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Building priceless archives through rich experiences

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The legendary photographer Dayanita Singh gets candid with The Pioneer over an exclusive chat, about her childhood, photography, and why she clicks images to make books.

Amartya Smaran

Capturing pictures intuitively to make books”: This encapsulates legendary photographer Dayanita Singh’s fascinating body of work. The 2022 Hasselblad Award winner was born in New Delhi, in 1961. She studied Visual communications at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, India. Later, she moved to the New York City to study at the International Center of Photography.

What allured the young Dayanita into the profession of photography was the freedom that came along with it. When the eighteen-year-old Dayanita was denied permission to photograph Indian musician Zakir Hussain, she was extremely disappointed. However, the musician himself invited her to his rehearsal. And just like that, on that very same night, she decided to become a photographer.

In an exclusive interview with The Pioneer, master photographer Dayanita Singh discussed childhood, photography, and why she clicks images to make books. She even contemplated her work and ended the interview by giving some much-needed advice to aspiring photographers.

Childhood shapes our lives. Once we grow old, we tend to think we’ve lost our inner child. The truth is that the child within us never leaves us, it just turns quiet. “Eldest of four sisters with doting parents, idyllic you could say.

The biggest trauma was being photographed by my mother, delaying every departure with her slow image making,”noted Dayanita about her childhood, and shared what pushed her in the direction of photography, “It was more an inclination for the freedom photography could give me, rather than photography itself. It freed me from all the social obligations of the time- marriage, children, and so on. Since I did not know any women in photography at the time, I could make my own rules to be free.”

Clicking pictures to make books! Intriguing, right? What’s it all about then? “I think the book and its more recent manifestations are the best ways in which to experience photography, in my opinion. I make photographs to make books and now I make books to make exhibitions. I even have a suitcase museum made of 44 museums of chance books,” said the creator.

Her breakthrough moment occurred in the form of “Go Away Closer”. “Go away closer was an important moment when I was able to break out of the idea of a series- to be able to edit with an emotion rather than place or person. And Go “Away Closer” led me to where there are no words, the unsayable in photography,” reminisced the lenswoman.

Speaking further about the craft of photography, the virtuoso commented, “Photography is a vast unexplored medium. Photographers/photo festivals arrive in a few forms/formats and then everyone feels they have to follow that format. But each person’s work can find its own forms. So we need to free photography from its laid down rules.There are no rules.” Her ongoing solo exhibition, “Dance with the Camera” commenced on October 20, 2022, in Germany and will come to an end on March 19, 2023.

At present, the creator of “Dancing with my Camera” is busy building her archives yet again in an effort to replenish her reserves.Giving her priceless advice to young photographers, the 61-year-old concluded, “Listen, learn to listen. Read as much as you can, if you are unable to travel.You need to build your mind of experiences so you can bring that to your photography.Otherwise, you run the risk of becoming a copy machine, which at one level is what the camera is.”

The AD Design Show 2022 back on ground after 2 years took over Mumbai’s Art and Design scene with an exemplary curated programming schedule. The three day show witnessed a confluence of art and design connoisseurs, patrons and practitioners alike, participating in the intersection of art, design and architecture. Every element of this edition was underlined by celebrating India: The Power Talks with its stellar lineup of speakers, the Power to the Karigar Pavilion, the monolithic AD Museum, the six art galleries exhibiting this year and the entire curation of brands.

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