IDENTITY (Studio 1)
A photograph is a mediated magic; it does not simply lend us a vision into a moment in time that has been lost to history, but also broadens our perspective about how an event could be. Photography is inspirational, as well as aspirational, and the story of Indian photography shall remain incomplete without such ambitions, such yearnings that introduce to the world our desires, our objectives, our identities – of who we are, and perhaps, who we want to be.
In these photographs we are introduced to a visual commentary that transcends our preconceived notions of recognition, centering that which has been otherwise marginalised. Such an inquiry is paramount in Tejal Shah’s Southern Siren-Maheshwari (2006), an effervescent performance of an ideology that orients our gaze towards gender and trans-identity politics. Her perspective focuses on trangendered or transexual protagonists, conveying their decentered stories with pomp, exuberance, and celebration. It is a life lived, no longer denied.
Anay Mann’s The Chongquing Tale (2009) magnetises our attention towards his staged photography – a visual language that has similarly explored our biographical (and biological) aspirations. His photographic lens crosses the threshold of the traditional, capturing the changing essence of a nation that is contemplative towards notions of gender, identity, and religion. In fact, it is an approach that becomes remarkably powerful in Madiha Aijaz’s Circus (2015). In her examination of entertainment, pleasure, and intimacy in the public and the private, we are made aware of social spaces that are responding to the needs and desires of a nation long repressed/suppressed.
These aspirations become staggering and resounding in the grandiloquent display of Pushpamala N’s work, The Arrival Of Vasco Da Gama (2014). Modelled after a 1989 painting by Jose Veloso Salgado, the ‘artist-iconoclast’ inverts the historical position of the celebrated navigator, transforming herself into his person. It is a theatrical deception, a performance by an entourage of artists led by Pushpamala that upend such moments of historicity, calling into question truth, veracity, and the male-centric pronouncement of civilisational advancement. The photograph enjoys an illegitimate moment, making it a fact in fiction.