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Article on Art Photography in Indian Art ReviewViews: 834
Nov 30, 2009 10:43 amArticle on Art Photography in Indian Art Review#

Ajay Rajgarhia
Photo Finish - Article Published in The Telegraph

Posted: 28 Nov 2009 09:34 AM PST

The latest article published in The Telegraph newspaper Sunday magazine " Graphiti" on contemporary photography for all readers of this blog. Be glued onto the upcoming Saffronart auction for market trends on the 9th and 10th of December and before that Christie's Asian Art sale on the 30th of November........

A leading Indian photographer was once asked why people should pay high prices for photographic works considering that anyone could click a pretty picture. His matter-of-fact retort was: "Everyone can paint so why pay for a good painting."

But the thought behind the question illustrates one reason why photography is not top-of-mind even for veteran collectors.

Internationally you have photographers like Richard Prince whose photographs can cost between Rs 2.5 crore and Rs 3 crore. Closer home there's Rashid Rana with his iconic Veil series which is a collection of hundreds of pornographic images that form a veil. Also, his Red Carpet series is a collection again of hundreds of images of an abattoir that make a red carpet. Some of his works can sometimes cost almost Rs 2 crore a piece.

An untitled work by Richard Prince

Still, with a few exceptions, most people are still uncomfortable about collecting photography. Perhaps it's time to change our pre-conceived ideas and open our minds to the wonderful world of top-class photography.

It's important to divide the world of photography into two distinct parts. There is, on one hand, documentary photography which captures images of scenic landscapes, city life, everyday life and situations. Then, there's message-based photography in which a photograph conveys a message or is a satire on our times, thinking or attitudes.

Artist Shilpa Gupta is perhaps the best example in the message-based category. She had people carrying bags wrapped in white canvas with the words "There is no explosive here" printed on them. She then photographed these people in different situations like at a metro station or getting out of a car in London. This was a clear satire on how everyone after the London metro blasts carrying a bag was treated with suspicion.

No one has captured the Indian scenario -- whether it's the Taj Mahal or just a beautiful landscape -- better than the acclaimed photographer Raghu Rai. One of his medium-sized prints could cost you close to Rs 3 lakh, but the effect is magical. Then, there's Dayanita Singh, who captures the moment and brings us the beauty of everyday life and also the magical Prabuddha Dasgupta. If you wish to see any of these works, just do a search in Google Images.

Raghu Rai's Dust

Ajay Rajgarhia runs a contemporary photography gallery Wonderwall and he recently held an exhibition of 31 photographers. I figured that the sheer number of photographers on display was a good reason to go -- after all you don't often get the opportunity to see the works of 31 lensmen under one roof.

Men at Work by Ajay Rajgarhia

I was surprised pleasantly by the quality of the works and felt that this was one of the better shows I had been to this year. The photographs that captured everything from landscapes to a dump for old scooters were all engaging, and I immediately felt the urge to collect that I only get when I see quality.

The other thing which was commendable was that most of the works were priced between Rs 12,000 to Rs 40,000 and framed and ready to be hung in your home. This is the kind of initiative that's needed to make people take up collecting photography seriously. The other thing which appealed to me was that there was something for all tastes and all spaces.

My two favourite works from the show were a nice large work by Rajgarhia, who is himself a photographer, and has opened Wonderwall to promote contemporary photography. The picture titled Men at Work showed a group of men working at a site. I loved the scale and the size of the work (24in x 75in).

The other work I liked was a 22in x 34in photograph titled Old Scooters --Jodhpur, by Ramona Singh who went on a trip to Jaisalmer but, for some reason, couldn't find anything to shoot. Then, she travelled to Jodhpur and while walking through the city's back lanes came across a scooter dump. I just loved the treatment and the visual appeal of this work.

Old Scooters -- Jodhpur by Ramona Singh

So you if you want to see the holy men of Varanasi or get a new angle on the Jama Masjid, do take a look at the photographs available. It will be there for your viewing pleasure and it won't burn too big a hole in your pocket. What's more, as prices are quite low at the moment, it will definitely appreciate in value -- but that's just a bonus with a thing of beauty.

Kapil Chopra is Senior Vice President of Oberoi Hotels & Resorts.He writes a blog on collecting and investing in Indian Contemporary art at www.indianartinvest.blogspot.com. He also writes for The Telegraph newspaper in the Sunday magazine " Graphiti" every fortnight. In Delhi, he has written for "The Mail Today " newspaper and "First City" magazine.

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