This is the title of a book of photographs, with short pieces on the subjects by Martin Pieris. The book was launched at The Barefoot Gallery last week, together with an exhibition of many of the photographs from it. There was already a large gathering when The Dancer and I arrived. Speeches were on, so whilst she was quickly engaged by assorted folk, I meandered over to the bar and got my brew.

Speeches done (usually a bit of a bore), I was taken by The Dancer (one of the subjects, no less!) to meet the author/photographer, Martin. Domiciled in Australia, where he is a professional photographer and teacher, Martin identifies himself as an ‘Environmental Portraitist’ and, as the liner notes on the book jacket’s inner sleeve indicate, “…his love for this type of visual imagery has led him to the ‘Sri Lankans’ project, to photograph and to document the stories of individuals who have made an impact on Sri Lankan society, from a cultural and social perspective”.

There are around fifty subjects photographed and written about by Martin, some of who, in my view, have not made all that much impact on Sri Lankan society – if any. However, it is an interesting bunch of folk and the photographs aren’t half bad.

The one thing I had a problem about however, was the title. The ‘Portrait of a Developing Nation’ part of it. Seems to me that if ‘developing’ implies ‘going forward’, then that part of the title is inappropriate – to put it mildly!

It was a good evening – as these things usually are at The Barefoot Gallery – and as many of the subjects were guests, an interesting time was had hob-knobbing with sundry folk and meeting up with old friends. Java failed to show, which was probably a blessing in disguise, as I’m reasonably sure that he would have voiced his opinion, in his inimitable style, at the absence of Cinimod (for one) among the subjects.

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