27 September, 2020

The Self, Out There

A new, personal credo takes Indian photography to far shores

Bharat Sikka
The Self, Out There
From the Noorderlicht Photofestival in the Netherlands and the Lille 3000 festival in 2006 to the prestigious Rencontres festival in Arles, France, this July and the special exhibition at the Newark Museum, US, in September, contemporary Indian photography has suddenly caught the international eye. In the past, iconic images of photojournalists like Raghu Rai and Raghubir Singh offered the world its sole glimpses into Indian life, chronicling tragedies, public figures, or life on the street. Today, though, the spotlight is on the work of experimental photographers, replacing the documentary lens with the refracted, the personal, the playful.

Some dwell on banalities of urban existence like tangled cables and teeming faceless crowds, others offer up narcissistic self-portraits, tender studies of gay lovers, or masquerades questioning Indian attitudes towards sexuality, nationhood and femininity. Still others step into the uncomfortable shoes of the marginalised—ragpickers, hijras, or beggars.

The new lens, in other words, is the...


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