Photo Mail constructively and critically zooms into the life and work of photographers, their art and techniques, contemporary theory aesthetics, material philosophy and sociology
Though photographs could be widely disseminated, unlike the real trophies they did not provide incontrovertible proof of masculine prowess: it was possible, after all, to have oneself photographed next to a dead tiger, and pretend that one had been the heroic agent of that death. Yet, over time, as the impression became widespread that hunting was perhaps not the most indelible marker of masculinity, it was suggested that it required greater courage and masculine prowess to draw up close to big cats and other wild animals, and shoot the camera at close range (pp. 130-32). Susan Sontag has described the camera as a “sublimation of the gun”, and Ryan reminds us that the vocabulary of picture-taking – “loading’, ‘aiming’, ”shooting’ – has been largely derived from hunting.
Unlike the rest of South India, where Christians have a history of about 2,000 years, this temple town has seen only three generations of Christians that constitutes roughly about 2.7% of the total population. A majority of them are first or second-generation Tamil Christians and they are yet to completely convert from their traditional practices and lifestyle.
What motivated Weideman to keep photographing? The answer to this is also an important quality that makes his photographs intriguing. He continued shooting even though he was not exhibiting nor getting into any sort of limelight until the mid-90s. Passion for the medium, of course. But there is more.
Review of Mallahs, the boat of Gangetic geography, photographic series of Shibu Arakkal. For several hundred years these boatmen on the Ganga and the Yamuna have handed down their oars from father to son. I was intensely drawn to the purpose of their lives, to carry people back and forth on these rivers. Almost married to their boats, these men. To live almost all of their lives on these wooden vessels, going about their worldly chores and belonging to a tribe of menfolk, they pride themselves on being the real caretakers of these mystical rivers. Almost as if they are born on these boats and just as possibly may breath their last on it, the Mallaah men live lives removed from their families and children.
Across the world there are ongoing attempts to construct a ‘people’s history’ through photographs. Memory Projects, they are fondly called, focus mainly on the pre-digital era when photography was not as common as today. Bengali photographer Anandarup Goswami’s photography series ‘A Home of No Return’, though not directly linked with any memory project, shows certain resemblances with the latter’s style, and yet carries its own soul. A Home of No Return visually narrates the past and the present through a mixture of faded and fresh photographs.
The Indian Photography Festival 2018 certainly leaves one wondering about what is so Indian about it; if it is, as claimed, only a geographical marker, how does one account for the large regions that are left unrepresented? One has to hazard a guess as to what really constitutes this Indianness, and if the claims are kept aside and the images surveyed, we are confronted with the truth of this Indianness – it is a construction rooted in what can be called a “global culture”, and can shape shift into whatever is needed of it.
Not to be left behind, the ‘Indian’ part of IPF peddles the same narratives that were used by the colonial empire – that of a beautiful land worthy of investment, and that of a people still struggling with modernity – albeit this time the narration is partially to itself, specifically to the modernized urban class.
The LGBTQ community has found for itself public spaces in urban regions. We will wait and see what they want to tell the world from that space. After all, solidarity with the cause does not mean solidarity with the acts, and it is time for the community to begin to act convincingly. This exhibition is a good starting point, and further on, there is a desperate need for clarity on the part of the activist-artists.
The selling point of the exhibition as it currently stands is the technique of pinhole photography itself, and the evidence of the technique in these images lies solely in the tonal identity and distortions, most of which in fact can be recreated in a digital environment and by itself are not enough to provide an affirmation of the chemical or physical techniques used. What survives then is only the attestation of the photographer, and in effect, the art object gets its value from this textual affirmation.
Not surprisingly, Indian photographers were greatly impressed by Cartier-Bresson's “popular” style and followed suit, stalking the streets. Like master, like students; and it is only natural for knowledge to be transpired across cultures in this manner. Only that this popular aesthetics of street photography has been considered déclassé in the postmodern context, and the questions around its ethics remain unresolved. Sadly, even now the most celebrated photographs of post-colonial India are street photographs and there is a continuing market for this genre of photographs at the International platforms.
Photographic mapping of Tiruvannamalai has always been a daunting task, due to its complex culture, and previous works done by prominent international photographers like Eliot Elisofon, and Henri Cartier-Bresson after him. The photographs of Ramana and the Annamalaiyar temple, which were published in Life magazine and Magnum, have established them as the most prominent identifiers of the town, making any previous attempts (if any, at all) to create a visual catalogue of a Tiruvannamalai that lay outside these stereotypes, all but indiscernible.
Inasmuch, every photographer that ever visited Tiruvannamalai never took notice about anything other than Ramana and the Annamalaiyar temple – their eyes glossing over everything else and their focus devoted entirely to the two ‘divine’ icons. But, there remains a Tiruvannamalai beyond, which has gone unnoticed and undocumented – invisible to the colonial gaze that is pre-occupied with its exotic fairy tales, and underwhelming for the photojournalist due to its perceived mundane-ness.
Abul Kalam Azad's ‘Men of Pukar’ does not try to ‘re-narrate’ Ilango’s Kaveripattinam but Azad has his own heroes and heroines and more often he cuts his depth of focusing short in order to present them within the discursive premises where the incongruity between the history and present day condition of the place is felt. He neither tries to document the relics of the past glory (if there is anything at all) nor claims his images to be that of some ‘historical’ moments. Instead, he allows viewers to delve into the ‘image-space’ for some cultural codes which would help them to re-read the historical narratives in multiple ways.
PhotoMail takes a look at the re-opening of Draavidia in Fort Cochin, with its decade long history of involvement in the local scenario and URU in Mattancherry which brings with it the success of the KMB in the backdrop of the art history of the region. Includes exclusive interview with the founders of URU and Dravidia and a review of their premiere shows.
Visual art works based on scriptures have for long been illustrative. Michelangelo’s work in Sistine Chapel and the Indian miniature painters are examples of this tradition. Black Mother I & II by contrast represents the contemporary society and its females, just as the characters in Silappathikaram is bound to have been derived from the immediate society of that age.
The myopic eye of the smart phone demands that the photographer has to be within a certain “intimate” distance to take a photograph. There has to be a certain connection between the one who is being photographed and the photographer himself – using a smart phone to create portraits of people means that the photographer is not a mere witness; the one who is photographed often looks straight into the camera and thus, at the photographer.