People have always been moved by soul stirring pictures but few thought photography to be a serious form of art. The trend has now changed, writes Nirmala Govindarajan.
Hungry eyes staring richness in the face, frenetic fish in the womb of a wave, a speck of lingering light in the darkness of the night, the distant mountain ensconced by a nearby tree – stories between the four corners of their frames, are among expressions of the photographers’ connect with the universe, which ultimately binds us all.
Connoisseurs of art have begun to ride the mood of photographs, taking emotions and moments in time back home to accoutre their walls. As does Bangalore-based voice actor and art collector Anita Niyogi, who says: “I pick photographs, which create an emotional feeling, especially in black and white. I particularly relate to Kolkata-based photographer, Santanu Mitra’s works.”
Just like the seasoned fraternity with a fetish for art, there’s an increasing trend among youngsters to collect photographs as they are both affordable and appealing, explains Deepa Subramanian, owner Galerie de Arts. “Although a niche market in India, collectors of photographs are the most passionate and intense people I have ever come across,” she says.
“Art collectors are younger now and relate to the medium because it’s contemporary,” adds Abhishek Poddar, owner of Tasveer Gallery, which recently launched the works of world-renowned landscape photographer, Michael Kenna.
In fact, deeply engrossed in these images, were expats and Indian collectors across age and social groups, including designer Manoviraj Khosla and Rani Urmila Devi. While the former is developing a penchant for photographs, the latter was besotted by the intensity of Kenna’s landscapes.
“Photography has been an important aspect of Indian culture since it was invented in the late 19th century,” explains Abhishek, adding, “Fine art photography is art, and has a more attractive price point as compared to painting or work in other media.” So, who are among the photographers, Indian and otherwise, between Raghu Rai and Michael Kenna that people are investing in? What are the psychographics of these buyers, especially in Bangalore? “India has a rich visual culture and photography is an integral aspect of that.
There are several talented contemporary artists, Indian and international, who are making work about India. Karen Knorr, Derry Moore and Jyoti Bhatt are a few examples,” says Abhishek, adding, “People respond to images that they relate to, and that is usually what they invest in. I don't know why I collect, but I enjoy doing it. Often, I look at a piece and feel that if I don't have it, there would be something missing in my life. I imagine other collectors feel the same way.”
In creating those missing links, which people feel drawn to, photographer Shibu Arrakkal talks of how his own works, which have found their place in various homes, revolve around his personal beliefs and philosophies. “I have been at it for 19 years, and the series which sold best was based on a feeling of absence. I worked on these abstract notions prior to the birth of my daughter and the series did really well in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore,” says Shibu.
“As they say,” explains Deepa, “a picture speaks a 1,000 words. This is probably why we are all drawn instantly to a photograph and connect emotionally with the living image, which defines the ‘one moment and time’ in space. It took a while for me to move on from the stage of merely a curious onlooker, to someone who is able to appreciate the technical mastery with which it is executed.
Finally, we are in a space where one is willing to pay a price to acquire it.” As a painter and sculptor, Yusuf Arakkal points out that although photography as an art form, which dresses the homes of people, is a new trend in India, it has been an integral part of the European art scene for a while. “India has, over the years, had a slew of talented photographers like Richard Bartholomew and now his son Pablo.
There are people like Raghu Rai and Amit Pasricha, and a slew of younger generation photographers. Now, the world’s biggest art event, the Florence Biennale, has a photography section,” he says. These very photographs, are gaining entry into homes, because their value is not as high as that of paintings. “This is simply because you can make only a single edition of a painting, unlike a photograph, which can have any number of prints. Also, the cost of producing a photograph may not be as high as that of a painting – like Anselm Kiefer, who I consider the greatest photographer.
He took pictures of American landscapes like the Grand Canyon in its panoramic grandeur,” explains Yusuf, adding, “There are others like French photographer Henri Cartier Bresson, who took pictures of people, including one of Gandhi’s funeral, which is considered to be one of the best in the world. In fact, his pictures of people on the streets of Paris are equally engaging and images you’d love to bring back home to adorn your walls.”