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Past Exhibits


The Photograph: Painted, posed and of the moment
January 27 - February 13
National Gallery of Modern Art - New Delhi
Opening: January 27, 11.30 am

5th March - 26th March 2008
National Gallery of Modern Art - Mumbai

May 8 onwards
Rabindranath Tagore Centre - Kolkata

View Exhibition

A commented introduction to one of the masters of French photography

This exhibition was imagined and produced by Robert Delpire in 1988, when he was director of the Centre National de la Photographie in Paris, to mark Henri Cartier-Bresson's eightieth birthday.

It brings together legendary and lesser known images, each with a commentary offering an intellectual's or an artist's point of view on the photographer's approach. Contributors include Jean Baudrillard, Robert Doisneau, Pierre Boulez, Jean Clair, John Szarkowski, Alessandro Baricco, Agnes Varda and other celebrities, all close friends of Henri Cartier-Bresson.

This is an introduction to the work of an exceptional personality who has influenced - and continues to fascinate - photographers all over the world.

Artistic director: Robert Delpire
English translation: John Tittensor
Production follow-up and coordination: Julien Chapsal - Magnum Photos

A Magnum Photo exhibition with the collaboration of Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris


A projected exhibition produced by the Embassy of France in India.

It was in 1947, the year of India's Independence, that Magnum Photos was born. Since then, many of the famous cooperative's photographers have worked in India, returning there regularly over the years.

Prepared especially for the first "India Photo Now" festival in 2008, this projected exhibition uses archival images to provide an outline of the work in India of 14 Magnum photographers.

From the silent scenes of Henri Cartier-Bresson to the light and shade of Gueorgui Pinkhassov, from the classical elegance of Raghu Rai to the radical portraits of Bruce Gilden, from Marline Franck's empathetic portrayal to Carl De Keyzer's detached exploration: situated between the political and the poetic, these personal visions of the subcontinent embody a continuous concern with documenting the world while challenging the way it is depicted.

In order of appearance: Henri Cartier-Bresson, Raghu Rai, Werner Bischof, Marilyn Silverstone, Ferdinando Scianna, Bruno Barbey, Marline Franck, Steve McCurry, John Vink, Alex Majoli, Bruce Gilden, Carl De Keyzer, Harry Gruyaert, Gueorgui Pinkhassov.

Artistic director: Alain Willaume
Montage: Olivier Koechlin - Le Tambour Qui Parle
Production: Embassy of France in India
Production follow-up and coordination: Julien Chapsal - Magnum Photos

60 Years of prestige and independence

Magnum Photos was founded in 1947 by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, George Rodger and David Seymour, four photographers convinced that total independence was the sole means of affirming their commitment and covering the turmoil of the world. The choice and length of reportage, editing control, ownership of negatives, management of copyright and distribution: all the attributes linked to the status of author were established from the very start. Down the years new members have maintained this chronicle of the crucial events of our time, of daily life and of world figures, producing in the process iconic images that have entered the collective memory. Asserting their dual identity as witnesses and artists, they transcend the divisions between the press and art. Among them, and representing a broad range of styles, are Raymond Depardon, Raghu Rai, Josef Koudelka, Leonard Freed, Martin Parr, Harry Gruyaert, Elliott Erwitt and many others.

The cooperative now includes some sixty active photographers, all members of equal standing, and represents over twenty others. Four offices in Paris, New York, London and Tokyo, together with a network of fifteen agents in Europe, are constantly on the lookout for new ways of distributing and promoting their work.


Curated by Vivan Sundaram & Devika Daulet-Singh.
Organised with the support of Rencontres d'Arles and the Embassy of France in India.

A Retrospective of Umrao Singh Sher-Gil's photographs (1889-1949).
Text by Vivan Sundaram and Deepak Ananth.
Monograph published by Photoink, hardback, 141 illustrations, pp. 268.
The book will be available from that day.

Born in 1870 to the landed aristocracy of the Punjab, Umrao Singh Sher-Gil of Majitha opted for a more contemplative life than his class had destined for him. He was a Sanskrit and Persian scholar and interested in the philosophy of religion. He had a long-standing friendship with the poet Mohammed Iqbal and greatly admired Leo Tolstoy, the Russian humanist. He was fascinated by astronomy, loved carpentry and calligraphy, practised yoga, and had an abiding passion for photography.

Umrao Singh's political sympathies lay with the anti-colonial freedom movement in India. With the discovery by British Intelligence of his links with the revolutionary Gaddar Party, however, he was debarred from active politics and most of his lands were confiscated. He went on to fashion a universe around his scholarly inclinations and the felicities of family life - and his camera was there to record it. A large part of this record is made up of self-portraits, which reveal a highly self-conscious aufeur-photographer imaging his body, his subjectivity and his melancholy.

The remarkable photographs that Umrao Singh took over sixty years, beginning 1889, include autochromes (almost unknown in India then) and stereographic photographs. It was after he married (for a second time) Marie Antoinette Gottesmann-Baktay, a Hungarian opera singer, in 1912, that the family album began to assume the proportions of an archive. The couple left Lahore for Budapest soon after their marriage, and their daughters, Amrita and Indira, were born there. World War I forced them to stay on in Hungary till 1921, when they returned to India and set up home in Simla. By then photography had become second nature to Umrao Singh. He was curious about the latest inventions and consulted manuals; yet, strangely, there is little mention of photography in his letters and documents.

The Sher-Gils left for Europe again in 1929 as Marie Antoinette wanted her daughters to train in the arts in Paris; they returned to India for good in 1934. Umrao Singh died in 1954. His photographic archive constitutes a legacy that highlights the role of personal agency in the construction of a modern subject. The hundreds of photographs he took form an extraordinary record of the life-world of an Indo-European family, and are a valuable document in the archives of modernity. He deserves to be seen as a pioneering figure of Indian photography.

First shown at Rencontres d'Arles (July-September 2007)


Exhibition organised with the support of the Alkazi Foundation, Rencontres d'Arles.
http://www.rencontres-arles.com/index.php/expo/en/31, and the Embassy of France in India.

An exhibition of late 19th and early 20th century photographs from The Alkazi Collection of Photography shows how the advent of photography in India marked the beginning of a deeply imaginative form of visual representation that penetrated almost every aspect of the religious, cultural and courtly life of the princely states. This new, refined medium was adaptive and its proliferation extended the possibilities relating to the manner in which lineage and legacy became identified with iconic images of self and society.

The photographs on display contrast the official and ceremonial lives with the more private and religious life of a few princely states in India A selection of albums from the state of Rewa, for example, elucidate the hereditary transference of power from one generation to the next in a traditional court in Central India. Other albums are private records of princely families, which capture the rites of passage from weddings to the birth of children and religious ceremonies. These albums are sometimes the only reminder of the presence of women, who performed very important but completely invisible roles within the confines of the palace.

Seen here too are the Investiture or Coronation albums from the princely state of Indore, which show the young Maharaja Yeshwant Rao Holkar (1908-1961) assuming the throne in 1930 in the presence of the British Viceroy, Lord Halifax (ruled 1926-31), Indian Princes and their subjects. Other albums on display bring together the dynamic personalities of individual rulers from various regional states.

These albums exhibit the state's townscapes, buildings, the setting up of railway tracks, educational institutions, craft and agricultural exhibitions and other scenes representative of the ruler's civil enterprises associated with good governance. Through these albums, one can perceive the state's ability to stand independently during colonial rule and be recognized as 'modern' by the British Raj. In a conscious move, they also show important religious shrines of the kingdom along with cultural and religious ceremonies, which maintained the state and the ruler's connection with their more orthodox subjects.

From here, we move to a section on painted photographs, a hybrid style that marked the evolution of photography as a 'daring' art form and pre-empted the use of technicolor film in the mid-20th century. Images of rulers and subjects from various Indian states are embellished with powerful hues of watercolour and oils. The ateliers of artists and photographers, some of whom remain anonymous, create a niche form of the painted photograph and honour their patrons by investing life-like colours on the photographic surface. In India, the painted photograph also takes regional manifestations, embodied, for example in the Nathdwara School of painting in Rajasthan.

Exhibitions first shown at Rencontres d'Arles (July-September 2007)

"The Photograph: Painted, posed and of the moment is supported by Emaar-MGF. 


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