Fetishes

October 23, 2012

Perhaps the most haunting book in recent times would be Cyclops, by Albert Watson.

 

How do you define a trend setter? By definition it is beyond definition.

 

Watson’s book is like the Ten Commandments. Thou shall not… It is easier to state what it isn’t and hope that the negative in your carrier burns a positive, dense, deep, provocative, intense, inspiring, bromide.

 

This is not a review of a book of Photographs, but a rounded book of ideas, of travel, of anthropology, portraits of celebrities and of common people. It is about fashion as in the verb. It is about documentation and photoessay. It is about presentation and excellence and most importantly it is about passion and fetishes in the non-pejorative sense.

 

Albert Watson makes distinctive images.

He is beyond being a magazine photographer despite being commissioned by Life, Condo Naste´, Time, Italian Vogue, Stern, Newsweek and Rolling Stone. He is an artist with a camera.

 

Every Watson images is an erosion of the darkness, where the subject just peeps through, all the rules of back light and butterfly light and Rembrandt light all vanish, there is darkness and there is the subject. To say that this is a book of black and white images would perhaps be perjury. This is a book of non colour images. Even the printing goes through it’s gamut to come up with a process of CrystalRaster to render the platinum originals as faithfully as possible. 5 layers of dots, two different blacks, two greys and a varnish make the experience dazzling. Gone is the screen and mesh and the dot size, here all the dots are equal but closer or further apart bringing the tonality of the final print close to continuous tone and silver bromide

 

The book originally should have been called Fetishes because that is what it is about. They are all talisman which when rubbed produces genies, rewind experiences and most magically can translate fast forward some of their potency on to others a world and millennia away. There is from Tutankhamen’s Tomb a golden thumb stall, his carbonised glove circa 1323 BC and an Apollo Astronaut’s glove handshake across time and space.  Chairman Mao’s limousine and a crushed frog share space with Christie Turlington, Jonny Depp, Queen Latifah, Uma Thurman, Bobby Brown, Mike Tyson, Clint Eastwood and a whole bunch of ferocious characters from the Louisiana State Penitentiary, the comment is provocative. The seductive, sensuous nude, faces off with a poisonous snake from Marrakesh. The thin line dividing the schizoid self is under the microscope.

The book however is called Cyclops, a veiled hint at the little known fact that Albert Watson has sight in only one eye, it however is single minded and focussed on the job in hand. In the land of the two eyed sighted, the one eyed is king. Watson’s brand new book called Morooc is a continuation of his affair with Morocco and its land and people. He has a home in Marrakesh and spends a great deal of time there.

 

The book has a most revolutionary layout and design. There is no grid lock mercifully and all the books on usage of single major font have been re written. 38 fonts make their way here and used with such great panache and wit. David Carson is a genius, he can make Fuckedskinny (the font, lest you think this is abusive to the anorexic) look sublime, There is no pagination either.

 

This is a book for those wanting or claiming ‘specialisation’, the only specialisation should be left for brain surgeons. For photographers the name of the game should be exploration, discovery, cross pollination.

 

Albert Watson where will you take us next?

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Ex Libris

October 23, 2012

You do not  review Ralph Gibson but let him let you into his view and re spect. The word itself means re-view, to re-examine.

If you have the good fortune to meet Ralph Gibson you will know immediately that you are meeting a creative mind, an arrogant, intellectual man and you will come back entertained and enlightened. Here is Ralph Gibson on Ralph Gibson.

‘Context is everything, take the Venus de Milo, a beautiful nude, but if I were to say, there is still no cure for cancer, you would look at it differently.’

‘A missionary threw head shots of himself before he landed on an island, he then landed and the tribe promptly ate him. Either they thought he was throwing them the menu or they had difficulty reading the photograph. I’m interested in how different cultures see.’

‘I went to Egypt, I went up the Nile one man and came down the Nile another.’

….   man ….   woman, rest room symbols, and it is replicated again and again on the dummies in the show room. That forms recur is no mistake. A culture is a sum total of its shapes. Photographers have to see shapes.  I believe that there is a primal set of shapes, organic shapes are continuous, shapes of people, leaves, a smile considerably extend our boundaries, penetrate as an atom, go deep down to come up with a homunculus.  We are seeing human, am I seeing English?’

Ralph Gibson loves books and his latest called Ex Libris, is a book about  books.  He visited several Libraries, saw the Polyglot Bible in Hebrew, Latin and Greek. His fascination for words and what they mean and what feelings they evoke is only secondary to the way they look. Typography is the pre cursor of photography and its use is tactical. The filigree of Gothic and the rectangularity of Hebrew is for him a ‘departure point’. He is fascinated with shapes. He would do the diptych put two images together, a hand holding a gun, and a woman at the side of another picture, he called the picture the Perfect Future.

 

Much of the book Ex Libris is about placement of two images that are unrelated which when put alongside seem to carry on a spirited argument sometimes or a resplendent laidback smoke. The images themselves form part of the Generative System Theory where to start with there may be a painting, then a poster of the painting and then a photograph of the poster of the painting, each time the meaning changes.

He likes the idea of being incredibly arbitrary of where to put the focus, out of focus, or in focus, just to see where it will take him. On the other hand it would seem contrary that he will stick with one lens and shoot everything at a 3 foot distance till he has understood the language of that particular lens. If he signs a print he takes total responsibility for everything. No happy accidents in the background, he takes all the credit or all the blame. His morality is entirely reflected in his work, not in the amount of money he puts in the ‘poor box’ in church.

He decided early on that his life-time tool would be a Leica and he goes on to say that more great photographs have been made with a Leica and a 50mm lens than any other camera. He says that camera handling is crucial to the process, that it should be second nature and that if you shoot 10 rolls a day for the next 4 months you will automatically become a better photographer. He practices to stay warmed up, just moves film through his camera and if he doesn’t he fears he may lose his camera handling skills.

In his book Ich Bin Nacht (I am the Night) he worked by night in Berlin where he believes the night begins. He still functions as a street photographer after having dropped out of Magnum where he started out as a reporter, except now he does not want to report anything. He feels no great compunction to portray the whole Brandenburg gate, the bridge where they exchanged spies, the night is just a point of departure, it abstracts things and gets rid of a lot of information and it is a higher form of information.

‘I studied photography, learnt it, then serving it you become Photography, can you deny that Cartier Bresson is not photography? The photograph is always more intelligent than the photographer. The medium is always larger. We realise that the photographer is not the photograph, nor the radio, music. The photographer speaks through the photograph.’

His mission is that nothing comes between him and his work, he thought it was a sacrifice, to give up on time with the family, now he thinks to have done anything else would have been a sacrifice.

There are lots of reasons for making a photograph. Take a nude, you can work on minimal flatness, or as erotica, or to experience tonality, or to explore north window light in your studio, it is just an excuse to know more about photography. He says I want to make a Photography, all my points of departure make a sub text. His father is a diplomat his mother an eccentric who thought all her relatives were on the walls of Pompeii. He wants to look as far back as he can as a contemporary living today. Jews carry that around in them, they are Antiquity.

‘When I make a book, I show how I think about my work and photographs, no one will know more about my work than I. Photographs are objects that lie suspended between the present and the past. Mao brought the watch to China and forced it to measure Time, better than burning candles. Photographers have gone one better in ending time.’ A book publisher wanted to cut one of his images in half for the cover. “We will double your money” they said, when he objected. “Ok double it” I said, otherwise it will be bad for my work, but no cutting the image in half. That is staying pure, I am not going to cut my nose to spite my face’.

‘How you feel is how you determine reality, the only thing real is how you feel’ ‘So long as you want to say something, photography will be around to record it’

Even if you are not a photographer you get the goose bumps listening to Ralph Gibson, there is an insouciance, a take it or leave it style, a panache for articulation and you are touched by the wisdom.

Absolut Dilemma Tremens

October 23, 2012

Is alcohol a drug? How come alcohol has gained social acceptance? How come you aren’t sent to coventry for drinking, or pariah areas or ‘drinking zones’ like smoker’s ignominy these days. Is alcohol consumption more dangerous than cigarette smoking? Why is it that alcohol advertising has been banned, why is it that cigarette smoking has a statutory warning, why is it that alcohol with all its ‘acceptance’ is banned in both print and electronic media. Should you drink and drive? Should you drink at all? Is there a gene that makes one prone to alcoholism? Is prohibition good?

If you have absolute answers to these questions, chances are that you will have absolute opinions about the morality and ethics of advertising alcohol.

Chances are that if your read the stats Ahmedabad in Gandhi’s own land by the Sabarmati is the most drunken city in India.  Chances are that if you pass a shop in Maharashtra with a dirty curtain in its doorway, you will be passing a hooch adda. Chances are that if you are in Bangalore you will be liquored up at franchised pubs that are bought by the liquor barons whose sole aim in life is to find ingenious ways to get you young and hooked like the cocaine and crack creatures who hang around dubious corners. But the barons are smart and suave dudes who like the accepted way of greeting guests with what-will-you-have-to-drink as they walk in, drive agreeably in their Jaguars and their classic cars. They are bootleggers with a difference. Raju bun gaya gentleman.

Chances are that if you feel impassioned about these things and are a photographer offered to enjoy the king of good times in Mauritius and do a campaign with tanned women in micro bikinis you might start to questions your moral strength. But then chances are that you have not chanced upon the Absolut Book.

The Absolut Vodka Advertising Story is one of those phenomenons, from small beginnings, almost mom and pop to a brand with global equity. Every Absolut ad pure creativity, a thought that lends itself to being ripped out of the magazine and hung on your wall. In fact certain booksellers have been known to razor out the photos and sell them for a few extra sheckles. Absolut is pure fashion and we aren’t even talking women and clothes yet. We are talking about milk bottle plain jane with short neck and round shoulders becoming the see through, saucy lass.

In a fickle world where clients change agencies as often as they change their underwear (well) or cell phones, Absolut has remained corked in with their agency TBWA Chiat/Day. Consistently over 15 years they have let the genies out that have now created an absolut watermark on our collective consciousness. The ads are creative, artistic, witty and often times self deprecating.

Though the advertising team knew that Absolut was the best vodka on the market they never made that claim as they found it boring and unimaginative and knew that consumers were tired of being fed hype. They rather let the consumer discover the truth themselves. It is hoped that the advertising fraternity here is taking notes. So began the famous two word copy campaign, the first ad to ever run more than 15 years ago was Absolut Heaven where the bottle sprouts wings. The bottle is always back lit and as Steve Bronstein who has remained the principal photographer over all these years, discovered early on the bottle acts like a large magnifying glass that reversed and magnified everything it came in contact with.

Absolut Magnetism has the bottle literally pulling the text off the adjoining page. The ad creators even wangled an ‘in joke’ concerning ‘Maggie’, in the body copy. Absolut Landmark is a logistical nightmare where the bottle is agrosculpted in a field and aerially photographed. The Absolut Cities was one of the most popular campaigns. Absolut LA has a swimming pool created in the famous shape. Absolut Manahatten is a visual treat. An infra red NASA poster of N.Y was taken, before the days of Photoshop and Central Park was re-landscaped, the mayor not withstanding. Lexington Ave and the East Side were trimmed off and unceremoniously dumped on the studio floor.  Talk about continental drift. Absolut Brooklyn re-engineers the arches.

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Absolut Art is eminently collectable. Famous artists created  their take on the bottle. Absolut Edelmann is wonderfully deceptive it is actually a painting but the 3D photo-realism has most people fooled.

And then on to women and clothes in Absolut Fashion where like the artists total freedom was given to the designers to interpret Absolut in their own way. Absolut Piccone is entirely bewitching. The book goes on and on and on with creativity leaping out of every image. It would be impossible to review every great shot, the book includes shots that did not cut it, Absolut Rejects.

The trouble is that the ads are so clever and so insidious that even if you are one of those who is anti alcohol advertising, you would be hard pressed to refuse doing a campaign should the offer come your way.

Absolut Proof

Absolutely Fickle.

Blossfeldt do you?

October 23, 2012

Can a piece of work be described as Erotic and Devotional simultaneously? The question itself suggests dichotomy. Maybe our perceptions come from contemporary established behavior within temples and cathedrals. That these places are supposed to elevate, to be inspiring, to take us to a higher plane while eros and the desires out of sexual love keep us rooted to our humanity. Duality

 

Can Karl Blossfeldt’s book on botanica ever be termed erotic? Can it be called Devotional?

 

The book simply called Karl Blossfeldt is the work of an artist, botanist, lover, high priest. The book incorporates most of his previously published work ( Art forms in Nature 1928, magic Garden of Nature 1932, Magic in Nature 1942) and some hitherto unpublished photographs.

 

Though Blossfledt died in 1932 all his work here is quite simply extraordinary by contemporary standards. He once remarked any verbose explanation would only detract from the plants themselves. Blossfeldt never had any aspirations of becoming a photographer, his passion was botany and the miniature and what the camera lucida helped him do was show magnified sometimes 45 times, the overlooked, the underfoot and unrecognised. His camera is almost a microscope in unusual formats. The bane of his life was sharpness. Anyone who uses a large format camera with larger bellows extension will know how difficult it is to keep the camera steady let alone prevent your tiny plant specimen from blowing away with the gentlest breeze. He built simple and crude devices to sandwich the plant within two sheets of glass keeping a space between them to keep the plant from getting pressed. This would help his depth of field issues but long exposures would mean that even creaking floors could cause shake.

 

The photographs have no complicated positions, Missionary top down and standard side ways. Backgrounds are either black or white. These were going to be  standard teaching aids while he lectured botany.  Blossfeldt almost becomes accidental, faceless, voiceless, inconsequential. The plants have strong personalities, they have ways of behaving and misbehaving, they have voluptuous lower lips and sex organs. They can remind you of a ‘septre’ only because we are arrogant to think we invented the shape. They look like wrought iron railings. They can be sensuous and emotionally charged.

 

They can be architectural forms, cupolas and pillars. They can have the delicacy of a Rococo ornament or display Gothic flamboyance. They develop Baroque lungs and sing antiphons, they are Gregorian chants, and can be the Vienna boys choir. Then flip the page and the sound they start making are Theravada and grown up and visceral. The plants talk and sing its an audio visual experience. The whole orchestra is there from the snares to the tinkling triangles, from the double bass to the violin, from the kettle drum to the dumroo.

 

Darwin would suggest that all of nature has only one function to perform, SEX, all beauty all shape is there because it helps survival better.  Then could it be that this cosmic conjugating unfolding on the lawn and in your backyard, is a puja to the Lord?Can Karl Blossfeldt’s book on botanica ever be termed erotic? Can it be called Devotio

 

 

 

 

Midnight’s grandchildren.

October 20, 2012

Naveen Jindal has a lot to teach us. And a lot of us one billion and counting have him to thank, that you can fly your national flag with honour and dignity is not a birthright as you might have thought at least until a year ago. It was in 2004 that the Supreme Court vindicated Naveen Jindal’s long battle with the Union of India to his and your rights. This link (http://www.rediff.com/news/2001/jun/13spec.htm) will inspire you as much as the Tiranga did Jindal and fill you with joyous hope that an individual with a magnificent obsession can make a government pennant truly into a national flag.

 

The exhibition Tiranga on currently till Sept 30th at the Piramal gallery might be summed up by a visitor’s comment, ‘good effort’ is generally an enthusiastic put down that tries to sound positive and patronising when one is less than inspired. For the most part the images are cliché despite having some of the more famous photographers participating. Contrasting is the invite which is stunningly graphic.

There are flags being sold in the streets, hoisted over Parliament, painted on the back of trucks and cabbies, saffron white and green vapour trails at fly pasts, the most obvious interpretations, more documentary than interpretive, the only subtle image is by Udyan Sarkar where there is a reflection of the tricolour in a woman’s eye. Ajeeb Komahi is the only one who has tried to make some sort of interpretation albeit amateurish with children holding a bicycle wheel against an orange and white laundry line with foliage foreground.

 

The exhibition however is an important journalistic exercise in recording the use of a national icon. Rajeev Sethi’s quote is by far the most insightful and personal amidst all the patriotic brouhaha. He sees no disrespect in the use of the flag everywhere, for the images of gods are omnipresent why not the flag, he sees the use/abuse and disuse of icons as indicators of cultures. ‘For me’ he says, ‘ the change of icons is not a concern – but the level of faith’. This should come as solace to a fashion designer who recently was upbraided for her politically incorrect use of the tricolour on the ramp.

 

Prashant Panjiar has some images of Jawans raising the flag after a battle but that will forever be compared with the iconic Joe Rosenthal classic at Iwo Jima. The point would be to create images that burn into our own collective unconscious. He has a wonderful image that treads that territory of Mother Teresa’s coffin being covered in the Indian flag and in the foreground are heads of state, Hillary Clinton and Sonia Gandhi, bringing some irony to the issue of nationality by adoption.

 

There are many images of people making flags but the one that might be most prophetic is by Bhomik Shah with disfranchised street children selling flags at the intersection.

 

Ram Rahman might add a visual verse to the famous Sting ballad by being an Indian in New York, his images in black and white of the Indian flag being traded by an American in a flea market and the surrealistic sight of seeing an Indian nationalistic procession in Madison change the context and makes one look inwards to check our own tolerances of how we might reciprocate.

 

If the exhibition provokes us to ask the question ‘who is an Indian’ especially in the context of seeing saffron and green flags flying separately it would have succeeded. White is the presence of all colours.

Not too many people nor indeed photographers in India have heard of Joel Peter Witkin, but he is celebrated in certain circles in the west for his controversial images.

His eponymous catalogue titled simply Witkin is a treasure , it coincides with a huge retrospective on at the Guggenheim museum NY. 

When you look at a Joel Peter Witkin image you are overcome by its technical uniqueness, especially these days when its all instantaneous and digital, Witkin is peerless when it comes to creating a Daguerrotype style image. It is said that he dips his negatives in coffee and then scratches them with a finger nail, makes his own prints, coats them in beeswax, warms and then burnishes them.

 

Whether what Witkin does is art or not will forever be debated, depending on your own sensibilities and aversions of things ‘grotesque’, weird, or ghoulish. In the same tradition of Arbus, Witkin thrives on  transsexuals, or people with deformities. Many of his images are distortions or alternative views of classical paintings and have mythological undertones. While Leonardo’s visits to the morgues might have resulted in anatomically perfect figures, Witkins visits to the morgues in New Mexico results more in a meat shop placement of amputated heads, limbs there by design that challenge notions of beauty and ugliness.

 

Witkin says of his own work that they are spiritual, each like prayers.

I’ve received Bone House recently and shall add  a much large commentary when I’ve formulated some thoughts on this wonderful book.

http://www.zonezero.com/exposiciones/fotografos/witkin/jpwdefault.html

In ‘Secret Knowledge’ David Hockney proves beyond any reasonable doubt that Caravaggio and other sixteenth century painters used optical devices to draw spherical objects, perspective and detail, it is also ancient history that with the birth of photography many painters found themselves on shaky territory and either adapted or perished. In India today as in the west it is common practice that painters will use photographs or photographic processes in their work. But not much of reverse osmosis is seen among Indian photography. While the notion of purist can redoubtably be challenged, has Indian photography allowed itself to be influenced by other art forms? It might be appropriate to take an overview of contemporary photography and see how it jostles for space in an increasingly segmented market.

 

More people have access to a camera than ever before especially with camera phones and the sheer choice available.

 

As India was coming out of a socialistic, protective economy to a more liberal capitalistic one, and to make it in the high income bracket as a photographer you had primarily to be an advertising photographer, rich kids were scrambling over each other to get to Brooks in Santa Barbara. Advertising photography was also stratified with fashion being top dog and industrial photography weighing in at the bottom. While any renowned, international, photojournalist would give their seeing eye to come to India. Local photojournalists were sort of looked down upon by the advertising frat and the twain rarely met. If you were a ‘portraitist’ in the west, that would in itself be considered a title. An Annie Leibowitz is sought after and is booked years in advance to have your portrait made. Today in India if you are a portraitist, common perception is that you hang a white curtain behind the subject if it’s for a Saudi visa or a demat account or a red one for a US. Photographers by and large were in it because it made good business sense, not because they loved it, so when the business dried up they would become prawn farmers or run hotels.

 

If you photographed Bollywood stars and your images appeared in Star Dust or Cine Blitz you were also regarded a lower mortal. Like the prize, if it’s the Nobel or Pulitzer, esteem and recognition would be bestowed on its recipient, in reverse, the other kind of prize gets its recognition by being given to someone of esteem. Here too there are direct parallels with celebrity photography, a sure ticket to becoming recognized yourself. But just compare celebrity photography from Snowdon to Avedon, from Lichfield to Lachapelle with local photographers and what they do with bollywood celebrities. Two way problem, 38 year old bollywood stars want eternally to be portrayed as teenagers and photographers have no visionary or creative way of convincing them otherwise. Big B will always be seen with his white goatee and his black weave. So much for originality both ways. Like the Oscars, an award ceremony to celebrate creativity, all the women in Harry Winston’s and all the men in black tuxedos, yeah right…. The only time Bollywood celebrities were shot uniquely and interestingly was for a funny campaign for a funny organization called Home Trade.com. No one ever knew what home Trade traded in,  and eventually it filed for bankruptcy and some scam was uncovered, but the images were wonderful and a blitz during the dotcom boom/bust days.

 

 

Editorial photography is going through a sea change and is catching up while it drags its feet with its western counterparts. The advent of Vogue in India should rattle things up a bit and status to editorial photography will shift. The prime accused in all of this is the editors who believe that photographers, models, make-up artists and stylists should not be paid even while they are. Irresponsible photographers too were queuing up to do ‘free’ work all with the hope of getting noticed. Net result is a magazine that does 3000 copies and considers itself humping. Finally magazines are realizing the potential market and will probably waste 3000 copies on the print shop floor. The Devil Wears Prada even if fantasy indicates the kind of machine, value and money editors are willing to spend to be at the edge of it all.

 

 

A visit to the bookstores only endorses the fact that while Indian writers in English are gaining status and international recognition, Indi pop, indi dance and indi photography indeed are languishing in some black hole. Part of the problem with Indian photography at least is its subservience to a dominant art culture that invariably is North American or European. Since there is this fashion/advertorial trickle down, the Black Book aesthetic gets promulgated and has been the bed rock of advertising referencing for over 2 decades, replaced only by Archive magazine and Communication Arts. What this meant 15 years ago was an art director showing you a dazzling yellow Lamborghini with an equally well featured blond, long limbed, barely clothed babe stretched across its rapacious chassis and wanting you with your Hasselblad to do the same with a Premier Padmini or an Ambassador and a model who barely brushed her teeth.

 

The other downfall has become synonymous with Anu Mallik, the art of ripping off. At last years exhibit A, a photo show expressly orientated to show original, personal, photographic work, a photographer had spent serious money on large photographic inkjet prints to rip off Sandy Skoglund’s Radio Active Cats shot in the 60s. What he did with digital manipulation was not even a patch on her in-camera, analogue work. Femina covers among others invariably have had verbatim copies of PeTA ads, Aditi Govatrikar covered in cabbage leaves. This is a double whammy; it firstly assumes arrogantly or naively that the public at large is stupid and that they can get away with you thinking how creative they are. Imitation is not the highest form of flattery. The Kingfisher calendars with all the hype associated are me-too, struggling to be like Pirelli, or Sports Illustrated and these are all left in the dirt by Lavazza in terms of creative edge.

 

The lack of originality and commitment are serious defects that manifests itself in contemporary Indian photography, the subjects are all tired, re hashed, recycled, work. The other issue is one of the ‘Indian aesthetic’, this is murky territory, an image is an image and should hold its own regardless of nation, gender, age and being hemophiliac but having said that from Picasso to Hussein to Gaitonde, to Rushdie, Penn, Araki and Arundhati Roy have resourced their environment outside and within with a certain geo, social, political orientation. Indian photography is barely Indian, it’s a kind of slick, accurate, technically correct, reproduction of what is available already. There is practically little or no attempt to discover worlds hitherto unexplored, the semiotics in mythology, of colour, texture, shape, the spirituo-religious rubric and the way light orientates itself in the tropics.

 

The only ones to have done this with some degree of international success are Raghubir Singh, Raghu Rai, Ashwin Mehta, Aswin Gatha and Dyanita Singh. The Ambassador by Raghubir Singh, a book published posthumously is perhaps one of the most evocative explorations of an India at the cusp. It holds out yet as a conceptual, modern classic as is the Ambassador itself.

 

The other serious flaw in the engendering process is a lack of educational facilities. It is astonishing that despite India being the major country in the subcontinent, the only school for photojournalism resides in Dhaka, Bangla Desh. Despite the alleged thriving commercial photography business there are no schools for photography, barring a valiant attempt by Girish Mistry with his Shari Academy. But year after year the graduation exhibition looks so black bookish and dated.

 

 

Photographers who could have promoted other photographers via Magnum or international agencies held on to their territory as did happen with play back singing. What is needed is a Bose Krishnamachari of Photography, someone who is generous and willing to promote others while he comes along for the ride too.

 

There are a few photographers who climb on to the gravy train, and become activist photographers, will use words like diaspora, space, post modern, neo colonial, pre nuptial, to describe their work and dot Indian and red Indian to indicate continental drift. Bad photography gets cloaked under the subterfuge of the‘conceptual’.

 

 

The only gallery devoted to showing photography in Mumbai is the Piramal gallery that, despite being in a wonderfully prestigious location has no vision, is bureaucratic and is a mausoleum. Contrast this with 80 registered galleries devoted to showing photography in New York.

 

Cross-over photography, from advertising to photojournalism to editorial or fine art, few have accomplished in any significant way. Faroukh Chotia and Prabuddha Dasgupta are the only two that are orientated this way. And Swapan Parekh was unique in that he took a kind of journalistic approach to advertising. Most often his images were black and white and art directed but looked candid enough.

 

Large scale assignments in terms of what is euphemistically called the ‘coffee table book’ are most often sponsored titles, rarely will publishers do something because it needs to be done or is beautiful in itself, and it invariably turns out to be vanity press.

 

The only area of large-scale visible photography where there is a match between content and audience is with film hoardings much to the sad demise of the hoarding painter. The only people using the vinyl medium with great effectiveness are hoarding photographers who for the most part remain anonymous. The entire package of layout, typography, and graphic design come together interestingly.

 

Media itself is in a tumultuous state, news papers competing with TV. The main news broadsheets being directed to be more tabloid, every square inch of news print is selling or being sold, rarely is there news for news sake, photos for their own sake, some brand, some image, some commercial agenda, the marketing asses dictating content. Print media is loosing advertising revenue to TV. The government now has to regulate the greedy children with the advertising to news ratios. TV is loosing out to cinema where, in-film advertising is becoming creative in Machiavellian ways to sell you more stuff even if all you were wanting to pay for was to see Mallika Sherawat.

Anyone heard of AM radio? Or SW for that matter, only FM and there too the content that should be reserved for SW is on FM. When Bunty and Bubbly were reading news on NDTV that was the last straw. Paid for segments of the news. It’s all about the cash register. But this in a very obtuse way will work itself out in terms of photographic new age ness. Sadly or pragmatically finally economics will dictate who and what survives photographically. It can be predicted judging by the way the fine art market has grown steadily over the years with artists needing to do commercial assignments of murals in restaurants and residences to finally where in their ateliers they can produce the art they want to or the art that is being sought after, photography as fine art will find its own niche and identity. If photographers sought with commitment and dedication their own unique language allowing all that is around them to leak into their work, they would pass on an atavistic response that can only be the foundation for uniqueness.

 

 

The D word is out. Its raining digital, despite the fact that Photoshop, the first and last resort of photographers the world over, is more than 15 years old, there has not been a sudden or significant jump in creativity. Everyone is playing catch up with the latest technologies and paying awesome amounts of money for digital equipment, the primary focus is on repaying the EMIs. It is like the bad old days revisited, when art directors insisted that you were a photographer worthy of his direction only if you had a large format camera preferably a Sinar sitting on a tripod in your studio, never mind that the client was not going to afford the large format film or scanning. Same now, if you’ve got digital you get the job, never mind that your film camera might actually produce a finer result. It’s the herd, its convenient and its instantaneous. in the past all you needed was a camera and film. now when you travel to get an image you need a retinue of slaves to carry your laptop your humongous camera, its digital back, all sorts of batteries to power that, and guess what, a built in 18 month obsolescence.

 

The photographers who get no attention at all though they constitute a significant part of the business are the wedding and event photographers, these have become formulaic with software manufacturers creating masks and vignettes with Om and Shanti and ‘effects’, all the Noritsu machines in the back lanes are churning out 5×7 prints and powerpoint DVDs of Raju weds Rani – swahaa.