The Comtrust Weaving Factory Photography Exhibition was curated by Architect Syam Sreesylam and exhibited at the IIA Young Architects Festival (YAF) 2022. Organized by the IIA Calicut Centre, YAF was a three-day event held in Calicut.
In his own words, Syam Sreesylam- the photographer behind the Comtrust Weaving Factory Photo Exhibition, is an Architect who captures Architecture. A passionate photographer since the beginning, Syam got inclined towards architectural photography while working as a junior architect in a firm and documenting their works.
I feel it is a joy to bring about new patterns in photography through constant exploration and experimentation- the vast amount of the projects available to me helped shape my approach and ethos to documenting architecture.Syam Sreesylam
The Comtrust Weaving Factory Exhibition was curated, as a part of the Young Architects Festival, by Syam to promote awareness regarding the factory’s current state due to neglect and abandonment.
The factory caught my interest during my time at architecture school. I was eager to view the contentious structure after the arduous process of obtaining access to it as part of YAF. I experienced a sense of hallucination as I was moving around.Syam Sreesylam
Representing the stoppage of time, his vision was to reflect the people who once worked there by providing them with a platform to tell their stories and educate the public. Capturing this essence, each picture contained some evidence of a person.
It was eerie and bizarre. On the vacant chairs were saree-clad chit-chatting women for whom Comtrust was liberation. I could see the officers moving papers around and writing on countless registers of export documents. The ghosts of those who had worked there were still there to this day.Syam Sreesylam
The furniture’s distinct designs further piqued his intense curiosity.
There appears to be one for those who still manage to sneak into the alienated spaces, in contrast to the limits on entering the premises. If I hadn’t already experienced it, I would never have believed it was feasible here.Syam Sreesylam
The former employees continue to visit the location in recollection and hope. During the public viewing of the exhibits, Syam connected with several such employees. Their stories describing the frames enlightened him further, helping him educate others and enhance their connection to the landmark. This awareness encouraged the need to preserve/revive the structure.
But, prior to bringing forth the exhibition, Syam had not anticipated an impact of this level.
For me, at first, it was a chance to showcase my technical skills. But, on the very first day, I realized that it was a great platform for the workers of Comtrust to share their stories; my photographs were mere presentation media. Today, looking back I can comfortably say that I was able to teach myself and a large section of commoners the impact that Comtrust has on the fabric of the city.Syam Sreesylam
As admission to the site remains restricted, by capturing the subjects and the spaces as they were, the photographs allow the viewer to have their own take on the fate of the building. The chaotic setting and the unkempt appearance of the spaces seem to ignite the non-visual senses, helping one connect better with Comtrust.
Denoting the subjects as it is, along with the visual appearance and depth through light and shadow, has invoked all the other senses, especially for those who were closely associated with the factory.Syam Sreesylam
For many locals associated with the factory, these were the spaces they used to observe their parents work in. Growing up, they took on these roles- for them, Comtrust was a family house.
It is difficult to think that the area once provided people hope and life, but that it has since taken on the appearance of a chaotic, abandoned place.Syam Sreesylam
Today, the Comtrust Weaving Factory, a historical landmark in the heart of Kozhikode, is slowly disappearing despite the daily passage of hundreds of visitors. The benefit of visibility is disregarded since it has permanently engraved itself in the memories.
At a time when Architectural Photography in the contemporary world is observing the dominance of visual-enhancing tools, Syam’s untouched capture of the form seems to do justice to the structure’s passage of time.
I try to take a minimalistic approach to capture the frames; making light and shadows, the characters in the story and minimal interference by other subjects.Syam Sreesylam
Documentation, like the Comtrust Weaving Factory Photo Exhibition, when exhibited to the public in its pure form, can provide a way for the stakeholders to put forward their stories to the public who otherwise might only see the structure as an eyesore.
All dreams for the building’s resuscitation in the city are fading, but it is my sincere hope that Comtrust finds a new life.Syam Sreesylam