About the Book
This exhibition explores the development of the embellished image in India through the painted photograph, a genre that marks a significant chapter in the history of Indian photography. A crucial embodiment of the colonial encounter, these images abet the nothion of modernism in visual practice at the turn of the nineteenth century. Successfully incorporating existent Indian traditions of illumination in painting, the painted photograph slowly emerged as a self- sustaining convention that was also a legitimate expression of popular culture. The bold alchemy of brush and lens enabled a riveting third artefact, a synthesis of painting, photography and printmaking-modern art forms that affirmed the links between regional imperatives, technological innovation and the urban market.
With exposure to both indigenous and European styles as well as to the newly evolved scientific protocols of imaging. ‘native’ commercial and professional artists and ‘artist-photographers’ steadily developed an idealised and formal photo-canvas a monochromatic ground the simultaneously resist and yields to a layered impasto of colour. Meticulously staged and ornamented photographs gradually initiated a new visual paradigm by catalysing a form of hyperrealism in both art and photography. These alluring ambivalent compositions offer and inter-pictorial approach to reality, a remarkable mode of simulation provoked by cross-cultural aesthetic codes as well as profound sociological change.
The Indian subcontinent, sun-drenched for the greater part of the year, stretches its vast contours northwards just above the equator. The torrid light of the sun throws out a challenge and demands equivalent response. In India that response is through the very stuff of life: colour as the essence of the lifestyle of the people, their rites, ceremonies and traditions.
Sun-yellow of the rays of the emblem of Surya, the Sun god is represented by turmeric, a healing herb used to anoint both deity and devotee in the daily worship at sunrise. Brides wear red, signifying blood, passion, warmth and love, Patterns in tender leaf-green and celestial blue; entwine in geometric designs to adorn the garments of princes as well as the common people of India, designating class, caste, clan and domicile.
In the 1840s, photography. invented by the ingenious 'firangi’ (foreigner), soon found its way to India via its use by the armed forces of the East India Company The new medium was welcomed with enthusiasm and taken up by native rulers and the elite as patrons and practitioners. Photography matured into a thriving profession. Well-equipped studios began operating in the major cities, catering to middle- and upper-middle-class clientele, while in the 'native' bazaars enterprising itinerant photographers set up portable booths with a range of vivid backdrops.
The black-and-white image was and still is the pristine preference of the Western photographer. Scholar, critic and connoisseur. However, for the 'native' Indian this remarkable invention of the 'Company Bahadur was true to life only when enhanced by the bewitching touch of colour.
Indian photographic studios developed their own karkhal1as (artists' ateliers and workshops) much in the manner of the traditional Mughal and regional 'schools' of painting. They adopted particular styles and devised distinctive provincial traits and palettes. Some catered to royal patrons whose custom set them distinctly apart; others found a steady lucrative business in serving the needs of the burgeoning and prosperous mercantile and professional classes. With its fantastic painted backdrops of verdant landscapes, royal gardens, rearing stallions, tempestuous oceans and secret boudoirs, this unique mode of photography passed into the accepted aesthetic traditions of Indian life and has survived as one of its most delightful rituals.
Item Code: NAJ666 Cover: Paperback Edition: 2008 Publisher: Mapin Publishing Pvt. Ltd. ISBN: 9780944142950 Language: English Size: 11.0 inch x 9.5 inch Pages: 88 (59 Color Illustrations) Other Details: Weight of the Book: 500 gms