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When learning about a new subject, it can often be hard to decide where to start your research. It was 2006/2007 when I decided I wanted to learn more about non-Western photography. I started by using my universities library. I search the books and online databases for information on photography outside North America and Western Europe. I found several useful texts. My first encounter with text on photography from India was in the book, Photography’s Other Histories. This book was edited by Christopher Pinney a noted Visual Culture Anthropologist who has dedicated his research to photography in India. In addition to him being the editor of the book he was also one of the included authors.
My next interest in photography from India came in graduate school. I was taking an art history class on 19th Century British Photography. We did a segment on British photographers working in India. I wrote a paper that semester on Samuel Bourne, one of the most prolific British photographer to work in India. We also had a visiting scholar, Deborah Hutton, who was conducting research on photographs of tiger hunts in India. Much of this early information was on 19th century photography in India.
In a subsequent semester, I was taking a class on Indian Art. I knew I wanted to write about contemporary photography in India and thus my challenge began. I did internet searches and I did a book search on Amazon. My Amazon search pulled up an exhibition catalog, Click!: Contemporary Photography in India. I ordered this book and it inspired my first research into contemporary Indian photography. From there I searched the artists and writers in the book and the flood gates opened. Once I had found a start it was easy to continue. Now I find it easy to find information on photography in India, there are tons of resources if you know where to look.
After graduate school I decided to expand my research into the South Asian region and I started with Bangladesh. I knew they had a photography festival in Dhaka, so I started with that. From there I have found many Bangladeshi photographers. In 2015, I attended the photography festival in Dhaka, Chobi Mela. It was here that I got my first insights into the photography of Nepal. There was an exhibition and a speaker from Photo Circle, an organization in Kathmandu who is working to digitize the history of Nepali photography. NayanTara Gurung Kakshapati is the founder of Photo Circle and was the speaker at the festival. Her lecture was an introduction to five photographers currently working in Nepal.
Since then I have been working to expand my knowledge of photography in Pakistan and Sri Lanka. I have found a few photographers currently working in Pakistan and I have written several posts about them. I have only had the pleasure of writing a post about one Sri Lankan photographer. Sri Lanka is still a mystery. There is some information about photography from Sri Lanka in the 19th century, but current work is harder to come by. I am still searching for my path into photography on the Island.
From the information above, you can see that I have found different ways for gaining knowledge of photography in the different regions of South Asia. In the rest of the Resources section, I am providing tips on how to find new artists/photographers. In addition to these tips I am providing links to the resources I know about and use for my research into the photography of the sub-continent. (If any reader has information on more resources please let me know and I will add them.) These resources do go beyond South Asia and extend to resources for photography in general.
When beginning research on a new topic there are various places one can start. If you are a student, your text book is a good start. You can also ask your professor if they know any research or places to look for information on specific topics. If you are specifically interested in learning about new artists here are some following suggestions.
- Look at museum collections online (there is a partial list of museums under the research section)
- Visit your local museums and galleries
- Museums house the masters of art history
- Galleries showcase work by current artists – this will give you insight into the current trends
- If there are no museums or galleries in your town, consider taking a road trip to another city to visit the galleries and museums there
- Watch Art:21 (PBS)
- If you cannot watch episodes on PBS.org because you are outside the United States, you can watch clips on Youtube
- Look through art magazines at the bookstore or your library
- Do an internet search
- search for Photography from India or 19th century photography in Sri Lanka
- Ask others who their favorite artists are
- Follow an artist you know on Instagram and look at the people Instagram suggest you follow
- Instagram will suggest people who make similar posts, so they may be artists who you would be interested in as well
To the right there are resource tabs, click on them to find specific resources such as museums, archives, photography festivals, photography schools and other photography blogs.