EXHIBITION - ARTiculate 2011 An Exhibition of Contemporary Photography (Oct 04-Nov 30, 2011) :

“Photographs are everywhere. They possess the power to shock or to idealize, they create a sense of nostalgia and act as a memorial and they can be used as evidence or to identify us.”

– Susan Sontag – on Photography

Having trained both as a painter and a photographer, the camera lens has played an important role as a powerful tool of perception and observation. As a painter, I use the lens as a pair of eyes; as a photographer, I direct the gaze of the camera onto and into myself and my surrounds. “Seeing through a camera” has heightened my visual perception and this increased visual literacy has added another dimension to my academic training in the arts. This ability to marry textual knowledge with a photo image has taken me on many interesting journeys, of which this ARTiculate photography exhibition for Pratham UK is one.

Photographs have the power to convey abstract ideas and emotions in ways that paintings cannot. The division between the utilitarian and aesthetic forms of photography cause some to deny its status as a fine art; nonetheless, it is a powerful medium that can portray a whole range of emotions and ideas. Consequently, it is worthy of the term fine art.

The journey of Indian photography is rooted in its colonial past. Two historical photo studios, one of Lala Deen Dayal and the other of Samuel Bourne have left behind a huge visual history of Indian photo practices. According to Diane Arbus , one of modernisms most iconic and provocative women photographers, the immediacy and the intimacy of this democratic medium makes photographs immensely desirable and collectible. Photography established itself as an art form collected and supported by a committed group of collectors, devoting themselves to restore iconic photographs and the memory of its makers as a part of a contemporary art history.

A photograph speaks louder than a cacophony of words with their stoic silence. Whether colour or black and white, abstract or documentary, photos tell a story without the need for words. Sometimes photographs that were never intended to be viewed as a piece of art become art through their narrative superiority. Anyone who has seen photographs depicting intense moments of human emotion caused by war, poverty, or social conflict can confirm that photographs express emotions that could otherwise not be expressed merely by literary or painterly methods. The photographed document stores our emotions and experiences in life - from an altar of memory, to a book of stories, from fables to allegories, a photographer today tells a million stories through a single image. For this reason, photography has rooted itself deeply in our culture and we now rely on photography to tell stories, advertise products, record history, and communicate visual ideas. It not only documents the human experience, but it also helps us understand more about ourselves and our relative existence in this world.

The very fitting theme of the 2011 ARTiculate Gala is “The Journey”. Through its ground-breaking and fastidious work, Pratham is the purveyor of the ultimate journey – that from hopelessness to the ability to dream, from darkness to light, from the shackles of illiteracy on the wings of education. Destiny determines where we are born, but the journey of life is one that may influence us.. As I gathered my thoughts around this theme, I realized that everyone is on a journey, the sum total of which becomes our own unique life narrative. The idea of this passage conjured images of simple trips on trains as a child throughout India. The nostalgia of such a physical journey in a much simpler time makes one yearn to hold on those memories in this fast moving era. In the more complex world in which we live, everyone is also on a spiritual journey, a quest inward, to the ultimate frontier, our conscience and true self. So this theme suitably expanded to encompass the “universal, ubiquitous journey” that all beings take, whether literal or within.

The ARTiculate project for Pratham UK continues to be a ground breaking initiative, bringing together the worlds of art and literacy. We are deeply honoured that 45 eminent artists, whose origins span from India to Europe, have come together to support the exhibition and Pratham’s cause. Through their powerful, yet subtly tender works, we have aimed to bring under one umbrella the plural fabric of an India of six billion people. This voice narrates stories of India’s vast cultural diversity, uneven territories and the continuing globalized cosmopolitan allure as various shades of transitions that I thought were important to document. The participating photographers cross a span of age and styles, yet representing a specific iconography. In the catalogue they are presented alphabetically, but in the display they are considered through their stylistic gestures. After my readings on the subject of photography, I have built a collection of images - from abstract representations of the body and soul, to the rise of urban landscapes; cross cultural dialogues, to subtle portraits of children in their immediate surroundings, strong conceptual work, as staged or cinematic glimpses. But at their core, each image represents a journey which will resonate within each of us

Raghu Rai is primarily a photo journalist and is one of the most important narrators of Indian history and politics. Dayanita Singh initiated ‘mediations on life’ by turning the lens onto private spaces she visited during her career. Jyoti Bhatt merges fine art and photographic processes with intaglio, and serigraphy. Derry Moore depicts the splendour of the historic journey of India. Sheena Sippy transcends from her background in cinematography and cinema into the still image. Pooja Iranna, Baiju Parthan, Vivek Vilasini and Paresh Maity have used the photo processes to create surrealist landscapes and portraiture. Pushpamala N and Riyas Komu have combined image and text to create a story within a story. Gauri Gill , Karan Khanna, Chris Taylor, Saibal Das and Giovanni Angelis direct their camera towards a site of constant interactions between individuals. Vikram Bawa, Binu Bhaskar, and Swarup Dutta follow the style of photo realism, but also introduce a blurring of imagination and reality. Parthiv Shah, Sunil Gupta, and Prashant Panjiar bring alive the panoramic landscapes that express spirituality and solitude Mustafa Qureishi and Vidisha Saini create highly charged political works. Fahad Khan, and Ajay Rajgarhia have represented the idea of a still life. Nemai Ghosh, Sheba Chhachhi, Clare Arni, Shivaraju , Sudhir Kasliwal have brought in strongly feminist perspectives. Dinesh Khanna, Baba Anand, Vinita Agarwal, Bandeep Singh, and Naveen Kishore represent aspects of faith. Ketaki Sheth, Sooni Taraporevala, and Vicky Roy have worked in the realm of portraiture. Diwan Manna , Dario Mitidieri, and Carola Syz have used the body addressing notions of abstraction and beauty. Waswo X Waswo works with painted photographs.

I am indebted to the Pratham UK team, and Saffronart for putting together the catalogue and showcasing the exhibition, to Reita Gadkari who initiated the project, and to each and every photographer who contributed generously to the project. At the same time this exhibition is a vital mission of promoting a better future for Pratham’s children. With your support, help and generosity I am positive we could go a long way in achieving this goal.

Mandakini Devi,
New Delhi, 2011