Curated by Sunil Gupta and Radhika Singh, the exhibition includes more than a hundred images from a huge range of photographers. It opens on February 22, 2008 and will continue through the month of March 2008 at D 178, Okhla Phase I, New Delhi 110020.
In his 1980 classic Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes writes: "Life/Death: the paradigm is reduced to a simple click, the one separating the initial pose from the final print".
His celebrated book examines the relevance of photography to our times. It's immense popularity, it's machine-made photo mechanical reproductive qualities, the way in which it blurs the boundaries between all different uses of the medium. Most significantly how it is replacing memory itself with an image, an image that is impermanent and that will fade with time. It has provided us the title for an exhibition that explores the Indian condition through photography.
In other words photography has come to replace the great oral traditions of society. Family histories, social change, the detailed recollections of a grandfather, a mother have come to be replaced by the photograph. Ironically itself an impermanent medium. Even more so in the digital age.
The early development away from hand coated photography processes to photo mechanical ones meant that the medium could finally be shared by the early 20th C middle classes, and in doing so it introduced a lens based culture to the world. There is very little technically to distinguish one photograph from another except for its usage. An image that might be a documentary photograph can be taken up as a fashion icon and end up as art. The most reproduced photograph in the world is the head and shoulders portrait of Che Guevara, recently seen in work produced by Anay Mann as a decorative backdrop element in one of his portraits.
Taking Pablo Bartholomew's award winning picture of a dead baby's face from the Bhopal tragedy through the study of a Hijra by Dayanita Singh to the barren wasteland that is also the birthing of a new urban sprawl, Gurgaon by Gauri Gill we see the emergence of a younger generation with it's own readings and concerns. What needs to be recorded, what needs to be preserved for our personal and collective memory.
This exhibition will include not only single photographs made for public consumption and from private collection, but there will also be groups of photographs. Each work is pivotal in the story of Indian photographers. Some represent a dramatic rupture with the past proposing radical new forms. Others picture modern life or its impact on our inner selves. Others still propose to take modern life and revolutionize it.
Underlying the whole is the relationship between the individual and society, experience and memory, life and death.