Book Review: Look It's Getting Sunny Outside!!!
By Amy Schatz
Sohrab Hura pays quiet tribute to his schizophrenic mother’s relationship with her aging canine companion, a boxer named Elsa, in Look It’s Getting Sunny Outside!!!, a self-published collection that concludes Hura’s trilogy, Sweet Life. In 2014, Hura was nominated for membership to Magnum Photos; since 2018, Hura is an active associate of the group.
The photographs are glimpses of a home that is restless and somber, albeit with minor moments of joy; the photographer’s mother keeps a house that is sometimes tidy, but more often unkempt, crowded, and vaguely damp. As the mother’s mood swings — from that of a woman who laughs at her son and engages with her dog to a woman who cannot bear to be photographed, or else stares blankly at the camera — so does the state of the home and the nature of the images. In some ways, the mother’s mental health is directly affected by the dog’s physical health; as the dog grows increasingly ill, the photographer’s mother becomes more isolated, is pictured in fewer expressive poses, and turns inward — her gaze is focused on the dog and little else (especially not the photographer’s father, with whom she has a difficult and triggering relationship).
Hura began making photographs, with a camera gifted to him by his father, while he was studying economics at university. Though he holds prestigious titles, Hura’s photographs are decidedly undistinguished. These images appear neither staged nor heavily edited, and most of them are taken within a tight and dimly lit home; instead, Hura has a knack for opportunistic photography that allows him to identify and capture candid moments of the domestic culture he knows best. His style is reminiscent of street photography, as though he is an anonymous stranger in the city of his own home. Whether this is a role Hura prepared for himself or the actual social dynamic of his childhood home is unclear.
The subject’s voice is almost entirely absent until the final few pages of the book, which comprise a handwritten letter addressed to her son, and expound on her affection for the dog. Hura’s mother reveals she was entirely unwilling to accept the playful puppy that was presented to her more than a decade ago, and how the dog has nevertheless shaped her own transformation: “I would like to think that we grew up together,” Hura’s mother writes. “From being high-spirited and wild she had grown to become graceful and elegant. I think along the way she also made me more tolerant.”
It is difficult to classify this book as “sad” or “quirky” when its images are as unpredictable as the characters who inhabit them. There is no forewarning to a picture of a dismembered dog that has apparently been attacked by some crepuscular predator; yet there is also no precursor to an image where the mother’s beloved dog, Elsa, is sporting a fashionable pair of sunglasses. This book does not earn meaning and value in the nature of its content but in the untrained aspect of its creator’s precise eye.
Hura is a self-taught photographer based in New Delhi, India. Look It’s Getting Sunny Outside!!! was published by Hura’s brand Ugly Dog in June 2018.