Photographers Capture Iconic Indian Artists In Their Element

Few human traits exist in that unlikely realm somewhere between being reviled and revered but our innate sense of voyeurism is definitely one of them. Though our methods may have evolved over time to accommodate our technological advancement (we can now scroll through a neighbour’s facebook profile to ‘stalk’ them rather than peer into their homes a la Hitchcock) the excitement of peeking into a life that’s not our own is still much the same. It’s a trait that a haunting new collection of photographs being exhibited at PHOTOINK, Delhi exploits in all the best ways.

The group exhibition titled ‘Some Portraits’ is a collection of vivid black and white photographs of popular painters, writers, poets, architects, dancers, designers and photographers; most of whom have now passed away–offering a more candid look at their lives, beyond what the public eye saw.

The art has been on display since December 18, and will continue on till January 14.

The inspiration behind it all, comes down to the Director of PHOTOINK, Devika Daulet-Singh. The seasoned curator had plenty to say about the exhibition, “The most enjoyable part of my job is being an archivist. Over my 16-year-long career, I’ve had the extraordinary opportunity to examine the archives of Umrao Singh Sher-Gil, Richard Bartholomew, Pablo Bartholomew and Madan Mahatta. My engagement and familiarity with these archives is ongoing, which led me to the idea behind Some Portraits — portraits of artists by other artists. Initially, it was conceived to include portraits by Richard and Pablo Bartholomew whose work I was most familiar with. But this year, Ketaki Sheth and Sooni Taraporevala opened up their archives and led me to their portraits of dancers, poets, writers and photographers. Thereafter, the exhibition expanded to include portraits by Madan Mahatta, Sadanand Menon and Ram Rahman. I like the overlapping interests the photographers had in certain artists of their times. None of the portraits were commissioned, but were borne out of curiosity and admiration. Some portraits were staged to reinforce the public personas while others were more contemplative and reveal very private moments. I view this exhibition as a homage to a community of artists and thinkers who were much admired by photographers I admire.”

Below is a look at some of the artists and their work on display:

I. Ketaki Sheth

  • Committed to black and white photography, chemistry, and silver gelatin prints.
  • Won the Sanskriti Award for Indian Photography in 1992.
  • Won the Higashikawa Award in Japan for Best Foreign Photographer.
Nalini Malani in her studio, Mumbai, 1987 Photograph courtesy Ketaki Sheth and PHOTOINK

Nalini Malani in her studio, Mumbai, 1987
Photograph courtesy Ketaki Sheth and PHOTOINK

 

II. Madan Mahatta

  • The Mahatta studios have a distinguished history as the most well-known family run studios in North India.
  • Famed for his architectural photographs.
  • Worked closely with two generations of India’s most well known architects such as Achyut Kanvinde, Ajoy Choudhury, Charles Correa, Habib Rahman, Joseph Allen Stein, Jasbir Sawhney, J.K. Chowdhury, Kuldip Singh, Raj Rewal, Ram Sharma, Ranjit Sabhiki and designers Mini Boga and Riten Mozumdar.
A.P. Kanvinde at home, 1966 Architect: A.P. Kanvinde Photograph courtesy Madan Mahatta and PHOTOINK

A.P. Kanvinde at home, 1966
Architect: A.P. Kanvinde
Photograph courtesy Madan Mahatta and PHOTOINK

 

III. Pablo Bartholomew

Jeram Patel, Baroda, c. 1975 Photograph courtesy Pablo Bartholomew and PHOTOINK

Jeram Patel, Baroda, c. 1975
Photograph courtesy Pablo Bartholomew and PHOTOINK

 

IV. Ram Rahman

  • Professional architectural photographer for over 30 years.
  • Son of famed architect Habib Rahman
Raghubir Singh, Delhi, 1982 Photograph courtesy Ram Rahman and PHOTOINK

Raghubir Singh, Delhi, 1982
Photograph courtesy Ram Rahman and PHOTOINK.

 

V. Richard Bartholomew

  • Major literary works on Indian and Tibetan art.
  • Gallery Director of Kunika Art Centre, New Delhi’s first commercial gallery for contemporary art. (1960-1963)
  • Curator of Tibet House, New Delhi. Personally catalogued the Dalai Lama’s collection of religious artifacts. (1966-1973)
  • Secretary of the Lalit Kala Akademi, India’s prestigious National Academy of Art. (1977-1985)
Nasreen Mohamedi, New Delhi, c.1980 Photograph courtesy Richard Bartholomew and PHOTOINK

Nasreen Mohamedi, New Delhi, c.1980
Photograph courtesy Richard Bartholomew and PHOTOINK

 

VI. Sadanand Menon

  • Indian Arts Editor, Cultural Journalism teacher, Photographer, Stage Lights Designer, Speaker.
  • Deeply involved with issues concerning contemporary Indian dance.
  • Curated a retrospective exhibition of Dashrath Patel’s work in painting, ceramics, photography and design.
Chandralekha in the 'Naravahana' sequence from her path breaking production, Angika, Madara, 1985 Photograph courtesy Sadanand Menon and PHOTOINK

Chandralekha in the ‘Naravahana’ sequence from her path breaking production, Angika, Madara, 1985
Photograph courtesy Sadanand Menon and PHOTOINK

 

VII. Sooni Taraporevala

  • Photographer, Screenwriter and Filmmaker.
  • Best known for the screenplays of Mississippi Masala, The Namesake, the Oscar-nominated Salaam Bombay & the national award winning Little Zizou.
  • Awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India in 2014.
Jehangir Sabavala, Bombay, 1985 Photograph courtesy Sooni Taraporevala and PHOTOINK

Jehangir Sabavala, Bombay, 1985
Photograph courtesy Sooni Taraporevala and PHOTOINK

 Words: Cara Shrivastava

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