Fosstering Photography

July 20, 2010

Every photographer in India should embrace the idea that there is now a new gallery in Mumbai that devotes itself to photography, toppling the musty, mofussil and retrograde reputation that the Piramal Gallery might have held for many years.

Matthieu Foss for a few years now has been showcasing indian photography and like a hermit crab has been renting and time sharing space whenever, and wherever it became available.

His swank new, if shiny gallery breathes a sigh of relief in Ballard Estate extending the perimeter of south mumbai galleries in an ever widening orbit.

The gallery opened with photographs (Jan14th-13th Feb) by  Montreal-born Marcus Leatherdale, who lives in India and in one politically insensitive, attitudinal swoop joined the ranks  of magazines like Vogue who launched their Indian edition with Patrick Demarchielier showing the natives how its done. Bravo. Had the photographs of the tribal natives playing their ethnographic sometimes fetishised roles been outstanding the urban natives might have had to hold their heads in neo-colonial shame. Eventually there is good or bad photography, devoid of gender, caste, creed, nationality or economic station.

But let the natives not get ahead of themselves, what they could not do in post independent India, Foss has done with a quiet je ne sais quois.

The second show, Where the City Rests by Shahid Datawala (16Feb-13th Mar) had framed cabinets on the floor looking at spaces used for resting.  At the opening that translated  into where the cities hip rest their cocktail glasses, ironically twisting the idea of Dystopia.

The gallery itself is on Goa street, the narcissistic self portraits and attempted erotica in the current show called Unseen, Unheard, Unexplained by Pat (16th Mar-10Apr) who spends a lot of his time in the place the street is named after might have been better off borrowing from its title. But the upside and there is one, is that Foss is open enough to the idea that you can be anyone without pedigree and an influential art parent to have access to the space should he think you worthy. And that is something most natives need to learn quickly.

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If you are a photographer chances are that you have always had the secret desire to eventually have your work out in a large format book. And if you have tried to pursue that logic and send your manuscript off to a publisher you will know exactly the frustration.

Many of my literary friends too who have had their debut novels published by large publishing houses like Penguin are considering self-publishing for their second and third novels. The logic is simple, if a publishing house is going to give you a very large ‘advance’ then its to your distinct advantage to go with a publisher, but if a publisher is going to give you a nominal fee, chances are that they will not promote your book with the vigor and interest that you would like. You will find your book languising, badly displayed with little promotion. If they pay an Arundhati Roy, a Shobhaa De or a Vikram Seth a million dollars and you 500 dollars, guess whom they are going to promote aggressively.

Many of my musician friends are abandoning the route of finding a ‘label’ which  is the equivalent of the publisher in the music business and going via YouTube and FaceBook to get their music out to their audiences.

These are some of the eternal excuses/experiences.

1. That no one at the other end ever even acknowledge receipt of your prized work.

2. After you make numerous phone calls you eventually get to talk (maybe) to the head in charge, who sounds brusque while you sound apologetic, you get to hear the usual, ‘have not seen your manuscript, send it again’; ‘but you know how busy we are, we get hundreds of manuscripts daily’.

3. You re-send and meet the same fate

4. You repeat no 2. and if you are lucky you’ll get the familiar ‘we’ll call  you,  you dont call us’.

5. Six months on you pick up enough courage and you find out that they have lost your manuscript, misplaced  your DVD and other material; ‘shifting office’, no apologies!

6. The scenario has many shades all of which you would think are true to us only in the third world, but here is some solace, it happens everywhere, even among the best, international publishing houses.

7. The days of people being professional and responding, forget the days of lick a stamp and mail; when things could not be easier to reply while you wait on tenterhooks, are OVER, this can add to the frustration.

8. I’ve had one really ‘bright’ publishing head of a large, established publishing house tell me to find a ‘sponsor’. To which my horrified expression must have replied ‘if I’m going to find a sponsor, why the effing hell do I need you? I may as well take sponsor on my back, drink a Daiquiri and do the job myself. Sometimes one wonders whether they even hear what they say, so meaningfully.

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But here is the good news – you can SELF PUBLISH and even make a profit doing a big photo book.

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My experience for its ten paise worth:

There are a few components to getting your book out of your HDD or your archival closet if you shot TPs/Negs in the bad ol days.

1. Pre – Press

2. Print

3. Market

4. Distribute

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I) What pre-press means, is that you have to get  your ‘dummy’ ready for the print shop, this has several shades and nuances. But its no occult art, its science and you can do it by the numbers. I am presuming that if you are a photographer you can handle a computer and even better PhotoShop and In-Deisgn (book design software) if you are a Mac person, or Quark or the equivalent in a PC, this is not a complex operation. However if you are having difficulty, hire a kid with some of these skills and you are free. At this point I will list some good young designers at the bottom, but if you know someone who is looking for freelance work and is good, just add their details in your comments below.

Lets talk first of ‘scanning’ your TPs/Negs, film derivatives. if you only have prints of your work that too can work, but understand that you should work best with the raw material, meaning the first generation of image, either the neg or the TP is best and if your work is all digital then the digital RAW file is your dig neg.

Regardless of what pre-press houses will tell you, please bear my advice and do exactly what I say now.

Ia) Get hi-res, 16 bit scans, this is best done on a drum scanner, leave your desk epson or whatever for the Income Tax documents that you need to scan. For a book  you need clean, crisp and rich scans, 16 bit RGB does this job, many people have scanners, but like anything, how a scanner is used is crucial. All pre-press houses have drum scanners or very high end flat bed scanners that will do the trick, many older scanners convert to CMYK immediately.

Ib) All scanners, like your TV, camera, projector and indeed monitors produce colour via RGB, it is basic to all CCDs, CMOS  and photomultiplier tubes. So be firm and request 16 bit RGB, a minimum of 300dpi (dots per inch) and if you get a file size of around 100+ mb  without conversion from CMYK, raw scans you are doing good.

Ic) Depending on how much money you have for this opertation and whether you want to exhibit large size prints of this work later or during  your book launch, you need to think about this now, so that you avoid having to re-scan and pay more money later. You can scale an image down with less damage to the integrity of the image than the other way around. Dont ever try to scale an image up by more than 20%. If you must, only use Genuine Fractals or some software like that, that will do a good job interpolating.

Id) Pre-Press houses will like to recover costs on their defunct scanners, and quote you ridiculous prices, per mb and stuff, if you are going to do a book with some 100 images, you should pay no more than Rs 300/scan. Understand that you have the bargaining power here, scanning is a dying operation.

Ie) Its best to go to the same print house that will have a pre-press dept to get your scans. I have listed some printers below who will do world class work.

If) Bring your scans to your system, its best to do this operation on a fairly good monitor, a Mac cinema display or if push comes to shove an iMac will work too, clean up your photos, dust, scratches and any other retouching that you need to do, is best done now, work in native 16 bit, it will occupy twice the disk space but leave it that way. All your ‘curves’ and adjustments and layers etc that you do, dont compress your file, leave it with all its layers as a .psd file in 16bit RGB. (I am presuming again that your monitor has some basic calibration, like that you have set your colour preferences in Adobe to adobe RGB (1998), proRGB or sRGB, these have much larger colour gamut (space) than CMYK and offers the printer a larger gamut to play with.

Ig) By now you would have done your layout, with In-Design or Quark or similar. The software makes a package of the images, fonts, colours and that sort of thing that makes the logic of placement of images for printing easy.

Ih) if you are shooting or using digital files, please shoot in RAW which by default is 16bit RGB, set your camera RGB to the same colour pref. on your PS. so if its sRGB on your camera then it should be sRGB on your PS etc and follow the steps above.

Ii) You are done with the image from your end. Now you take it to your printer who has a pre-press dept.

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PRINT PRE-PRESS:

Ij) Sit with your printer and bring up each of the images from your book, your printer now will convert them to CMYK  and 8bit  that best suits the paper you are going to print on. Each and every paper absorbs inks and reflects ink differently, there is something called ‘dot gain’ and SWOP that you need not concern yourself with, but it is crucial for the printer and if they are any of the below mentioned they know what to do with those figures.

You have to look at your images in a ‘controlled light’ environment, generally the office this is done in use 5500k light that most closely resembles daylight. The monitor should be a high quality EIZO/ Lacie type monitor that costs much more than your Cinema Display for good reason. The monitor will show you simulated CMYK that should be close to what you will eventually see ‘proofed’ so trust it and make the best possible colour corrections here, this stage is crucial to getting great print quality.

Ik) Next insist on a ‘laser proof’ also called an Iris proof, this is an inket equivalent of your book, its printed only on one side and the colours are a bit richer than will be your book. You still have  a chance to make corrections in type and in pages, images at this stage without any costs of ‘plates’ yet.

Il) once you approve of the ‘proof’ you are ready to go to the next stage of PRINT.

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2) PRINT:

This is usually an offest job and could be in two types of screens used to get ink on to paper, one is stochastic (FM)and the other is an AM screen, your printer will best decide which one is best for your application.

modern digital printing is CTP, (computer to plate) with no intermediary steps, at this stage plates are made, one for each of the colours C.M.Y.K.

2a) If you are new to the printer and the process, ask for a ‘gang’ proof, this proofs your ‘difficult’ images and text as pages on the actual paper that you have choosen with the same inks that your book will be printed in. This is equivalent to the strip test prints one made in the darkroom and will give you the last and final proof of how your work will show. There is a small incremental cost for the plates made for this process but its well worth doing it to avoid disappointment later.

2b) you can make changes here if warranted, go back to the colour correction on the Eizo monitor for large changes you want made.

2c) When satisfied give the go ahead signal for your job to PRINT.

2d) You should be present when the print rolls off the press, its a heady feeling to see your ‘forms’ emerge crisp and rich from the machines. These days to avoid the setting of the inks which used to take 48 hours, printers can coat the paper ‘on-line’ with an aqueous silk/gloss coat that is ‘baked’ on to the paper, giving you a real, ‘final’ colour within 5 minutes of the print coming off the press, this is advisable for several reasons, its a small incremental cost, well worth the extra money.

2f) You can even here, with the print boss, make subtle changes especially when images run as double spreads or across the ‘gutter’, to make sure the tones are matched. The print boss generally puts the tabs on a densitometer and checks values to see if they are within range.

2g) Your book is printed, it needs to sit for 48 hours before it can be folded, cut, ‘perfect’ bound and stiched and have the cover pasted, before it gets shrink wrapped and delivered to an address you provide.

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3) MARKETING:

3. Try and pre-sell your book, take your dummy or make a presentation along with some hard copies of your photographs and run them via corporates or institutions that match closely your style or content of your book. Financial year ends and beginnings, academic year ends, and festivals are good times for gifts. Pre-selling can save you all kinds of worry and if you do a good job here  you can avoid a distributor and maximise your take home money to recover your large printing over heads, also this will give you the best idea of how many books you should print. If you can pre-sell 500 books, that is before the launch date, you will have recovered your costs if you do a 3000 print run.

You can offer special prices and take orders on 1-5 books, 6-50, 51-100 etc etc. all before the launch date, on the launch date you can increase the cost a bit but keep it below the MRP (max retail price) and a day after  you can sell at 20% lower than the MRP direct.

3a) It is imperative that you do the marketing and PR for your book, no one will do it with more enthusiasm than yourself. it needs to be done. (* check Sandeep Fernandes details below). If you have friends or students who have done a BMM course and are in media houses, then you should be tapping into those sources and scheduling some interviews. You need to create a buzz about your book.

3b) FaceBook is one great way of informing everyone of an event. Get books stores to allow you a ‘reading’. The media loves a celebrity, so muster whomever you can to read from the book and find as many ways to promote your book as possible, there happen to be several these days and many malls and book stores like to have some live and relevant event in their stores. Make sure you display the books prominently. Make some large posters too with the name of the book and your name prominent. This you can do at any digital printing, laser printer outfit, you could even do some vinyls too. SMS, Twitter. YouTube use all of this to your advantage, its all free almost.

3c) If you have an exhibition of your work, that works both ways one promoting the other, its a good idea to have an exhibition of your work simultaneously. But press is very important. Choose your book release at festival times, like the Kala Ghoda festival or the Jaipur literary fair, check dates in advance and work  your schedule backwards.

3d) Y0u need to make some press kits, where you have hi-res (300dpi) images no bigger than 5×7, with an assortment of photos no more than 10 and a bio of yourself along with some text if any from the book, as excerpts. You will also have to allocate some books (10-15) to be given away to the press.

3e) Use bulk SMSs and Twitter to post invitations to your mailing address and request that your friends fwd your mail/message to at least 5 of their friends.

3f) Strategise your publicity, realise  that many magazines have ‘Book Reviews’ you need to check the magazine closing dates and the magazine schedules, eg. weeklys, bi-monthlys etc will all accept inputs and have cut off dates, request those dates that most closely match your ‘launch date’ so that all the publicity peaks at about the same time. TV slots like ‘Just Books’ needs to have at least a month lead time.

3g) Do not give your material to the media too early in eagerness, it will be lost, allocate time to follow up, or hire a junior media student to follow up and take your material back and forth to reviewers. Dont be penny pinching at this stage. Pay for SMSs, taxi charges etc so that everyone feels they are being compensated. It is vital to getting your book noticed and to make it move off the shelves.

3h) Dont be shy about talking about your book, if you dont do it, no one will.

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4. DISTRIBUTION:

4a) This is a tough call, you will need to get your book out to as many book stores as possible. for this you will need a distributor with reach. A distributor typically will take 50-65% of your MRP, so  you need to keep this in mind when pricing your book. I will give  you a rough guide to how you should price your book later. A distributor will sign a contract with you. you can customise this, viz, you may want to give Strand Book stall, in mumbai the books yourself. STrand will take 40% off your MRP, and return 20% to the customer, everyone benefits. You get stung 40% but thats better than what the distributor will take, so you can make a caveat like that in your contract, that the Distributor will service all book stores except the ones you will do directly. Book stores and Distributors take between 2 and 6 months to pay.

Find a Distributor only after you have done your damnedest yourself, that is once  you have marketed and distributed the book before, during and post its launch, dont get a distributor too late either, let him/her ride on some of the publicity that you might have garnered for the book.

I will try and add to a list of Distributors at the bottom,  these are tough business people, you need to be firm and earnest in getting the best possible deal, every percentage point that you negotiate in your own favour is money in your account. There is also the reverse, distributors are notorious in telling you that if they make little on your book, they also have little initiative in pushing it. So its a balance.

You must get all inventory off your premises. Try not to schedule your launch around the monsoon, you dont want your precious books to sit in a dank warehouse.

There is an alternative to printing large quantities by offset, its called Print On Demand (POD), this means you can print one copy of your book and each can be presonalised  too. The method for doing is is called an Indigo print and its printed on an HP what is euphemistically called a digital offset. Its a much more expensive per copy method but you dont have inventory. All the above steps are valid, till the point where you make ‘plates’, with the Indigo the plates are reusable and the paper is sheet fed. Bellow are listed the Indigo POD print shops in Mumbai and around.

You can also get your book on to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Flipkart.com (for india)  and other speciality photo book sites. not figured out the process, am searching, if anyone knows how, please post your comment here. I will post as soon as I know. Its not insurmountable, I hear its quite easy actually, but I need to follow up on this.

Frankfurt book fair happens in the first week of October. Make appointments at least 6 months in advance to get your book a co-edition. They have an on-line presence with a list of all the zillion publishers that are represented.

Many TV channels have a Book Review section, NDTV has Just Books, CNN-IBN and others too, send in  your synopsis and make it seem like your book is the next big thing. Humour works.

7/may/10 Just met my distributor in Delhi, and found that he has not pushed the book. So dont assume that once you have a distributor all is well. You have to call (preferably, and face perhaps, the same ignominies)  periodically and ‘remind’ your distributor that he has your book and that you are ‘monitoring’ its presence or absence in book stores. Dont assume that people other than yourself are doing the work they say they will do.The fact is that they DONT. But the catch is not to get frustrated by this, just do what you have to do and press on regardless.

Distributors will tell you the most cliché things, like books on Monuments of India, crafts of india, textiles of india, religions of india, festivals of india and sex, sells. YOu dont need to be a rocket scientist to know that, just visit any book store and see the plethora of boring, India, books out there. You have to have an absurd (and if you need courage, read Camus) belief in yourself and press on when all tell you that you are writing a book that is non typical. But that is the point isn’t it? The best thing about self pub is that you can do exactly what you please, not be so market orientated. Established publishers/distributors have basically only market considerations. They work like ‘Insurance’ agencies, on the law of averages.

There is a new Amazon type service called Flipkart.com for on-line book distribution now especially for india, I am about to investigate this. Watch this space.

Distributors dont single you out for shoddy service, even Jeffrey Archer who sells in millions calls up his distributor/publisher regularly to ‘monitor’ them.

ok have now investigated FlipKart.com and it WORKS, they now have our book on their inventory. http://www.flipkart.com/itinerants-charmayne-de-souza-david-book-8190821806

they are easily contactable via their comprehensive  website, will keep 5-10 books with them and you can negotiate a commission with them  that is mutually comfortable. Payments are made on a monthly basis as and when they sell.

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Getting a quote:

To get an accurate quote from a printer you will need to specify some details

1. size of your book, generally 9.5×11 inches is about the proportionate division of the paper size. Ask your printer what size is the most economical that is closest to the size of the book you envisaged. Dont do odd sizes, that involve paper wastage, a large portion of your budget is consumed by paper, so keep that part of the equation maximised.

2. No. of pages

3. Colour or black and white, you can do 4 colour black and white for a rich tonality.

4. End papers, these are generally thicker papers, like card, that is stuck to the covers for strength.

5. Hard or soft bound

6. Dust jacket

7. Quality of paper, you can choose from various swatches of paper, and can even get a sample photo of yours printed on a few different papers for you make  up your mind. paper is measured in gsm (grams per square millimeter). Generally for a lush book 160-175gsm works well

8. Quantity /Number. Print run, anything smaller than 1000 copies you might want to consider POD, but offset comes into its own with larger quantities the costs per unit come down drastically. but simultaneously your inventory also gets considerable. Think of where and how you are going to stock those books. and if you life in an apartment whether the slab can take the weight.

9. Printers can do special things like metal stamp foiling, on-line aqueous silk/gloss coatings, die cuts, special folds, special colours like gold, spot UV lamination etc. each of these is an additional cost.

10. Scanning

11. Digital pre-press

12.  Digital proof

13. Gang proof.

14. Make sure estimates are all with duties specified, CIF (cost, insurance freight), if you want various quantities shipped to different locations you need to specify that here.

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You also need an ISBN,  this is a unique number for your book that can be used as its identity and tracked anywhere in the world. It is free and you can get it from this address (shall update this soon, or you can google it and get it from Delhi, the process takes about a month, so leave  yourself that much time, if you can get someone in Delhi to do it, it will take no more than 2 weeks, try and get a bar code with it, you will get 10 serial numbers, so you can technically do 10 books after this without re applying).

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Final Cost of your book:

Eg. if your book costs Rs 1000/- all inclusive, that is all physical costs that you have bills for, excluding your costs as a photographer, then your MRP should be roughly Rs 2500-Rs3000

Literature, prose, poems are much cheaper to print, you can only do a lavish cover at the printers listed below, these printers specialise in colour reproduction, dont use them for printing text, most any printer can do this.

I will shortly publish here on the blog, a short tut on fonts and design, all elements in a book are there by design and intention, all leading to an end product that is seductive and the best vehicle for you to claim your existence. So dont use defaults.

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For PR and getting media attention here is Sandeep Fernandes, he did a remarkable job for our book Itinerants and the book on St. Xavier’s college -140 years.

* Sandeep Fernandes : 9819266551, sandeepfernandes18@hotmail.com

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Print shops:

Pragati – Hyderabad. Contact person: chandresh@pragati.com, 9821114114

Reproscan – pre-press. mumbai, Pankaj Mehta98210-31209, Ketan Mehta accountsrepro@gmail.com

Jak Printers –  Kushru, “JAK Printers Pvt.Ltd. Business Development” <jakprint@vsnl.com>

SilverPoint, 493-9908/9/10/24, silverpoint@vsnl.com

Comart – Pre-Press, 9892237339 Freddie

Jasra – Pre Press, Ravi Jasra, ravi@jasras.com, gyan@jasra.com

There are great printers in Delhi too, but I have no personal experience of them.

Ranbir Nerwal 9810324069, ranbir.nerwal@gmail.com  will do great, clean scans and is a superlative archival exhibition quality printer based in Delhi

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POD:

ZoomIn- Sunny, sunny@zoomin.com, 9967546468, they print mugs and tea shirts and other merchandising too should you need it.

Reproscan – pre-press. mumbai, Pankaj Mehta98210-31209, Ketan Mehta accountsrepro@gmail.com, they do an excellent job on a variety of surfaces.

Mazda 2309-7392 / 6

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Distributors:

Variety Books, Om Arora, 09810016868, varietybookdepot@rediffmail.com, 011-24602032

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Time line:

presuming you have your book design ready, this is the sort of time you will need to print and receive your book.

Scanning, Pre-Press: 10 days

Proofing : 2 days

Printing approx. 200 pages (50 forms, 4 pages to 1 form) 3 days

Finishing (folding, cutting, stitching, binding, packing) 15 days.

Shipping, presuming you will go to Pragati in Hyderabad, 2 days.

Keep aside a month for your press and printing. It can be done in less time, but dont hurry your project, give yourself enough elbow room.

If you think you may need another print edition soon, make sure you tell the Printer to save and secure  your plates, you can save a considerable cost the next time. Most printers by default will keep the plates for a month, then they recycle them. It is also not advisable to keep  your plates for too long as they do deteriorate.

In any event, all your digital data, can be/should be ‘backed up’ at least on two different media, DVDs are known to get corrupted, so back up on a HDD as well.

Printers store your print profiles too, save this, it can save you time and money later on.

There you are done, if you need any more help, comment here and I’ll see how to point you in the right direction.

There is no better feeling than getting your book out.

Now with the iPad and Kindle and a slew of virtual book readers going to flood our space, publishing your book has never looked easier and affordable. Copyright issues still plague the publishing world, but they will be sorted out, soon enough.

Movie studios and Publishers like music labels had better watch out, the conventional model of publishing is/will dry up, when last did you go to a music store to buy a CD? Its not long before an ITunes type of iBook, or iTitle or iPub appears. Its around the corner, be there on the upswing. The writing is on the wall.

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There are tax benefits to being an author, and a publisher, Books are not taxed. Once I have collated all the exact info from the Tax Guide, with article no. etc. or if someone is an expert and would want to add, this is your place and chance to do that. But the good news is that books are given special consideration since Pandit Nehru’s time.

other related articles:     http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/true-life/writer-blocked?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+openthemagazine/essays+(Essays)&utm_content=Google+Reader

Bombay – Mumbai

March 30, 2010

Picture Bombay – Landmarks of a New Generation is probably the only lyrical and honest photographic depiction of this city, it was part of an international effort by the Getty Conservation Institute in LA to get young people between the ages of twelve and eighteen to define and articulate visually and textually what was important, beautiful, significant, repugnant, worth preserving and relevant to them. Half way while printing the catalogue Bombay changed to Mumbai and Picture Mumbai then became probably the first documentary of the changing facade and politics of this city. Not since the iconic Family of Man was photography celebrated so acutely. The then Prince of Wales Museum saw 4000 people engage with it daily for three months. Despite Bollywoods omnipresence, the city has never been depicted with any realness. Even as background it has remained another Nitin Desai set.


The process of Picture Mumbai was probably more significant than its superb outcome, thousands of young people representing as many diversified backgrounds as possible from across the city were interviewed, the common factor that selected them was their eagerness to express themselves alternatively.  In that microcosm of diversity with all its ensuing pulls of  age, caste, creed, economic station, and gender was a critical commonality, a desire not to compete with others, rather, with themselves. The twelve year old and youngest, turned out to be the most chivalrous and the protector of the group, confirming a  Richard Avedon sentiment that we do not lead chronological lives.

While migration continues to be the hottest debate around, we all conveniently forget that each and everyone of us on the planet is a product of a migration and some or other religious conversion. All our ancestors black, white, brown, blond or blue eyed, a mere two thousand generations ago probably smoked ganja together on the plains of Africa. Race is non existent, its all a figment of a propaganda and some artificial construct just as borders are.

(the human genome project : http://www.tutorvista.com/ks/human-genome-project-begins)(unfortunately the YouTube video has been taken off the net)

But these divides are becoming sharper and more polarised. Where you photograph, whom you photograph, who is photographing, are turning locations into paranoid districts. There is a prickly thin skinedness now that gives almost anyone to right to ask you whether you have ‘permission’, even if you are in a public space in broad daylight, photographing the alleged innocuous. Being patient and coming up with long winded explanations for things that should not need explaining can be frustrating and a huge waste of time. Everyone feels they have the right to whisk  you off to the police station. It is merciful when sometimes the police show boredom and fatigue.

Its all the more interesting as just about everyone has a camera embedded in their cell phones. When you can google map a car registration plate via satellite, photographing on Marine drive with a tripod becomes a municipal, traffic and police issue. Everything is a ‘sensitive’ area.

The only creature that stands up to all the political insensitivity ironically has a soft backbone, it lurks off our coasts and is delicious crumb fried. The Bombay Duck not mombil continues to be our quirky, indigenous, delectable mascot chased down by Bombay Gin you are likely to retain an original flavour of the city.


Is art an emotional experience or a rational one? Can art be both? Isn’t it mysterious that we go to school and by that definition are ‘taught’ to think, no one sends us to school to feel, we just do. Can our thinking influence our feelings? It probably does, which is why it perhaps is imperative to question the very notion of schooled thought. Ken Robinson states dramatically that schooling, the way we know it in modernity, exists to strip mine thinking/doing, to perform industrial tasks, in other words, to conform, but simultaneously we are growing out of creativity rather than into it.

http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG9CE55wbtY

You would not want your brain to be operated upon by an unschooled surgeon, or for that matter the plane to be flown by an untrained pilot. But we might want to begin questioning the schooled artist, musician and dancer, writer, poet or philosopher.

The problem is that we all agreed and made a pact  with Descartes, and assumed that our very existence is a function of thinking, homo sapiens and all that rubbish. ‘I think therefore I am’ is a neat but purulent thought. Rather a more enabling vision is ‘I dont think therefore I am’, and in that association is implicit going beyond thinking, to feeling. I think therefore I am, might distinguish us from the animal world, though dont have this conversation with a dog lover, but feeling therefore I am, might want to associate us with the sacred or divine.

The senses and intuition, that wonderfully indescribably quotient, that hovers and approximates between the senses, are nature’s way of providing inputs for learning, growth and fulfilling ones true potential. Societal pressure and the politics of the state make ‘schooling’ not learning mandatory, make teaching not educating implicit, make medi-care not health; and security not safety an issue. (Ivan Illich – De-schooling of society)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FIqLX1VsWI4

A German curator today mentioned that an indian artist she interviewed in Delhi told her something she found meaningful, that while in art school in Scotland he had to learn to be Indian in his aesthetic, and when he returned to india, he had to unlearn that. Is it possible that while abroad he had to learn to be Indian but back in the environment he had simply to Be? Invariably the environment itself will dictate your nationality and your mythologies. Aren’t we all aware of, with some irritation, the recent NRI with an accent. The environment is not necessarily a geo-political state, it could be a state of being and like Rupert Brooke, in the Patriot, let where ever he is buried be forever England.

In addition is the new rubric of the cultural theorist, the academic, the intellectual who attempts at ‘making sense’ out of chaos, drawing vectors across the art firmament to establish equations, inscribing, intention, influence,  interpretation and meaning. First came the professionals then came the professors, that might seem quite in order till you discover that the professionals are influenced heavily by the professors, the conundrum continues.

There is a new buzz in art, its called Conceptual, which in other words means, I can think, I can write,  I feel, I can read, I am literate, I have a great fucking idea, but I cant draw, sculpt, paint or dance or install or photograph to save my life, so my catalogue will be art, but what you pay Rs 10 million for I cant be bothered with. Put this rubbish canvass or shit on your wall or in your estate; close your eyes and have total recall of all the spell binding associated gyan  that enticed  you to shell out that sort of lucre, and intellectualize your pleasure. Its  masturbation, and fittingly you have to shut your eyes when you cum.

Its a bit like nouvelle cuisine, its all hyped to be the new IT. So when you go to this swish (read subdued lighting) restobar, and fork out enormous sums of money for a little bit of twig and drizzle over a microscopic bit of salmon or mouse, and you come out of that place late at night totally hungry and too embarrassed to say so, you raid the fridge and devour yesterdays left overs. In the morning though you will boast of this fine dining place you visited. Its a status thing. (Thosrtein Veblen described it ascerbically well in The Theory of the Leisure Class)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWbUU9CUcf4&feature=related

Its the emperor’s new clothes scenario where the marketing tails wag the dog. Now everything is art, you have simply to will it.

James Joyce in Portrait of the Artist as a young man, has some interesting things to say about art and its callings, he sees a messianic role for art.

If Art is the manifestation of Being, that gerund, that present continuous, conjugation of To Be, it sort of then summarises existence and identity. Who am I, where do I come from, and where am I going are as Transcendental as creation itself. That one sits at the computer in 38 degree heat with a deciduous pipal tree shimmering back lit in Mumbai and chatting simultaneously to 10 different people in different time zones and weather conditions makes one as Global as in the days of snail mail when one licked stamps and sent them off to 10 international pen pals. No different than when you can have streaming video pouring in at broadband speeds from different sources. Its only convenient now, not global at all.

How and who looks at Art, might best be examined at who and how we look at spirituality, science, literature, medicine, music, architecture, agriculture and language itself. It might be appropriate when entering someone’s home to take off our shoes, for who knows we could be treading on the sacred.

It is about Being and Nothingness eventually.

140 years

Book cover

geology - fossils


Blatter herbarium - lithographs - malabar coast botanica

library

entomology - life sciences

malhar

200 pages, exquisitely printed. A must have for every Xaverite, 20 gatefolds.

Never seen before photographs of Blatter Herbarium, Geology, Heras Institute, Malhar and Life-Sciences depts.

Available at XDP, first floor St. Xavier’s college, next to the principals office.

Rs 3000/-

Two way Mirror

March 19, 2010

28/08/06


When is a table lamp not a table lamp or a squirrel not a rodent? When does a handkerchief become a cat, Schrödinger notwithstanding? When is the Truth a half-truth?

Debraj Goswami’s acrylic on canvasses have that sort of sleight of hand quality; blink and something else might appear in its place.

“It all started with small 1 square foot canvasses of symbols and forms that would not go away just as the Godhra nightmare still comes back to shake us up”. Debraj’s close proximity to Godhra both in geography, he lives and works out of Baroda, and his ‘socio-political’ bent made him investigate the reality and illusion of war, its carnage and its weapons. The accusatory, finger-pointing hand of Michelangelo’s god is omniscient and ubiquitous. 20 small canvasses mosaic-morph into My experiments with Half Truths.

In Godly Fingers, that hand is being hurled at an Adam, who could easily be replaced by you the viewer, standing helpless against a pegboard. The hand-dart intentionally misses the target with some divine magic. Adam lives another day to tell more lies or not reveal the whole truth.

The spin doctors and six-pack muscular media-politicians protect themselves from a barren, nuclear polluted word with rose-tinted gas masks pretending with a magician’s candor that war does not exist, Guernica however is leaking from under the table like a bribe. There is a childish boast – realization in ‘See I’m growing up mummy’

The squirrel in the divine equation is a hapless innocent creature, a bhakti, the common man oblivious of the Ram-politics.  It travels through several matrixes and emerges unwittingly at the other end as Alice in the looking glass. Now you see me now you don’t.

Patho(s)logical, the painting, is graphic and narrative, what goes in does come out albeit altered. But you don’t quite know which is the beginning or the end, do you read the work from right to left as in the Islamic world or the other way around. Does the truth become a falsity or do lies interface with the truth, the animate becomes the inanimate. The linear – circular.

All Goswami’s work leaves you with a feeling of déjà vu. The title to the show a take on Gandhi’s – Experiments with the Full Truth, the symbols, the metaphors, the surrealist genre, Rene Margarite, Salvador Dali, Picasso are all there lurking or spilling out perforce. The surprise element therefore is a bit dampened.  The work A Brief Mystery of Time reverses scale and mass in a Hawking-Einsteinian way, a nuclear mushroom cloud diminishes the global atlas to an amniotic puppy, and you don’t need conventional weapons of mass destruction, market forces and an insurance plan can do you in.

The intrepid quadruped has a Fallacy of Four Terms, is it a dog? is it a horse? The illuminating table lamp that is supposed to shed light on the subject obfuscates the reality with a fork-filament, enlightenment is about survival and your next meal. Yet mysteriously the headless, creature-beast moves onwards to the sound of a distant drummer.

If you went in grim you’d emerge with a half frown-smile.

BUZZ

March 19, 2010

30/10/77

BUZZ

And such a stock of custardapples. And so many thoughts of you.

And hoping that the season holds till Diwali. And hopefully I will

bring some home. And the guruji has given me a hell of a lot of monkey

nuts. And I am wondering where the monkey stores his nuts.

Like its the 30th of October and tomorrow will be the end of October.

Like when a boy comes home with a gigantic cucumber. And the other boys

descend on it. Like Vultures or Gidhades on a rotting carcass. Like flies are

buzzing around me. And its common property. Like unwritten laws and tradition.

Like I gave some boy some monkey nuts. And he ran away immediately.

And all the boys are calling after him. And he is not within sight or

sound. And I know where he has gone. Like hide and seek. And eat

before they get you. Like vultures or Gidhade. And I’m not talking about

Vijay Tendulkar. And I’m not talking about Alyque Padamsee.

Like the boys have their own ruling. And no one ever cries. And the

law is that of the jungle. And there is a slight difference. Like there are

forty five muleteers. And its all for one and one for all. And there are

exceptions to every rule. And the exception is monkey nuts.

And its not the lusty month of May. And still there are lusty cocks. Like they

are chasing the hens. And one hears a clucking and a running. Like catch

me if you can. And its a man’s world. And the clucking stops. And you see

the cock looking very pleased with himself. See. And its not Camelot.

And our cocks are evergreen. And the dogs are feeling left out. And

decide to get in on the act. And you hear a clucking and a running and

there is a slight difference. And our dogs have a hang dog look.

Like I just see a flock of birds floating outside my door. And I

hastily get out the trusted Minolta. And run out of doors. And by the time I

set the exposure the birds too have flown away. Like its the same attitude

everywhere. Like catch me if you can. And I sometimes feel the best thing

is a box camera or R.K. Laxman. And I’m afraid that I wont be able to

classify the birds. Like I’m not Salim Ali. And I don’t think these were the

Grey Lag geese. Like this is L’Ambatha not Ladakh.

And so it is. And my thoughts and feelings have been here. And they have

remained here from January to October. And I cannot write about

them. Like one thinks thoughts and feels feelings. And so it is that I

am in the whereabouts of Aubrey Menen’s Dang forest trip. And I

haven’t yet found ‘the space within the heart’. And I keep at the

Chandogya and Brihadaranyka Upanishad. And the magic does not get

me. And so it is. And I’m having déja vu. And I’m not talking about the

Crosby, Stills Nash and Young LP. And I have a mood indigo and its got

nothing to do with the IIT.

Like one feels so useless in a rural setting. And one knows one can’t

change the world. And one knows the world changes one. And one likes

change. Like Bob Dylan. And ‘the times they are a changin’’. And I do not

like to leave my heart in San Francisco. And the Indian government does

not encourage people to go to the US. And its brain drain. And I don’t want

to leave my heart nor my brain there. Like Schizophrenia. And I’m Indian.

Like I hope I am. And I want wherever I’m buried that corner to be forever

India. Like Rupert Brooke and England. Like I’m attempting poetry. And I’m

making no headway. And that’s my life’s story. And I’m absurdly happy.

Like Sisyphus and the myth.