yes, I mostly did not expect a response from Sohrab as the thread dates back to 2009. Sir, I have been following Sohrab’s work for a long time since the days of flickr in 2007-08. I also knew about the Magnum submissions and the entire process of membership. This year the submission opened in March and applications were accepted till May 28th. It is indeed a long and grueling process to become a full time member. I really hope to see his submissions. Thanks. :)

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