Posts Tagged ‘hand coloured photography

13
Mar
22

Review: ‘Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary’ at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 17th December 2021 – 20th March 2022

Curator: Nathaniel Gaskell

Artists: Darogah Abbas Ali, Indu Antony, Felice Beato, Mitter Bedi, Jyoti Bhatt, Bourne & Shepherd, Samuel Bourne, Michael Bühler-Rose, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Chunni Lall & Co., Lala Deen Dayal, Francis Frith & Co., Gauri Gill, Khubiram Gopilal, Hamilton Studios Ltd, Johnston and Hoffmann, Willoughby Wallace Hooper, William Johnson, John William Kaye and John Forbes Watson, Karen Knorr, Annu Palakunnathu Matthew, Steve McCurry, Saché & Murray Studios, Pushpamala N with Clare ARNI, Nicolas & Company (attributed), Norman Parkinson, Anoli Perera, Suresh Punjabi, Marc Riboud, John Edward Saché, Charles Scott, Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur, Edward Taurines (attributed), Waswo X Waswo, Wiele and Klein Studio, Wilson Studios Bombay

 

 

Installation view of the opening of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the opening of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing the Johnston & Hoffman photograph Maharaja Sir Bhagwati Prasad Singh (1915, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

The exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne is at one and the same time, a fascinating, stimulating, frustrating, uplifting – and a little sad – overview of the history of the photography of India. I won’t say the history of Indian photography because most of the historical photographs are taken by European studios in India, and even an equal amount of the mid-twentieth century and contemporary photographs are taken by non-Indian born photographers residing in India or elsewhere. The title Visions of India is, therefore, undeniably apt – the exhibition being as much about how foreigners view the Indian continent, culture and people as how Indians picture themselves.

The fascinating, stimulating and sad elements of the exhibition are the “presence” of the historical photographs. These photographs range from the European architectural documentation of Indian temples through European colonial-ethnographic images which document Indian ethnic “types” – in the case of William Johnson montaging ethnic group portraits taken in the studio with appropriate views of actual buildings and scenes to picture oriental races and tribes – to European and Indigenous Indian photographers and ruling Indian princes’ photographs of themselves and their courtesans … taken in the European manner.

John Falconer in his book 2018 book Under Indian Skies: 19th-Century Photographs from a Private Collection observes, “A number of India’s princes became deeply interested in photography and both practiced and collected it, several also retaining state photographers… The portraiture of Indian royalty also proved a popular genre. Portraits posed in the setting of the European studio, but celebrating an oriental luxury of costume, jewellery and other accoutrements, were commissioned not only by rulers themselves but were also collected by Western customers, as the contents of many collections attest.”1

But by whoever they were taken – European photographer, Indian photographer or royal prince – these photographs are always taken from a position of power and authority by a male, either to reinforce through the male gaze their own splendour or to document their personal chattels, the tangible goods that they owned. For example, while texts by Mrinalini Venkateswaran (below) and Aparna Andhare argue that the photographs of Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur are adept at revealing himself through his self-portraits “as a thoughtful person who intuitively understood the power of iconography and images,”2 and that he was adept at capturing the personalities of the heavily veiled inner circle of the zenana of the royal household, “that he was able to connect with, and portray, his sitters as individuals rather than ‘types'”2 (at a time when the women lived almost entirely out of public view) … these observations belie the fact that it was he, the ruler, that found them “fit” subjects to be sitters.

And this is what I find particularly sad about these particular photographs – I don’t feel their personalities but I feel their pain. I look at their body language, the demurely clasped hands, the “dead” eyes as they stare at the camera (except one older women who stares defiantly), and the timidity of the body posture… some almost seem to cringe from the camera’s gaze, others look so alone and sad, as though they would wish to be anywhere but subject to (t)his intimidatory gaze – of the camera and the man. It’s disturbing, this feeling of vulnerability and betrayal, when compared to the majesty of Lala Deen Dayal’s photographs, his portrayal of male royal opulence and self-importance.

Pertaining to the Indigenous Indian uptake of photography John Falconer observes that, “[Samuel] Bourne may have viewed the western technology of the camera as yet another symbol of the dominance of European culture, but Indians had lost no time in embracing the new medium. Bourne himself had noted that Indian studios were not uncommon in the Calcutta of the early 1860s. But documentary evidence relating to the growth of an Indigenous photographic culture in India is at present frustratingly limited and has not been investigated with the same rigour as more easily accessible Western records. Even so, it is clear that photography was quickly taken up be sections of the Indian population, in general those who were in a position to associate with European society. …

The only Indian studio whose work has received similar attention and acclamation to that given to European contemporaries is that of Lala Deen Dayal. The success of the Dayal studio is comparable to that achieved by his English counterpart Bourne and Shepherd… The attention paid to Deen Dayal in recent years and his status as an Indian icon stands in marked contrast to the dearth of information available on the work of equally interesting contemporaries.”3

It is unclear in the essay in the book Under Indian Skies: 19th-Century Photographs from a Private Collection from where this information and research has been gathered, as few Indian sources are quoted in the footnotes. While I am no expert on Indigenous Indian photography, it would seem logical that non-European research has been undertaken into historical, home grown photographic studios and published in the Indian, and not English, language. Perhaps the observations can be seen as another example of the ongoing Western-centric view of historical photographs of India.

.
We then move onto the frustrating element of the exhibition, the contemporary photographs. As many of you may know I am not a great fan of contemporary photography but there is some focused, too focused, work on view. The frustrating element of the contemporary smorgasbord is the constant devolution of subject matter, the constant deconstruction of the (historical) minutiae of India – the small, precise, or trivial details of something – in which we never get a feeling for the personality of the Indian country or its people. The contemporary photographs are all about snippets, fragments, and traces of then and now, as though contemporary India is only ever constructed in order to be deconstructed out of its past. This constant prodding and poking at the multiple strings of history and its inequity is tiring and tiresome to say the least but contemporary Indian photography is not alone in this: Australian contemporary photography suffers from the same dis/ease.

The cacophony of “noise” which emanates from the contemporary photographs (and here I will use a section of text which mirrors the form) – – – from grids of hairy male legs seen from a child’s perspective (childhood memories / male figure / Indian family / perspectives of a child) to incarnations of mythological figures that examine “the genres of both the ethnographic photograph-as-document that is linked to the colonial era, as well as the fantasy-inspired make-believe that emanated from traditional Indian portrait studios in the late 19th and early 20th centuries” to conventions of colonial-era ethnographic portrait photographs of women dictated by male notions of femininity disrupted by deliberately dishevelled hair as a symbol of defiance against the notion of out-of-place hair seen as “hysterical” or “uncontrollable”, paradoxically making legible faces into ill/legible citizens, disturbed and defiant “others” (BIG BREATH!) – – – belies my lack of feeling for ANY of the photographs displayed.

After writing on photography since the year 2008 I keep coming up short / banging on the same drum about contemporary photography: I feel almost nothing for any of these photographs even as I appreciate their historical re-“visions”, their self-awareness and self-reflexivity (as much about the photographer as the subject), their intellectual rigour and conceptual contortions. They leave me feeling like I have been playing Twister with too many hands and feet, my mind tied up in an infinite library of thoughts and ideas while ruminating on less than stimulating images.

.
And so to the glorious, uplifting denouement of the exhibition which are the dynamic photographs of Suresh Punjabi’s Suhag Studio in Nagda, Madhya Pradesh. I am in love with them.

Reminiscent of the photographs of Africans by Malike Sidibé (Malian, 1935-2016), Seydou Keïta (Malian, 1921-2001) and Sanlé Sory (West African, b. 1943), Punjabi’s visions of Indian life possess a vital energy unlike anything else in this exhibition, and get as close to capturing the spirit of the Indian people as anything I have ever seen from the continent. This is because, at the time, Punjabi’s photographs (like the photographs of Atget) were not considered art but were documents taken for a broad set of purposes: from wedding and family albums to passport photos, from administrative photos to personal souvenirs, from family groups to playful contexts. Through their lack of pretension (ah, there is the key!) “Punjabi’s photographs chronicle daily life in small-town India, a context that many photographic histories from the subcontinent often miss… These portraits are the result of a deeply personal and unique relationship between Punjabi and his clients…”

Punjabi’s clients were like family to him, and he wanted to photograph them in the best way possible, to picture them how they wanted to see themselves. Deceptively simple and formal in their pictorial construction, Punjabi’s photographs allow us to touch the aspirations of everyday Indians – with their hopes and dreams, their communion with family and friends, lost in the moment of dance or conversation, or crowded together in a small 10 x 20 feet studio with painted backdrop. “You can sense the presence of a humane vision behind the mechanical eye of the camera.” Simply put, these “playfully intimate” and grounded photographs are a refreshing counterpoint to so many conceptual contemporary photographs which lead nowhere, for they have an immediacy and intimacy which touches us (through their palpable aura) as only the best photographs can. “He doesn’t really take pictures of people and things (or, God forbid, grind out endless examples of his own cleverness). He photographs feelings and relationships.” (U.S. Camera ’62)

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. John Falconer. Under Indian Skies: 19th-Century Photographs from a Private Collection. Narayana Press, 2018, p. 35
  2. Aparna Andhare, Curator of Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum quoted in “King’s Circle – Ram Singh & the Art of Intimate Portraiture,” on the Sarmaya website January 16, 2021 [Online] Cited 10/03/2022
  3. Falconer, op. cit., pp. 34-35

 

John Falconer. Under Indian Skies: 19th-Century Photographs from a Private Collection. Narayana Press, 2018, pp. 34-35.

.
Many thankx to Monash Gallery of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. All installation photographs © Marcus Bunyan and the Monash Gallery of Art. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the opening of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing the Johnston & Hoffman photograph Maharaja Sir Bhagwati Prasad Singh (1915, below)
Photo: Monash Gallery of Art

 

Johnston & Hoffman (founded 1882, dissolved 1950s) 'Maharaja Sir Bhagwati Prasad Singh' 1915

 

Johnston & Hoffman (founded 1882, dissolved 1950s)
Maharaja Sir Bhagwati Prasad Singh
1915
Hand-coloured albumen print
46.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

The leading photography studio of Johnston & Hoffman was established at 22 Chowringhee Road, Calcutta around 1882 by Theodore Julius Hoffman and Peter Arthur Johnston. A branch was opened in Darjeeling in 1890 and Simla in the mid 1890s. There was also a Burma branch at 70 Phayre Street, Rangoon for a short period between 1889-90. Hoffmann took over the business on the death of Johnston – which was around 1886 and soon after the Calcutta business commenced. Theodore Hoffman died in Calcutta, India in December 1921. It was possibly the second largest commercial photographers in India after the studios of Bourne and Shepherd and were one of the first to publish postcards in Calcutta from at least 1898 onwards.

Anonymous text from the Families In British India Society (FIBIS) website Nd [Online] Cited 03/03/2022

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Photography in the colonial era

 

Photography in the colonial era

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing the photographs of Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (c. 1860, below)
Photo: Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur showing his self-portrait (c. 1860, centre, see below) and portraits of courtesans (c. 1860, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Informally called the ‘photographer prince of India,’ Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh II was an avid photographer, creating over six thousand individual photographs and nearly two thousand glass plate negatives throughout his life. He is renowned for having photographed women residing in the zenana of the royal household – at a time when the women lived almost entirely out of public view – using modes of representation similar to traditional Victorian portraiture.

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880) 'Portrait of a courtesan' c. 1860 (installation view)

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880)
Portrait of a courtesan (installation view)
c. 1860
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880) 'Portrait of a courtesan' c. 1860

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880)
Portrait of a courtesan
c. 1860
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

The ‘zenana’ portraits [zenana: the part of a house for the seclusion of women], as they are often called, are among the most remarkable of these negatives. They show many individual South Asian women: some look away, others dress up and pose, and several stare down the photographer (and today’s viewer), challenging both to uncover their personalities and stories. That Sawai Ram Singh was able to achieve at least the former – that he was able to connect with, and portray, his sitters as individuals rather than ‘types’ – is one of the special qualities of his images. He seems not to have photographed any of his wives, but that he photographed so many women; that he found them ‘fit’ subjects to be sitters, is unusual for this period. Nothing comparable has emerged from any other contemporary Indian court. Unfortunately, we cannot be sure who all these women are – history is poor at remembering their names – but many were women at his court. Perhaps they were performers; some may have been paaswaans.

Mrinalini Venkateswaran. “How a 19th Century Jaipur Ruler Mastered Photography,” on the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website Nd [Online] Cited 10/03/2022

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880) 'Portrait of a courtesan' c. 1860 (installation view)

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880)
Portrait of a courtesan (installation view)
c. 1860
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Ram Singh was passionate about art and photography; he captured (and developed) numerous photographs of women, junior functionaries (like tailors) and nobles of his court. It is believed that Ram Singh was introduced to a camera in 1864 when photographer T. Murray visited Jaipur. After learning how to photograph, he used to carry his camera on all his trips. When western visitors came to his court, he used to learn photography from them.

Many of the photographs taken by him were of elite women who so-far lived an entirely secluded private life in the zenanas of his palace; captured in an western artificial setting, consisting of elegant backdrops, Victorian furniture and Persian carpets. It has been since considered as a pioneer effort at portraying Rajput women behind the purdah. Prior to Ram Singh’s photographs, portraits of specific Rajput women were nearly unknown and artists mass-produced idealised representations of women based on a single model, to serve a variety of occasions, for centuries. Interestingly, the names of the photographed women were not mentioned and whether the Maharanis allowed themselves to be photographed is unknown.

Laura Weinstein, an acclaimed art curator argues that the photographs served as an important tool to engage in the widespread discourse about Indian women behind the purdah [the practice in certain Muslim and Hindu societies of screening women from men or strangers, especially by means of a curtain] and they stood out as a rare group of photographs that did not mirror oriental conceptions of Indian domestic life. By appropriating the very European model of portrait photography – which emphasised the dignity and propriety of women, he infused dignity into the life of his photograph-figures unlike other concurrent attempts and refuted the colonial notion of the zenana-inhabitants being idle, unhygienic, superstitious, sexually deviant and oppressed. Rather than reforming the purdah system or associated woman issues, his photographs were modern tools that staunchly defended the tradition, much more than it breached, by portraying an apparent normalcy.

Ram Singh had also commissioned numerous self-portraits in a variety of poses ranging from a Hindu holy man to a Rajput warrior to a Western gentleman. Vikramaditya Prakash, an art-historian had described them as “self-consciously hybridised representations [which] straddle and contest the separating boundary – between coloniser and colonised, English and native – the preservation and reaffirmation of which was crucial for colonial discourse.”

The glass negatives that produced the portraits, the albumen print photograph collection and his own self-portraits are now displayed at the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum in Jaipur. He was also a life-time member of Bengal Photographic Society.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880) 'Portrait of a courtesan' c. 1860 (installation view)

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880)
Portrait of a courtesan (installation view)
c. 1860
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880) 'Portrait of a courtesan' c. 1860 (installation view)

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880)
Portrait of a courtesan (installation view)
c. 1860
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880) 'Portrait of a courtesan' c. 1860 (installation view)

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880)
Portrait of a courtesan (installation view)
c. 1860
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880) 'Portrait of a courtesan' c. 1860 (installation view)

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880)
Portrait of a courtesan (installation view)
c. 1860
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880) 'Self-portrait' c. 1860

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880)
Self-portrait
c. 1860
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing the photographs of William Johnson (English, date born unknown – 1886) from the album The Oriental races and tribes, residents and visitors of Bombay with at left, The Kulis of the West of India (1852-1855, below); at centre, Chambhars (1852-1855, below); and at right, Kharavas (1852-1855, below)
Photo: Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing the photographs of William Johnson (English, date born unknown – 1886) from the album The Oriental races and tribes, residents and visitors of Bombay with at left, The Kulis of the West of India (1852-1855, below); at centre, Chambhars (1852-1855, below); and at right, Kharavas (1852-1855, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Johnson (English, date born unknown - 1886) 'The Kulis of the West of India' 1852-1855

 

William Johnson (English, date born unknown – 1886)
The Kulis of the West of India
1852-1855
From the album The Oriental races and tribes, residents and visitors of Bombay
Albumen print
23.0 x 17.7cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

William Johnson (English, date born unknown - 1886) 'Chambhars' 1852-1855

 

William Johnson (English, date born unknown – 1886)
Chambhars
1852-1855
From the album The Oriental races and tribes, residents and visitors of Bombay
Albumen print
23.0 x 17.7cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Four members of the Chambhar community, historically associated with leather work, pose for an outdoor portrait by William Johnson, co-author and photographer of two-volume collection of albumen prints The Oriental Races and Tribes, Residents and Visitors of Bombay. The photographs with letter-press description are largely considered to be the first published ethnographic study of Indian people to use photos as well as written descriptions.

 

William Johnson (English, date born unknown - 1886) 'Kharavas' 1852-1855

 

William Johnson (English, date born unknown – 1886)
Kharavas
1852-1855
From the album The Oriental races and tribes, residents and visitors of Bombay
Albumen print
23.0 x 17.7cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

William Johnson

 

William Johnson

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation views of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing in the bottom image at left and right, Wilson Brothers Bombay Portrait of Maharani Kusum Kunwarba (both c. 1930, below); and at centre Hamilton Studios Ltd Portrait of Maharani Vijaya Raje Scindia (c. 1940, below)
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Wilson Studios Bombay. ‘Portrait of Maharani Kusum Kunwarbae’ c. 1930 (installation view)

 

Wilson Studios Bombay
Portrait of Maharani Kusum Kunwarba (installation view)
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Hamilton Studios Ltd. 'Portrait of Maharini Vijaya Raje Scindia' c. 1940

 

Hamilton Studios Ltd
Portrait of Maharini Vijaya Raje Scindia
c. 1940
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Wilson Studios Bombay. 'Portrait of Maharani Kusum Kunwarba' c. 1930

 

Wilson Studios Bombay
Portrait of Maharani Kusum Kunwarba
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing at left, Chunni Lall & Co Portrait of a man (1860-1880, below); and at right, Unknown photographer Portrait of a royal figure (1860-1880, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Chunni Lall & Co ‘Portrait of a man’ 1860-1880 (installation view)

 

Chunni Lall & Co
Portrait of a man (installation view)
1860-1880
Hand-coloured albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Unknown photographer. 'Portrait of a royal figure' 1860-1980 (detail)

 

Unknown photographer
Portrait of a royal figure (detail)
1860-1980
Hand-coloured albumen print
26.6 x 21.5cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Khubiram Gopilal (Indian, 1891-1970) ‘A family worshipping deity Shrinathji during the festival of Nanda’ c. 1940 (installation view)

 

Khubiram Gopilal (Indian, 1891-1970)
A family worshipping deity Shrinathji during the festival of Nanda (installation view)
c. 1940
Gouache, gelatin silver prints
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

 

Khubiram Gopilal (Indian, 1891-1970) 'A family worshipping deity Shrinathji during the festival of Nanda' c. 1940

 

Khubiram Gopilal (Indian, 1891-1970)
A family worshipping deity Shrinathji during the festival of Nanda
c. 1940
Gouache, gelatin silver prints
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Khubiram Gopilal was a painter, studio photographer and collagist who specialised in a style of portrait called Manorath paintings, made for pilgrims visiting the Shrinarhji temple in the town of Nathdwara in Rajasthan (in northern India). To make these pictures, he photographed his subjects, carefully cut out their faces and hands and then pasted them into painted templates, using a brush and paint to mask the difference between the two mediums, making the final result appear like a detailed painting.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing artworks (left to right) by Johnson & Hoffman, Lala Deen Dayal and Bourne & Shepherd (see below)
Photo: Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing at left, Johnston & Hoffmann’s Maharao Raja Sir Ramsinghji, Bahadur of Bondi (1887, below): and at right, four images by Layla Deen Dayal (c. 1880) from the album Princes and Chiefs of India
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905) 'HH The Maha Rao of Kutch' c. 1880

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905)
HH The Maha Rao of Kutch
c. 1880
From the album Princes and Chiefs of India
Carbon prints
25.1 x 19.5cm (each)
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905)

Raja Lala Deen Dayal (Hindi: लाला दीन दयाल; 1844-1905; also written as ‘Din Dyal’ and ‘Diyal’ in his early years), famously known as Raja Deen Dayal) was an Indian photographer. His career began in the mid-1870s as a commissioned photographer; eventually he set up studios in Indore, Mumbai and Hyderabad. He became the court photographer to the sixth Nizam of Hyderabad, Mahbub Ali Khan, Asif Jah VI, who awarded him the title Raja Bahadur Musavvir Jung Bahadur, and he was appointed as the photographer to the Viceroy of India in 1885.

He received the Royal Warrant from Queen Victoria in 1897.

 

Career

In 1866, Deen Dayal entered government service as head estimator and draughtsman in the Department of Works Secretariat Office in Indore. Meanwhile, he took up photography. His first patron in Indore was Maharaja Tukoji Rao II of Indore state, who in turn introduced him to Sir Henry Daly, agent to the Governor General for Central India (1871-1881) and the founder of Daly College, who encouraged his work, along with the Maharaja himself who encouraged him to set up his studio in Indore. Soon he was getting commissions from Maharajas and the British Raj. The following year he was commissioned to photograph the governor general’s tour of Central India. In 1868, Deen Dayal founded his studio – Lala Deen Dayal & Sons – and was subsequently commissioned to photograph temples and palaces of India. He established studios in Indore (Mid 1870s), Secunderabad (1886) and Bombay (1896).

In 1875-1876, Deen Dayal photographed the Royal Tour of the Prince and Princess of Wales. In the early 1880s he travelled with Sir Lepel Griffin through Bundelkhand, photographing the ancient architecture of the region. Griffin commissioned him to do archaeological photographs: The result was a portfolio of 86 photographs, known as “Famous Monuments of Central India”.

The next year he retired from government service and concentrated on his career as a professional photographer. Deen Dayal became the court photographer to the sixth Nizam of Hyderabad in 1885. Soon afterward he moved from Indore to Hyderabad. In the same year he was appointed as the photographer to the Viceroy of India. In time, the Nizam of Hyderabad conferred the honorary title of Raja upon him. It was at this time that Dayal created the firm Raja Deen Dayal & Sons in Hyderabad.

Deen Dayal was appointed photographer to Queen Victoria in 1897. In 1905–1906, Raja Deen Dayal accompanied the Royal Tour of the Prince and Princess of Wales.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905) 'HH The Maharaja of Jammu & Kashmir' c. 1880

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905)
HH The Maharaja of Jammu & Kashmir
c. 1880
From the album Princes and Chiefs of India
Carbon prints
25.1 x 19.5cm (each)
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905) 'HH The Thakore Saheb of Palitana' c. 1880

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905)
HH The Thakore Saheb of Palitana
c. 1880
From the album Princes and Chiefs of India
Carbon prints
25.1 x 19.5cm (each)
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905) 'HH The Thakore Saheb of Dhrol' c. 1880

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905)
HH The Thakore Saheb of Dhrol
c. 1880
From the album Princes and Chiefs of India
Carbon prints
25.1 x 19.5cm (each)
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Johnston & Hoffmann. 'Maharao Raja Sir Ramsinghji, Bahadur of Bondi' 1887

 

Johnston & Hoffmann
Maharao Raja Sir Ramsinghji, Bahadur of Bondi
1887
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

A note with this striking portrait of Maharao Raja Ram Singh Sahib Bahadur, of Bundi, describes him as a “wild fellow”. This image was taken from a four-volume album of photogravure prints, the only other copy belonging to Queen Victoria.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing at left, Bourne and Shepherd Ranbir Singh Maharaja of Kashmir (1875, below); at centre right, Unknown photographer. Unidentified Maharaja (c. 1880, below); and at right, Unknown photographer. HH Maharaja Shrimant Sir Anandrao III Puar Sahib Bahadur, Maharaja of Dhar (c. 1870, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Unknown photographer. 'Unidentified Maharaja' c. 1880 (installation view)

 

Unknown photographer
Unidentified Maharaja (installation view)
c. 1880
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Unknown photographer. 'HH Maharaja Shrimant Sir Anandrao III Puar Sahib Bahadur, Maharaja of Dhar' c. 1870 (installation view)

 

Unknown photographer
HH Maharaja Shrimant Sir Anandrao III Puar Sahib Bahadur, Maharaja of Dhar (installation view)
c. 1870
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Bourne and Shepherd (active 1864-1900s) 'Ranbir Singh, Maharaja of Kashmir' 1875

 

Bourne and Shepherd (active 1864-1900s)
Ranbir Singh, Maharaja of Kashmir
1875
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing three portraits of a courtesan (all 1874) by Darogah Abbas Ali (Indian, dates unknown)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Darogah Abbas Ali (Indian, dates unknown) 'Portrait of a courtesan' 1874

 

Darogah Abbas Ali (Indian, dates unknown)
Portrait of a courtesan
1874
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing showing at top left, Nicholas & Company (attributed) Meenakshi Temple, Madurai (c. 1880, below); at top right, Nicholas & Company (attributed) Sacred tank (c. 1860); at bottom left, Nicholas & Company (attributed) Temple, Madurai (c. 1880); and at bottom right, Wiele and Klein Studio The Southern Gopura, Meenakshi Temple, Madurai (1895)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Nicholas & Company (attributed) 'Meenakshi Temple, Madurai' c. 1880

 

Nicholas & Company (attributed)
Meenakshi Temple, Madurai
c. 1880
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing showing at left, Unknown photographer. Portrait of a woman carrying pots c. 1870; at centre, Unknown photographer. Portrait of a man c. 1860-1880; and at right, Unknown photographer. Portrait of a couple c. 1860-1880
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing at left, Willoughby Wallace Hooper (England, 1837-1912) The game brought into camp (c. 1880); and at right, Francis Frith & Co. Carved horses in the Sheshagirirayar Mandapa at the Ranganatha Temple of Srirangam (c. 1880, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Francis Frith & Co. 'Carved horses in the Sheshagirirayar Mandapa at the Ranganatha Temple of Srirangam' c. 1880

 

Francis Frith & Co.
Carved horses in the Sheshagirirayar Mandapa at the Ranganatha Temple of Srirangam
c. 1880
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing at top left, Edward Taurines (attributed, dates unknown). Brahmins of Bombay (c. 1880, below); at bottom left, Charles Scott (attributed, dates unknown). Caves of Karlie – seven attendant musicians (c. 1855-1862) from the album Photographs of Western India; and at right, Unknown photographer. A group portrait of British officials (c. 1880)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Edward Taurines (attributed, dates unknown) 'Brahmins of Bombay' c. 1880

 

Edward Taurines (attributed, dates unknown)
Brahmins of Bombay
c. 1880
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing photographs by Felice Beato (Italian, 1832-1909) with at left, Kaiser Bagh (1857); at centre, The Secundra Bagh, showing the breach and gateway, first attack of Sir Colin Campbell in November (1858, below); and at right, Gateway leading into the residency held by Captain Atkinson, 13th Native Infantry, commonly called the Bailee Guard Gate (1858)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

A pioneer of war photography who worked extensively in the Mediterranean, Middle East and South and East Asia, Felice Beato’s photographs reveal the brutality and aftermath of the conflicts he photographed. His reportage on the Crimean War (1853-1856), for instance, contrasted from that of his predecessor, the early British war photographer Roger Fenton, who was more restrained in depicting the lasting impressions of violence. In 1858, Beato travelled to India, after hearing about the rebellion that had broken out the previous year, and applied a similar approach. With the help of military personnel, he traversed the north of the country, documenting its aftermath in cities like Delhi, Agra, Lucknow and Kanpur, where his photographs often depicted bullet-ridden facades and desecrated battlefields.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Felice Beato (Italian, 1832-1909) 'The Secundra Bagh, showing the breach and gateway, first attack of Sir Colin Campbell in November' 1858

 

Felice Beato (Italian, 1832-1909)
The Secundra Bagh, showing the breach and gateway, first attack of Sir Colin Campbell in November
1858
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Felice Beato (Italian, 1832-1909) 'Gateway leading into the residency held by Captain Atkinson, 13th Native Infantry, commonly called the Bailee Guard Gate' 1858

 

Felice Beato (Italian, 1832-1909)
Gateway leading into the residency held by Captain Atkinson, 13th Native Infantry, commonly called the Bailee Guard Gate
1858
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

John Edward Saché (Germany, b. 1824; America (dates unknown); India (dates unknown); died India 1882) 'Four ayahs from Naintal Region' 1865 (installation view)

 

John Edward Saché (Germany, b. 1824; America (dates unknown); India (dates unknown); died India 1882)
Four ayahs from Naintal Region (installation view)
1865
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Samuel Bourne (British, 1834-1912) 'Taj Mahal, Agra' c. 1860

 

Samuel Bourne (British, 1834-1912)
Taj Mahal, Agra
c. 1860
Albumen print
16.0 x 20.6cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Samuel Bourne (British, 1834-1912)

Samuel Bourne (30 October 1834 – 24 April 1912) was a British photographer known for his prolific seven years’ work in India, from 1863 to 1870. Together with Charles Shepherd, he set up Bourne & Shepherd first in Shimla in 1863 and later in Kolkata (Calcutta); the company closed in June 2016. …

 

Work in India

He initially set up in partnership with an already established Calcutta photographer, William Howard. They moved up to Simla, where they established a new studio ‘Howard & Bourne’, to be joined in 1864 by Charles Shepherd, to form ‘Howard, Bourne & Shepherd’. By 1866, after the departure of Howard, it became ‘Bourne & Shepherd’, which became the premier photographic studio in India, and until it closed in June 2016 was perhaps the world’s oldest photographic business. Charles Shepherd evidently remained in Simla, to carry out the commercial and portrait studio work, and to supervise the printing and marketing of Bourne’s landscape and architectural studies, whilst Bourne was away travelling around the sub-continent.

Bourne spent six extremely productive years in India, and by the time he returned to England in January 1871, he had made approximately 2,200 fine images of the landscape and architecture of India and the Himalayas. Working primarily with a 10 x 12 inch plate camera, and using the complicated and laborious Wet Plate Collodion process, the impressive body of work he produced was always of superb technical quality and often of artistic brilliance. His ability to create superb photographs whilst travelling in the remotest areas of the Himalayas and working under the most exacting physical conditions, places him firmly amongst the very finest of nineteenth century travel photographers.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing at centre, a group of work by Jyoti Bhatt (Indian, b. 1934)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Jyoti Bhatt (Indian, b. 1934) 'An old woman making/drawing a mandana (Rangoli) design, Rajasthan' 1972

 

Jyoti Bhatt (Indian, b. 1934)
An old woman making/drawing a mandana (Rangoli) design, Rajasthan
1972
Pigment ink-jet print
45.6 x 30.4cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Jyoti Bhatt (Indian, b. 1934)

Jyotindra Manshankar Bhatt (12 March 1934), better known as Jyoti Bhatt, is an Indian artist best known for his modernist work in painting and printmaking and also his photographic documentation of rural Indian culture. He studied painting under N. S. Bendre and K.G. Subramanyan at the Faculty of Fine Arts, Maharaja Sayajirao University (M.S.U.), Baroda. Later he studied fresco and mural painting at Banasthali Vidyapith in Rajasthan, and in the early 1960s went on to study at the Academia di Belle Arti in Naples, Italy, as well the Pratt Institute in New York. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 2019.

 

Biography

Bhatt moved from a cubist influence in his early work to a lighthearted and colourful Pop art that often drew its imagery from traditional Indian folk designs. Though Bhatt worked in a variety of mediums, including watercolours and oils, it is his printmaking that ultimately garnered him the most attention. In 1966 Bhatt returned to M.S.U. Baroda with a thorough knowledge of the intaglio process that he had gained at the Pratt Institute at Brooklyn in New York. It was partially Bhatt’s enthusiasm for intaglio that caused other artists such as Jeram Patel, Bhupen Khakhar and Gulammohammed Sheikh, to take up the same process. Bhatt, and his compatriots at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Baroda, soon came to be known as “The Baroda School” of Indian art.

Late in the 1960s, Bhatt was asked to take photographs of Gujarati folk art. Initially, this work was done for a seminar, but it soon became one of the artist’s passions to document traditional Indian craft and design work. The disappearing arts of rural Gujarat became a focus. Though Bhatt’s investigations into a village and tribal designs certainly influenced the motifs he used in his printmaking, Bhatt considers his documentary photographs to be an art form in themselves. His direct and simply composed photographs have become valued on their own merit.

Throughout Bhatt’s long career as a teacher at the M.S.U. Faculty of Fine Arts, he has photographed the evolution of the university, the artistic activities of its faculty and students, and the architecturally significant buildings of Baroda. This huge body of work is perhaps the best assembled photographic documentation that pertains to “The Baroda School” of Indian art.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Jyoti Bhatt (Indian, b. 1934) 'A Rajasthani (Meena community) woman decorating a bullock for Gordhan Pooja festival' 1989

 

Jyoti Bhatt (Indian, b. 1934)
A Rajasthani (Meena community) woman decorating a bullock for Gordhan Pooja festival
1989
Gelatin silver print
34.5 x 51.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation views of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing at right in the bottom image, Karen Knorr’s The Queen’s room, Zanana, Udaipur City Palace, Udaipur (2010, below)
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing at left, Karen Knorr’s The Queen’s room, Zanana, Udaipur City Palace, Udaipur (2010, below); and at right, A Place Like Amravati 2, Udaipur City Palace, Udaipur (2011)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Karen Knorr (American born Germany, b. 1954) 'The Queen's room, Zanana, Udaipur City Palace, Udaipur' 2010

 

Karen Knorr (American born Germany, b. 1954)
The Queen’s room, Zanana, Udaipur City Palace, Udaipur
2010
Pigment ink-jet print
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Karen Knorr (American born Germany, b. 1954)

Karen Knorr HonFRPS is a German-born American photographer who lives in London.

Knorr was born in Frankfurt and raised in the 1960s in San Juan, Puerto Rico. In the 1970s, she moved to Great Britain where she has lived ever since. Knorr is a graduate of the Polytechnic of Central London (now the University of Westminster), and has an MA from the University of Derby. She is Professor of Photography at the University for the Creative Arts.

Knorr’s work explores Western cultural traditions, mainly British society, with widely ranging topics, from lifestyle to animals. She is interested in conceptual art, visual culture, feminism, and animal studies, and her art maintains connections with these topics.

Between 1979 and 1981 Knorr produced Belgravia, a series of black and white photographs each accompanied by a short text, typically critical to the British class system of the time. Subsequently, she produced Gentlemen (1981-1983), a series consisting of photographs of gentlemen’s members clubs and texts taken from parliamentary speeches and news reports. In these series, Knorr investigated values of the English upper middle classes, comparing them with aristocratic values. In 1986, the series Connoisseurs was made in colour. The series incorporates staged events into English architectural interiors. Between 1994 and 2004, Knorr photographed fine art academies throughout Europe, which resulted in the series Academies.

In 2008, she traveled to Rajasthan and took a large series of photographs, predominantly showing Indian interiors, often with animals from Indian folklore inside. She subsequently became a frequent traveller to India, visiting the country 15 times between 2008 and 2014. She mentioned that most of the buildings in India were never photographed, and they are not less interesting than common tourist attractions.

From 2014 to 2015, one room of Tate Britain hosted an exhibition of her photographs of “posh west Londoners in domestic settings and portraits of members at a gentlemen’s club” (Belgravia series).

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Karen Knorr (American born Germany, b. 1954) 'The Queen's room, Zanana, Udaipur City Palace, Udaipur' 2010

 

Karen Knorr (American born Germany, b. 1954)
The Queen’s room, Zanana, Udaipur City Palace, Udaipur
2010
Pigment ink-jet print
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

The photographer uses digital image manipulation to create scenes that critique upper caste Rajput culture and examine marginalisation, mythology and power.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation views of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing at centre, two photographs by Gauri Gill (see below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson (French, 1908-2004) 'Muslim women praying at dawn in Srinagar' 1948

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson (French, 1908-2004)
Muslim women praying at dawn in Srinagar
1948
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Marc Riboud (French, 1923-2015) 'Darjeeling, India' 1956

 

Marc Riboud (French, 1923-2015)
Darjeeling, India
1956
Gelatin silver print
24.0 x 36.5cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Marc Riboud (French, 1923-2015) 'Benares, India' 1956

 

Marc Riboud (French, 1923-2015)
Benares, India
1956
Gelatin silver print
23.5 x 36cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Monash Gallery of Art (MGA) announce the upcoming exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary featuring works from the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP), Bengaluru. Since its invention in Europe in the 1840s, the genre of photography has played an integral role in the course of Indian art history. Although it is often quoted that India is the most photographed country in the world, the history of its representation is more complicated, and more political than initially meets the eye. Within just a few months of its invention, the camera arrived in the subcontinent at the height of British colonial rule. Photographs from the time typically served the colonial purpose of administration and control, and thus, often reflected colonial views. Over the subsequent few decades, and at an unprecedented scale, India – its landscapes, people, traditions and archaeological history – was catalogued for the colonial eye and transformed into a governable ‘object.’

Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary will be the first major survey of Indian photography in Australia, and all artworks showcased will be from the collection of Museum of Art & Photography (MAP), Bengaluru, which is one of the most celebrated photographic collections in India. The exhibition will be on view at MGA until 20 March 2022.

‘While this exhibition takes the context of colonialism as an entry point – both chronologically and conceptually – the historical arc of photography in India extends far beyond this initial point of contact, encompassing a range of shifts in artistic, cultural and political attitudes, and other voices who exist outside the traditional canon. With this exhibition, we will uncover not only the primary history of the genre, but also the multiple parallel and lesser-known photographic practices in the subcontinent that re-emphasise the diverse and socially significant story of Indian photography.’ ~ Nathaniel Gaskell, curator

.
One such narrative will be highlighted through a section looking at the work of Suresh Punjabi, the photographer and owner of the Studio Suhag in Nagda, Madhya Pradesh, established in 1979. Punjabi made portraits for a broad set of purposes, from wedding and family albums to passport photos to personal souvenirs. Working at the time in a small 10 x 20 feet studio. His photographs chronicle the human drama of life in a small-town in the heart of India; a history told through faces and attest to the existence of vast and distinct photographic histories that extend beyond formal archives and institutions.

Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary offers a journey through one of the most complex and photographed countries in the world. This ground-breaking exhibition is curated by Nathaniel Gaskell from MAP’s unique photographic collection specifically for MGA. For many of our audience members, this may be their first encounter with these artists, their works and even with the history of India, while others may recognise places or feel resonance with their Indian cultural heritage. The exhibition draws together an array of unique and fascinating works from the earliest days of colonial India through to some of the nation’s most remarkable contemporary photographers, in the first survey of its kind in Australia.’ ~ Anouska Phizacklea, MGA Gallery Director

.
The exhibition will begin its journey from 1860 onwards, displaying portraits of India’s ruling elite by pioneering photographers and studios of the time, such as Samuel Bourne, Francis Frith & Co., Felicé Beato, Willoughby Wallace Hooper, Lala Deen Dayal and Khubiram Gopilal, as well as looking at some more creative, non-commercial studios, such as that of Maharaja Ram Singh II, ‘The photographer Prince’ who had established a studio at his palace in Jaipur.

Entering the decades following India’s independence in 1947, the exhibition will showcase works by well-known mid-century European photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson to reveal how photography remained entrenched in orientalist ways of seeing, for the benefit of Western media. However, a number of Indian photographers, such as Mitter Bedi and Jyoti Bhatt, were also using photography to represent tradition, inequity and modernity in a changing world, responding to the industrialisation and the economic progress of the country.

The third section, featuring photographic practices from the 1990s onwards, will highlight themes of Western hegemony, postcolonialism, identity politics and the ethics of representation through the works of celebrated contemporary photographers, Pushpamala N and her collaborator Clare Arni, Annu Palakunnathu Matthew, Anoli Perera, and Michael Bühler-Rose, an American ordained Hindu priest who pledges spiritual allegiance to India whilst working from his studios in both Mysore and New York.

Press release from the Monash Gallery of Art website

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing the work of Mitter Bedi (Indian, 1926-1985) with at left, Hindustan lever pipeline to success (1961, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Mitter Bedi (Indian, 1926-1985) 'Hindustan lever pipeline to success' 1961

 

Mitter Bedi (Indian, 1926-1985)
Hindustan lever pipeline to success
1961
Gelatin silver print
100.0 x 75.0cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

The photographer’s shots of industrial subjects from a newly independent India aimed to represent the ideals of an economically self-reliant and rapidly mechanised country, in line with the vision of its first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

 

Mitter Bedi (Indian, 1926-1985)

Mitter Bedi (26 January 1926 – 11 March 1985) was an Indian photographer, specialising in industrial photography, and a teacher. Prior to his interest in the field there was little photographic use in advertising and his images have become classic icons. He was a recipient of several awards and he had his own photographic agency in Bombay (now Mumbai), which became well known in Asia. …

 

Career

Bedi started his career by working for a printing press and the publicity department of a commercial firm and then took up a job in the film industry in 1947, the year of the partitioning of India and Pakistan into independent nations. At the start of his career in the early 1950s, his photographic assignments covered small events, mostly related to weddings and birthday celebrations or serving as the third or fourth assistant to a Bollywood film director. He frequented the airport to photograph passengers departing and arriving, which prompted his father-in-law B.N. Goenka, an industrialist, to suggest that Bedi change professions or travel abroad. However Bedi was firm in his resolve to continue in his chosen profession and said: “I am never going to leave the profession but bring it to the heights it deserves”. In 1959 his photographic assignments saw a drastic change when he met Arthur D’Arzian, who had specialised in photography of the steel and oil industry, during a social function of the Standard Oil Company in Bombay. Bedi then pursued engagements of Industrial photography, a new field just taking off in the country.

Bedi’s assignments covered public sector corporations and private enterprises. From 1960 to 1985, he traversed the industrial regions of India taking pictures. He took more than 2,000 photo shoots during the span of his career and covered projects from industries such as steel and oil, hospitality, mines, sugar, pharmaceuticals and many more. To propagate black-and-white photography as a profession in the country he wrote many articles and also established an academy in Bombay which is still operational under the direction of his family members. His photographs depicted a nation in which the factory and reactor dominated over the Indian people. He also worked as visiting professor in: K.C. College of Journalism, Bombay during 1974-1975; National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad in 1976; in Rajednra Prasad Institute of Communication, Bombay in 1978; and in SNDT Women’s University, Bombay, 1978. His academy in Bombay was a prominent institution in photography which enrolled national and international students and teachers.

Bedi’s images have become classic icons of the industrialisation which was carried out in India under Nehru. In spite of the limiting aspects of photographs taken primarily for advertising, Bedi introduced shape, design and geometric planes to create artistic rather than simply functional images. His visual expressions and artistry were used by both the state and industrialists to drive national development. An oeuvre of his black-and-white photographs taken during the period 1960s to 1970s, was held at the Piramal Centre for Photography representing an Art Form in Mumbai.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Annu Palakunnathu Matthew (British, b. 1964) 'Feather Indian/Dot Indian' 2008-2009

 

Annu Palakunnathu Matthew (British, b. 1964)
Feather Indian/Dot Indian
2008-2009
From the series An Indian from India
Ink-jet prints on transparencies, metallic gold cards, leather case
14.5 x 9.4cm (each image)
Courtesy of the artist and Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Near-identical photographs place two “Indians” side by side. A double portrait framed in a leather case, made to appear as a traditional orotone. Matthew’s series An Indian from India addresses the historical identities of Indians and Native Americans, who – owing to Christopher Columbus’s erroneous identification on arriving in the Antilles in the late 15th century – have long been misidentified, and questions the nature of assimilation within and beyond the US.

 

Annu Palakunnathu Matthew (British, b. 1964) 'Noble savage/savage noble' 2007-2009

 

Annu Palakunnathu Matthew (British, b. 1964)
Noble savage/savage noble
2007-2009
from the series An Indian from India
Ink-jet prints on transparencies, metallic gold cards, leather case
14.5 x 9.4 cm (each image)

 

Annu Palakunnathu Matthew (British, b. 1964) 'American Indian with war paint/Indian with war paint' 2007-2009

 

Annu Palakunnathu Matthew (British, b. 1964)
American Indian with war paint/Indian with war paint
2007-2009
from the series An Indian from India
Ink-jet prints on transparencies, metallic gold cards, leather case
14.5 x 9.4 cm (each image)

 

Annu Palakunnathu Matthew

 

Annu Palakunnathu Matthew

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation views of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing the work of Anoli Perera
Photo: Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation views of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art with in the bottom image, showing at left, three works by Anoli Perera (see below); at centre right, two photographs by Pushpamala N with Clare Arni. Returning from the tank (2001, below) and Lakshmi (2001, below); and at right, work by Pushpamala N with Clare Arni from the series Native women of South India (manners and customs) (see below)
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Anoli Perera (Sri Lankan, b. 1962; America 1988-1992; Sri Lanka 1992-2016; arrived India 2016) 'I let my hair loose' 2010-2011

 

Anoli Perera (Sri Lankan, b. 1962; America 1988-1992; Sri Lanka 1992-2016; arrived India 2016)
I let my hair loose
2010-2011
From the Protest series I
Pigment ink-jet prints
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Young women in 2010-2011 pose according to the conventions of colonial-era portrait photography with deliberately dishevelled hair as a symbol of defiance against the notion of out-of-place hair seen as “hysterical” or “uncontrollable.”

 

Anoli Perera (Sri Lankan, b. 1962; America 1988-1992; Sri Lanka 1992-2016; arrived India 2016) 'I let my hair loose' 2010-2011

 

Anoli Perera (Sri Lankan, b. 1962; America 1988-1992; Sri Lanka 1992-2016; arrived India 2016)
I let my hair loose
2010-2011
From the Protest series IV
Pigment ink-jet prints
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Hair covers the face of a young woman who poses according to the conventions of colonial-era portrait photography. The Sri Lankan-born, Delhi-based artist is inspired not only by colonial-ethnographic images but also by portraits of women she saw as a child, often dictated by male notions of femininity. ‘Hair in its proper place is seen as a mark of beauty,’ she says. ‘Hair out of place is seen as significations of hysterical, uncontrollable, uncertain and unpredictable behaviour’.

 

Pushpamala N (Indian, b. 1956) with Clare Arni (Scottish, b. 1962) 'Returning from the tank' 2001

 

Pushpamala N (Indian, b. 1956) with Clare Arni (Scottish, b. 1962)
Returning from the tank
2001
From the series Native women of South India (manners and customs)
Chromogenic prints
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Pushpamala N (Indian, b. 1956) with Clare Arni (Scottish, b. 1962) 'Lakshmi' 2001

 

Pushpamala N (Indian, b. 1956) with Clare Arni (Scottish, b. 1962)
Lakshmi
2001
From the series Native women of South India (manners and customs)
Chromogenic prints
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Pushpamala N with Clare Arni (Scottish, b. 1962) 'Cracking the whip D-4' 2000-2004

 

Pushpamala N (Indian, b. 1956) with Clare Arni (Scottish, b. 1962)
Cracking the whip D-4
2000-2004
From the series Native women of South India (manners and customs)
Sepia-toned gelatin silver print
13.1 x 8.8cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

“In which the original Native Types characters perform as ethnographic objects”

Pushpamala N. (born 1956) is a photo and visual artist based in Bangalore, India. Born in Bangalore, Pushpamala formally trained as a sculptor and eventually shifted to photography to explore her interest in narrative figuration. Pushpamala has been referred to as “the most entertaining artist-iconoclast of contemporary Indian art”. Her work has been described as performance photography, as she frequently uses herself as a model in her own work. “She is known for her strongly feminist work and for her rejection of authenticity and embracing of multiple realities. As one of the pioneers of conceptual art in India and a leading figure in the feminist experiments in subject, material and language, her inventive work in sculpture, conceptual photography, video and performance have had a deep influence on art practice in India.”

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Clare Arni is a photographer whose work encompasses social documentary and cultural heritage. Clare’s body of work has been exhibited extensively, both in private galleries and cultural institutions. Her solo exhibitions document the lives of marginalised communities in some of the most remote regions of India and the disappearing trades of urban India.

 

Pushpamala N (Indian, b. 1956) with Clare Arni (Scottish, b. 1962) 'Returning from the tank 1' 2000-2004

 

Pushpamala N (Indian, b. 1956) with Clare Arni (Scottish, b. 1962)
Returning from the tank 1
2000-2004
From the series Native women of South India (manners and customs)
Sepia-toned gelatin silver print
13.1 x 8.8cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Artist Pushpamala measures herself in front of a Lamprey grid, a dehumanising ethnographic tool deployed to standardise the photography of people during and after the late 19th century. By satirically re-enacting this form of subjugation, Pushpamala, in collaboration with fellow artist Arni, questions the colonial gaze and critiques its obsession with classification.

 

Pushpamala N (Indian, b. 1956) with Clare Arni (Scottish, b. 1962) 'Velankani F6-A' 2000-2004

 

Pushpamala N (Indian, b. 1956) with Clare Arni (Scottish, b. 1962)
Velankani F6-A
2000-2004
From the series Native women of South India (manners and customs)
Sepia-toned gelatin silver print
13.1 x 8.8cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing the work of Waswo X Waswo (American, b. 1953; arrived India 2001) with at left, Tribal dreams (2008, below); and at right, Night prowl (2008, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Waswo X Waswo (American, b. 1953; arrived India 2001) 'Tribal dreams' 2008

 

Waswo X Waswo (American, b. 1953; arrived India 2001)
Tribal dreams
2008
Pigment ink-jet prints
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Waswo X. Waswo first visited India in 1993; after several trips in the intervening years, he finally moved to India, renting a home and building a studio in Udaipur in 2006. This series is a comprises of Waswo’s hand-coloured work through a wide selection of photographs produced in his studio.

Playfully examining the genres of both the ethnographic photograph-as-document that is linked to the colonial era, as well as the fantasy-inspired make-believe that emanated from traditional Indian portrait studios in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Waswo creates a unique brand of contemporary photography that is an inspired mix of homage and critique. Ranging from shots of single figures to theatrically arranged tableaux, these photographs feature everyone from Gauri dancers to flower sellers, the incarnations of mythological figures, farmers and school children. In the tradition of pictorialism, Waswo’s carefully crafted images with their pastoral backdrops and hand-tinted processing resonate with a romantic sensibility, while yet remaining humorously self-aware and self-reflexive.

Anonymous text from the TARQ website Nd [Online] Cited 10/03/2022

 

Waswo X Waswo (American, b. 1953; arrived India 2001) 'Night prowl' 2008

 

Waswo X Waswo (American, b. 1953; arrived India 2001)
Night prowl
2008
Pigment ink-jet prints
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Michael Bühler-Rose (American, b. 1980) 'Camphor flame on pedestal' 2010

 

Michael Bühler-Rose (American, b. 1980)
Camphor flame on pedestal
2010
Pigment ink-jet print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing the work of Gauri Gill (Indian, b. 1970) with at left, Madhu (2003, below); and at right, Revanti (2003, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Gauri Gill (Indian, b. 1970) 'Madhu' 2003

 

Gauri Gill (Indian, b. 1970)
Madhu
2003
From the series Balika Mela
Pigment ink-jet print
161.2 x 106.6cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

In 2003 the non profit organisation Urmul Setu Sansthan organised a Balika Mela – or fair for girls, in Lunkaransar town, attended by almost fifteen hundred adolescent girls from seventy surrounding villages. The Mela had various stalls, food, performances, a Ferris wheel, magicians, puppet shows, games and competitions, similar to any other small town fair. Urmul Setu invited the photographer to “do something with photography” at the Mela.

“I created a photo-stall for anyone to come in and have their portrait taken, and later buy the silver gelatin print at a subsidised rate if they wished. I had a few basic props and backdrops, whatever we could get from the local town studio and cloth shop on a very limited budget, but it was fairly minimal, and since it can get windy out in the desert everything would keep getting blown around, or periodically struck down. The light was the broad, even light of a desert sky, filtered through the cloth roof of our tent. Many of the more striking props – like the peacock and the paper hats – were brought in by the girls themselves. Girls came in, and decided how and with whom they would like to be photographed – best friends, new friends, sisters, the odd younger brother who had tagged along, girls with their teachers, the whole class, the local girl scouts. Some of those who posed for the pictures went on to learn photography in the workshops that we started in May of that year, and two years later they photographed the fair themselves.”

Gauri Gill, 2009

Text from the Nature Morte website [Online] Cited 08/03/2022

 

Gauri Gill (Indian, b. 1970) 'Revanti' 2003

 

Gauri Gill (Indian, b. 1970)
Revanti
2003
From the series Balika Mela
Pigment ink-jet print
161.2 x 106.6cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Indu Antony (Indian, b. 1982) 'Uncle Had Hairy Legs' 2017

 

Indu Antony (Indian, b. 1982)
Uncle Had Hairy Legs
2017
From the series Vincent Uncle
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

A set of 21 similarly composed photographs depict the legs of men wearing mundus. In her 2017 series Vincent Uncle, Antony investigates childhood memories and comments on the male figure within the Indian family by portraying her subjects from the perspective of a child.

 

 

Installation view of the opening of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing at left, Suresh Punjabi’s Untitled (Two train porters, Behru Singh and his son Laxman) (Nd, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

“I was never lonely. Through these mute photographs, this town slowly started to become my family. We were having a conversation that needed no words.”

.
Suresh Punjabi

 

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Two train porters, Behru Singh and his son Laxman)' Nd (installation view)

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Two train porters, Behru Singh and his son Laxman)
1983
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Two train porters, Behru Singh and his son Laxman)' 1983

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Two train porters, Behru Singh and his son Laxman)
1983
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Two train porters, Behru Singh and his son Laxman by Suresh Punjabi. The owner and photographer of Suhag Studio in Nagda, Madhya Pradesh – one of thousands of photographers who opened studios in small towns after the 1950s – foregrounds the copper armbands synonymous with the sitters’ professions. These carried cultural and social capital, as evidenced by Amitabh Bachchan’s portrayal of the porter as a working-class hero in the 1983 Bollywood movie Coolie.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing the work of Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Administrative portrait) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1983-1984

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Administrative portrait) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1983-1984
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

A farmer from near Nagda visits Punjabi’s studio to have his portrait made for the first time. While the purpose of the photo is unclear, the man’s wide-eyed stare suggests that the camera either caught him by surprise or that he was overly exerting himself in an attempt to pose appropriately. His all-white attire, turban and Punjabi’s use of a shallow depth of field add to the portrait’s intrigue.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Administrative portrait) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1979

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Administrative portrait) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1979
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Some of the earliest and perhaps most obvious drivers of Suhag Studio’s business were administrative portraits, which Punjabi’s clients requested frequently and for a number of reasons, from paperwork for school admissions to procuring disability benefits. When juxtaposed, these images highlight the sheer diversity of Punjabi’s clientele, who appear to us as a mosaic of faces, registering the Indian bureaucracy’s efforts to account for them as formal and formally documented citizens.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

An older woman poses for a formal portrait at Suhag Studio. Like many of the other women photographed by Punjabi for this reason, this sitter too has a chunni (thin scarf) draped over her head, a convention that has since changed as the production of administrative photographs such as these has become increasingly standardised.

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Administrative portrait) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1979

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Administrative portrait) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1979
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Unlike the other administrative images in Punjabi’s archive, this is a full-length portrait because the older man in it asked to be photographed on his crutches, so he could claim disability entitlements from the government. The evidentiary quality of the photograph meant it was an important tool for India’s expanding identification and welfare system. With three studio lights focused directly on the standing subject, the portrait highlights both the man and his condition, making Punjabi an important middleman in the way he is able to be ‘seen’ by the state.

 

Identification & Records

By the late 1970s, identity documents had embedded themselves deeply into Indian civic life. Standardised photographs became necessary for many administrative activities, from accessing food subsidies to completing job applications. Punjabi’s studio provided an essential administrative service – and for Nagda’s poor and working classes, it became one of the few ways in which the presence of India’s creaking bureaucracy was felt.

Most people interpreted these photographic services through their own needs. One man insisted on a full-length portrait showing his crutches in order to qualify for disability entitlements; another arrived in a crisp white shirt for a passport photograph. When juxtaposed, these images highlight the sheer diversity of Punjabi’s clients, who collectively appear as a mosaic of faces, registering the state’s efforts to make them ‘legible’ citizens.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Administrative portrait) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1985

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Administrative portrait) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1985
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Administrative portrait) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1987

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Administrative portrait) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1987
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

“Rooted to the hallowed tradition of studio photography that began in 19th-century India with pioneers like Samuel Bourne and Lala Deen Dayal, Punjabi was also a visionary entrepreneur-artist. When he stood before his sitters, the film of familiarity lifted from their faces, exposing their fondest dreams and desires. In a sense, Punjabi donned the mantle of a dream merchant, as the archivist of the Great Indian Dream. And to such dreams, he himself had also been susceptible. …

In the 1970s, the family business had started to dwindle, forcing Punjabi to move to Nagda, a small town, some 100 km away from Indore. There, he opened Suhag Studio – the name was meant to drawn in clients interested in taking matrimonial photographs – to help his family. It proved to be a lifelong move, indeed an obsession.

Punjabi’s archives, as Gaskell and Nayar indicate in their curation, could be divided into several segments, first of which is his administrative photographs, which cover almost 30% of his archives. These images are mostly mug shots of individuals, taken for the purpose of identification papers and bureaucratic documents. But even in these fairly generic images, the drama of the human face is dimly palpable. You can sense the presence of a humane vision behind the mechanical eye of the camera. Punjabi seems to avoid the vapid blandness of documentary studio photography, where the subject is usually leached of all character and presented sans expression for the unfeeling scrutiny of the state.

A man in crutches is photographed in full profile by Punjabi on his request, with the camera lights included in the frame. The image is meant to be evidentiary record of his disability. Another man in a turban stares back at the camera, his pupils dilated, like the proverbial rabbit caught in the headlights of the Indian state. The incongruity of the carpeted studio floor, the sophisticated props (by the standard of those days) and the intensely ordinary attire of these people are starkly noticeable.

A woman dangles a bunch of grapes before her mouth, recreating the cliché of a lovestruck / lascivious heroine from the annals of Indian cinema. A man poses stiffly in tie and a pair of bell-bottoms, his hair neatly combed. Another one, in a vest, presents a study in contrasts, his hair stylishly long, a kerchief tied to his neck, a cigarette hanging from his lips. He rocks the archetypal mawali look to a T. You can sense the shadow of a slightly crumpled angry young man about his persona, modelled perhaps after Amitabh Bachchan, who was still the reigning hero in the galaxy of Bollywood cinema in the 1980s, when these photographs were taken.

If the influence of cinema shines through these compositions, more intriguing insinuations are made by some of the group photographs. In one, for instance, three men are seated close to one another, two of them locking fingers. The one in the middle stares at the camera, while the other two look in different directions.

These “playfully intimate” photographs, as Nayar calls them, are mementos of different kinds of bonds – filial, friendly, romantic – that were enacted inside the realms of the studio. Thus, Punjabi’s Suhag Studio opened up a space, where much more than plain documentation could be wagered. …

While each of these images stands boldly on its own – carrying its individual aura of distinction and enveloped by its unspoken narratorial arc – they also exist within an ecosystem of emotions that coursed through a nation during a certain phase of its development. With their thoughtful curation and textual notes, Gaskell and Nayar draw our attention to details that would otherwise have escaped our untrained eyes. They also make crucial connections between Punjabi’s work and those of Malike Sidibé’s (1935-2016) from Mali and Hashem El Madani’s (1928-2017) from Lebanon, among others. These photographers, legends in their own rights, also documented the seen and unseen faces of their nations with skill, complexity and exquisite artistry.

Extract from Somak Ghoshal. “Suresh Punjabi: The man who captured the Great Indian Dream,” on the Mint Lounge website 24/01/2021 [Online] Cited 03/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Full-length portrait of two men) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1985-1986

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Full-length portrait of two men) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1985-1986
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Two friends, dressed rather stylishly, stand in a slight three-quarter profile while looking directly into the camera. Punjabi often offered props such as sunglasses and hats to his sitters, however the origin of the pieces of clothing featured here – including the flared trousers and blazers – remains unclear. One interesting clue, likely intended to be cropped, is the pair of slippers near the bottom left of the frame. Only one of the men is wearing shoes, suggesting that the shoes are props and the slippers belong to him.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Full-length portrait of a man), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1985

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Full-length portrait of a man), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1985
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Punjabi’s childhood coincided with the waning years of the Golden Era of Hindi cinema, which he regularly drew inspiration from when developing his own visual style. Each of these images are largely inspired by the cultural lexicon of the times – outward expressions of heroism, villainy, aspiration, camaraderie, romance, and above all, personal style – and expresses a distinct style of playful formality, seemingly both rehearsed and improvised.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

On first meeting the man photographed here, Punjabi remarked how much he resembled the actor Amitabh Bachchan. In this portrait, the man’s long legs – much like Bachchan’s – appear even longer in his flared pants. The man’s distant stare, and the peeking studio lights on either edge of the frame, add further credibility to the fiction that this man is perhaps a body double preparing himself for an actual film scene. Being one of the most recognisable of Punjabi’s individual portraits, this image also appears on the cover of scholar Christopher Pinney’s book Artisan Camera: Studio Photography from Central India (2013).

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Group portrait of a family), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1986-1987

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Group portrait of a family), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1986-1987
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Life in Nagda, like in many towns in India, moved along a network of overlapping social relationships – friends, lovers, community members, coworkers. As photography opened up new opportunities for self-representation, these relationships seeped into the studio as well. Punjabi worked to represent his sitters against the social contexts, resulting in images that show us packed families, impassive coworkers, bashful lovers, playful friends and various expressions of cultural and religious celebration; connections, seen and unseen, caught mid-pose.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

In one of Punjabi’s most crowded compositions, a family of eight gathers into a tight frame for a group portrait. During this period, it was not uncommon for Punjabi to leave his studio (and sometimes Nagda as well) to photograph large families, often in front of their ancestral homes. In this case however, the family just about manages to squeeze into the indoor space. Accommodating all eight members also brings the studio’s ceiling into view, highlighting the limited, 10 x 20 feet space in which he worked during those years.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Group portrait of four friends), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1985 (installation view)

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Group portrait of four friends), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh (installation view)
1985
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Full length portrait of three girls), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1979 (installation view)

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Full length portrait of three girls), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh (installation view)
1979
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Although it’s difficult to say with certainty, the three young girls in this portrait are likely sisters who planned to have their photograph made on this day. Lending further credence to this assumption is the fact that two of the three girls are wearing identical patterns. At this time, especially in small and mid-sized towns in India, it wasn’t uncommon for households to have matching clothes stitched from the same piece of fabric, especially for siblings to wear. Another interesting aspect of this portrait, although not obvious at first glance, is that the girls on either side are far taller than the one in the middle, who must stand on a small stool – partly concealed by the other girls’ patterned clothing – to help retain a sense of continuity across the faces in the portrait.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Portrait of a man holding a bird), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1987 (installation view)

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Portrait of a man holding a bird), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh (installation view)
1987
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Portrait of a man holding a bird), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1987

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Portrait of a man holding a bird), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1987
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

On entering Suhag Studio, the man in this portrait had one simple request for Punjabi: to be photographed with his beloved pet bird. In the resulting image, the man appears in flared trousers, thick-rimmed glasses and a rounded hat, leaning on a stool as his bird sits on his left index finger. In a bid to further accentuate the man’s lean, Punjabi tilts his camera to his right when taking the image, causing the painted background to appear slanted.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) Untitled (Seated portrait of three friends) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh 1979 (installation view)

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Seated portrait of three friends) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh (installation view)
1979
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Seated portrait of three friends) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1979

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Seated portrait of three friends) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1979
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

In this informal group portrait, the relationship between three male friends finds an intriguing physical manifestation. The man in the centre stares directly into the lens, deadpan, while holding the hand of the man to his right who, in turn, gazes at the third man on the very left, whose focus is caught by something beyond the frame. The language of eyes and hands gains an almost filmic intensity through Punjabi’s treatment, which highlights his enduring interest in capturing unseen and understated gestures in his portraits.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Portrait of a young tea seller) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1987

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Portrait of a young tea seller) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1987
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

While many came to Punjabi with the hope of enacting the role of a film hero, others brought in a different set of influences. Working outside Suhag Studio selling tea, this boy was photographed by Punjabi in a highly stylised way, mimicking the temperament of a cinematic villain. The sunglasses, scarf and unlit cigarette – likely all props – contribute to this overall effect and lend a certain swagger to the thin boy’s leaning posture.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

 

 

 

Suresh Punjabi’s Suhag Studio: The Business of Dreams

This film tells the remarkable story of a photography studio in central India, established by Suresh Punjabi in the 1970s. Punjabi took tens of thousands of photographs over nearly half a century, documenting the lives and people of Nagda. The film forms part of an online exhibition of the same name, curated by Nathaniel Gaskell and Varun Nayar, for the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) in Bangalore and has been directed by Naveed Mulki / Faraway Originals. Special thanks to Pratik and Suresh Punjabi and family, and to the people of Nagda who appear in the film.

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Two men with a transistor radio), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1983

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Two men with a transistor radio), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1983
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Punjabi’s sitters, two unnamed men, pose holding a smaller transistor radio – the first in Nagda – up to their ears.

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) Untitled (Portrait of a man posing with a telephone) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1985 (installation view)

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Portrait of a man posing with a telephone) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh (installation view)
1985
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

While the language of Hindi cinema had a significant impact on Punjabi, it was part of a larger constellation of influences. His work also captured how people from Nagda – a fast-industrialising town that sat outside but was never delinked from India’s urban centres – articulated their evolving ambitions and self-conceptions; a context in which a particular posture or prop could reveal a host of personal preferences and worldviews.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Portrait of a man posing with a telephone) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1985

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Portrait of a man posing with a telephone) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1985
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

A landline telephone makes an appearance in this individual portrait that features a slender young man pretending to be preoccupied for the camera. Apparent in the photograph is the sitter’s desire to associate himself with the sense of modernity and connectivity that the telephone – regardless of who is on the other side – symbolises.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) Untitled (Man with a camera) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1985 (installation view)

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Man with a camera) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh (installation view)
1985
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Man with a camera) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1985

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Man with a camera) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1985
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Punjabi recalls this young man asking for a portrait that would make him look like a “smart, gentleman photographer.” The magazine, camera and tie featured in this image are all props, demonstrating Punjabi’s effort to meet his client’s expectations.

Magazines appear frequently in many of Punjabi’s portraits, where they express a certain urbane and sophisticated form of indulgence that was an important cultural signifier for India’s emerging middle class. Typically, this prop magazine was just whatever was lying around in the studio – often an issue of an entertainment magazine such as Bombay Screen or Mayapuri, from which Punjabi also drew visual inspiration.

The Japanese Yashica – presumably Punjabi’s – slung on this man’s shoulder was a pricey piece of equipment that didn’t typically circulate beyond urban markets. Its existence in this portrait speaks to the sitter’s desire for ‘smartness,’ expressing a degree of professional acuity as well as socioeconomic mobility and access.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Four men standing in front of a truck) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1985
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

There were times when Punjabi ventured out of his studio and into both nearby streets and remote villages, into temples and bars and through wedding processions and funerals. Having started out working weddings, Punjabi had become a keen-eyed and quick-footed photographer, rarely without a camera when the moment demanded it. These outdoor images provide a crucial bridge between the regulated and consciously arranged dream-world of his studio and the teeming human drama of everyday life just outside its doors.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

In one of many images Punjabi made outside his studio, a group of five men pose near a truck in Nagda, which is decorated with lights and flowers to commemorate Diwali. One of the men is hanging off the passenger side of the vehicle, though it is unclear whether he is its owner. Punjabi often ventured out into town with his camera and took photographs of everything from upturned vehicles for insurance claims to mass processions for funerals of important local figures.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Group portrait of men with cigarettes) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1979

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Group portrait of men with cigarettes) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1979
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

In one of Punjabi’s more crowded outdoor photographs, made at a local wedding, a number of men huddle around a bench at night, exchanging cigarettes, gestures and conversation. Nearly all of them are dressed in white, leading one to believe that they may have all been at the same event prior to – or even during – the point at which this image was made. In the background of the image, written in large Hindi letters on the back of a small wooden shack are the words: “The country’s leader, Indira Gandhi.” The 1970s and early 80s were a tumultuous time for the nation, primarily due to Gandhi’s imposition of a state of emergency from 1975-1977. This image was made after the state of emergency and before Gandhi’s assassination in 1984.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (A man dancing during a wedding) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1980

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (A man dancing during a wedding) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1980
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

The subject does not see the bright flash of Punjabi’s camera as he dances energetically alongside the wedding band and many guests at his friend’s wedding. A good wedding photographer must be invisible. Punjabi’s knack for framing an image inconspicuously and at the right moment reflects in a number of his outdoor photographs, especially of ceremonial events.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

 

Suresh Punjabi’s Suhag Studio: The Business of Dreams – The Business of Dreams Chapter 1, 1970s

The history of Studio Suhag in Nagda, Madhya Pradesh

 

 

Suresh Punjabi’s Suhag Studio: The Business of Dreams Chapter 2, 1980s

The history of Studio Suhag in Nagda, Madhya Pradesh

 

 

Monash Gallery of Art
860 Ferntree Gully Road, Wheelers Hill
Victoria 3150 Australia
Phone: + 61 3 8544 0500

Opening hours:
Tue – Fri: 10am – 5pm
Sat – Sun: 12pm – 5pm
Mon/public holidays: closed

Monash Gallery of Art website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

09
Apr
21

Review: ‘Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’ at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 26th February  –  18th April 2021

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Equal pay demo, Bourke Street Melbourne' 1985

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Equal pay demo, Bourke Street Melbourne
1985
Pigment print from scanned negative
39 x 58cm (image size)
Courtesy of the artist and the Centre for Contemporary Photography

 

 

“One can also pursue politics with art.
Everything that intervenes in the processes of life, and transforms them, is politics.”

.
Hans Richter

 

“I always wanted to document people’s lives – their work, their family, their relationships, their leisure – their pain and pleasure.

“To me, every individual’s life is more wondrous than any fantasy could ever be.”

.
Ruth Maddison

 

 

The Art of a Fellow Traveller

Since the 1970s Australia has been blessed with many talented women photographers… Sue Ford, Carol Jerrems, Joyce Evans, Ponch Hawkes, Micky Allan, Ruth Maddison, Rosemary Laing, Hoda Afshar, Anne Ferran, Katrin Koenning, Robyn Stacey, Janina Green, Bindi Cole, Tracey Moffatt, Polixeni Papapetrou, Pat Brassington, Claire Rae, Claudia Terstappen, Jacqui Stockdale, Siri Hayes, Petrina Hicks, Kim Lawler, Carolyn Lewens, Nicola Loder, Jill Orr, Kim Percy, Patricia Piccinini, Elizabeth Gertsakis, Jane Brown, to name just a few…

 ** Thinking. Australia. For such a small (in population) and isolated (geographically) country, rarely in the history of photography can there have been such an accumulated wealth of talent within the space of 60 years or so. I have suggested to a major public gallery in Melbourne a group exhibition of these artists but it went nowhere. Why? This is world class talent! **

.
Which brings me to the exhibition Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times which occupies all galleries at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne.

What a delight it is to see this artist in full flight in this exceptionally strong exhibition. As pictured in the flow of images, Maddison has carved her name as a social documentary and feminist photographer, her holistic body of work providing a “significant contribution to the documentation of Australian life and society from the 1970s to the present – from her earliest iconic hand-coloured works, the working life of women, Melbourne’s social and cultural life of the 1980s, and Maddison’s documentation of the people and industries of her adopted home of Eden.”

Through direct, frontal mainly black and white / hand coloured photographs, Maddison builds compelling stories in her work, stories which explore the cultures and sub-cultures of Australia: the political upheavals, alternative lifestyles and counter culture, the women’s movement, gay liberation, Vietnam, union, nuclear, anti-fascist and other protests; the fight for equality and equal pay, the fight against discrimination and other actions that fight for fairness, acceptance and respect for all, within Australian society. With compassion and understanding Maddison pictures youth and exuberance, old age and protest, life on the land and sea, and life leaving it for the cities. Her photographs serve a testificatory function – related to BOTH a person who has witnessed these events (the artist) AND an object used as evidence (the photograph).

Maddison’s testimony to such events creates a polyperspectivity – not so much in terms of what the camera sees in individual images, but in what it sees directed by the artist over an entire career, comprising more than 40 years. Of looking, of being present, of being ethical. In her work, “the shadows already become immortal while still alive.”1

This is the crux of the matter. Since the very day that Maddison picked up a camera being ethical when representing the world around her has been a gut reaction. “Ethics is concerned with what is good for individuals and society and is also described as moral philosophy. The term is derived from the Greek word ethos which can mean custom, habit, character or disposition.” Her presentation of the world reflects her character and disposition. Her ethos is embedded in her being and psyche – the human soul, mind AND spirit. You can’t make this stuff up, you either have it or you don’t.

Maddison has this generosity of spirit in spades. The belief in balance, fairness, and equality for all. Yes, her photographs document people’s pleasure and pain, their lives, their existence but only through her own presence and vision. Her photographs are a reflection of her inner being, her spirit. What she believes the world can be, should be. It is this force of nature, her own being, that propels the investigation forwards. Never more so than now, in the midst of a pandemic, the world needs such ethical artists. To remind us for what we fight for.

For example, Netflix have recently announced a new “docu-soap” series “Byron Baes” (babes) to be filmed in the northern NSW beachside town of Byron Bay, which will reveal “hot Instagrammers, living their best lives, being their best selves,” with a cast of “celebrity-adjacent-adjacent influencers.” Who cares about these egotistical non-entities, when in the town drug use is rampant, housing is unaffordable and people cannot get a job! That is the real story, one which an artist such as Maddison would recognise and document with empathy and insight.

Maddison is a fellow traveller2 and I travel with her. She doesn’t follow “the running dog of capitalism” – or as people used to call them, “running dogs”3 – nipping at your heels, constantly harassing you, but these days not even that… just lackadaisical multinational corporations who don’t even care to hide their disdain for the working class, or their ecological disdain for the health of the world. All that matters is money and keeping the shareholders happy. She follows her own path and long may that continue. Looking and documenting is always both personal and political and this is Maddison’s story: “Everything that intervenes in the processes of life, and transforms them, is politics.” Blessings to her.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Joseph Roth, quoted, in translation, from Ulrich Raulff. “Umbrische Figuren,” in Floris M. Neusüss. Fotogramme – die lichtreichen Schatten. Kassel 1983, p. 16.
  2. A person who travels with another; a person who is not a member of a particular group or political party … but who sympathises with the group’s aims and policies.
  3. A servile follower, especially of a political system.

.
Many thankx to the Centre for Contemporary Photography for allowing me to publish the installation photographs at the bottom of the posting. All other iPhone photographs by Marcus Bunyan. Please click on the photographs to view a larger version of the image.

 

 

Gallery One

 

Text from the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Text from the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Text from the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'First roll of film' 1976 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
From First roll of film (installation view)
1976
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'First roll of film' 1976 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
From First roll of film (installation view)
1976
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'First roll of film' 1976

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
From First roll of film (installation view)
1976
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne showing at left the series Christmas Holidays with Bob’s Family, Mermaid Beach, Queensland (1979)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne showing the series Christmas Holidays with Bob’s Family, Mermaid Beach, Queensland (1979)
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (born Australia 1945) 'No title (Woman collecting a Christmas present from the car)' 1977-78

 

Ruth Maddison (Australia, b. 1945)
No title (Woman collecting a Christmas present from the car)
1977-1978
From the series Christmas Holidays with Bob’s Family, Mermaid Beach, Queensland 1979

 

Ruth Maddison. 'Christmas holiday with Bob's family, Mermaid Beach, Queensland' 1977/78

 

Ruth Maddison (Australia, b. 1945)
From Christmas Holidays with Bob’s family, Mermaid Beach, Queensland
1979

 

Ruth Maddison (Australia, b. 1945) 'Christmas Holidays with Bob's family, Mermaid Beach, Queensland' 1979

 

Ruth Maddison (Australia, b. 1945)
From Christmas Holidays with Bob’s family, Mermaid Beach, Queensland
1979

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the series Christmas Holidays with Bob’s family, Mermaid Beach, Queensland (1979) from the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Untitled #18' 1979

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Untitled #18
1979
From the series Christmas holidays with Bob’s family. Mermaid Beach, Queensland 1979
Pigment print from scan, edition 1/1
10.5 x 16.2cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Centre for Contemporary Photography

 

Text from the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne showing photographs of women workers and single mothers (various dates and series, see above)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne showing images from the series And so we joined the Union (1985)
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Prison Officers, Pentridge' 1985

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Prison Officers, Pentridge
1985
Pigment print from scanned negative (Print by Les Walkling)
50 x 50cm (image size)
Courtesy of the artist and the Centre for Contemporary Photography

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) From the series 'Let's Dance' 1979

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) From the series 'Let's Dance' 1979

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
From the series Let’s Dance (installation views)
1979
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Ruth Maddison photographed the social spaces that had been important to activist communities but which were in the process of passing away. These were mainly commissioned projects for labour and social movements, otherwise these histories would have been lost.

Dancing and entertainment were features of Ruth Maddison’s work throughout the 1980s. These photographs reflected Maddison’s own social life, which often revolved around Melbourne’s pubs and nightclubs. But there was also a classical documentary function to her photographs of trade union dances and the annual women’s dance at St Kilda Town Hall. These pictures reflected social spaces that had been important to activist communities, but which by the mid-1980s were in the process of passing away; as women’s groups began to fragment, and as the membership of labour organisations changed. The photograph shown here of the Vehicle Builders’ Union Ball at Collingwood Town Hall were part of a commission. Like many photographers in this exhibition (including Helen Grace, Sandy Edwards and Ponch Hawkes), political affiliation and professional practice often came together in commissioned projects for labour and social movements.

Text from the Monash Gallery of Art website

 

Ruth Maddison. 'Vehicle Builders' Union Ball, Collingwood Town Hall, Melbourne' 1979

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Vehicle Builders’ Union Ball, Collingwood Town Hall, Melbourne
1979
Gelatin silver print

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Single Mothers and their Children' 1994

 

Installation view of a work from Ruth Maddison’s series Single Mothers and their Children 1994
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Mmaskepe Sejoe and her daughter Nthabelong. Botswana - Melbourne' 1997 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Mmaskepe Sejoe and her daughter Nthabelong. Botswana – Melbourne (installation view)
1997
From the series Australian Women
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Mary Marcoftsis. Macedonia - Melbourne' 1997 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Mary Marcoftsis. Macedonia – Melbourne (installation view)
1997
From the series Australian Women
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Nada Jankovic. Serbia - Buli, NSW' 1997 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Nada Jankovic. Serbia – Buli, NSW (installation view)
1997
From the series Australian Women
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Lia Tata Ruga, Devi Hamid, Anna Dartania and Ita Sulis. Indonesia – Sydney' (installation view) 1997

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Lia Tata Ruga, Devi Hamid, Anna Dartania and Ita Sulis. Indonesia – Sydney (installation view)
1997
From the series Australian Women
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Trade workshop for girls, Preston TAFE' 1984 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Trade workshop for girls, Preston TAFE (installation view)
1984, printed 2020
Pigment print from scanned negative
18.6 x 28cm
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Trade workshop for girls, Preston TAFE 1984' (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Trade workshop for girls, Preston TAFE (installation view)
1984, printed 2020
Pigment print from scanned negative
18.6 x 28cm
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Women's Dance, St Kilda Hall' 1985, printed 2014 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Women’s Dance, St Kilda Hall (installation view)
1985, printed 2014
Gelatin silver prints

 

Text from the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Ponch Hawkes, Helen and Alice Garner' 1978-2018

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Ponch Hawkes, Helen and Alice Garner
1978-2018
Pigment print from scanned negative
Image: 22.6 x 15cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Centre for Contemporary Photography

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Jane Clifton and Helen Garner' 1976-2013 (installation view)

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Jane Clifton and Helen Garner' 1976-2013 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Jane Clifton and Helen Garner (installation views)
1976-2013
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Text from the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view in gallery one of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne showing at second top left, Keith Haring (1985-2014)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Keith Haring' 1985-2014

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Keith Haring
1985-2014
Pigment print from scanned negative, hand-coloured and digitally enhanced
40 x 40cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Centre for Contemporary Photography

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Monika Behrem, Rochelle Haley and their baby Indigo' 2017 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Monika Behrem, Rochelle Haley and their baby Indigo (installation view)
2017
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Equal pay demo, Bourke Street Melbourne' 1985 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Equal pay demo, Bourke Street Melbourne (installation view)
1985
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Gallery two

 

Text from the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views in gallery two of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Text from the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Highway 23' 2009 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Highway 23 (installation view)
2009
Type C print from digital file
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views showing work from the series Crossing the Monaro (2009) in the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

In Ruth Maddison’s regular trips across the Monaro she stopped frequently to take photographs. She is drawn to the expansiveness of this unencumbered landscape, the way it opens up and seems to encourage something similar in ourselves.

“I drive across the Monaro and look at the sweep of the land and think about what was there and what has gone – time and time again. Stopping at small cemeteries scattered across the Monaro, passing through the dying towns, collecting bird and animal bones scattered all along the way, watching grass seeds blowing across the road. I am conscious of layers of history held beneath the surface of the land. …

History is writ large on this route. Small towns attest to times of brief plenty: the promise of gold, the economy of fleece. They are established at distances determined in an era when horses paced the daily work. Where rail provided a short-lived reprise. They are now towns that compete for use to “Stop Revive Survive” or to which some retire…

This new body of work is a departure from the people-focused documentary / portrait based work that has informed my public practice for 30 years. This departure is the outcome of my social and professional isolation [in Eden], which I sought and have embraced. Yet I consider this work a documentary piece – I am documenting the passage of my life through a place and a time via photography and the problem solving processes it presents to me. I am documenting what it is that makes me want to go on and on with the work.”

Ruth Maddison artist statements 2008-09 quoted in Merryn Gates. “There is a time,” (catalogue essay) from the exhibition There is a time at the Huw Davies Gallery, September 2009 [Online] Cited 05/04/2021

 

Text from the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view in gallery two of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Millsy (Jason Mills)' 2000-2002 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Millsy (Jason Mills) (installation view)
2000-2002
From the series Now a river went out of Eden
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Bounge (Gregory Curtis) and Apple (John McCrory)' 2000-2002 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Bounge (Gregory Curtis) and Apple (John McCrory) (installation view)
2000-2002
From the series Now a river went out of Eden
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Norm Joiner' 2000-2002 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Norm Joiner (installation view)
2000-2002
From the series Now a river went out of Eden
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Imlay Street, Eden 1.44 pm 31 December 2019' and 'Walking towards Aslings Beach 7.14 am 31 December 2019' 2019 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Imlay Street, Eden 1.44 pm 31 December 2019 (installation view)
Walking towards Aslings Beach 7.14 am 31 December 2019
2019
From the series When No Birds Sing 2020
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Volunteers sorting. At the Fishermen's Co-op, Eden. 3.06 pm 18 January 2020' 2020 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Volunteers sorting. At the Fishermen’s Co-op, Eden. 3.06 pm 18 January 2020 (installation view)
2020
From the series When No Birds Sing 2020
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Julie Ristanovic, canteen supervisor. Chip mill' Nd (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Julie Ristanovic, canteen supervisor. Chip mill (installation view)
Nd
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Gallery three

 

Text from the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Fifty-one selected posters, from the Samuel Goldbloom Collection, Melbourne University Archives, pigment prints

Fifty-one selected posters, from the Samuel Goldbloom Collection, Melbourne University Archives, pigment prints

Fifty-one selected posters, from the Samuel Goldbloom Collection, Melbourne University Archives, pigment prints

Fifty-one selected posters, from the Samuel Goldbloom Collection, Melbourne University Archives, pigment prints

Fifty-one selected posters, from the Samuel Goldbloom Collection, Melbourne University Archives, pigment prints

Fifty-one selected posters, from the Samuel Goldbloom Collection, Melbourne University Archives, pigment prints

Fifty-one selected posters, from the Samuel Goldbloom Collection, Melbourne University Archives, pigment prints

 

Fifty-one selected posters, from the Samuel Goldbloom Collection, Melbourne University Archives, pigment prints
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views in gallery three of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne showing on the television The Dustbins of History (1950s / 2020), edited from ASIO footage sourced from the National Archives of Australia
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

The Dustbins of History (1950s), edited from Asio footage sourced from the National Archives of Australia.

 

Still from The Dustbins of History (1950s / 2020), edited from ASIO footage sourced from the National Archives of Australia

 

 

She [Maddison] also discovered reels of surveillance film documenting suspected members of the Communist party as they arrived at a secret meeting in one of Melbourne’s laneways in the 50s. This footage appears in the exhibition as The Dustbins of History, a short film that is comedic in its ambiguity and monotony. All that’s missing is the Keystone Cops.

Alison Stieven-Taylor. “The communist who raised me: photographer Ruth Maddison interrogates her father’s Asio file,” on the Guardian website Thurs 25 February 2021 [Online] Cited 05/04/2021

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views in gallery three of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views in gallery three of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne showing works from the series My father’s footsteps (1942-2020)
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'To everything there is a turn, turn, turn' 2020

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
To everything there is a turn, turn, turn
2020
From the series My father’s footsteps (1942-2020)
Diptych
Pigment print from ASIO files

 

 

After decades of being denigrated in the press and parliament, in 1990 Goldbloom was awarded an OAM for his service as an activist for peace. Later, a street was named after him in Canberra. Maddison has paired an ASIO image of her father at a peace rally in 1965 with the Goldbloom street sign, evidence she says of “history doing the wheel again”.

Alison Stieven-Taylor. “The communist who raised me: photographer Ruth Maddison interrogates her father’s Asio file,” on the Guardian website Thurs 25 February 2021 [Online] Cited 05/04/2021

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view in gallery three of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Hiroshima Day, Melbourne' 1981/2020 (installation view)

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Hiroshima Day, Melbourne' 1981/2020 (installation view detail)

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Hiroshima Day, Melbourne' 1981/2020 (installation view detail)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Hiroshima Day, Melbourne (installation views)
1981/2020
Pigment print from scanned black and white negative. Hand coloured and digitally enhanced
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Herta and Jill Koppel

 

 

I just met the most wonderful lady at the Ruth Maddison exhibition at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne.

100 year old Herta Koppel (pictured with her daughter Jill) was as bright as a button. She escaped the Nazis from Vienna with her two sisters in 1939, a few weeks before the war, leaving behind her parents who did not make it.

In the gallery the family were reminiscing on the people they knew in Ruth’s photographs while ‘The Internationale’ played in the background. How fitting.

Marcus

Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Samuel Goldbloom. Four photographs by ASIO 1957/1965/1968/1970 archival pigments prints 2020 (installation view)

Samuel Goldbloom. Four photographs by ASIO 1957/1965/1968/1970 archival pigments prints 2020 (installation view)

 

Samuel Goldbloom. Four photographs by ASIO 1957/1965/1968/1970 archival pigments prints 2020 (installation view)
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) Sam self-portrait, self-redacted Nd (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Sam self-portrait, self-redacted (installation view)
Nd
Pigment print from scanned negative
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) Sam self-portrait, self-redacted Nd (installation view detail)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Sam self-portrait, self-redacted (installation view detail)
Nd
Pigment print from scanned negative
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views in gallery three of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Maddison's parents' Nd (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Maddison’s parents (installation view)
Nd
Pigment print from scanned black and white negative
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Last night I had the strangest dream (#1)' 2020 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Last night I had the strangest dream (#1) (installation view)
2020
Pigment print, hand coloured and digitally enhanced
64 x 70cm
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

From an early age, Ruth Maddison knew her father, Sam Goldbloom, was being watched. “He used to tell us not to worry about the men sitting in the car in front of the house … we were aware the clicks on the phone meant ‘they’ were listening too,” the award-winning Melbourne-born photographer says.

“They” were the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. In the 1940s, Goldbloom’s anti-fascist ideals drew ASIO’s attention. He later joined the Communist party before becoming a major player in the World Peace Council. These associations made him a person of interest for more than 30 years. …

While the spy agency’s prolonged surveillance of her father was not news, Maddison says that when her mother, Rosa, died in 2008, she discovered a much more layered history. As she and her two sisters packed up the family home, Maddison was tasked with clearing out her father’s shed. He had died in 1999 but until then no one had gone through “Sam’s stuff”.

There she found packs of slides, video footage from Goldbloom’s numerous peace missions to communist regimes including the USSR, East Germany and Cuba, as well as home movies, correspondence and other paraphernalia related to his activist work. This discovery became the entry point to The Fellow Traveller, the centrepiece for the first major survey of Maddison’s work, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”.

She [Maddison] uses her camera to explore the influence of politics on everyday life, often focusing on the personal. In The Fellow Traveller she exposes the social and political climate of the postwar years through a very intimate and at times painful lens.

“For my father, politics was number one,” she says. “To see it all laid out in the ASIO files, you know, night after night after night Sam was at meetings, and then this year he’s overseas for one month, and then another year for two months, then three. While I was looking at all of that I realised family wasn’t number one for him.”

While Maddison was not witness to her father’s interactions with world leaders, she imagined him meeting men like Mao and Khrushchev. In a series, “Last night I had the strangest dream” Maddison has inserted Goldbloom into pictures with his political heroes [see Last night I had the strangest dream (#1) below].

“It’s not about reinterpreting history, I am playing with him and his life, and wondering if he ever daydreamed these images like I am now.” These hand-coloured photographs are also visual evidence of the fiction ASIO pursued.

Maddison describes her treatment of the archival materials as “part real, part desire and part imaginary”, which parallels the narrative in the ASIO files. In the endless reams of observational notes, innocuous photographs and informers’ statements lies the hope that Goldbloom was up to something.

After decades of being denigrated in the press and parliament, in 1990 Goldbloom was awarded an OAM for his service as an activist for peace. Later, a street was named after him in Canberra. Maddison has paired an ASIO image of her father at a peace rally in 1965 with the Goldbloom street sign, evidence she says of “history doing the wheel again”. [See the diptych To everything there is a turn, turn, turn 2020 above]

Alison Stieven-Taylor. “The communist who raised me: photographer Ruth Maddison interrogates her father’s Asio file,” on the Guardian website Thurs 25 February 2021 [Online] Cited 05/04/2021

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Last night I had the strangest dream (#1)' 2020

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Last night I had the strangest dream (#1)
2020
Pigment print, hand coloured and digitally enhanced
64 x 70cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Centre for Contemporary Photography

 

 

 

Gallery four

 

Text from the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views in gallery four of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times is a significant survey exhibition focusing on Maddison’s social documentary practice from 1976 to the current day. Bringing together key historical works with a major new commission, this exhibition is a timely and focused look at one of Australia’s leading feminist photographers.

The exhibition features several key series, from Maddison’s earliest hand-coloured works Miss Universe (1979); her iconic Christmas Holidays with Bob’s Family, Mermaid Beach, Queensland (1979); a selection of series focusing on women in the workforce (from 1979); The Beginning of Absence (1996) documenting her father’s mortality; photojournalistic works documenting political rallies and activism in Australia (1975-2015); to Maddison’s more recent projects documenting the people and industries of Eden, NSW (2002-2014).

These works are presented alongside Maddison’s documentation of the cultural milieu of Melbourne with a focus on the late 1970s and 1980s. Her portraits of Melbourne’s leading writers, artists, theatre makers and musicians include Helen Garner, Tracey Moffatt, Steven Cummings, Jenny Watson, Mickey Allen, Ponch Hawkes and the founders of Melbourne’s Circus Oz amongst others.

Maddison’s more recent projects documenting Eden’s people and industries illustrate the changing face of regional Australia and the societal pressures that have come to bear. The Eden teens captured in Maddison’s 2002 series have now splintered, with half leaving town for new opportunities and the other remaining. The two industries – fishing and timber – that have underpinned Eden’s economy for decades have been dramatically reduced. While the 2019 bushfires, followed by the COVID-19 pandemic have further economically ravaged a community trying to rebuild itself.

The newly commissioned work The Fellow Traveller (2020) is an immersive photographic installation exploring Maddison’s father’s radical political activities in Australia and overseas from the 1950s-1980s, which were under ASIO scrutiny. Combining archival material, footage and hand-coloured photographs among a sea of revealing and curious images, The Fellow Traveller presents the shifting nature of long held personal and historical truths at a time of increasing social and political urgency.

Delivered through the collaboration of Adam Harding CCP Director, Jack Willet CCP Curator, Ruth Maddison and independent Curator Olivia Poloni, with inceptive curatorial work from Linsey Gosper and Madé Spencer-Castle.

 

Biography

Ruth Maddison (b. Melbourne, 1945, lives and works in Eden) is one of Australia’s foremost senior feminist photographers. Best known for her hand-coloured series, Christmas Holidays with Bob’s Family, Mermaid Beach, Queensland (1977-78), for over 40 years Maddison has been exploring ideas surrounding relationships, working lives, and communities through portraiture and social documentary photography.

An entirely self-taught practitioner, Maddison shot her first roll of film in 1976 under the encouragement of longtime friend Ponch Hawkes, and has hardly put down a camera since. Maddison’s work is represented in major public collections, including the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the National Library and the State Libraries of Victoria and New South Wales.

Text from the CCP website [Online] Cited 28/03/2021

 

Gallery one

Documentation photography J Forsyth

 

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

 

Gallery two

 

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

 

Gallery three

 

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

 

Gallery four

 

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

 

Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, installation views Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021.
Documentation photography J Forsyth

 

 

Centre for Contemporary Photography
404 George St, Fitzroy
Victoria 3065, Australia
Phone: + 61 3 9417 1549

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Sunday 11am – 5pm

Centre for Contemporary Photography website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

03
Jan
21

Exhibition: ‘Unearthed: Photography’s Roots’ at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, London

Exhibition dates: 8th December 2020 – 9th May 2021

Curator: Alexander Moore

The exhibition will include work by the following 41 artists (in alphabetical order):

Nobuyoshi Araki, Anna Atkins, Alois Auer, Cecil Beaton, Karl Blossfeldt, Adolphe Braun, Jan Brueghel the Elder, Mat Collishaw, Imogen Cunningham, Roger Fenton, Adam Fuss, Ori Gersht, Cecilia Glaisher, Joy Gregory, William Henry Fox Talbot, Sir John Herschel, Gyula Holics, Jan van Huysum, Henry Irving, Charles Jones, Sarah Jones, André Kertész, Nick Knight, Lou Landauer, Richard Learoyd, Pradip Malde, Robert Mapplethorpe, John Moffat, Sarah Moon, James Mudd, Kazumasa Ogawa, T Enami, Dr Albert G Richards, Scowen & Co., Scheltens & Abbenes, Helen Sear, Edward Steichen, Josef Sudek, Lorenzo Vitturi, Edward Weston, Walter Woodbury.

 

 

Charles Jones (British, 1866-1959) 'Broccoli Leamington' c. 1895-1910

 

Charles Jones (British, 1866-1959)
Broccoli Leamington
c. 1895-1910
© Sean Sexton
Photo copyright Dulwich Picture Gallery

 

 

A difficult thing said simply

What a wonderful selection of photographs to start the year 2021.

As Laura Cumming observes, there is a profound connection between photography and photosynthesis – both created through light, both constructed and political. For the photograph is ALWAYS the choice of the photographer, and the landscape has ALWAYS been shaped and constructed since human beings emerged on this earth. Nothing in the natural world is ever “natural” but always mediated by time, space, context, power and desire. Desire to control the direction of a river, desire for food and shelter, desire for Lebensraum or living space as a practice of settler colonialism, desire to celebrate the “natural” world, desire to procreate, desire to propagate the (genetically modified) vegetable. A desire to desire.

Photography’s symbiotic relationship with the natural world is the relationship of photography and transmutation (the action of changing or the state of being changed into another form), photography and transmogrification (the act or process of changing or being changed completely). The natural world, through an action (that of being photographed), changes its state (flux) and, further, changes its state to a completely different form (fixed in liquid fixer; fixed, saved, but fluid, in the digital pixel). Flowers and vegetables are alive then wither and die, only to remain “the same” in the freeze frame of the death-defying photograph.

Photography’s fluidity and fixity – of movement, time, space, context, representation – allows “the infinite possibility of experimentation” not, as Cumming argues, “without the interference of humanity, accident, sound or movement” but through their very agency. It is the human hand that arranges these pyramidal broccoli, the accident of light in the photogram that allows us to pierce a clump of Bory’s Spleenwort root structure. It is human imagination, the movement of the human mind, that allows the artist Charles Jones to darken the Bean Longpod cases so that these become seared in the mind’s eye, fixed in all time and space as iconic image: the “transformation of an earthy root vegetable into an abstracted object worthy of adulation.”

While the process of photographing flower and vegetable may well be due to the interference of humanity, accident, sound or movement, contemplation or decisive moment, the final outcome of the image – the representation of the natural in the physicality of the print – usually attempts to hide these processes in images that are frozen in time, images that play on the notion of memento mori and the transient nature of life. In the presence of a triple death (ie. the death of the plant or flower, the time freeze or death moment of the photograph, and our knowledge that these plants and flowers in the photograph have already died), it is the abstraction of the death reality in images of flowers, plants and vegetables that allows for a touch of the soul. These photographs “provide a glimpse into the terrain of the unseen, or what German philosopher and cultural critic Walter Benjamin coined the “optical unconsciousness”.”1 Here, photography allows us to capture the realm of the unseen and also allows us to glimpse the expansive terrain of the human imaginary. The camera reveals aspects of reality that register in our senses but never quite get processed consciously. (Is there anything “real” about Cunningham’s Two Callas 1929 other than a vibration of the energy of the cosmos?)

Still, still, still we are (unconsciously) aware of all that is embedded within a photograph for photography makes us feel, makes us remember “that which lies beyond the frame, or what photographs compel us to remember and forget, what they enable us to uncover and repress…”. Like any great work of art, when we look at a great photograph it is not what we BELIEVE that matters when we look, but how the art work makes us FEEL, how it touches the depths of our soul. These are the roots of photography, un/earthed, in the languages of image – (sub)conscious stories of the human imagination which seek to make sense of our roots in Earth.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Footnotes

1. A different nature presents itself to the movie camera than to the naked eye. Instead of being something we enter into unconsciously or vaguely, in film we enter nature analytically. While a painter lovely caresses the surfaces of nature, the cameraman chucks a piece of dynamite at it, then reassembles the pieces:

“Our taverns and our metropolitan streets, our offices and furnished rooms, our railroad stations and our factories appeared to have us locked up hopelessly. Then came the film and burst this prison-world asunder by the dynamite of the tenth of a second, so that now, in the midst of its far-clung ruins and debris, we calmly and adventurously go travelling.”

A movie camera can be mounted on a speeding locomotive, dropped down a sewer, or secreted in a valise and carried surreptitiously around a city. The camera reveals aspects of reality that register in our senses but never quite get processed consciously. Film changed how we view the least significant minutiae of reality just as surely as Freud’s Psychopathology of Everyday Life changed how we look at incidental phenomenon like slips of the tongue. In other words, film serves as an optical unconscious. Benjamin asserts the film camera “introduces us to unconscious optics as does psychoanalysis to unconscious impulses.

“Richard Prouty. “The optical unconsciousness,” on the One-Way Street website Oct 16, 2009 [Online] Cited 03/01/2021

.
Many thankx to the Dulwich Picture Gallery for allowing me to publish the artwork in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“The Dulwich show amounts to a political history of photography by other means. Should it aspire to nothing more than the fictions of painting? Should it be a catalogue, a document, a celebration of the natural life? Where Glaisher records the precise difference between two varieties of fern, Jones observes the Sputnik-like eccentricity of a plucked turnip. Where Imogen Cunningham sees the perfect abstraction of a calla lily, Edward Weston anthropomorphises a pepper, so that it momentarily resembles the torso of a body-builder. …

Perhaps the desire to photograph the vegetable world brings its own peace, as well as the infinite possibility of experimentation without the interference of humanity, accident, sound or movement. But perhaps it also has something to do with the profound connection between photography and photosynthesis. The very light that gives life to a rose, before its petals drop, is the same light that preserves it in a death-defying photograph.”

.
Laura Cumming. “Unearthed: Photography’s Roots review – cauliflowers saying cheese…” on the Guardian website Sun 29 Nov 2020 [Online] Cited 23/12/2020

 

 

Anna Atkins (English, 1799-1871) 'Ceylon' c. 1850

 

Anna Atkins (English, 1799-1871)
Ceylon [examples of ferns]
c. 1850
Cyanotype

 

 

After publishing her own book of cyanotype photograms of British algae in the 1840s, Atkins collaborated with her childhood friend and fellow scholar Anna Dixon on a second book of photograms. The book, Cyanotypes of British and Foreign Ferns, was published in 1853 and now resides in the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

This particular image [above] is a selection from Cyanotypes of British and Foreign Ferns. A collection of four distinct ferns, it’s simply captioned “Ceylon”. At the time these cyanotypes were being made, the island of Ceylon – modern day Sri Lanka – was under British rule. It would be nearly another century before the island declared independence from Atkins’ home country. Despite the abundant difficulties of travel in the 1850s, Atkins’s many scientific and business connections no doubt helped her obtain several foreign specimens for this book of fern cyanotypes.

Anonymous text on the 20 x 200 website [Online] Cited 24/12/2020

 

This unique camera-less photograph was part of an extensive project to document plants from Great Britain and British colonies like Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), and illustrates an early example of how important photography would become in our attempts to learn about and protect the natural world. Anna Atkins (British, 1799-1871) was a trained botanist who adopted photographic processes in order to describe, analyse, and, in a manner of speaking, preserve plant specimens from around the world. She is widely considered the first person to use photographs to illustrate a book, her British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions published in 1843. This particular photograph was produced with Anna Dixon for a later compilation: Cyanotypes of British and Foreign Flowering Plants and Ferns in 1854. With these and other projects, Atkins helped establish photography as an important tool in scientific and ecological observation. …

Atkins made all of her cyanotypes in England, often receiving specimens through imperial trade. This image, therefore, was produced over 5,000 miles away from where the plant originated

Brian Piper. “Object Lesson: Ceylon cyanotype by Anna Atkins,” on the New Orleans Museum of Art website March 23, 2020 [Online] Cited 24/12/2020.

 

Anna Atkins (English, 1799-1871) 'Plate 55 – Dictyota dichotoma, in the young state and in fruit' 1853

 

Anna Atkins (English, 1799-1871)
Plate 55 – Dictyota dichotoma, in the young state and in fruit
1853
From Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions Volume 1 (Part 1)
Cyanotype
Photo copyright Horniman Museum and Gardens

 

Cecilia Glaisher (British, 1828-1892) 'Bory's Spleenwort (Asplenium onopteris)' c. 1853-56

 

Cecilia Glaisher (British, 1828-1892)
Bory’s Spleenwort (Asplenium onopteris)
c. 1853-1856
Salted paper print

 

 

Cecilia Glaisher (20 April 1828 – 28 December 1892) was an English amateur photographer, artist, illustrator and print-maker, working in the 1850s world of Victorian science and natural history. …

The British Ferns – Photographed from Nature by Mrs Glaisher was planned as an illustrated guide to identifying ferns, with the entomologist Edward Newman (1801-1876), a fern expert and publisher. Made using William Henry Fox Talbot’s photogenic drawing process during what has come to be known as the Victorian fern craze, it was to be published in a number of parts and intended to appeal to the growing number of fern collectors whose enthusiasm was fuelled by increasingly informative and magnificently illustrated fern publications. The use of photography, according to the printed handbill produced by Newman to promote the work, would allow fern specimens to be “displayed with incomparable exactness, producing absolute facsimiles of the objects, perfect in artistic effect and structural details”. A portfolio of ten prints, in mounts embossed with Newman’s publishing details, was presented by him to the Linnean Society in London in December 1855. However, perhaps due to an inability to raise sufficient subscriptions, or difficulties in producing prints in consistent quantities, the project appears to have been abandoned by 1856.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Roger Fenton. 'Fruit and Flowers' 1860

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-1869)
Fruit and Flowers
1860
Albumen print from a collodion negative
Victoria & Albert Museum

 

 

In tackling still lifes, Roger Fenton gave form to his ardent belief that no subject was off limits to photography, even one intimately linked to the history of painting and seemingly so dependent on colour. Faced with terrible weather in 1860 that curtailed his ability to photograph landscapes, Fenton drew upon the skills he had perfected earlier in the decade while photographing the collection of the British Museum and trained his lens on carefully balanced still-life arrangements. Cleverly massing and juxtaposing forms and tonal values, and brazenly taking advantage of photography’s ability to convey detail, Fenton quickly produced a series of unprecedented vivaciousness that convincingly demonstrated why photography should be counted as an art. Fruit and Flowers is among the last images this towering figure in the history of photography made before quitting photography for good at age 41.

Fruit and Flowers is an ebullient, in-your-face celebration of summer’s bounty. Shot head on and close up, the densely packed arrangement seems ready to tumble from the large, glossy 14- by nearly 17-inch albumen print made from a collodion negative. Dozens of juicy, sensuous grapes flank a tall, centred vase decorated with a tendril pattern; the vase holds pansies at its top while plums nestle at the base. At right, a few grapes dangle over the edge of a marble tabletop, falling into the viewer’s space, as does a striped, tasseled cloth at left. Star-shaped hoyas are reflected in a chased silver goblet, and two immense lilies, their stems obscured, appear to hover untethered above. The lilies are balanced compositionally by a large rose that faces the viewer, while a second rose, near the bottom, separates the grapes and a nude figurine. Ferns and lily of the valley complete the floral medley.

The prominent roses and lilies may allude to the sacred, as both are associated with the Virgin Mary, but myriad wine references, such as the grapes, the chalice decorated with grape vines, and especially the impish figurine, whose physical attributes link him to bacchanalian Roman festivals, point decidedly to the profane. At the same time, the withering rose, drooping leaves, and tired-looking plums remind the viewer that such pleasures are ephemeral.

Anonymous. “Fruit and Flowers: Roger Fenton,” on the National Gallery of Art website [Online] Cited 24/12/2020.

 

Charles Jones (British, 1866-1959) 'Bean Longpod' c. 1895-1910

 

Charles Jones (British, 1866-1959)
Bean Longpod
c. 1895-1910
© Sean Sexton
Photo copyright Dulwich Picture Gallery

 

 

In Bean Longpod (1895-1910), now on view in “Unearthed,” the titular plant cuts through the centre of the composition, leaving little room for anything else. Other works play with their subjects’ placement: Broccoli Leamington (1895-1910), for instance, finds large broccoli heads sitting atop one another in a pyramid-like formation. The overall effect of this unusual treatment, notes the Michael Hoppen Gallery, is the “transformation of an earthy root vegetable into an abstracted” object worthy of adulation. …

According to the Michael Hoppen Gallery, which hosted a 2015 exhibition on Jones, “[t]he extraordinary beauty of each Charles Jones print rests in the intensity of focus on the subject and the almost portrait-like respect with which each specimen is treated.”

 

Ogawa Kazumasa (Japanese, 1860-1929) 'Iris Kaempferi' c. 1894

 

Ogawa Kazumasa (Japanese, 1860-1929)
Iris Kaempferi
c. 1894
From Some Japanese Flowers
Chromo-collotype
Hand-coloured photograph
Photo copyright Dulwich Picture Gallery

 

Ogawa Kazumasa (Japanese, 1860-1929) 'Japanese Lilies' c. 1894

 

Ogawa Kazumasa (Japanese, 1860-1929)
Japanese Lilies
c. 1894
From Some Japanese Flowers
Chromo-collotype
Hand-coloured photograph
Photo copyright Dulwich Picture Gallery

 

 

Ogawa Kazumasa lived from the 1860s to almost the 1930s, surely one of the most fascinating 70-year stretches in Japanese history. Ogawa’s homeland “opened” to the world when he was a boy, and for the rest of his life he bore witness to the sometimes beautiful, sometimes strange, sometimes exhilarating results of a once-isolated culture assimilating seemingly everything foreign – art, technology, customs – all at once. Naturally he picked up a camera to document it all, and history now remembers him as a pioneer of his art. During the 1890s he published Some Japanese Flowers, a book containing his pictures of just that.

The following year, Ogawa’s hand-coloured photographs of Japanese flowers also appeared in the American books Japan, Described and Illustrated by the Japanese, edited by the renowned Anglo-Irish expatriate Japanese culture scholar Francis Brinkley and published in Boston, the city where Ogawa had spent a couple of years studying portrait photography and processing.

Ogawa’s varied life in Japan included working as an editor at Shashin Shinpō (写真新報), the only photography journal in the country at the time, as well as at the flower magazine Kokka (国華), which would certainly have given him the experience he needed to produce photographic specimens such as these. Though Ogawa invested a great deal in learning and employing the highest photographic technologies, they were the highest photographic technologies of the 1890s, when colour photography necessitated adding colours – of particular importance in the case of flowers – after the fact.

… Even as everything changed so rapidly all around him, as he mastered the just-as-rapidly developing tools of his craft, Ogawa nevertheless kept his eye for the natural and cultural aspects of his homeland that seemed never to have changed at all.

Colin Marshall. “Beautiful Hand-Colored Japanese Flowers Created by the Pioneering Photographer Ogawa Kazumasa (1896),” on the Open Culture website March 22nd, 2019 [Online] Cited 24/12/2020.

 

The stunning floral images … are the work of Ogawa Kazumasa, a Japanese photographer, printer, and publisher known for his pioneering work in photomechanical printing and photography in the Meiji era. Studying photography from the age of fifteen, Ogawa moved to Tokyo aged twenty to further his study and develop his English skills which he believed necessary to deepen his technical knowledge. After opening his own photography studio and working as an English interpreter for the Yokohama Police Department, Ogawa decided to travel to the United States to learn first hand the advance photographic techniques of the time. Having little money, Ogawa managed to get hired as a sailor on the USS Swatara and six months later landed in Washington. For the next two years, in Boston and Philadelphia, Ogawa studied printing techniques including the complicated collotype process with which he’d make his name on returning to Japan.

In 1884, Ogawa opened a photographic studio in Tokyo and in 1888 established a dry plate manufacturing company, and the following year, Japan’s first collotype business, the “K. Ogawa printing factory”. He also worked as an editor for various photography magazines, which he printed using the collotype printing process, and was a founding member of the Japan Photographic Society.

Anonymous. “Ogawa Kazumasa’s Hand-Coloured Photographs of Flowers (1896),” on The Public Domain Review website [Online] Cited 24/12/2020.

 

Ogawa Kazumasa (Japanese, 1860-1929) 'Chrysanthemum' c. 1894

 

Ogawa Kazumasa (Japanese, 1860-1929)
Chrysanthemum
c. 1894
From Some Japanese Flowers
Chromo-collotype
Hand-coloured photograph
Photo copyright Dulwich Picture Gallery

 

Ogawa Kazumasa (Japanese, 1860-1929) 'Morning Glory' c. 1894

 

Ogawa Kazumasa (Japanese, 1860-1929)
Morning Glory
c. 1894
From Some Japanese Flowers
Chromo-collotype
Hand-coloured photograph
Photo copyright Dulwich Picture Gallery

 

 

A central focus for the show and a truly rare opportunity for visitors will be a display of 11 works by the inventor and pioneer, Kazumasa Ogawa, whose effectively coloured photographs were created 30 years before colour film was invented. Ogawa combined printmaking and traditions in Japan to create truly original and pioneering photographs. By developing up to 16 different colour plates per image from expertly hand coloured prints he made Japan the world’s leading producer of coloured photographs, the display of which is hoped to be a revelation for many.

 

Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976) 'Agave Design I' 1920s

 

Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976)
Agave Design I
1920s
Gelatin silver print

 

Edward Steichen. 'Magnolia Blossoms, Voulangis, France' c. 1921

 

Edward Steichen (American, 1879-1973)
Magnolia Blossoms, Voulangis, France
c. 1921
Gelatin silver print
19.4 x 23.8cm

 

Edward Steichen (American, 1879-1973) 'Foxgloves, France' 1925

 

Edward Steichen (American, 1879-1973)
Foxgloves, France
1925
Gelatin silver print

 

Karl Blossfeldt. 'Adiantum pedatum. Maidenhair Fern' before 1926

 

Karl Blossfeldt (German, 1865-1932)
Adiantum pedatum. Maidenhair Fern
before 1926
Private Collection, Derbyshire

 

Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932) 'Impatiens Glandulifera' 1928

 

Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932)
Impatiens Glandulifera
1928
Gelatin silver print
27 x 20.5cm

 

Imogen Cunningham. 'Two Callas' 1929

 

Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976)
Two Callas
1929
Gelatin silver print

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958) 'Pepper No. 30' 1930

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Pepper No. 30
1930
Gelatin silver print contact print
24.1 × 19.2cm

 

 

A year later, during a four-day period from August 2-6, 1930, Weston took at least thirty more negatives of peppers. He first tried again with plain muslin or a piece of white cardboard as the backdrop, but for these images he thought the contrast between the backdrop and the pepper was too stark. On August 3 he found a large tin funnel, and, placing it on its side, he set a pepper just inside the large open end. He wrote:

It was a bright idea, a perfect relief for the pepper and adding reflecting light to important contours. I still had the pepper which caused me a week’s work, I had decided I could go no further with it, yet something kept me from taking it to the kitchen, the end of all good peppers. I placed it in the funnel, focused with the Zeiss, and knowing just the viewpoint, recognizing a perfect light, made an exposure of six minutes, with but a few moments’ preliminary work, the real preliminary was on in hours passed. I have a great negative, – by far the best!

It is a classic, completely satisfying, – a pepper – but more than a pepper; abstract, in that it is completely outside subject matter. It has no psychological attributes, no human emotions are aroused: this new pepper takes one beyond the world we know in the conscious mind.

To be sure, much of my work has this quality… but this one, and in fact all of the new ones, take one into an inner reality, – the absolute, – with a clear understanding, a mystic revealment. This is the “significant presentation” that I mean, the presentation through one’s intuitive self, seeing “through one’s eyes, not with them”: the visionary.”

By placing the pepper in the opening of the funnel, Weston was able to light it in a way that portrays the pepper in three dimensions, rather than as a flat image. It is this light that gives the image much of its extraordinary quality.

Edward Weston (1961). Nancy Newhall (ed.,). The Day-books of Edward Weston, Volume II. NY: Horizon Press. p. 180 quoted on the Wikipedia website.

 

Edward Steichen (American, 1879-1973) 'Delphiniums' 1940

 

Edward Steichen (American, 1879-1973)
Delphiniums
1940
Dye imbibition print
Digital image courtesy of the George Eastman Museum
© 2019 The Estate of Edward Steichen/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Gyula Holics (Hungarian, 1919-1989) 'Peas' 1950s

 

Gyula Holics (Hungarian, 1919-1989)
Peas
1950s
Gelatin silver print
23.8 x 18.1cm

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946 - 1989) 'Tulip' 1984

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Tulip
1984
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation
Used by permission

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Orchid' 1985

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Orchid
1985
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation
Used by permission

 

 

Trace the history of photography from the 1840s to present day, as seen through depictions of nature. In Summer 2020, we present our first major photography exhibition, tracing the rich history of the medium told through depictions of nature, bringing together over 100 works by 25 leading international photographers.

This autumn, Dulwich Picture Gallery will present the first exhibition to trace the history of photography as told through depictions of nature, revealing how the subject led to key advancements in the medium, from its very beginnings in 1840 to present day. Unearthed: Photography’s Roots will be the first major photography show at Dulwich Picture Gallery, bringing together over 100 works by 35 leading international photographers, many never seen before.

Presenting just one of the many possible histories of photography, this exhibition follows the lasting legacy of the great pioneers who made some of the world’s first photographs of nature, examining key moments in the medium’s history and the influences of sociological change, artistic movements and technological developments, including Pictorialism through to Modernism, experiments with colour and contemporary photography and new technologies.

Arranged chronologically and with a focus on botany and science throughout, the exhibition will highlight the innovations of some of the medium’s key figures, including William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877), Imogen Cunningham (1883-1976) and Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989) as well as several overlooked photographers including Japanese artist, Kazumasa Ogawa (1860-1929) and the English gardener, Charles Jones (1866-1959). It will be the first show to publicly exhibit work by Jones, whose striking modernist photographs of plants remained unknown until 20 years after his death, when they were discovered in a trunk at Bermondsey Market in 1981.

Questioning the true age of photography, the exhibition will open with some of the first known Victorian images by William Henry Fox Talbot, positioning his experimentation with paper negatives as the very beginning of photography. It will also introduce a key selection of cyanotypes by one of the first women photographers, Anna Atkins (1799-1871), who created camera-less photograms of the algae specimens found along the south coast of England. Displayed publicly for the first time, these works highlight the ground-breaking accuracy of Atkins’ approach, and the remarkably contemporary appearance of her work which has inspired many artists and designers.

The exhibition will also foreground the artists who produced unprecedented photographic art in the twentieth century without artistic intention. The medium allowed for quick documentation of nature’s infinite specimens, making it an important tool for scientists and botanists such as the German photographer and teacher Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932) who captured close-up views of plant specimens in order to study and share an understanding of nature’s ‘architecture’. A selection of Blossfeldt’s ‘study aids’ will be displayed alongside work by the proud gardener Charles Jones, who used a glass plate camera to keep a meticulously illustrated record of his finest crops. Seen together for the first time, the two artists will be examined for their pragmatic approach that set them apart from the romanticised style of their time.

A central focus for the show and a truly rare opportunity for visitors will be a display of 11 works by the inventor and pioneer, Kazumasa Ogawa, whose effectively coloured photographs were created 30 years before colour film was invented. Ogawa combined printmaking and traditions in Japan to create truly original and pioneering photographs. By developing up to 16 different colour plates per image from expertly hand coloured prints, he made Japan the world’s leading producer of coloured photographs, the display of which is hoped to be a revelation for many.

Unearthed: Photography’s Roots will aim to highlight how nature photography has remained consistently radical, inventive and influential over the past two centuries with the final rooms in the exhibition dedicated to more recent advancements in the medium. A selection of work by the renowned symbolist photographers Imogen Cunningham and Robert Mapplethorpe will highlight the coded language of nature in photography. Both artists used nature to tackle the oppression experienced in their lives by channelling the strength and the sexuality of the natural subjects they photographed. This powerful symbolism, in works such as Mapplethorpe’s Tulips (1984) and Cunningham’s Agave Design I (1920s), allowed both artists to express themselves at a time when homosexuality was criminalised and women artists fought for recognition.

The final room culminates with contemporary works that reveal the enduring influence of early forms of photography and still life, with a spotlight on the artists today who are re-shaping the definition of these mediums through digital processes. Mat Collishaw’s (b.1966) Auto-Immolation (2010) combines new technology and ancient religious ideals, whilst Richard Learoyd’s (b.1966) camera-obscura photographs present a new dimension in the traditional still life genre pioneered by the artists of the Dutch Golden Age. The Gallery’s Mausoleum will host On Reflection (2014), by renowned Israeli video artist, Ori Gersht (b.1967), displayed publicly for the first time in the UK. An homage to the work of Flemish still-life painter Jan Brueghel the Elder, this ambitious work uses modern technolgy to capture the dynamic explosion of mirrored glass reflecting meticulously detailed floral arrangements by the Old Master. Brueghel’s Still Life A Stoneware Vase of Flowers, 1607-08, will also be included in the exhibition, on loan from St John’s College, Oxford for the first time in 300 years.

Unearthed: Photography’s Roots is curated by Alexander Moore, Creative Producer at Dulwich Picture Gallery, and former Head of Exhibitions for Mario Testino. He said:

“I am thrilled to present this extensive survey of photography which celebrates botany in its various guises – from Robert Mapplethorpe’s beautifully shot tulips, to Anna Atkins’ algae specimens. There is beauty to be found in all of the works in the exhibition, which includes some new discoveries. More than anything though, this exhibition reveals nature as the gift that keeps on giving – a conduit for the development of photography, it is also a force for hope and well-being that we have come to depend on so much in recent months. I hope the energy of this timely exhibition provides visitors with a new perspective on the power of the natural world – and perhaps the encouragement to take some pictures themselves!”

.
The exhibition will include a number of major loans from public and private collections, many never displayed publicly before. Lenders include The Horniman Museum, the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture, Michael Hoppen Gallery and Blain Southern. A catalogue will accompany featuring essays by Alexander Moore and art historian and 17th-century still life painting specialist, Dr Fred Meijer.

Press release from the Dulwich Picture Gallery

 

Mat Collishaw (English, b. 1966) 'Auto Immolation 002' 2010 (still)

 

Mat Collishaw (English, b. 1966)
Auto Immolation 002 (still)
2010
Hard Drive, LCD Screen, Steel, Surveillance Mirror, Wood
300 x 113.5 x 52cm

 

Lorenzo Vitturi (Italian, b. 1980) 'Yellow and Red Bokkom Mix #2' 2013

 

Lorenzo Vitturi (Italian, b. 1980)
Yellow and Red Bokkom Mix #2
2013
Giclee print on Hahnemuhle bamboo paper
29.5 x 44cm
Edition of 7
© Lorenzo Vitturi
Courtesy of Flowers Gallery

 

Ori Gersht (Israeli, b. 1967) 'On Reflection' 2014

 

Ori Gersht (Israeli, b. 1967)
On Reflection
2014
© the Artist

 

 

Ori Gersht explores the binary oppositions of attraction and repulsion by capturing the moment when “destruction in the exploding mirrors becomes… the moment of creation.”

In the adjacent exhibition rooms, viewers are faced with ten enlarged video stills from the film presented as archival pigment prints. The images somewhat reverse the symbolic value of still-life paintings, or the idea that they are meant to immortalise the experience of nature. Frozen in time, images of the explosion also plays on the notion of memento mori and the transient nature of life. Thanatotic [the name chosen by Freud to represent a universal death instinct] undertones are also seen in the fine network of cracks in the mirrors, which are especially noticeable in On Reflection, Material E01 and On Reflection, Material B02 (both 2014). Gersht’s works provide a glimpse into the terrain of the unseen, or what German philosopher and cultural critic Walter Benjamin coined the “optical unconsciousness.” The outcome is a powerful reminder of the fragility of existence.

Crystal Tong. “On Reflection: Ori Gersht,” on the ArtAsiaPacific website [Online] Cited 24/12/2020.

 

Ori Gersht (Israeli, b. 1967) 'On Reflection' 2014 (detail)

 

Ori Gersht (Israeli, b. 1967)
On Reflection (detail)
2014
© the Artist

 

Ori Gersht (Israeli, b. 1967) 'On Reflection' 2014 (detail)

 

Ori Gersht (Israeli, b. 1967)
On Reflection (detail)
2014
© the Artist

 

Richard Learoyd (British, b. 1966) 'Large Poppies' 2019

 

Richard Learoyd (British, b. 1966)
Large Poppies
2019
© the Artist
Image courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery

 

 

Dulwich Picture Gallery
Gallery Road, London
SE21 7AD
Phone: 020 8693 5254

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 5pm
Closed Mondays (except Bank Holiday Mondays)

Dulwich Picture Gallery website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

30
Apr
20

Photographs: ‘T. Schneider & Sons (1847-1921): A Portfolio of hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotypes’ c. 1860

April 2020

 

T. SCHNEIDER & SONS (1847-1921) A Portfolio of hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotypes c. 1860

 

T. Schneider & Sons (German, 1847-1921)
Untitled (interiors of Bavarian and Russian Palaces)
c. 1860
Hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotype

 

 

How rare, how exquisite.

Just look at the light and especially the perspective of these photographs. Probably due to the focal length of the lens which compacts space (like a zoom lens today), it seems as though we can see forever, to infinity, in these images.

The scale of relationship between things in the foreground and background is absolutely pleasing.

Just imagine looking at them as stereoscopes, and visualise the 3D effect in your minds eye, and how that would affect your senses.

They sold today at auction. How I wish I’d had £21000 to buy them!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

T. SCHNEIDER & SONS (1847-1921) A Portfolio of hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotypes c. 1860, 10 examples, plate size, 88mm x 116mm, Mounted under a gilt brass mat, embossed in the lower margin ‘STEREOSCOP VON T. SCHNEIDER UND SOEHNE’, the portfolio housed in contemporary maker’s fitted wooden Daguerreotype box, illustrating the interiors of Bavarian and Russian Palaces. (88mm x 116mm)

Sold on the Invaluable website for £21000 April 30th 2020

 

 

T. SCHNEIDER & SONS (1847-1921) A Portfolio of hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotypes c. 1860

 

 

T. Schneider & Sons (German, 1847-1921)
Untitled (interiors of Bavarian and Russian Palaces)
c. 1860
Hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotype

 

T. SCHNEIDER & SONS (1847-1921) A Portfolio of hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotypes c. 1860

 

T. Schneider & Sons (German, 1847-1921)
Untitled (interiors of Bavarian and Russian Palaces)
c. 1860
Hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotype

 

T. SCHNEIDER & SONS (1847-1921) A Portfolio of hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotypes c. 1860

 

T. Schneider & Sons (German, 1847-1921)
Untitled (interiors of Bavarian and Russian Palaces)
c. 1860
Hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotype

 

T. SCHNEIDER & SONS (1847-1921) A Portfolio of hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotypes c. 1860

 

T. Schneider & Sons (German, 1847-1921)
Untitled (interiors of Bavarian and Russian Palaces)
c. 1860
Hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotype

 

T. SCHNEIDER & SONS (1847-1921) A Portfolio of hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotypes c. 1860

 

T. SCHNEIDER & SONS (1847-1921) A Portfolio of hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotypes c. 1860

 

T. SCHNEIDER & SONS (1847-1921) A Portfolio of hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotypes c. 1860

 

T. Schneider & Sons (German, 1847-1921)
Untitled (interiors of Bavarian and Russian Palaces)
c. 1860
Hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotype

 

T. SCHNEIDER & SONS (1847-1921) A Portfolio of hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotypes c. 1860

 

T. Schneider & Sons (German, 1847-1921)
Untitled (interiors of Bavarian and Russian Palaces)
c. 1860
Hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotype

 

T. SCHNEIDER & SONS (1847-1921) A Portfolio of hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotypes c. 1860

 

T. Schneider & Sons (German, 1847-1921)
Untitled (interiors of Bavarian and Russian Palaces)
c. 1860
Hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotype

 

T. SCHNEIDER & SONS (1847-1921) A Portfolio of hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotypes c. 1860

 

T. Schneider & Sons (German, 1847-1921)
Untitled (interiors of Bavarian and Russian Palaces)
c. 1860
Hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotype

 

T. SCHNEIDER & SONS (1847-1921) A Portfolio of hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotypes c. 1860

 

T. Schneider & Sons (German, 1847-1921)
Untitled (interiors of Bavarian and Russian Palaces)
c. 1860
Hand tinted Stereo Daguerrotype

 

 

Invaluable website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

22
Apr
19

Exhibition: ‘Under Indian Skies – 19th-Century Photographs from a Private Collection’ at The David Collection, Copenhagen, Denmark

Exhibition dates: 23rd November 2018 – 28th April 2019

Curators: Joachim Meyer and Peter Wandel

 

 

Unknown photographer. 'The Taj Mahal, Agra, from the north' 1870s

 

Unknown photographer
The Taj Mahal, Agra, from the north
1870s
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

 

 

There are some beautiful photographs in this posting, mainly by British photographers evidencing the colonial gaze.

This is how the British saw their subjects “Under Indian Skies” not how the Indians would have seen themselves. The only Indian photographer in this posting is Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905). His photograph The Char Minar, Hyderabad (1880s, below) is a much more fluid, street photography representation of Indian life (long time exposure, blurred figures) than the other grandiose representations of Indian palaces and architecture.

The portraits are also instructive, aping as they do the classical aspirations of contemporary European carte de visite and cabinet cards. Even though the photograph Portrait of a young Indian woman by an unknown photographer (1870s, below) portrays her in Indian dress, she is accompanied to the left by a reproduction of a classical Greek statue. Of course, the aspersion is that while she may be beautiful and different, the Orient is always reliant on Europe and Greece as the birthplace of civilisation, for its existence.

I have included extra information about locations and photographers were possible.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to The David Collection for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photograph for a larger version of the image.

 

The invention of photography in 1839 revolutionised the way in which the world was documented and interpreted, not only in Europe, but also in Asia. As early as the beginning of the 1850s, the British authorities in India launched an impressive photographic survey of architecture. Enthusiastic amateur photographers soon followed suit with atmospheric images of life in the period, including that of maharajas, snake charmers, and elephants bathing in the Ganges.

Through a selection of pictures from a private British collection, this photo exhibition focuses on some of the challenges and subjects that preoccupied the earliest European and Indian photographers. It also displays the distinctive beauty of vintage photos created with difficult to handle apparatuses, big glass negatives, long exposure times, and complex chemical processes.

The exhibition consists of over 80 photographs and photo albums from around 1850 to the beginning of the 20th century. The catalogue was written by the British photo historian John Falconer, who for many years was responsible for the photograph collections in the British Library’s Indian and Oriental departments. The catalogue costs DKK 200 and can be purchased in the museum shop, which also sells the lovely exhibition poster for DKK 40.

Text from The David Collection website [Online] Cited 24/03/2019

 

 

Donald Horne Macfarlane. 'Elephants bathing' 1862

 

Donald Horne Macfarlane (Scottish, 1830-1904)
Elephants bathing
1862
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

 

 

Sir Donald Horne Macfarlane (July 1830 – 2 June 1904) was a Scottish merchant who entered politics and became a Member of Parliament (MP), firstly as a Home Rule League MP in Ireland and then as Liberal and Crofters Party MP in Scotland. Macfarlane was born in Scotland, the youngest son of Allan Macfarlane, J.P., of Caithness and his wife Margaret Horne. He became an East Indies merchant as a tea trader and indigo plantation owner. While in India he was a passionate amateur photographer. He experimented freely and produced semi-abstract images

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Donald Horne Macfarlane. 'Elephants bathing' 1862 (detail)

 

Donald Horne Macfarlane (Scottish, 1830-1904)
Elephants bathing (detail)
1862
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

 

Felice Beato (Italian-British, 1832-1909) 'The Chattar Manzil Palace and the King of Oudh’s boat in the shape of a fish, Lucknow' 1858

 

Felice Beato (Italian-British, 1832-1909)
The Chattar Manzil Palace and the King of Oudh’s boat in the shape of a fish, Lucknow
1858
Albumen silver print
24.8 × 30cm (9 3/4 × 11 13/16 in.)
© The David Collection

 

Felice Beato (Italian-British, 1832-1909) 'The Chattar Manzil Palace and the King of Oudh’s boat in the shape of a fish, Lucknow' 1858 (detail)

 

Felice Beato (Italian-British, 1832-1909)
The Chattar Manzil Palace and the King of Oudh’s boat in the shape of a fish, Lucknow (detail)
1858
Albumen silver print
24.8 × 30cm (9 3/4 × 11 13/16 in.)
© The David Collection

 

 

View of one of the Chattar Manzil [Umbrella Palaces] showing the King’s boat called The Royal Boat of Oude on the Gomti River, Lucknow, India.

The Chattar Manzil (Urdu: چھتر منزل‎, Hindi: छतर मंज़िल), or Umbrella Palace is a building in Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh which served as a palace for the rulers of Awadh and their wives. It was constructed by order of NawabGhazi Uddin Haider and completed after his death by his successor, Nawab Nasir Uddin Haider.

The Chattar Manzil stand on the banks of the River Gomti. The Chattar Manzil consisted of a Bari (larger) Chattar Manzil and Chhoti (smaller) Chattar Manzil, however only the larger one still exists. These two buildings were examples of the Indo-European-Nawabi architectural style, even though the Bari Chattar Manzil has been altered over the years. The palaces were named after the chattris (umbrella-shaped domes) on the octagonal pavilions, which crown the buildings. The imposing building has large underground rooms and a dome surmounted by a gilt umbrella.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Felice Beato. 'Courtyard of the Sikandarbagh' 1858

 

Felice Beato (Italian-British, 1832-1909)
Courtyard of the Sikandarbagh
1858
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

 

 

Felice Beato (1832 – 29 January 1909), also known as Felix Beato, was an Italian-British photographer. He was one of the first people to take photographs in East Asia and one of the first war photographers. He is noted for his genre works, portraits, and views and panoramas of the architecture and landscapes of Asia and the Mediterranean region. Beato’s travels gave him the opportunity to create images of countries, people, and events that were unfamiliar and remote to most people in Europe and North America. His work provides images of such events as the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and the Second Opium War, and represents the first substantial body of photojournalism. He influenced other photographers, and his influence in Japan, where he taught and worked with numerous other photographers and artists, was particularly deep and lasting. …

In February 1858 Beato arrived in Calcutta and began travelling throughout Northern India to document the aftermath of the Indian Rebellion of 1857. During this time he produced possibly the first-ever photographic images of corpses. It is believed that for at least one of his photographs taken at the palace of Sikandar Bagh in Lucknow he had the skeletal remains of Indian rebels disinterred or rearranged to heighten the photograph’s dramatic impact17. He was also in the cities of Delhi, Cawnpore, Meerut, Benares, Amritsar, Agra, Simla, and Lahore. Beato was joined in July 1858 by his brother Antonio, who later left India, probably for health reasons, in December 1859. Antonio ended up in Egypt in 1860, setting up a photographic studio in Thebes in 1862.

Text from the Wikipedia website

17. Gartlan, Luke. “Felix Beato,” in Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography 2, p. 128.

 

Felice Beato. 'Courtyard of the Sikandarbagh' 1858 (detail)

 

Felice Beato (Italian-British, 1832-1909)
Courtyard of the Sikandarbagh (detail)
1858
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

 

 

Interior of the Secundra Bagh after the Slaughter of 2,000 Rebels by the 93rd Highlanders and 4th Punjab Regiment. First Attack of Sir Colin Campbell in November 1857, Lucknow. Albumen silver print, by Felice Beato, 1858. Located on the outskirts of Lucknow, it was the scene of intense fighting in November, 1857. Following the action, the British dead were buried in a deep trench but the Indian corpses were left to rot. Later, the city had to be evacuated and was not recaptured until March 1858 and it was shortly afterwards that Beato probably took this photograph. As one contemporary commentator described it: “A few of their [rebel] bones and skulls are to be seen in front of the picture, but when I saw them every one was being regularly buried, so I presume the dogs dug them up.” A British officer, Sir George Campbell, noted in his memoirs Beato’s presence in Lucknow and stated that he probably had the bones uncovered to be photographed. However, William Howard Russell of The Times recorded seeing many skeletons still lying around in April 1858 Photographic views of Lucknow taken after the Indian Mutiny, Albumen silver print 26.2 x 29.8 cm. The image was taken by Felice Beato, a Corfiote by birth, who visited India during the period of the Indian Mutiny or First War of Indian Independence; possibly on a commissioned by the War Office in London he made documentary photographs showing the damage to the buildings in Lucknow following the two sieges. It is known that he was in Lucknow in March and April of 1858 within a few weeks of the capture of that city by British forces under Sir Colin Campbell. His equipment was a large box camera using 10″ x 12″ plates which needed a long exposure, and he made over 60 photographs of places in the city connected with the military events. Beato also visited Delhi, Cawnpore and other ‘Mutiny’ sites where he took photographs.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Felice Beato (Italian-British, 1832-1909) 'A mosque in the Red Fort, Dehli' 1858

 

Felice Beato (Italian-British, 1832-1909)
A mosque in the Red Fort, Dehli
1858
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

 

Felice Beato (Italian-British, 1832-1909) 'A mosque in the Red Fort, Dehli' 1858 (detail)

 

Felice Beato (Italian-British, 1832-1909)