March 19, 2010



Photography is being accelerated to fine art heights and not a moment too soon. There are at least 4 photography shows going on concurrently. February is peak season and thetourists are on their charter planes.

Photography in India till now has largely been restricted to Advertising and here too the only ones that seem to be in the public domain are the fashion/glamour photographers.

Industrial and architectural photographers get slotted to annual reports and editorial work.

At the bottom of the heap are the wedding and event photographers and yet below them are the passport portraitists.

But when you consider that practically everyone has access to a camera these days even via a cell phone, then the algebra of the numbers of visuals being produced can be staggering. Content, a few years ago was all being mopped up by Corbis and Getty Images who are banks performing exactly the role that fiscal versions perform.

If you look up Flickr the largest photo blog on the net and if you browse through Facebook you will quickly see why most of the images there resemble the old slide shows that your geriatric uncle would subject you to from their trip to the Vatican or Tirupati, without edit and lingering long and lovingly at every overexposed image.

Photoshop the love/hate software that has the potential to move you out of the darkroom into the light is now in its 20th year but has there been a quantum leap in creativity, maybe its that fatigue that is being addressed in The Post Visual World. There is very little here in India that stands out, engages, surprises and ultimately challenges the stereotype. There is a sad sense of having been there done that. But that will change, the moment the whole food chain(student, artist, critic, editor, gallerist, curator, buyer, appreciator, agent) is in place. Automobile manufacturing here in India and Tatas in particular, might strangely provide a template. From the ubiquitous truck to the Nano with side tentacles into Jaguar,

supply, retailer, service, is a story of local becoming international.

At the moment photography as fine art seems, to extend the metaphor, like a used car dealer and in reverse gear, international, being borrowed into heavily locally. But there are signs that all that will change, it has to begin with education. There are no schools that teach photography in India. The only school for Photojournalism in the subcontinent is in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Is that telling enough. Then the seminars and workshops that expose indian talent to world options are so meagre, inadequate and consequently exclusive, the photography that makes it comes only out of three metros. Indian art and sport and just about everything else suffers from nepotism and not what you know, but who you know, how well you shmooze and whose booze you are drinking.

Photography and painting have had a long association. If Photographers are looking over their shoulders into other media and how painters are using photography, they might find some clues of how to leapfrog their visuals. The future however seems to be in the world of 3D and holography. There will always be a place for the straight honest uncomplicated image that will stop you in your tracks.

A few young people who have set out to the west to study art history, if they return then that should make a significant impression. BUt the lingering discontent will be that art history as Kenneth Clarke in Civilisation apologises for, will be almost exclusively a western story, How many periodicals do we have in this country that devote themselves to discussion of whatʼs going on around us. Curators are all multi-taskers, yesterdays critic is todays curator, artists turn curators, its all nebulous and ad hoc.

The old adage, ʻbuild roads, development followsʼ might easily be the mantra to follow.

Vision, a prerequisite to anything lasting and meaningful is endemic to photography. Will it be 20 20?


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