Picture perfect

Source:- Times of India

It's time to say cheese to the world of rolls and positives as galleries and collectors give photographs pride of place, says Indrani Rajkhowa Banerjee.

How many times have you consoled yourself while returning from yet another art do, empty- handed? But do you actually need to break your heart when you can hang a sepia-toned Banjaran fashion model or a multi-coloured wild chase on your wall for half the cost of your favourite canvas? All you need is to look beyond, broaden your horizon a bit and pop into one of those galleries teeming with gems from the country's best lensmen. Sad that photography has always been a part of India's art world but has remained on the fringes, mostly receiving stepmotherly treatment from the galleries.

It's never got the platform to showcase itself the way art does. But as the collectors move in and turn their focus on India's world of photography, there's a flurry of activity on a scale never seen before. Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore now have galleries devoted exclusively to photography. Kolkata had Dayanita Singh displaying her works. In Mumbai, Dutchman Mattieu Foss opened Foss Art Gallery devoted exclusively to photography. In Delhi, shows displaying works of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Pablo Bartholomew, Ram Rahman and a host of veteran snappers proved that it's gold rush season in the world of photography as there's a buying frenzy with both galleries and collectors suddenly putting photographs in their must-have list.

In the West, galleries are known to have taken off art exhibitions to put up photographs . The scene might not be so hot in India, where a photograph's worth is considered lower than that of art and sculpture, but good times are sure rolling in with youngsters and corporates showing a keen interest. The very fact that Delhi-based Vadehra Art Gallery put up a mega pan-India show of 150 prints by 86 snappers, showing both veterans and newcomers, proves the growing clout of photography.

"The perception that photographs are not creative is changing. A painter enjoys an exalted position because he imagines and creates, but he misses the action of photography, which captures the moment in its real sense. If you choose a photograph, which reveals the real moment, then it's worth hundred works of art which do not convey any meaning," says veteran photographer S Paul, whose work sells between Rs 2 and 5 lakh.

"With skyrocketing art prices and top names almost beyond reach, photograph is surely the next big thing," says Shalini Gupta, who runs Tasveer, an exclusive gallery for photographs. The price range at Tasveer is from Rs 25,000 to Rs 3 lakh and the buyers are mostly, according to Gupta, youngsters who understand the medium a lot better, and are willing to experiment, and the serious collector (from an investment point of view).

Speaking on this trend, fashion designer Rohit Gandhi, an avid collector, says, "It's a medium one can connect with and it's cheaper; you get big names for less price. The shift is natural; you tire of one medium and move on to the next. Photography is a form of art the much-travelled knowledge-gathering Indian is relating to now."

"Creativity lies in fine art photos, where creative options are more in terms of content and mixing. There's no use sticking to conventional coffee table photos or photojournalism if you want to make it big. It's the experimenting guy who is selling," says Rohit Chawla. His advice would be, "Stick to an Indian context yet make your work contemporary so that it has a global audience. Do whatever you do in the realm of fine arts but be thoughtful to take it to another level." After all, to be called art, it should look like art.
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