Artist and the Art of Inclusion

by Samar S Jodha

The most encouraging platform in today’s conflicted world is the art space. It brings together the universal language of self-expression, does not discriminate on gender, income, or any cultural differences, and fosters a dialogue of inclusion.

Artist Probir Gupta believes in taking his art practice beyond his shadow. His work reflects the socio-political conflict of the world around us. As a mentor, he has extended this engagement through art education so that our society’s haves and the have-nots interact in a creative environment. His art initiative, Muktangan, creates and implements strategic art-centric mediation that is transformative and impacts the lives of vulnerable and marginalised children.

Eight years back, project SHAPE was initiated as a Public Art involvement for social action aimed at interventions in community spaces for inclusion and support. It started with 20 children from SPID, Udayan Care and Salaam Baalak Trust. Since then, these young minds have been on a journey of self-discovery, finding their voice, leading to skill development, and empowering their individuality. The engagement under this, SHAPE 3, comprises works by Sanjana, Arti, Muskaan, Priyanka, Sinku and Rani.

Muktangan has always had the good fortune to be supported by the artist community with collaborations and original artwork donations for fundraising. In today’s showcase, we have artists Vivan Sundaram, Vibha Galhotra, Sonia Khurana, Sharmila Samant, Samar Jodha, Ravi Agarwal, Ram Rahman, Qamar Dagar, Probir Gupta, Manisha Baswani, Anita Dube, Alok Som and Aban Raza, who have contributed their work to this collective mission.

So drop by and support art which is about inclusion 

Photography – The Democratic Art Form

by Samar S Jodha

It is said till the arrival of photography, there was minimal space for self-expression. Not everyone was talented or trained to be a painter, be it landscape, portrait or even documenting one’s surroundings. But with the arrival of photography, this started to change. Though one challenge remained, that device, the camera, was a mechanical challenge. You only owned one if you were a professional, an amateur or just had money to buy this expensive toy as part of your show-off. Some data jargon, about two decades+ back, on the arrival of digital cameras, the walls of being technically qualified to take pictures started to melt. And finally, in 2003, more camera phones were sold worldwide than stand-alone digital cameras, largely due to growth in Japan and Korea. In 2005, Nokia became the world’s most sold digital camera brand. In 2006, half of the world’s mobile phones had a built-in camera. According to Statista, the current number of smartphone users in the world today is 6.648 billion, meaning 83.32% of the world’s population owns a smartphone. It’s estimated that the number of pictures taken this year/2022 is about 54,400 every second, 196 million per hour, 4.7 billion per day, 32.9 billion per week, 143 billion per month, and 1.72 trillion before this year ends. Now that we are passed the spread of this device’s outreach let’s look at the actual impact on the photo-making itself. No prizes for guessing; vanity and human nature of projection couldn’t have been in better times, the selfie culture. At times with self+friends+environment and at times the self-obsession, carpet bombing, more like questioning one’s self-esteem or issues of state of mental health. And to add a tool, the sharing on social media. But the bigger picture, because of demystification and affordability of the camera, has created a much larger interest in the space of visual self-expression. No other art form has gained recognition than photography. Yes, this technology disrupted the professional space of photography, hurting countless professional photographers and shutting down businesses and other photo-related collateral damage. But the more significant gain, nearly everyone is a photographer, the interest in picture making, the consumption or sharing is through social media (yes, all part of digital noise) or generally people documenting their lives around their environment (professionally the “documentary photographer”) Like all creative expression, it’s your individuality and your way of expression. There is no good or bad picture; there is always room for bettering your picture. And because there are so many images all around us, it gives an opportunity to see, compare, learn and improve our photo-making. Finally, photography wins, like this gentleman I spotted on the roadside. He decided to stop his auto rickshaw and make a picture of this row of larger than life Ravans, what he thought was his frame of self-expression. Happy Dussehra & Subho Bijoy, everyone, and live your pictures every day

What an engaging evening! Prashant Panjiar

by Samar S Jodha

What an engaging evening!  Prashant Panjiar launched his book with a perfect combo of Shekhar Gupta walking us through not just the images but the times they both were out there making the reporting. 
From hanging out with the Mujahideens while dodging bullets from the Soviets in Afghanistan, frozen on a bridge on top of the Tigris River while the Americans were bombing from above, reporting through the collapsing of the USSR while running through the Eastern block in Sri Lanka on its peak of conflict or closer home in Punjab facing Bhindranwale and his parallel country, to bringing down of the Babri Masjid with Advani, which turned the political climate of this country. One could sit through and hear the contemporary socio/political/cultural history in the making of today’s India.
These were the days at the peak of print media. The editors, writers, and photographers brought the experience to you and not the loudmouth hyper television studios of today.  
The book “The Which Is Unseen” is not your conventional photojournalist’s body of work. It’s beyond just layered photo pages after pages, but the stories and personal experiences of the making of these fabulous imageries. 
As many of us know, any day, Prashant’s work speaks volumes and volumes more than he does. But his crazy nerve wreaking anecdotes and photojournalist career is a documentary film. 
These are the kind of warriors who not only risk themselves in the middle of various conflicts, but they have lived to tell the story. Having dealt with both sides of the opposing parties, they didn’t suffer from cynicism. The pragmatic spirit keeps them passing the storytelling to the next generations of this profession.  
And that is why I believe, on top of the photography pyramid, sits the Nobel profession of photojournalism, and Prashant very much belongs there! 
If you are at the Museo, grab a signed copy! Thanks, Museo camera. Centre for the Photographic Arts for such an engaging evening!


by Samar S Jodha

Viewer Discretion: Nudity

Having worked in fashion photography at the start of my career led to one clear understanding. It’s mostly about selling perception, vanity and other self-image projection. Once I met a designer in Milano, and she put it perfectly, “When you walk into a room full of people and knowing you want to be the center of attention, and that first impression, where your individuality is everything (I say like an elevator pitch), And this is where the brands/fashion comes in, and the Italians have cracked it the best.”

So there came a time I felt shooting frocks was just not my bag. But I was very fortunate to have worked with designers who gave me the more significant meaning of clothes (ok, we can call it fashion), the education on weavers, traditional crafts and the larger ethos of that ‘fashion’ would come through. This learning even ended up with a textile book with Christie’s. But what always fascinated me was the human shape, the originality. The all kinds of shapes (not limited to size zero), flaws (to some), ageing bodies (part of life) and most importantly, is not living under the influence of photoshop and post production (pitfall in fashion photography for most). The raw and the uncooked is indeed the original cool. And we celebrate this with our lover/s, friends or even the self in the mirror.

Over the past three decades, I have been celebrating this idea of picture making with my friends, lovers or even professionally for women who wanna document themselves for posterity.

I believe this is the space away from that world of fashion and perception where a person’ confidence doesn’t need to ride a brand.

Fashion trends come and go faster than one can blink. But the natural us stays, grows and evolves on the path of life. It’s the non-judgmental space of life. And that is the ultimate signature of our individuality, the true freedom to celebrate self

The Analogue Days Of Photography

by Samar S Jodha

The Film Camera: 

The Principal was to observe, absorb and then hit the shutter. No carpet bombing /No screen/No instant gratification.

Darkroom Printing:

No assembly line looking/digital spitting prints cause there was human intervention while printing in the darkroom. The more one mastered the printing process, the better one managed to standardise the print quality.

Films and printmaking were not affordable, so you put a lot of thought before indulging in the darkroom set-up process (unless it was a paid gig or your daddy was rich)

The smell of chemicals in the darkroom, the emerging image in the developing tray and the tones settling in as the print dried had the unique pleasure of anticipation and the joys of Slow Photography.

Folks obsessed with printing could disappear into this space forever, living into infinity. The engagement of self or mindfulness in the world of analogue photography!