Moments, time, travel and change. That is what the unique exhibition, titled Travel Photo Jaipur, wants to encapsulate. This travel photography is not just the routine capturing of mountains, lakes, the desert and some beautiful scenes. This travel photography is all about capturing change, hopes, aspirations, dreams of people and places. And the uniqueness of this first time exhibition is that it wants to get the common man to stop, ponder, think. But for that it does not want them to walk into a gallery but urges them to explore the unknown in their own way, at their own time and amidst their own surroundings
So for the very first time, Jaipur is playing host to this international open-air travel photography festival. It is a first in the series of international initiatives supported by Rajasthan government to boost cultural tourism. So 14 photographers, including those from India, China, Nigeria, France, Mexico and Guatemala, are offering a glimpse into their journeys but want the people to interpret it their own way.
The exhibition’s producer Nikhil Padgaonkar says they want to dispel the prevailing thought photography, photo festivals are all for the sophisticated and elitist. It wants to bring images down to the last man. So, there are larger-than-life prints hanging from the ceilings of the train station and an abandoned art school being transformed into a site for an installation with postcards. People can approach these images on their own terms, not bogged down to to view the images from the artist’s perspective.
People don’t have to walk into gallery, which can be restricting for some. The aim is to show that the heritage sites are not just about the past but are relevant to contemporary culture as well and can be reinterpreted in a contemporary context.
Capturing the beauty of the Pink City and many other equally beautiful cities along with travellers are some celebrated lensmen Waswo X. Waswo, Cristina de Middel, Rafal Milach, Mauro Bedoni and Aradhana Sethi, who will also capture the magic of distinctive landmarks of Jaipur with their lens like the iconic Hawa Mahal, the strikingly beautiful Albert Hall and many quaint and picturesque havelis.
The exhibition is offering a curated selection of international photography inspired by the idea of journeys and visions as an outsider. The festival exhibition is being staged at various public locations across Jaipur, inviting visitors to discover the city’s heritage. The works, printed in large formats, are accompanied by an exciting programme of events that have transformed the Pink City into a platform for showcasing and contemplating photography.
Nikhil Padgaonkar, the producer of the exhibition said : “The architectural patrimony of Jaipur and its urban landscape are suited for outdoor public exhibitions. Travel Photo Jaipur has benefitted from a variety of spaces from old havelis to venues such as Hawa Mahal and even cultural zone like the Jawahar Kala Kendra, where we can intervene and adapt photographic images from around the globe.”
Travel Photo Jaipur is a call to discover the world through the eyes of that super-tourist: the photographer. Jaipurites, who live in one of the most visited and celebrated Indian cities, are used to being photographed. With Travel Photo Jaipur, the gaze is now reversed and it is their turn to observe the photographic wonders of the world.
The exhibition, which began on Feb 5 will end on Feb 14. While the exhibition is on, you can also hear experts like Cristina De Middel from Spain, whose work investigates photography’s ambiguous relationship to truth. Blending documentary and conceptual photographic practices, she plays with reconstructions and archetypes that blur the border between reality and fiction.
The there’s Gideon Mendel, from South Africa, whose work as a ‘struggle photographer’ brought him global attention. One of the major focuses of his work soon became the issue of HIV/AIDS. Since 2007, Mendel has been working on Drowning World, a series that is being exhibited at the Travel Photo Jaipur. There are evocative images by Mendel of floods that ravaged the UK and India within weeks of each other in 2007. Mendel has spent nine years travelling the world, photographing floods. His Drowning World is not about submerged houses and people fleeing the flood. Instead, it presents intimate portraits of people and their condition, almost as if the subjects have sat for a conventional portrait.This body of work earned him the 2015 Prix Pictet and has been hailed as one of the most eloquent photographic statements about climate change.
Other photographers include Thomas Seelig (Germany/Switzerland),whose most relevant group and thematic exhibitions have been The Ecstasy of Things (2004), Research and Invention (2007), Karaoke (2009) and Concrete – Architecture and Photography (2013).
And Mauro Bedoni from Italy who worked as the photo editor of Colors, the international bilingual magazine published by Fabrica and is now a freelance photo editor and curator based in both Italy and Germany.
Rafal Milach is a photographer and book artist based in Warsaw, Poland. His pictures and books have received the World Press Photo and the Pictures of the Year International awards. His work is part of the collections of the Center for Contemporary Art in Warsaw, Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts in Japan, Brandts Museum for Kunst & Visuel Kultur and CO in Berlin.
Waswo X. Waswo from USA, whose books India Poems: The Photographs, published by Gallerie Publishers in 2006, and Men of Rajasthan, published by Serindia Contemporary in 2011, are available worldwide. Waswo has lived and travelled in India for over 16 years and has made Udaipur his home for the past nine. There he collaborates with a variety of local artists including the photo hand-colourist Rajesh Soni. He has also produced a series of autobiographical miniature paintings in collaboration with the artist R. Vijay.
Since 2002, the artist has put together a vast personal collection of Indian printmaking, including etchings, lithographs, linocuts and woodcuts. Numbering over 200 individual prints, the collection has been exhibited at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, and the National Gallery of Modern Art in both Bangalore and Mumbai. It is the subject of a book, Between the Lines: Identity, Place and Power, by Lina Vincent Sunish.
Rahaab Allana from India is the curator of the Alkazi Foundation for the Arts in New Delhi, and Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society in London. He had an early engagement with the National Gallery of Modern Art, and has subsequently curated, edited and contributed to national and international arts institutions and publications, including Marg, the Lalit Kala Contemporary This summer he has co-published a book from his own private collection of Cinema stills and ephemera, titled Filmi Jagat: Shared Universe of Early Hindi Cinema, exploring a subculture of photography and print media through a found scrapbook.
Yumi Goto from Japan is an independent photography curator, editor, researcher and consultant who focuses on the development of cultural exchanges that transcend borders. She collaborates with local and international artists who live and work in areas affected by conflict, natural disasters, social problems, human rights abuses and women’s issues. Based in Tokyo, she is the co‐founder and curator of the Reminders Photography Stronghold.
Giles Tillotson from UK has taught for 14 years at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, where he was Reader in History of Art, and Chair of Art & Archaeology. He is also a Fellow (and former Director) of the Royal Asiatic Society, London. An expert on the art history of India, he has lectured widely in both Britain and India, and is the author of numerous books on architecture, history and landscape, including Taj Mahal, and Jaipur Nama: Tales from the Pink City (both published by Penguin India). He has lived in India since 2004 and currently works for the City Palace, Jaipur.
Louise Clements is the Artistic Director of QUAD, a centre for contemporary art, film and new technologies in Derby (UK)- since 2001 and the Artistic Director of FORMAT International Photography Festival since 2004. As an independent curator, she has set up commissions, been involved in publications and in art, film, mass participation and photography exhibitions. She is a juror, portfolio reviewer, workshop leader and award nominator throughout Europe, America and Asia.
The there is Aradhana Seth, who brings her globetrotting photo studio and exhibition titled, The Merchants of Images: Jaipur Edition to Jaipur, and takes up residence at the iconic Hawa Mahal. Seth’s portfolio includes production design on films like Deepa Mehta’s Earth and art direction on Wes Anderson’s Darjeeling Limited. She started this project in her home studio and took it public for the first time at the Indian Summer Festival in Vancouver, Canada where it arrested the city’s imagination. The Jaipur edition has a special backdrop painted by a group of painters from Rajasthan, and will invite the public to be playfully depicted as travellers.
And in this age of Whatsapp, Instagram and Twitter, the exhibition will celebrate this self-conscious anachronism – “the postcard”. Akshay Mahajan takes over the former Jaipur Art School in Kishanpole Bazaar to create a site-specific exhibition that renders homage to the vintage postcard, to its messages, and to how it shaped a bygone vision of journeys.
BIND will be curating a selection of photobooks around the theme of travel, mixing seminal works from the history of photography in India and worldwide along with contemporary publications.
Travel Photo Jaipur will take place at various venues across the city from February 5 – 14, 2016.