Thursday, April 8, 2010

Where three dreams cross

"Where three dreams cross" is a photographic exhibition presently being held at the Whitechapel Gallery in the City, London. It represents perhaps the first attempt to provide a history of photography from the "primordial soup" that presently exists, according to co-curator Sunil Gupta.

There are over 200 photographs in this exhibition. I shall just mention a few from the portrait section.

The first grouping is from Raghu Rai, a Magnum associate but not full member. He has been photographing in India for about 50 years, covering many major events of that era. However, his images are not in the photo-journalistic section of the exhibition but do represent perfect people and place photographs!

His subjects include the former prime minister, Indira Gandhi, and the Catholic nun, Mother Teresa. None of these images result from formal portrait sessions but are made as the women concerned go about their daily business. Hence, we see Indira Gandhi in conversation with her ministers, attending functions and also in reflective mood. Mother Teresa is seen walking around her centre for unfortunates, the bright sunlight illuminating her robes.

Raghu Rai's photographs here are all in black and white though later work is in colour. He was much respected by the French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson and his work seems to reflect much of the real India, something that might be considered as lacking from this exhibition. What for instance of the wildlife and landscapes the country has to offer? So many images seem to be of poor people.

The other photographer whose single work hangs beside that of Raghu Rai's is Pamela Singh. This is a self-portrait. She lies in bed, eyes closed and largely covered in sheets with only her head, shoulder and some arm visible. Beside the bed is a table with a few objects on, one of which is a telephone. The back ground is simply a wall which has been coloured in, for this is a black and white photograph.

The impression is of a hotel room; the meaning unclear.

In some ways, this exhibition is largely about people and the way they interact with space. While this is interesting, it does seem rather limiting. Are the Himalayan peaks to be ignored? Surely they are much photographed. One feels something of India is being overlooked; its' spiritual heart perhaps.

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