Thursday, August 23, 2012

Zooming on social changes with her lens

Dayanita Singh first studied graphic design at the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad. She later attended a course in a photojournalist at International Center of Photography (ICP), New York. On returning to India in the late 1980s, she started photographing for newspapers and magazines, collecting visual evidence of social injustice.By the early 1990s she was aiming her lens more and more at her immediate surroundings, no longer at ease with her journalistic approach.

Her body of work on the eunuch Mona Ahmed was based on a journalistic assignment, though it represented a critical point at which she opted to take a new course as a photographer. Mona prompted a series in which the photo artist's relationship with the subject was of immense significance, both directly and indirectly. The same could be said of her ‘I am as I am’ (1999).
This again was an intimate series portraying girls in an ashram in the holy city of Benares.

Dayanita Singh also shifted course in terms of the photographic form by switching from her 35mm & medium format 6 x 7 camera to a Hasselblad camera. Its square format made her to observe and snap her protagonists more slowly and precisely, with greater emphasis on composition, cropping, detail and light. The period was marked with the series ‘Ladies of Calcutta’ (1997-1999) and ‘Privacy’ (2002). What we saw was India’s lesser-known facet, one of post-colonial prosperity and of well-to-do women in their comfortable homes, surrounded by traditional Indian symbols.

She started to work in a growingly free and associative manner with ‘Go Away Closer’ (2007). People were emphatically absent from her recent ‘Blue Book’ (2008) and ‘Dream Villa’ (2010). All these transitions of her oeuvre are mapped in the new retrospective exhibition. A retrospective show of work by the internationally renowned Indian photographer took place at Huis Marseille Museum for Photography, Amsterdam a couple of years ago.

Elaborating on her oeuvre, a curatorial note stated: “The artist is known for the highly expressive and poetic quality of her photographs, whose incidence of light and visual construction are so meticulously composed that they result in a comment on society and her own past."

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