The world knows Naveen Kishore as a prolific Indian publisher and the founder of the renowned independent publishing house, Seagull Books. He established the publishing house in 1982 and has since become renowned for its diverse range of high-quality books in translation, covering literature, poetry, philosophy, and cultural studies from around the world. Kishore is known for his passionate commitment to the art of bookmaking and the editorial process. He is deeply involved in the design and production of Seagull's books, and the press has become known for its distinctive and beautiful covers, high-quality paper, and attention to detail.
However, Kishore’s identity as one of the most important publishers of translated literature in the world today often overshadows his recognition as a photographer. A self-taught photographer, his works have been exhibited in galleries and museums in India, Europe, and the United States, and have been published in several books and magazines. Some of Kishore's most notable photographic works include the series The Undivided Self, which explores the nature of identity through portraits of people from different cultures and backgrounds; Shadows and Other Realities, which uses light and shadow to create surreal, dreamlike images; and The Architecture of Loss, which documents abandoned buildings and spaces, creating a haunting and melancholic atmosphere.
Kishore’s latest exhibition In A Cannibal Time, in collaboration with Emami Art and Chatterjee & Lal, is unique in the way the photographs capture the dynamism and ephemerality of performing arts. The curation for the exhibition includes photographs taken by Kishore over the last two decades. It provides a glimpse into Kishore’s way of expressing as well as documenting performing arts. He has woven a common thread of performing arts throughout his three unique collections of photographs but each set is a masterful work of its own, with its own distinct flavor and style.
This body of work is an attempt to create awareness. Of such moments in time. Both as witness and helpless bystander.
Naveen Kishore told 'My Kolkata' when asked how he would define 'In a Cannibal Time'
Performing the Goddess showcases the intricate process of transformation Chapal Bhaduri undergoes - a stunning metamorphosis from an ordinary man into a fierce and powerful goddess. In contrast, The Green Room of Goddess provides a glimpse behind the scenes, revealing the painstaking work of artisans in Kumartuli as they create stunning idols for public worship. With a deep appreciation for the performing arts, Kishore expertly captures the essence of Manipuri theatre groups in The Epic and the Elusive, even amidst political turmoil. His use of swirling, blurred imagery masterfully captures the political commentary of the performances. The powerful In a Cannibal Time repurposes clay figures originally used for the Seagull Book stands at a book fair, speaking to the violence and repression of contemporary times. Naveen Kishore's photography pushes the boundaries of the art form, capturing the image's elusive and conflictual truth.
Visitors can also watch a captivating documentary on jatra artiste Chapal Bhaduri alongside Kishore’s presentation of a stunning amalgamation of Kali sculptures shot in Kumartuli with photographs of Bhaduri. This unique projection challenges traditional gender norms and reshapes the very concept of femininity. The photographs of Bhaduri also serve as a poignant testament to the fading genre of Bengal's folk theatre. What is most striking about Kishore's work is the expressive, almost haunting, eyes of Bhaduri. Even in silence, they offer a glimpse into the journey of becoming and unbecoming Chapal Rani, leaving a lasting impression on all who view them.
Naveen Kishore's In a Cannibal Time is not just another photography exhibit, but rather a powerful and emotional artistic expression that leaves a deep impression on all who view it. Throughout his photography career, Kishore has experimented with the ideas of memory, identity, and the human condition. He also explores the relationship between light and shadow, and many of his photographs use stark contrasts and unusual angles to create a sense of drama and depth - and one can locate these facets throughout this exhibition, which so passionately captures the idea of anguish.
As one moves from frame to frame, it becomes clear that every image has its own unique story to tell, and viewers can't help but immerse themselves in the personal understanding of what the exhibit means to them. Kishore's work serves as a reminder that art has the power to move us and evoke profound emotions, and this collection is a testament to his ability to capture the essence of human experience through the lens of his camera.
In a Cannibal Time
Venue: Emami Art, ground floor, Kolkata Center For Creativity, 777 Anandapur, Adarsha Nagar, EM Bypass, Kolkata, West Bengal 700100
Time: 4 to 8 pm (Closed on Sundays)
On view till: June 25
Find out more about Naveen Kishore here.