This girl digs history

Anusha Yadav is taking pictorial history places with the Indian Memory Project, a one-of-its-kind archive across the globe. And a woman fostering it to new heights is certainly noteworthy on many counts, writes Manish Gaekwad

Henri Cartier Bresson, considered the father of photojournalism, once said, “Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again.”

If he were alive today and could see what Anusha Yadav is achieving with her website Indian Memory Project (IMP), he would have to eat his words! She is our girl from the past, a sorceress who never lets the vanishing to disappear completely.

Anusha Yadav wears many hats. Her Twitter profile tells us she is a photographer, book designer, narrative-based archivist and founder of IMP. What it doesn't tell us is that she is also a closet historian.

In simpler terms, the flashlight of memory attached to a photograph, is in fact the re-production of history. She meddles in both. Therefore, it’s safe to assume she is a historian of sorts.

Here’s how she’s doing it. The story goes that while she was preparing a coffee table book on Indian weddings, she hit upon the idea of IMP. What’s it about? Founded in 2010, the project can be described as, “an online visual and narrative based archive to trace personal histories of the Indian subcontinent, through images found in family and personal archives”.

Ironically, in a digital age, where photo submissions are welcomed through ‘high-res’ scans, IMP accepts photos from the pre-digital era (before 1991). But in the larger scheme of things, it’s, perhaps, a very small price to pay for a sepia-toned throwback to memory. In fact, it’s quite a relief to look at photographs that are not in a tearing hurry to create impact, let alone write history.


And that’s precisely where Anusha’s curating talent comes into play. It is nothing short of a historian’s card trick to reconstruct history. Through photographs excavated from personal reliquaries of people sending her pictures and ascribing great stories attached to them, she has amassed an astounding wealth of images that suitably heralds her as a narrative-based archivist.

How is she any different from a historian? We presume historians aren’t digi-cool, because they tend to be buried under too much scholarly and academic rubble; Anusha re-invents history pictorially.

Family albums around partition, migration, private and rare photographs have arrived at her internet door. She recounts how clicking through them, she has seen many changes emerge in our society.

From women’s attire, to the vacant stares of men, to status and even emotions are captured in images that tell of a time, where even a tactile moment between a married couple was considered taboo for a photo-op.

Her journey has gone so far as to spark an unusual coming together of sorts when a contributor to the project was able to find two descendants from his family tree over six generations apart, living in two different continents, one in America, one in
Australia! It’s perhaps this that takes IMP from being merely a graphic design artist’s
internet social activity to a real-time history in the making.

Anusha has graduated in Communication Design from the National Institute of Design, India's leading design school. She has also worked for 16 years as a graphic designer before she took up photography.

She admits that she has no formal education in art history or anthropology, yet it’s what interests her the most. “There is not just history in these pictures, making for a valuable national archive, there’s an emotional connection that makes these photographs timeless,” she says, earnestly.

Anusha Yadav is taking pictorial history places, and literally as well, when she manages to showcase it across art galleries. IMP is, currently, a one-of-its-kind project, across the globe and a woman fostering it to new heights is
certainly noteworthy on many counts.
 

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