Most futurologists generally will consult paleontologists. To know where we might go it would be worthy to note where we came from. Photography as we know it is the one of the newest kids on the block, Fox Talbot and Daguerre might have thrown a googly to Van Gogh who responded to the ‘threat’ in his own inimitable style. Painters like Caravaggio were secretly using optical (photo) devices in their ateliers to give them their own USP. That cycle is constantly remixing in a post postmodern feedback loop. Photorealism in painting and Abstractism in photography are modern currency.

The lines between painting and photography are no longer sharp.

What will the photographic digital democracy look like 100 years from now? To say that everyone will have access to image making via good, inexpensive camera phones is to state the obvious, everyone has and will have access to a voice, yet how many Bhimsens or Parveena Sultanas are there. That the besur might be able to produce a track that is melodious will be possible via intelligent digital software, will it sell? Will it endure? will it be art ? Is contingent upon all the existing, subjective parameters. There will still be the divide between the good, the better and the best till morality, ethics and aesthetics are not digitized.

But glimpses of the real future live with us in the virtual world. 20 years ago holography was already out there but expensive and temperamental, with processing power and the ability to collect more information on smaller capturing devices it is not too far away that 3D holography will be de rigueur. Printing on paper will be there for as long as people are tactile and like the sensation, but from a small source on your desktop, laser will spray out the RGB scene as you saw it in 3D, you will be able to project this into your living room and it would look real enough except that you will be able to walk right through your granny and the meter thick walls of Shaniwarwada. While Space-Time in a very Einsteinian way will come together, there will be no Mass.

Plasma screens and anything 2D will be quite obsolete as a result, but obsolescence will lead to exoticism, just as today dye transfer imaging is considered an art in itself. Movie halls of the future and home theatre will not have a screen at the far end and the seats or couch at the other, but will have a floating plasma that can move anywhere in space in a 3D cuboid way like the Aurora Borealis.

Canon are working on something called OCIS (Optical Cerebral Interface Systems) where in effect you wont have to carry and check in your camera and heavy lenses, it will all be in the form of a bionic implant into your ‘seeing’ eye, you will be able to blink and make an image with an intraocular zoom lens, press a button if you are cheap, or say ‘send’ if you some loose change, or think, ‘send’ if you are fully loaded and slam bam thank you maam your high res 3D holographic shot gets transmitted to the 62,000  de-constructed news gathering organizations. But when to blink will remain, as has been in the past, a Cartier Bresson decisive moment which no amount of digitizing will dictate.

All that is left is human imagination, which is really not futuristic at all, but a creative way of fantasizing the past.


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?