THE VIEW FIN­DER

Harper's Bazaar (India) - - BAZAAR -

Af­ter be­ing the first In­dian to do a solo show of her pho­tographs at Lon­don’s pres­ti­gious Hay­ward Gallery, DAYANITA SINGH is now set for an epony­mous ex­hi­bi­tion at the Art In­sti­tute of Chicago this month. Three top cu­ra­tors talk about how Singh has her­alded the dawn of the photo-artist in In­dia.

TaS­neem me­hTa Direc­tor, Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mu­seum, Mum­bai

I have known Dayanita for over 10 years, from when she first started out. She is not just a pho­tog­ra­pher; Dayanita is an artist. That’s the fun­da­men­tal thing about her. She has trans­formed pho­tog­ra­phy from be­ing just a doc­u­men­tary to an art form, an art form that is not re­stricted to the medium, but is us­ing the medium to put out a much larger mes­sage. Her work goes be­yond pho­tog­ra­phy, even be­yond in­stal­la­tion. It is a com­bi­na­tion of pho­tog­ra­phy and form. She is con­stantly in­no­vat­ing and chang­ing the for­mat of the way she does things, and that is what marks her out as dif­fer­ent from ev­ery­body else who’s work­ing in the field. Her de­sire to com­mu­ni­cate with t he au­di­ence i s quite dif­fer­ent— she is do­ing things to try to reach peo­ple and tell a story in a way that is very in­di­vid­ual.

Dayanita has ex­plored Dr. Bhau Daji Lad mu­seum as an ar­chive, which she has pho­tographed, and she has had im­ages from the mu­seum in sev­eral of her ex­hi­bi­tions. She has also worked with very crit­i­cal themes, like the trans­gen­der is­sue. We are plan­ning to do a ma­jor show with her soon.

I like all her works, but in par­tic­u­lar, I en­joyed the in­ter­ven­tion that she did at the In­dia Art Fair, which is a part of her Hay­ward Gallery show (2013), where she has cre­ated dis­play cases out of pho­tographs and she changes the form of dis­play. She has cre­ated her own mu­seum, and has gone back to the orig­i­nal idea of what dis­play was. She has made them dif­fer­ent, con­tem­po­rarised them. Pho­tographs and mu­se­ums are forms of archives, and she is bring­ing the two to­gether in this project. Be­ing a mu­seum per­son my­self, I would say it’s my favourite one!

Shireen Gandhy Direc­tor, Che­mould-Prescott Road gallery, Mum­bai

I have known Dayanita for a very long time now. I do not re­mem­ber ex­actly when I saw her work—per­haps it was dur­ing one of the Kala Ghoda Fes­ti­vals in Mum­bai when she did a pop-up show of her Goa pho­tographs at the Max Mueller Bha­vanat Ram­part Row. Sub­se­quently, when my mother was plan­ning a very am­bi­tious ex­hi­bi­tion at the Na­tional Gallery of Mod­ern Art in Mum­bai, called Por­trait of a Com­mu­nity (2002), I felt that there should be a con­nec­tion be­tween this show of early Parsi por­traits and our gallery hav­ing an ex­hi­bi­tion of pho­tos of con­tem­po­rary Par­sis. At the time, Dayanita’s oeu­vre was about ex­tremely for­mal por­trai­ture—fam­i­lies dressed up and the home/ back­drop al­most be­came like anold-style studio pho­to­graph. We con­tacted sev­eral Parsi friends who were only too happy to dress up and be pho­tographed by Dayanita [ Parsees at Home , 2002]. To­day, they can’t be­lieve the op­por­tu­nity they got!

I have seen her in ac­tion. For her, the pho­to­graph is not just about peo­ple be­ing ready and pos­ing. Of­ten such pho­tos, where there was lit­tle or no in­ter­ac­tion be­tween Dayanita and the sub­ject, ended up be­ing fail­ures for her. It was im­por­tant for Dayanita to be in­volved in what they saw them­selves as—dis­cussing the clothes they wore, the look they pre­ferred. It re­mained a demo­cratic process, that came to­gether as a very for­mal, fi­nal prod­uct, where the sub­ject and pho­tog­ra­pher de­vel­oped a re­la­tion­ship, where they were some how al­lowed to ‘actout’ what they wanted to be dur­ing those pho­tos.

My favourite im­age of Dayanita’s is the cover im­age from the se­ries Go Away Closer. The sheer trans­parency of the sit­u­a­tion—this young girl who has re­turned from some­where, her shoes still on, flopped on her bed—it’s a mo­ment of com­plete aban­don­ment that Dayanita caught.

apara­jiTa jain

Owner, Seven Art Lim­ited, Delhi

I first saw Dayanita’s works a few years ago at Na­ture Morte gallery, in Delhi. It was one of the most exquisitely hung shows I had seen. It was many years later that I in­ter­acted with her, and she has to be one of the most gifted peo­ple/ artists I know. With File Room (2013), she has taken pho­tog­ra­phy to an­other level. Her show at the Hay­ward Gallery was not only a vis­ual treat but one of such pres­tige. Her up­com­ing show at the Art In­sti­tute in Chicago (March 1-June 1, 2014) prom­ises to be even bet­ter.

There is one work of hers called Bos­ton, which I love deeply. It re­minds me of my favourite time with my­self... think­ing.

THIS PAGE: (Clock­wise from left)

File Room/ Steidl 2013; Dream Villa/ Steidl 2010; Dayanita Singh (por­trait by Ul­rike Som­mer); Zeis Ikon 1996. OP­PO­SITE PAGE: Blue

Book/ Steidl 2009.

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