Tag Archives: India

Bhupendra Karia: ‘Listening to India with one’s eyes’

NEW YORK — India, with its complex history, mix of cultures and massive population, represents a world unto itself that is at once a force to be reckoned with on the global stage and an unknowable land to outsiders. It is this veil that artist, teacher, theorist, curator and photographer Bhupendra Karia sought to pierce, and in the process humanizes the nation with a unique, visual synecdoche that reflects his cultural awareness and personal vision.

Among the most striking images in the exhibit: A vertical B&W print of a turban, a shawl and a rifle hanging on peg embedded in a terra cotta wall. The deceptively simple image evokes India’s cultural identity (or one segment of it), its struggle for independence, and the violence of Partition in 1947 — when lands occupied by the British Empire were carved into Hindu and Muslim nations to form what is current-day India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Estimates of the death toll vary between 500,000 and 1.5 million, marking one of the most tragic periods in modern history.

Karia’s Population Crisis project produced views of urban life in Bombay (Mumbai), from the manual labor of men lugging cloth, tied in bundles, on their backs, to the quotidian hustle and bustle of commerce and transportation clogging the city’s streets in every direction, with such richness in its subjects to provide the viewer an immersion, however brief, into life in India; from food vendors preparing to distribute lunch orders in stacked tins from crudely constructed wooden carts, to residents making their way around tenement-style, colonial-era housing.

In the second half of the 1960s and the early 1970s, Karia undertook extensive photographic journeys that would last weeks, sometimes months, at a time, logging some 80,000 miles across India’s rural landscape — likely fueled by an anthropological impulse to explore and record rural India and its native creative traditions–textiles, pottery, and architectural decoration. The resulting project comprises a quarter-million images, which Karia edited down to a portfolio of 74 photographs that he called “the meager harvest of my first 20 years in photography.” Twenty of those images are included in the current exhibition, Bhupendra Karia / India 1968-1974, through March 19 at sepiaEYE, with selected work from the Karia Estate, comprises two projects, Selections from the Portfolio and Population Crisis.

Bhupendra Karia / India 1968-1974 at sepiaEYE, 547 W. 27th Street, #608, New York, NY, Feb. 4, 2016, through March 19, 2016.

Lecture: “An Evolving Archive: The Photographs of Bhupendra Karia with Paul Sternberger,” at International Center of Photography, 7 p.m., Wednesday, March 16.

Karia_B.45.70
Bhupendra Karia, Population Crisis B.45.70, Bombay, early 1970’s, Vintage Silver print
Karia_B.74.70s
Bhupendra Karia, Population Crisis B.8.74.70, Bombay, early 1970’s, Vintage Silver print
Karia_B.88.70s
Bhupendra Karia, Population Crisis B.88.70, Bombay, early 1970’s. Vintage Silver print
Karia_B.96.70s
Bhupendra Karia, Population Crisis B.96.70, Bombay, early 1970’s. Vintage Silver print
Karia_B.229s
Bhupendra Karia, Population Crisis B.229, Bombay, early 1970’s. Vintage Silver print
Karia1
Bhupendra Karia, Old Bombay Dwellings, Bombay, 1970. Vintage Silver print
Karia2
Bhupendra Karia, Birdcage and Saris on Porch, Sankheda, 1967. Vintage Silver print
Karia5
Bhupendra Karia, Hand Print on Wall, 1968. Vintage Silver print
Karia6
Bhupendra Karia, Lamp and Two Umbrellas, Baroda, 1968. Vintage Silver print
Karia7
Bhupendra Karia, Turban and Gun, Bhavnagar, 1969. Vintage Silver print

Steve McCurry reveals stories behind the images

Steve McCurry took inspiration from New Zealand photographer Brian Brake‘s famous 1962 image of an Indian girl in a monsoon years later when covering the subcontinent’s rainy season.

“During my monsoon coverage in India, I learned that there was this terrible flood in one of the cities in Gujarat. So, I got a flight, and to my horror, I saw that three-quarters of the city was underwater. People were living on their roofs. They had no fresh water. They had no food. So, I set about documenting this situation,” he said a video accompanying his book, “Untold: The Stories Behind the Photographs,” published by Phaidon.

“I literally spent the entire day walking around up to my waist or my chest in water, and the water was very dirty an fully of dead animals. It was very disgusting,” McCurry added. “But It was fascinating how people persevere, how they can live through these situations and actually cope and do quite well, despite this kind of very difficult circumstance.”

Hindu deities brought to life, one at a time

Widely recognized amid everyday life in India, Hindu deities come to life in the work of photographer Manjari Sharma.

Traveling to Mumbai in February 2011, Sharma took three weeks and an estimated $3,000 to $4,000 to produce her first photograph in the “Darshan” series, according to a New York Times Lens Blog feature, titled “The Beauty and Chaos of the Gods.”

For Sharma, it’s a project that could take several lifetimes, given the multitude of Hindu deities to choose from.

“There are billions of gods and goddesses in Hindu mythology,” she told the Times. “I could be doing this till the day I die and not have done enough.”

The sensitive nature of working with religious figures, also, isn’t lost on Sharma.

“If these gods weren’t given the respect that they should be given or I had my own take, which was perceived as slander, it would be shut down,” she said. “I’m treading on really touchy waters. Fortunately, everyone is in sync with the understanding that I’m treating it with as much respect as I could, since I come from it.”

A Kickstarter campaign helped the Brooklyn-based photographer raise an additional $26,000 for the project.

Sharma was recently named among the winners of CENTER’s 19th Annual International Awards and will have her work exhibited in Santa Fe, N.M.

via Darshan 2011 Ganesha on Vimeo.

Raghubir Singh’s images of India: ‘Nation-scaled and highly variable’

River Of Colour: The India of Raghubir Singh
River Of Colour: The India of Raghubir Singh

In its March 2000 issue, Art in America reviews a posthumous exhibit of work by Raghubir Singh, saying that, “As personal as his photographs undoubtedly are, Singh’s mise-en-scènes are nation-scaled and highly variable …”

The six-page, in-depth article takes a look at the color photography Singh created in his prolific career.

“It could become, for India, what Robert Frank’s The Americans has been in this country,” writes P.C. Smith.

The exhibit was organized by the Art Institute of Chicago, which hosted the show 23 January 1999 through 2 May 1999.
Singh’s 13th and last book, River of Color: The India of Raghubir Singh, was published shortly before his death last April.