Imaging India

 
   
 

Empty Quarter

To celebrate summer, Empty Quarter Gallery in Dubai is running an exhibition of Indian photography by emerging artists including Michael Bühler-Rose, Priya Kambli, Neil Chowdhury, Mahesh Shantaram, Vidisha Saini and Zubin Pastakia. The show is entitled “Sampling India: Of Blind Men and Elephants. The show is organized by Hester Keijser, who works as freelance curator of exhibitions and publications specializing in photography of the Middle East. She is a frequent guest lecturer, and enjoys teaching workshops in photography and publishing. Since 2006 she has been the editor and publisher of Mrs. Deane, a popular and influential blog on photography. 

Empty Quarter is devoted to fine art photography, with an emphasis on works exploring the photographic dimensions of the Arab world. Within this framework, the gallery appreciates the achievements of the world’s finest photographers, and aims to highlight the talent of photographers from the Middle East.

Burdens and Desires

Anyone attempting to offer a comprehensive survey of contemporary Indian photography will soon resemble the mythical blind men who were unable to comprehend the entire form of the elephant. The vast Indian subcontinent simply defies an all-embracing view, and can only be celebrated in its dazzling, kaleidoscopic plurality of visions.
Like the blind men, who ultimately rely on communicating to one another their tales of the same beast if they ever want to arrive at any kind of insight, so do we rely on the many stories told of India by the photographers in this group show. Each of them offers the viewer an intuition of the mutable, living entity that is India, a country and culture that exists most of all in our imagination.

Perhaps we only will arrive at a point where we can question if there is just one single elephant in the room, or rather a jumbled collection of parts, taxidermically prepared, with five legs, two trunks, one ear and four tusks. Whichever truth we arrive at, it will always be a complex and seemingly contradictory one. How we come to terms with that, is another matter altogether.

Burdens and Desires
Anyone attempting to offer a comprehensive survey of contemporary Indian photography will soon resemble the mythical blind men who were unable to comprehend the entire form of the elephant. The vast Indian subcontinent simply defies an all-embracing view, and can only be celebrated in its dazzling, kaleidoscopic plurality of visions.

Like the blind men, who ultimately rely on communicating to one another their tales of the same beast if they ever want to arrive at any kind of insight, so do we rely on the many stories told of India by the photographers in this group show. Each of them offers the viewer an intuition of the mutable, living entity that is India, a country and culture that exists most of all in our imagination.

Perhaps we only will arrive at a point where we can question if there is just one single elephant in the room, or rather a jumbled collection of parts, taxidermically prepared, with five legs, two trunks, one ear and four tusks. Whichever truth we arrive at, it will always be a complex and seemingly contradictory one. How we come to terms with that, is another matter altogether.

Matrimania
Mahesh Shantaram (b. 1977) is an independent art-documentary photographer based in Bangalore, India. His main area of interest lies in visual representations of modern India minus all the nostalgic fluff, often celebrating the everyday, the mundane, and the leftovers when all the exotic has been consumed or left to dry.

Using a landscape photography approach to social documentary, some of Mahesh's latest work has involved the personalization of public spaces at airports (Airtime) and taking a look at the mess that people leave behind at weddings (Matrimania).

Me (Orange)
Priya Kambli was born in India. She moved to the United States at age 18 carrying her entire life in one suitcase that weighed about 20 lbs. She began her artistic career in the States, and her work has always been informed by her experience as a migrant.

She completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette and continued on to receive a Masters degree in Photography from the University of Houston. She is currently an Associate Professor of Art at Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri. In 2008 Photolucida awarded her a book publication prize for her project Color Falls Down.

Mangoes, DVDs, Calendar & Honey
Michael Bühler-Rose, born in New Jersey (1980), lives and works in New York. About his series Indian Still Lifes:
"Beyond the beauty of the Dutch Still-life lays the evidence of Dutch colonial power: its imports of exotic spices and goods from India. You can currently purchase any of these Indian imports, plus anything else you can find in the streets of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, or Chennai, in the “Little India” sections of various major cities of the world.
These photographs feature a mixture of contemporary and traditional items purchased in these “Little Indias,” while referencing the lighting, compositions, and scale of the Dutch still-life tradition. They create an aesthetic experience of near recognition while still allowing disorienting puncture points to come through. Although visually similar to the Dutch still-life, these pictures do not evidence Western colonial power but rather a reverse of power, of India settling the West."

Michael Bühler-Rose received a Fulbright Fellowship to India, obtained his BFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and MFA from University of Florida. He has exhibited work at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, Delhi; Bose Pacia, New York; Brancolini Grimaldi, Florence/Rome at Art Verona and Paris Photo; as well as with SK Stiftung Kultur/Die Photographische Sammlung at Art Cologne. His work is held in the Sammlung Goetz, Munich, and in the Die Photographische Sammlung, Cologne.

Ardhnarishwar (Pratibimb)
Vidisha Saini (b.1989) is a photographer. She also teaches, researches and writes. Her practice frequently draws on the unseen details of her own life. Furthermore, it encompasses still life studies and portraits, which address questions concerning identity, gender, sexuality and culture. Born into the world of digital photography, she also experiments with toy cameras, alternative processes and radical video. 

Vidisha holds a Bachelor of Design in Fashion Communication from the National Institute of Fashion Technology, New Delhi; here she was awarded the 'Most Innovative Communication Design 2010' for her graduation project (Cloud, Tree, Candy floss). In 2011, she received the Toto Funds the Arts and Tasveer award for Photography. Her series Pratibimb was recently shown at the Format International Photography Festival in Derby, and at her first solo show at Matthieu Foss Gallery in Mumbai. She has participated in various projects with organizations including Goa- CAP, Lucida, Blindboys, Art & Deal, Camerawork Delhi, PIX, FairMail, Khoj, and URBZ.

Auditorium Maratha-Mandir, Mumbai
Zubin Pastakia (b. 1980) is a photographer living and working in Bombay, India. After studying economics in college, he pursued further education in film and cultural studies. His photographic projects to date are a synthesis of these interests as they explore and trace the interstices of shifting cultural, economic and representational value. 

Zubin has received fellowships from Sarai-CSDS and the India Habitat Centre for his photographic projects. In 2008, he was awarded the Toto Funds Arts Award for Photography for his series The Cinemas Project, which was exhibited as part of Cinema City, a multidisciplinary arts research initiative, at the 2010 Berlinale. Last year he presented the project at a TedxMumbai session. Most recently, he was one of six international photographers invited for a residency to Fryslan, a northern Dutch province, to participate in the project Fryslan Through Different Eyes.

Waking from Dreams of India
Neil Chowdhury is an artist working in photography and digital media. His work explores the relationships between individuals, their societies, and environments in different cultures.

Neil Chowdhury's series Waking from Dreams of India incorporates photography, video, audio, and photomontage to chronicle his journeys, physical and imaginative, as he explores and comes to terms with his Indian heritage. During his first trip to India in 2002, he was able to locate his family's home—the property had been left in the care of Chowdhury's grandfather's servant Chari. Chari's extended family lived in huts on the property, and the first floor of the house was inhabited by squatters. Since that first trip, he has returned to India several times to continue to photograph for the project.

Mr. Chowdhury is an assistant professor and director of the photography program at Cazenovia College, Cazenovia, New York. He has also taught at Zayed University, Dubai, United Arab Emirates; the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan; and the University of Washington, Seattle. He received his M.F.A. in photography at the University of Washington. His photography and digital video works have been exhibited widely in the United States and abroad. Mr. Chowdhury is a recipient of the 2011 Light Work Grants in Photography.