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FOCUS Photography Festival
Curated by Prajna Desai
Learn more about exhibiting artists here.
If people want their stories frozen in pictures, pictures want to be encountered as stories in themselves. They want to craft their own accounts and remind the photographer and the viewer that they are the story. Without the picture there is no character, no plot, no pain, no joy, no spark to protest or strike — no release. There is no story of the kind that is likely to move our thoughts into new directions, especially if it’s just the story of the person behind the lens.
This exhibition is partial to the contradiction that autobiographies can become more intriguing, more meaningful, when the photographer lets the story breathe. Photographs cannot disengage from the subject, but they can let the photographer go. The artists we present here empathise with this view of photography.
Which is why death in a family leads to a dance of death at a radioactive spa in Japan. Or personal anxiety disorder in Poland reveals a zone of Internet forums and a deeply humane culture of group care. Or a battle in Russia to unclutter a home turns into a manifesto about how to create a kinder, more tolerant society.
We discover a curious episode in Italy’s economic history through one woman’s obsession with her grandmother’s hair. We find dark comedy and gorgeous saturated colour in disturbing enactments of gender in Bangladesh. From Spain, a burning desire to reconnect with a lost parent unravels the strands of colonialism and extinction in Brazil.
The photo essays here recruit different modes that reveal the histories to which current practitioners owe a debt. Archival images, polaroids, the pinhole camera, found imagery, text, digital collage, analogue film, and photojournalistic document all appear variously across the exhibits. Styles span abstraction, realism, the conceptual, record, and the journalistic.
It is true, photography has become more democratic. Anyone with a mobile phone can make a picture, and these are often autobiographical. They are selfies. But in the photographic scenario we have in mind, autobiography is not limited to ‘oneself’. It is not selfish.
Autobiography is about approach — to treat and tell a story with as much passion and verve as if it were one’s own.
Museum Plaza, Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum
91A Rani Baug, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Road, Byculla (E)
Directions: Next to Byculla Zoo
022 2373 1234 / 022 6571 9211
Open Thursday to Tuesday, 10am – 6pm, last entry 5.30pm; Wednesday, closed. Also closed on certain public holidays.