Growing awareness about art as a reflection of surrounding
realities, wider markets and a new segment of collectors have
brought photography back to the centre-stage of contemporary art.
Two international exhibitions of photographic art in the national
capital, at the Religare Art in Connaught Place and in the National
Gallery of Modern Art, are attracting steady streams of viewers for
their depiction of American and British contemporary realities.
Noted American photographer Todd Hido, who was in India last week to
address a gathering at the opening of a showcase, "American Psyche:
10 Contemporary American Photographers" at Religare Arts, on the
evolution of photography in the US, said one of the reasons why
photography as an art was making inroads into the collectors' market
was its easy association.
"People find it easy to relate to photographs. They are kind of real
and affordable. Photographs are now collectibles of the wealthy
too," Hido told IANS.
His photographs grace the collection of British pop musician Elton
John and are in permanent collections in several museums across the
Hido photographs houses at night and common people in the American
suburban environment. "I drive around a lot and something calls out
to be photographed," Hido said.
American photographer Paul Shabroom, a member of the "American
Pysche" team, makes high art out of the functioning of American
The photographer, who captures city council meetings of residents in
smaller provincial cities across the US, documents the mood of the
electorate, the variety of nationalities and issues that constitute
everyday life in the US.
Shabroom said he "spends hours at the usually dreary council
meetings to capture right moments and the right expressions". The
end result is an artistic document of American reality.
Lensman Mark Steinmetz chronicles the psyche of the common people
across the American towns of Tennessee, Georgia, Ohio and
Connecticut with his camera.
His black and white portraits on display define the 21st century
American expressions that vary between boredom, binging, surprise,
pique, grief, resignation and hope.
For award-winning photographer Susan Felter, the cowboys of her
youth - who peopled the rodeos in the city she grew up - represent
"The young sexy cowboys are extraordinary and ordinary at the same
time. They are a culture beyond my own," Felter said of her Cowboy
series at the American Psyche showcase.
Tracing the history of photography in the US and in the west in
general, American curator Janet Delaney said: "When the first
photographs were shot in the US in the 1840s, they were a tool to
"Government offices in Washington DC commissioned large-format
landscape portraits. But nearly 170 years later, photography is a
high-technology art with the intentionality of abstraction," Delaney
She said this principle of photographic evolution - from a document
to a work of art - was similar almost the world over.
According to Martin Barnes, the curator of an exhibition of British
photographs, "Something That I'll Never Really See: Contemporary
Photography from the V&A (Victoria & Albert Museum)", at the
National Gallery of Modern Art in the capital, "Photographers have
become aligned with the concerns of contemporary fine art practice,
focussing more on the illustration of an idea than on demonstrations
of skill or mere aesthetic pleasure."
"Increasingly, prevalent digital technology has allowed innovative
methods of production and dissemination," Barnes said.
He observed that photographers could innovate because "a new type of
private collector has emerged, typically younger than the
connoisseur-collector of more traditional art forms such as
paintings or fine prints".
"The new photograph collector was perhaps less daunted by
photography and is drawn by modernity, accessibility and familiarity
with photographic images," Barnes explained.
"Private collectors, galleries and art fairs have created and
sustained a vibrant market for photographs," Barnes said.
The exhibition, "Something That I'll Never Really See", was
inaugurated by Culture Minister Kumari Selja March 10.
Curated by Barnes, the exhibition, which was in Bengaluru last
month, has brought 40 photographs by 30 artists to depict pivotal
movements in photographic history.
The showcases close early April.
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