As I stand in the courtyard to the Indian Habitat Centre looking at the photographic work of Maika Elan, rain drops run down my face. I wonder how these images do not melt on the paper as I look at them. The photographs are of homosexual couples living in Vietnam. I am drawn to one in particular of a young man and an older man sitting in the Red River and ponder on how they met one another. The caption reads that they are a student and teacher. This experience marked my introduction to the second bi-annual Delhi Photography Festival presented by the Indian Habitat Centre and the Nazar Foundation.
The Delhi Photograph Festival 2013 ran from September 27 – October 11, 2013. Forty-two photographers were exhibited at the Indian Habitat Center. In addition to these printed exhibitions the festival included work by fifty-three artists as a digital slide show and an exhibition of handmade and self-published artist’s books. Beyond the massive scoop of work shown at the Indian Habitat Center, twenty-five museums, galleries, foundations, and foreign institutes held exhibitions. What a significant amount of photographic work to descend on the city of Delhi.
At the Indian Habitat Center the work of Annu P. Matthews and Pooja Jain stood out along with the work of Maika Elan, who was previously mentioned. Annu P. Matthews project Re-Generation are actually video’s which slowly fade one photograph into another. One photograph is an original family photograph which fades into a re-created photograph of the family made by Matthews. These video images show the collapsing of time and space, seen so specific to the medium of photography. While Matthews work explore past and the present through laps of time, Pooja Jain’s photographic project Renunciation, explores the past embedded in the present through showing the way Jain nuns live their lives. The photographs show a range of activities from the nuns praying to the nuns pulling out their own hair. Renunciation gives the viewer the chance to see another way of living, a way of living that would be a completely foreign concept to many.
Beyond the Indian Habitat Center, the exhibition that interested me the most was Studio Suhag featuring the photographs of Suresh Punjabi and curated by Christopher Pinney at the Art Heritage Gallery. The photographs are of individuals or small groups at Punjabi’s photography studio in the late 1970’s. The photographs were enlarged and printed digitally showing all of the imperfections of time. The collection of photographs is intriguing because the background in each image is almost always the same but the props and distance from camera to subject changes. Looking at a group of portraits from the same studio in this way goes beyond a simple understanding of a single subject but a greater understanding of the photographer and community in which he is working.