Photography in India: From Archives to Contemporary Practice 2017038846, 2017043324, 9781350027886, 9781350141384

190 46 218MB

English Pages [273] Year 2018

Report DMCA / Copyright


Polecaj historie

Photography in India: From Archives to Contemporary Practice
 2017038846, 2017043324, 9781350027886, 9781350141384

Table of contents :
Half Title
Title Page
Copyright Page
1 In the Theatre of Memory: The Work of Contemporary Art in the Photographic Archive
2 Lady Hariot Dufferin's Indian Album: 'My First Efforts in Photography, 1886'
3 Itinerant Photography: Medium and Translation in the Work of Imran Channa
4 Images of Deaths and Marriages: Syrian Christian Family Albums and Oral Histories in Kerala
5 All 'Dressed Up': Costume, Fashion and Identity in the Photographs of Homai Vyarawalla
6 Putting Women in the Picture: The Role of Photography in Mobilizing Support for the Indian Emergency, 1975-77
7 Copying and De-synchronizing: Performing the Past in Contemporary Indian Photography
8 Photography at the Edge of Representation: Rethinking Photographs of Rural India
9 Interrogating 'Credible Chhattisgarh': Photography and the Construction of a New Indian State
10 Silenced Ruptures: Images from 2002 Gujarat Riots
11 Satellite Images in India: Remotely Sensed and Ambiguously Accessed
12 The Self Is as the Selfie Does; Three Propositions for the Selfie in the Digital Turn
13 The Unfolding of the Networked Image: An Oscillation between a Simple Visibility and an Invisible Complexity
14 Post-Photography and Missing Images
Afterword: The Lens and the Algorithm: From Reification to New Liquidities

Citation preview


Photography in


From Archives to




First published 2018 by Bloomsbury Academic Published 2020 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN 605 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017

RoutledgeisanimprintoftheTaylor&FrancisGroup,aninformabusiness © Selection and Editorial Material: Aileen Blaney and Chinar Shah, 2018 © Individual Chapters: Their Authors, 2018 Blaney and Chinar Shah have asserted their right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as Author of this work.




Irene Martinez

Cover image © Soliloquy, from the series Will They Sing Like Raindrops Leave Me Thirsty © Max Pinckers, 2014 All or


rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Notice:



may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and for identification and explanation without intent to infringe.





A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. Library

Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Aileen, editor. | Shah, Chinar, editor. Title: Photography in India : from archives to contemporary practice/ edited by Aileen Blaney and Chinar Shah. UK New USA : Blo msbury Visual Arts, 2018. | London, ; York, NY, Description: Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifrs: LCCN 2017038846 (print) | LCCN 2017043324 (ebook) | ISBN 9781350027886 (hardback : alk. paper) Subjects: LCSH: Photography–India–History. Classification: LCCTR103 (ebook) | LCCTR103 .P455 2018 (print) | DDC 7 0.954– dc23 LC record available at of

Names: Blaney,

Typeset by Integra Software Services Pvt. Ltd.

ISBN 13: 978-1-3501-4138-4 (pbk)




Plates ix Contributors xi Foreword: Anna Fox xiv

Acknowledgements Introduction Aileen





In the Theatre of Memory: The Work of Art in the Photographic Archive 21


Raqs Media Collective 2

Lady Hariot Dufferin's Indian Album: 'My First Efforts in Photography, 1886' 31 Denise A. Wilson



Photography: Medium and Translation in the Work

of Imran Channa Zahid R. 4



Images of Deaths and Marriages: Syrian Christian Family Albums and Oral Histories in Kerala


Pooja Sagar 5

Up': Costume, Fashion and Identity in the Photographs of Homai Vyarawalla 75

All 'Dressed

Sabeena Gadihoke


Putting Women in the Picture: The Role of Photography in Mobilizing Support for the Indian Emergency, 1975-77 87 Gemma Scott


De-synchronizing: Performing the Past in Contemporary Indian Photography 103




Photography at the Edge of Representation: Rethinking Photographs of Rural India 121 Kathleen L.



Interrogating 'Credible Chhattisgarh': Photography and the Construction of Avrati


New Indian State



10 Silenced

Ruptures: Images from 2002 Gujarat Riots


Chinar Shah 11 Satellite

Images in India: Remotely Sensed and Ambiguously Accessed 161 Muthatha Ramanathan

12 The Self Is


Selfie in the

the Selfie Does; Three



Propositions for the


Nishant Shah

Unfolding of the Networked Image: An Oscillation between a Simple Visibility and an Invisible Complexity

13 The

Fabien Charuau 14

Post-Photography and Missing Images Joan Fontcubeiia 'Translation

Afterword: The Lens and the New


Fred Ritchin Index 229



by Ana Mahé'

Algorithm: From Reification to




Temple below Elysium, Simla,


1885. Courtesy Public Records Office of

Northern Ireland (PRONI) and Dufferin and Ava Archive, Clandeboye 36 2.2

of staff after fancy dress ball, Viceregal Lodge, Simla, Group of



Courtesy PRONI and Dufferin and Ava Archive, Clandeboye 37 2.3

Body Guard Sentries, Viceregal Lodge, Simla,


1885. Courtesy PRONI

and Dufferin and Ava Archive, Clandebove Clandeboye 39 2.4

Lake and Bund from the Residency, Ajmer,


1885. Courtesy PRONI and

Dufferin and Ava Archive, Clandeboye 40 2.5

Breakfast table, Government House, Calcutta,

c, c.

1885. Courtesy PRONI

and Dufferin Dufferln and Ava Archive, Clandeboye 42 3.1

Linnaeus Tripe. Hullabede: Suli Munduppum from the Northeast, December,



Margaret Bourke-White. October 1947: Boy sitting refugee camp, Images



rock ledge above


1947. Courtesy of The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty


Imran Channa. Error I (work in progress c.


1854 53


left, finished work



2015. Courtesy of the artist 57

Imran Channa. Erasure

ori on

Paper I,


2015, Graphite


Paper, 52



inches. Courtesy of the artist 59 3.5

Imran Channa. Memories, Series. 2015. Graphite and 29


x χ

erasure on


43 inches. Courtesy of the artist 60

Death of Chakkalamannil Thomas Philip: setting 1,


1972. Courtesy


1972. Courtesy

Chakkalamannil, Ashtamudi, Kollam, Kerala 69 4.2

Death of Chakkalamannil Thomas Philip: setting 2, Chakkalamannil, Ashtamudi, Kollam 70 Chakkalamannil,


Death of Kunjangala,


1926. Courtesy Karikkattu Shankaramangalam.

Thiruvalla, Kerala 71 5.1

Fashion show at the British High Commission, Delhi,


Fashion show at the British High Commission, Delhi,

HV Archive/The Alkazi Collection of

HV Archive/The Alkazi Collection of



1960s. Courtesy


1960s. Courtesy


Photography 78


Costume show, Delhi Gymkhana club,


1960s, Courtesy HV Archive/

The Alkazi Collection of Photography 79 5.4

Costumes of India show by expatriate women, Delhi,


Costume show, Delhi Gymkhana club,

HV Archive/The Alkazi Collection of


1960s. Courtesy

Photography 80 c.

1960s, Courtesy HV Archive/

The Alkazi Collection of Photography 82 6.1

'A A

large contingent of women from the South, who passed through Delhi

21 June in the course of their Bharat Darshan on


(holiday/tourism) tour, called

the PM.' 'The People's Tryst with the Prime Minister' Socialist India, 5

July 1975, 18c. Socialist India images, Indian National Congress 93 6.2

On 25 June, On


to be


group of pilgrims who passed through Delhi, made it


with her


a memento to


adorn their homes. homes.'

'The People's Tryst with the Prime Minister' Socialist India, 5 July 1975, 18d. Socialist India images, Indian National Congress 95 6.3

'Prime Minister Indira Gandhi described herself and



'a sister of the people

"sevika" (servant) of the country' while addressing



in Delhi on 1 March.' Socialist India, 5 March 1977, 3. Socialist India

images, Indian National Congress 96 6.4

'An Adivasi An



exercising her franchise.' 'Spotlight



Socialist India, 26 March 1977, 14. Socialist India images, Indian National

Congress 97 7.1

Suresh Punjabi, Portrait of Mahesh Punjabi,


1980. Courtesy of Studio

Suhag 106 7.2

Cop Shiva. Bagadehalli Basavaraj 'Being Gandhi',


2012. Courtesy of

the artist 109 7.3

Gauri Gill and Rajesh Vangad, God of the Home and Village from the series Fields of Sight,



2013-ongoing. Courtesy of the artists 115

Binu Bhaskar, Untitled I from the series Farm, Farmers, Workers, Binu



Courtesy of the artist 126 11.1

Cadastral maps of British vintage with survey number boundaries. Digital

Image 168 13.1 Fabien Charuau, the Cassini Conspiracy, The Earth and the Moon seen X 24 from Saturn, Digital Print on Archival Paper, Unique, 24 χ 24 inches, c.

2016, Courtesy of the artist 203



Family Portrait of Karikkattu Shankaramangalam, digital reproduction of the original image from 1952,


2010. Courtesy Karikkattu, Thiruvalla,

Kerala. 2

Olivier Culmann, Three Policemen,


Waswo X. Waswo, April Harvest, black-and-white photograph, hand-


Arunkumar H.G., The Guardians and the Dark Field,

coloured by Rajesh Soni,



2015. Courtesy of the artist. artist .

2012. Courtesy of the artist. c.

2015. Courtesy of

the artist. artist .



Arunkumar H.G., Vulnerable Guardians,



2008—. Courtesy of the artist.

Harikrishna Katragadda, Survival tactics course at

the CTJW, where recruits









major part of the

'fight the guerrilla—like a

artist Courtesy of the artist. .

A retired army officer and

Brigadier Ponwar methods, 9

2015. Courtesy of the artist. artist

Binu Bhaskar, Untitled II. from the series Farm, Farmers, Workers, c.





expert in counter-insurgency operations, CTJW, from set-up to curriculum and training

2010. Courtesy Harikrishna Katragadda Katragadda. .

Arko Datta, Qutubuddin Angari during 2002 Gujarat riots,



Reuters Courtesy Reuters. .


Sebastian D'Souza, Ashok Parmar during the 2002 Gujarat riots,



Courtesy Getty Images. Images .


Chinar Shah, Installation Photograph from the project Silenced Ruptures at


Gulbarg Memorial,

2012. Courtesy of the artist. artist .

Ram Rahman, Rupa Mody's portrait from the series Untitled at Gulbarg Memorial,




2012. Courtesy of the artist. artist .

Postal stamps commemorating Indian satellites in space. Courtesy Samuha. Courtesy Aniruddha Sinha. Sinha,



Now they


'see': multispectral image merged with panchromatic image

provides enough detail for the NGO

at a

Samuha village scale. Courtesy Samuha. .


Using satellite image

as a

base, the NGO adds plot boundaries in gray

and drainage lines in blue to red survey number boundaries. Courtesy Samuha Samuha. .


Fabien Charuau, Send Some Candids ##12, 12,


Fabien Charuau, Send Some Candids Candide Archival Paper







2011, Courtesy the artist


Screen Grab- #11

10 χx 13.5 inches,

Fabien Fabien Charuau, Being Seen Trying Archival Paper








artist 2011, Courtesy the artist. .

Screen Grab #4


Print on


12 χ x 14.5 inches, c. 2014, 2014. Courtesy the artist. artist .

Fabien Charuau, Being Seen Trying and A Thousand Kisses Deep nstallation views at Chatterjee & Lai Gallery


Courtesy artist Courtesy the artist. Fabien Charuau, A thousand Kisses Deep #6













47 χ x 47 inches, c. 2015,



Print on Archival

artist Courtesy the artist. .


Erik Kessels, 24 Hrs in Photos, c. 2011.


Chinar Shah, Untitled from the series Bin Laden situation room, artist Courtesy of the artist. .


Print on

artist Courtesy of the artist. .




Aileen Blaney is faculty at Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Bangalore. She writes on film, photography and contemporary art. Recent publications engage with contemporary Indian photography and materialities of the digital image in public space in India. Anna Fox is one of the most acclaimed British photographers of the last thirty years and is Professor of Photography at the University of Creative Arts. Fox’s solo shows include Photographer’s Gallery, London, Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, among others and international group shows include Centre of the Creative Universe: Liverpool and the Avant Garde, Tate Liverpool and How We Are: Photographing Britain, Tate Britain. She was shortlisted for the 2010 Deutsche Borse Photography Prize. Avrati Bhatnagar is currently enrolled as a PhD student at Duke University, North Carolina. She has an MPhil in visual studies from Jawaharlal Nehru University, India, and taught Art History and Critical Theory at Kathmandu University, Nepal. Her research interest lies in South Asian visual culture, photography and transnational currents of colonial modernity in the region. Chinar Shah is an artist teaching at Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Bangalore, where she is also a coordinator for photography discipline. Chinar did her MA in Literature and MFA/PGDP in Photography from NID, Ahmedabad. She has shown her work both in India and abroad. Some of her recent works were shown in Tate Liverpool, Birmingham Photo Festival, Art Bengaluru and in ‘Material Light’ – a collateral exhibition at Kochi-Muziris Biennale. Christopher Pinney is Professor of Anthropology and Visual Culture at University College London. His chief interests are in commercial print culture and photography in South Asia and popular Hinduism in central India. He is currently leading the European Research Council–funded project ‘Photodemos/Citizens of Photography’. Denise A. Wilson’s main academic research interests lie within the area of amateur and professional nineteenth-century photographic practices in Ireland. Between 2010 and 2015, she completed an MRes on the tourist images of

Robert John Welch entitled ‘Constructing the North: Photography and Tourism in early Twentieth Century Ireland’ and a PhD on Irish women’s amateur practices, ‘Beyond the Domestic: Women Photographers in Ireland 1853 -1913’. She is currently a part-time lecturer in the School of Media Film and Journalism at the Ulster University, Coleraine. Fabien Charuau is an artist based in Mumbai. Working mainly with algorithms on computational images, he has had his work shown in solo and group shows and at photo festivals in Europe and India. His reflection on Indian photography has also seen him take on a curatorial role for a group show on contemporary Indian photography in Paris. Fred Ritchin is Dean Emeritus of the School at the International Center of Photography. Prior to joining ICP, Ritchin was Professor of Photography and Imaging at New York University, where he was also co-director of the NYU/ Magnum Foundation Photography and Human Rights educational programme. Among his many publications are the critically acclaimed After Photography (WW Norton, 2008) and Bending The Frame: Photojournalism, Documentary, and the Citizen (Aperture, 2013). Gemma Scott recently completed an Arts and Humanities Research Council–funded PhD at Keele University, UK. Her research examines the history of India’s State of Emergency (1975–1977), focusing particularly on women’s activism under it and their experiences of its measures. From January to April 2015, she was a fellow at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. From October 2016, she held a Scouloudi Foundation doctoral fellowship at the Institute of Historical Research, University of London. Joan Fontcuberta (Barcelona, 1955) graduated in Communications from the Autonomous University of Barcelona in 1977. He has developed both artistic and theoretical activity, which focuses on the conflicts between nature, technology and truth. He has received solo shows at New York MoMA and the Chicago Art Institute among others, and his work has been collected by institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art (NY), the National Gallery of Art (Ottawa) and the Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris). He has authored a dozen of books about aspects of history, aesthetics and epistemology of photography and has curated international exhibitions, both historical and contemporary. He was also Artistic Director of the 1996 Les Rencontres d’Arles Photographie and Guest Curator for the 2015 Month of Photography in Montreal. He won the prestigious Hasselblad Award in 2013. Kathleen L. Wyma is an art historian and independent curator who specializes in modern and contemporary Indian art. She currently teaches at The University of Hong Kong and has curated a number of exhibitions in India such as

Contemporary Contingences (2014) and Reviving the Retinal (2015) at Gallery OED, Kochi, India. Muthatha Ramanathan is a human geographer who has specialized in Development Studies, Cartography & GIS and Science and Technology Studies. Her PhD from University of Washington provides a place-based critique of technocratic spatial planning in India through ethnographic research. She teaches social science at Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Bengaluru. Nishant Shah is a professor of culture and aesthetics of digital media at Leuphana University, Germany, and the Dean of Graduate School at ArtEZ University of the Arts, The Netherlands. His work is at the intersections of digital technology, computing cultures, identity politics, and education. Pooja Sagar is a writer and a member of the faculty of New Humanities and Design at Srishti Institute of Art, Design, and Technology, Bangalore, where she leads the Creative Writing programme. Her research interest lies in the micro-politics of history and cultural studies. Her practice sits on the cusp of fiction, oral history and critical pedagogy. Her interviews with B.Rajeevan on Deleuzian poetics have been published in Malayalam magazines, collectively published in Vaakukalum Vasthukalum (Words and Things), DC Books, 2011. Raqs Media Collective (Monica Narula, Jeebesh Bagchi and Shuddhabrata Sengupta) follows its self-declared imperative of ‘kinetic contemplation’ to produce a trajectory that is restless in its forms and methods, yet concise with the infra procedures that it invents. The collective makes contemporary art, edits books, curates exhibitions and stages situations. It has collaborated with architects, computer programmers, writers, curators and theatre directors, and has made films. It co-founded Sarai – the inter-disciplinary and incubatory space at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi – in 2001, where it initiated processes that have left deep impact on contemporary culture in India. Sabeena Gadihoke is Associate Professor of Video and Television Production at the AJK Mass Communication Research Centre at Jamia University in New Delhi. She has also been an independent documentary film-maker and cameraperson. Her film Three Women and a Camera won awards at the Film South Asia at Kathmandu (1999) and at the Mumbai International Film Festival (2000). Camera Chronicles of Homai Vyarawalla (Mapin/Parzor Foundation), a book written by Gadihoke on India’s first woman photo-journalist, was published in 2006. She is currently working on a book on photography and print culture in India during the 1950s and 1960s. Zahid R. Chaudhary is Associate Professor of English at Princeton University. He is the author of Afterimage of Empire: Photography in Nineteenth-Century India (Minnesota 2012) and is currently at work on a book entitled Impunity: Notes on a Global Tendency.


As the title of this fascinating book suggests, this is not a publication focused on nostalgia and the traditional gaze expressed in much of the colonial photography from India that is so well known. This volume of thought-provoking chapters is designed to stir the melting pot of what makes up India’s contemporary photography scene and showcase some of the pertinent narratives that are growing out of this new work. As well it engages in looking at the past through a contemporary lens and in new ways of discussing the traditions of photographic practice in India and how its people and lands have been represented and why. The thoughts brought to light here represent a distinctive challenge from within as well as from outside points of view. The minute you turn the first page you are immediately engaged in a cutting-edge debate. Photography in India: From Archives to Contemporary Practice is the first publication of its kind to engage in an expansive critical investigation into both historical and contemporary photography in India. This book will inspire a new generation of scholars and photographers to rethink the discourses of the past, which have largely emerged out of Europe and North America, and consider how the Indian context is affecting new dialogue, meaning and production in photography. Questions of representation, materiality, memory, distribution and a desire to look at the medium in all its forms, including the latest digital landscape that photography is immersed in, are what has driven the editors to bring this set of significant chapters together. And these are pertinent times for the art of photography to be attempting to define itself against a background of seemingly easy action camera phones and a kind of ‘one click does it all’ type of mentality promoted by the camera industry. Photography in India has emerged out of the local studios and family albums

and moved towards documentary photography, art-based practices as well as the new-fangled world of selfies on the social media. This new wave of photography and photographic history in India is very different to how the rest of the world imagines it and deserves the urgent reviewing that is present in these pages. Connecting theory, history and practice is vital to encouraging a vibrant, modern medium as well as for fertilising new thinking through scholarly debate and education. Photography is actively used both in art and commerce and in

documentary and reportage; it is used as evidence in the law,in different streams of education and is vital to our understanding of the world. And so it is even more important to be able to critically reflect on and debate how photography operates and permeates our world. Photographic education emerging out of disciplines such as graphic design, film studies and even painting is relatively new in India; graduates are now beginning to take forward ideas that are highly original in terms of thinking about photography as a subject in itself. Parents, sending their children to universities and design institutes, have begged to know how, when it is simply a matter of clicking, photography can become a whole subject to study. And here we are in 2017 at last, starting to read and discuss precisely why it is a subject of significance and value. This timely publication is designed for a contemporary global audience

to fill an urgent gap in scholarship around photography of and in India. It will act as a catalyst for a future generation of writers, readers and practitioners, setting the scene for an emerging dialogue in photography and its multifaceted incarnations : it is an essential guide for any scholar and will provide a critical framework for those studying this extraordinary medium. Each chapter explores a different type or use of photography and also investigates the numerous places photography can be found, such as media campaigns, family albums, gallery walls, newspapers, new digital platforms and museum archives. It is a deliberate bringing together of the very different ways that photography is used and contextualised that makes up the often-difficult analysis of the medium we find present here. Photography’s diversity renders it a rather promiscuous medium. From my own perspective as an educator and a photographer, active for the last thirty years or more, I am inspired to see this book emerge in India alongside recent developments in photography education: it is just what India needs and is extremely pertinent in terms of giving a voice to new thinkers and writers. It is so important in this increasingly global world that voices from all parts of the world are heard, acknowledged, and included in the mainstream discussion around photography as a subject in all its troubling deceptions and magical splendour. Anna Fox Professor of Photography, University for the Creative Arts


We are grateful to all the photographers who permitted us to reproduce their work in this book: Max Pinckers, Binu Bhaskar, Gauri Gill and Rajesh Vangad, Cop Shiva, Imran Channa, Suresh Punjabi, Arunkumar HG, Harikrishna Katragadda, Aniruddha Sinha, Ram Rahman, Fabien Charuau, Erik Kessels, Olivier Culmann and Waswo X. Waswo. Thanks are also due to the Karikkattu and Chakkalamannil family and Dufferin and Ava Archive. We thank Rahaab Allana, curator of The Alkazi Foundation for the Arts, for all his assistance and in granting permissions to use images from the Homai Vyarawalla Archive. Ana Mahé did a brilliant job in translating Joan Fontcuberta’s article from Spanish, for which we’re very grateful.

INTRODUCTION AILEEN BLANEY Accelerated transformation of the photographic image over the past two decades has led photography research to an exciting juncture, precipitating new theories, methods and perspectives. However, relative to the intensification of critical energies attending and metamorphosing the field in recent years, remarkably little attention has been given to photographic practices and visuality in connection with India in either a contemporary or a historical time frame. Although photography has had a presence in India almost since the time of its ‘invention’ in Europe in 18391 – as early as January 1840, daguerreotype cameras were for sale in Calcutta bookseller Thacker, Spink & Co. – the body of scholarship critically investigating the history of photography in India is relatively slim in size. Notwithstanding groundwork already laid down – for instance, Christopher Pinney, Zahid Chaudhary and Sabeena Gadihoke have written notable books on studio, colonial and post-independence photography, while a steady stream of publications has accompanied gallery exhibitions curated from The Alkazi Collection of Photography, a New Delhi-based privately owned archive of nineteenth and early twentieth-century photographs – photographer and curator Sunil Gupta is neither alone nor without a measure of justification in remarking that ‘[India] barely has a history of photography readily available’.2 Correspondingly, relative to the size of India, critical writing in the arena of contemporary Indian photography is strikingly scarce. The publication almost a decade ago of India Now: New Visions in Photography and Click!: Contemporary Photography in India marks a taking stock of currents in contemporary practice. 3 However, although the transfigured role and status of the photographic image in an India of ten years ago is visually presented in both publications, their remit did not extend to written theoretical reflection on practice in a substantial sense. Other publications meanwhile with an investment in critically framing photorelated events, developments and practices in the Indian context have surfaced. Camerawork Delhi (2006–11) was a quarterly newsletter established with the aim of giving due attention to ‘the photograph, its history and potential future development’.4 Since 2011, PIX: A Photography Quarterly has been presenting contemporary photographic work coming out of India predominantly but inclusive of other regions in South Asia – artist statements and in-house and contributed


text reflectively engage with the photographic work being shown. Punctum, also founded in 2011, was a pan-Asian photography magazine printed and designed in India with each issue carrying at least one Indian-based photographer and, importantly for our purposes here, writing on photography. In Tasveer Journal, an online magazine operating out of India, critical commentary accompanies early and contemporary photography from South Asia. Furthermore, a number of India specific art magazines (Art India, Take on Art, Marg and Motherland), while not exclusively focused on photography writing, have included photo exhibition reviews and photography-related discussion in their pages over the years. Notwithstanding the emergence of platforms for thinking about and with

photography in recent years, this publication responds to a relative paucity of in-depth written scholarship around contemporary practices and the opportunity to add further granularity to a critical history of photography in India. 5 Conceived as a much-needed contribution to scholarship on Indian photography with the potential to open up new directions in the field, the collected chapters cut across state and private photography archives, familial collections, photo-based contemporary art, changes in documentary practices synchronous with India’s rapid urban and rural transformation in recent years, and technological shifts from chemical to computationally based image-making, storage and display. Photography in India: From Archives to Contemporary Practice serves to neither comprehensively survey photography’s historical development in India nor demarcate the elusive ground of its contemporary realities. Rather, it is geared towards galvanizing existing debates while starting new ones at a moment in contemporary India when photography is more ubiquitous than ever. In-depth analysis of how India historically has been visualized through

photography lies beyond the remit of this volume and indeed introduction. Notwithstanding this, attention to photography practices and the sedimentation of certain photographs into stereotypes over time, beginning with and extending beyond early photography in India, nonetheless contextualizes a variety of theoretical questions interlacing chapters. An apropos starting point in this regard is the stepping up of British imperialism in the mid-nineteenth century, a development that coincided neatly with the invention of photography, a visual tool swiftly put to use in the service of a colonial enterprise that ranged from envisioning picturesque landscapes to recording historical sites and people. Those with access to photography equipment during this period belonged to an economic elite or were active in the administration of the British Crown in India. These British and Indian photographers were largely responsible for producing the most discernible legacies of early Indian photography – architectural and topographical views, anthropological studies and studio portraiture. Photography was an integral component in many of the ethnographic surveys carried out by British government officials during the colonial period–The People of India (1868–75), an eight-volume work conducted under the watch of the British Empire’s


first Viceroy to India, and Castes and Tribes of Southern India, published in seven volumes in 1909, being just two notable examples. Very often, the ethnographer’s camera would be used in conjunction with anthropometric accoutrements: in the 1890s, at Port Blair, an Extra Assistant Superintendent commissioned by the British Museum shot the Andamanese against chequered backdrops for the purposes of producing comparative sets of visual measurements, while calipers were frequently used by amateur and professional photographers working for the British Raj in various parts of India to measure the heads of their sitters; all of these activities alike, performed in the name of ‘science’ and undergirded by racist ideologies, were mobilized to break the population down into essentialized types corresponding to categories of caste, tribe and profession. Pinney draws attention to the preface in The People of India for pinpointing these same uses of photography: ‘the interest that had been created in Europe by the remarkable development of the Photographic Art commended itself to India, and originated the desire to turn it to account in the illustration of the topography, architecture and ethnology of that country’.6 Frequent traffic in photographic images, mapping onto the identified categories, in the form of carte-de-visites, cabinet cards and postcards between India, Europe and the United States, ensured the transnational dissemination and perpetuation of certain visual stereotypes of Indian people. The boom in demand abroad and among an Anglo-Indian community in India for photographs memorializing the Indian Rebellion of 1857, coupled with establishment of the Archaeological Survey of India in 1870, gave momentum to the visual appropriation of the country’s varied landscapes, and its archaeological and architectural patrimony, with the result that picturesque representations of ‘India’, at home and away, became firmly entrenched.7 While the discussion here is suggestive of these activities having set in motion a basic vocabulary of images of India, clichéd elements of which arguably do remain in place to this day, to perceive of nineteenth-century photography in India as entirely contained within a sphere of colonial domination and control is to ignore the insights of Zahid Chaudhary’s book-length study of the period; Chaudhary is keen to emphasize that ‘in spite of photography’s use as one technology among others of colonial control and discipline, it is a medium that itself resists control’ and, importantly, ‘can just as easily fail as succeed when pressed into the service of a particular ideological agenda’. 8 Furthermore, as made clear in this account, early Indian photography played its part in transforming the individual’s perceptual apparatus and in the emergence of a differently technologized body, in ways exceeding the ‘Saidian-derived’ postcolonial interpretative lines of inquiry being pursued in photography criticism specific to India.9 This being the case and in contrast to anthropometric images in the

ethnographic style, mid- to late nineteenth-century studio portraiture made available to the princely, upper and middle classes radically new modes of selfrepresentation. Pinney borrows the term ‘swagger portrait’10 from art history to

talk about a time when ‘Like the painter’s studio, the photographer’s premises became a space in which a visual record of an elevated and intensified identity could be acquired.’11 The strategies of coercion legible in the adoption of ‘ethnographically’ suitable poses in many of the staged colonial portraits starkly contrast with the studio as a space for indulging in fantasy – the example of images of the Maharaja of Indore Shivaji Rao Holkar from c. 1890s mobilizing ‘elaborate painted backdrops to depict him flying an early monoplane and in charge of a rowing boat travelling down a decidedly European-looking river’12 is especially instructive in this regard. If photography aided and abetted the British colonialist expansion into India,

supplying the imperial power’s archival ambitions with a ‘territory of images’ 13 and profoundly impacting how the country was represented both to itself and to the rest of the world, the coming of photojournalism was equally defining in the construction of historical record. Photographers such as Sunil Janah, T. S. Satyan, Homai Vyarawalla, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Margaret Bourke-White were vital to documenting the freedom struggle and composing an iconography of a newly independent India with images of power plants, under-construction dams, bustling metropolises and state-building ceremonial events. The imprint of contemporary realities in their work had the immediacy and force of newness to arrest viewers during the time period while later news media and magazine photojournalism – published in twentieth-century titans such as The Illustrated Weekly of India, later arrivals India Today and Outlook Magazine and international titles such as Time, Life and Newsweek – largely succeeded in photographically tracing the contours of a modernizing India. By contrast, a genre of ‘exotic India’ images that persist in today’s internationally circulated travel and lifestyle magazines, typified by a publication such as National Geographic, have calcified into photojournalism stereotypes. Alain Willaume, editor of one of the books on contemporary Indian photography mentioned earlier, observes that ‘India and photography have one common enemy: the cliché […] For its worshippers, the “eternal” India demands nothing more than the exclusion of all traces of modernity from the frame.’14 This is the same ‘eternal’ India displayed in the work of Steve McCurry, whose photographs for National Geographic have played a part in erecting a gateway to India for especially non-Indian viewers. Scenic spots, train journeys, religious rituals and festivals, elders – typically turbaned – with facial wrinkles, women in saris and photogenic children living in poverty are recurring motifs in McCurry’s thirty-five-year photographic engagement with the subcontinent. Particularly telling in a great many respects are endorsements of his most recent photo-book India (2015) by Time and Sunday Times Travel Magazine on publisher Phaidon’s promotional webpage: for ‘McCurry’s colorful work shows an India never before seen’ and ‘A world of almost make-believe’. 15 Sunday Times Travel Magazine emphasizes the spectacularity of ‘Fascinating daily scenes and landscapes [that] are sure to inspire’.16 Tellingly, additional text

used in Phaidon’s publicizing of McCurry’s India book – ‘India … captur[es] the lives of everyday people in extraordinary settings: from the Ganesh festival on Chowpatty beach in Mumbai to the Kolkata railway station at dawn to the flower markets of Kashmir and the streets of Old Delhi’17 – is interchangeable with marketing copy used in tourism literature selling India as a holiday destination; India directs a reader’s gaze at places to which the tourist industry invariably invites visitors to India, making the experience of looking at the book’s images into a touristic activity in its own right. Such photographs would not be out of place in Incredible India!, a national branding campaign established in 2002 to promote India as a major tourism and manufacturing destination through images of iconic landscapes and Indians in traditional dress. In the campaign, India gets branded by its ‘extreme geography, kaleidoscopic culture, [and] deep-rooted spirtituality’.18 Moreover, McCurry has influenced a generation of photographers aspiring to represent India in like fashion; part of his legacy so far has been to cement in the popular imaginary beautiful stereotypes of an exuberant India and a slew of documentary photographers who in shooting style and choice of content are co-participants, if not his imitators, in the perpetuation of déjà vu images of India in magazine stories, photo-books, exhibitions and photography festivals. India post-liberalization of the market in 1991, an urban workforce tied to a contemporary knowledge economy and complexities in issues around environment, land and livelihood are largely absent in India’s personification through images of acrobats, magicians, Hindu priests, shepherds, farmers and fishermen that continue to dominate representations of India in contemporary issues of National Geographic. While the intention here is not to scapegoat McCurry since of course he is neither alone nor unprecedented in visually exoticizing India, it is nonetheless worth acknowledging that historically India has beckoned photographers from afar in search of the exotic. John Murray was a nineteenth-century Scottish photographer originally employed in the Medical Service of the Army of the East India Company. As early as 1858, one of many photographs he composed of the Taj Mahal became the first known exhibited image of the famous landmark when it was shown in the London Photographic Society Exhibition. This proved a precursor to its reappearance in 1921 on the cover of National Geographic, and it has been gracing the covers and pages of magazines and photo albums ever since – its most recent outing is on the cover of Around the World in 125 Years: Asia and Oceania (2017), one in a three-part volume celebrating National Geographic’s most decisive images from throughout its lifetime. The durability of the Taj Mahal image is testimony to the strength of iconicity and exoticism bound up in photographed Indian landmarks. In the decade since Devika Daulet Singh of Photoink19 expressed

disappointment in the pages of one of the earlier mentioned books on contemporary photography in India that ‘in a country of over a billion people, there is not one art college that offers photography as a fine art degree’,20

and Gupta’s similarly pointed comment about the need for ‘The education establishment […] to make way for proper degree courses’,21 photography has established a relatively stronger presence in university curricula. The situation today while far from having revolutionized reflects a growing demand to study photography at undergraduate level and updating of approaches to the field in related courses offered at MA and higher diploma levels. In 2008, a postgraduate diploma and more recently a master’s programme was instituted at the country’s leading design school that goes beyond the skills-based approach favoured by a great number of certificate and diploma courses on offer to incorporate criticality and experimentation into teaching photography theory, culture and practice. Coincident with developments in photography education and an increased

appetite among galleries in India for photographic work in recent years is the adoption within contemporary art practice of alternative photographic languages demonstrating reflexive and performance-driven explorations of the self, and interrogations of photographic representation, genre and technology. Moreover, contemporary photography practices in India, within and beyond the art world, have been profoundly impacted by digitization’s transformation of image-making, storage and circulation; the reverberations of this can be felt at the ontological level of what we continue to call the ‘photographic image’ in the debate around whether a digital image qualifies as a photograph at all. The complex nature of the digital image in networked culture and image-making technologies (from satellites and consumer cameras to facial recognition and other automated image-capture gizmos) poses challenges for theorizing and thinking about photography. Mika Elo pinpoints these in terms of how ‘In the new technological environment of photography, the familiar questions, “Where is the photograph?” and “What is the photographic?” have a new resonance.’22 In digitally networked societies, it is no longer possible to identify photography with a neatly defined set of technologies and practices, the equivalence of an ‘imagined unity of photography’. 23 The digitization of culture and resulting paradigm shift in photography identified in the writings of many commentators is not relevant in the same way to all chapters in the collection. 24 However, these developments are key components of photographic visual culture in the India of today where broadband penetration was expected to reach 402 million, with approximately 306 million people accessing the internet from mobile devices according to a report produced by Internet and Mobile Association of India and Indian Market Research Bureau in 2015.25 The current government’s Digital India Programme, designed to ‘transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy’26, specifies high-speed internet access as key to its provision of ‘digital infrastructure as a utility to every citizen’.27 Its envisaging of ‘Cradle to grave digital identity that is unique, lifelong, online and authenticable to every citizen’28 is revealing of a drive to digitize the very notion and practice of citizenship.

Let us turn our attention at this point to the collection’s division into two discrete sections – one with a focus on early photography and the other on contemporary contexts and practices. This bifurcation unravelled as both a taking stock of photography in India today and acknowledgement of the gravitational pull between photography archives and scholars in the current moment, which in the case of the latter, the rate of responses to our initial call for chapter proposals made abundantly clear. The importance thereby being accorded photography archives is continuous with the ‘archive fever’ about which Michel Foucault once wrote or the ‘archival impulse’, as Hal Foster saw it, driving so many artists, theorists and writers to work in archives, and which has only increased with the seemingly unlimited archival capacities of web servers in locations around the world. The book’s first section ‘Photographic Time and Memory’ variously approaches temporalities of photography – taking into account, for example, how the photograph is indexically conjoined with the past and simultaneously exists as an object in the present – via explorations of memory and metaphoricity, the contingency of meaning generated in any time-bound reading of photographic imagery and the elusiveness of the historical in the archive and photography more broadly. This inherent scepticism around the photograph as an environment playing host to some notion of a pristine past can be set in opposition to forms of suppositioning, in more historically oriented scholarship, that locate in photography’s indexicality incontrovertible historical evidence. Overall, the chapters contribute to a departure from a reliance on research and histories of Indian photography on colonial archives such as the India Office Records housed in the British Library, London, and share less ground with scholarship using the archive as a resource with which to establish fixed chronologies pertaining to photography’s invention, its development and key events and people associated with it. Rather, they are concerned with questioning the partiality of collections or the impact of their geo-location and the identity of the historian in the construction of historical narrative. Fortunately today there is a greater consolidation of photography archives in India than was previously the case, even if there remains much to be done in terms of state preservation of India’s photographic patrimony; Chowmahalla Palace Archive in Hyderabad, the Udaipur Palace Museum Collection and the relatively more recently established Alkazi Collection of Photography and Aditya Arya Archive all house photography collections. Cumulatively, the chapters’ engagement with partition, colonial, Congress Party, family and private archives indicates that just as there is an excess of meaning captured within the photographic frame so too is there in the ever-unfolding panoply of contexts in which the itinerant photograph moves through and comes to intermittent rest, making it irreducible to ‘what has been’ both at the moments of photographic capture and during subsequent readings of the image.

In our opening chapter, Raqs Media Collective explore the ‘ruses necessary to the making and contestation’ of the archival photograph’s truth claims. Reflecting on a prior artistic engagement with anthropometric portrait images from the Francis Galton Collection, in University College of London’s Science Library, and the Alkazi-housed ‘Scene at Sikanderbagh’, reputably India’s first known war image, they discuss the ability of the contemporary artist entering the photographic archive to use speculation, fantasy, humour and irony to ‘brush history against the grain’.29 Concerned with the vulnerability of the photograph to shrinkage – from a condition of expansiveness to one of ordered, referenceable information – the artistic approach they describe can be aligned with Okwui Enwezor’s elucidation of ‘critical transactions predicated on opening up new pictorial and historiographic experiences against the exactitude of the photographic trace’.30 Keeping with the nineteenth century is Denise Wilson’s chapter, a study of a personal photo album, compiled by Lady Hariot Dufferin, the Anglo-Irish wife of India Viceroy Lord Dufferin (1884–88). While photography in nineteenth-century India was a predominantly male pursuit, its popularity as a fashionable hobby for upper-class ladies inspired several European women temporarily residing in India to visually record their experiences. Lady Dufferin took her photographs during a period overlapping with William Crooke’s compiling of Tribes and Castes of the North-Western Provinces and Oudh, a time for the British Crown of heavy investment of resources and labour in photography. However, unlike her male colonial counterparts who were busy making anthropometric images of the ‘native’ population, Dufferin’s album – My First Efforts in Photography, India 1886 – is filled with portraits from her own social circle, comprising mainly British men and women, and touristic images of landscape, palatial buildings, temples and pagodas. Her negotiation of Victorian norms of feminine behaviour and life at the heart of the colonial administration in India is reflected in her choices and omissions around photographic subject matter – there are no male-centric photographs of political proceedings, maharajahs or hunting expeditions. Wilson interprets the vicereine’s photographs as embodying a perceptual field of a woman inhabiting a colonial epicentre and yet for whom expectations enshrined in ideologies of Victorian femininity inhibit unfettered access to this very zone. Zahid Chaudhary in his chapter thinks through the fungibility of the photographic medium, reviving in the process debate around the photographic index and its powers of referentiality. Discussion pivots around early photography in India, in the form of the work of nineteenth-century photographer Linnaeus Tripe and a contemporary Pakistani artist Imran Channa, whose graphite drawings are responses to photographs of partition produced by Henri Cartier Bresson, Margaret Bourke-White and Bert Hardy. Chaudhary analyses Channa’s graphite drawings for how they displace medium-specific qualities of the source photograph while simultaneously embalming particular photographic elements;

resulting semblance and discrepancy between the drawings and their reference photographs map onto the fragmentary rate of correspondences between photographs, of partition in this case, and the histories to which they owe their existence. For Chaudhary, the indexical trace makes the photograph attractive to state actors empowered to instrumentally use photography to disseminate reductive historical narratives of partition. Channa’s ‘Error, Erasure, and Memories’ series, by contrast, illuminates disparity between the historical and its photographic mediation. For Chaudhary, holding onto this incommensurability is one method of defence for photography theory and practice against partisan appropriations of the past. The Syrian Christian family album in the Southern Indian state of Kerala,

specifically photographs showing marriage and death, is the locus point for Pooja Sagar’s enquiry. With a focus on elders, repositories of familial history and the keepers of family photos, analysis hones in on a wedding album dating back to 1952 and sepulchral photographs of adult and child corpses from a period in and around 1925. Using oral history methods, Sagar is able to probe how these photographs inhabit and shape the domestic space of her own extended Syrian Christian family. Her reading of group family portraits is directed not only at the way its members are placed within the frame but also in the way the framed photographs are arranged on wall-space. Such visual hierarchies are interpreted as modes through which a Syrian Christian family reinforces genealogical conventions linked to the larger history of Syrian Christians coming to India and their early interactions with local communities and colonizers. Divulging private photographs of family members posing with the dead, Sagar describes a rank and file assembling of people within the frame as illustrative of a photographic practice that imposed order at the moment of capture. However, memories connected with events surrounding the images intrude on this sense of order – chaotic juxtaposition of oral narratives and family albums sunder family, relationships and a prior domestication of history apart; in chaos Sagar ultimately finds what is ‘incessant and intrinsic to family portraits’. In and around the same period is Sabeena Gadihoke’s piecing together of a picture of what Nehruvian India might have looked like if composed from negatives – filed in leather dust jackets stored away in a wooden chest in the Vyarawalla home – of upper- and middle-class women ‘dressing-up’ in the 1950s and 1960s, and not from the photographer’s ‘important’ negatives of political events and figures ‘stored in Tupperware boxes in the more privileged recesses of her [Vyarawalla] steel almirah’. Gadihoke identifies in Homai Vyarawalla’s images of fashion shows and costume contests the opportunity to speculate around issues related to gender, race and identity in an India of the 1950s; the discovery of negatives showing a white woman in a heavy brocade salwar suit posing with a brass-carved pitcher, ‘sporty’ women with tennis rackets and riding crops, a family decked out in Madras checks, a pet dachshund and its owner in matching patterns and bodies

of different shape, size and age participating enthusiastically in the costume shows testify to a wealth of material available to Gadihoke’s speculative inquiry. The succeeding era in Indian politics sets the historical context for Gemma Scott’s chapter which focuses on the Congress Party’s reliance on photographs of women in the pages of its weekly bulletin Socialist India to construct the ruling party’s popularity during the period of the Emergency (1975–77), declared by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. This visual abundance, Scott points out, is coterminous with the bulletin’s textual silence around women’s actual involvements in the Emergency and their invisibility in subsequent academic literature dealing with the period in question. In foregrounding a persistence of India’s visual cultural inheritance in contemporary photography, the closing chapter, contributed by Christopher Pinney, acts as a bridge between sections 1 and 2 of the book. Pinney’s identification of ‘de-synchronisation’ as a shared aesthetic strategy allows him to tie connections between the work of Pushpamala N, Waswo X. Waswo, Olivier Cullman, Gauri Gill, Suresh Punjabi, Naresh Bhatia and Cop Shiva. Borrowing Jodi Throckmorton’s term ‘postdating’ and Ashis Nandy’s interpretation of postcolonial cultural production that reads against the grain and linearity of the historical archive, he describes photobased works that imaginatively revision themes from colonial-era photography as well as older photographic processes such as sepia toning, demonstrating that visual archives are anything but dead repositories. Pinney pinpoints doubling, repetition and citation as techniques through which the photographic image visualizes desynchronized configurations of historical time, offering an alternative to the dominant temporality of national modernity. Unseduced by ‘modernity, co-evality, the global now’, the selected works in Pinney’s chapter demonstrate the spectrality of the past in our present. Photographies in Contemporary India, the second section of the book, presents a diversity of photographic practices and acknowledges an expanded notion of photography in the Indian context. Within its purview are new modes of image-making, an ever-increasing range of contexts in which photographic images have agency and a media ecology newly characterized by a culture of sharing and networked dissemination of visual content. Notwithstanding that neither documentary photography nor photojournalism has either become irrelevant or necessarily seen their practices majorly reconfigured, the section includes and extends beyond the traditional documentary image. Accordingly, contributors participate in discussion around computational technology’s expansion of photography and dualities inherent in the documentary image - the facility with which it, on the one hand, reproduces normative ways of seeing and on the other critiques problematic aspects of Indian society; the section's ample scope accommodates a regional government’s turn to documentary photography in the production of narratives of statehood; the global phenomenon of the selfie; the encroachment of computer vision in the Indian space industry

and development sector; algorithms and photo-based artistic practices; the internet’s missing images; the ethical fault lines in photojournalism’s treatment of communal violence or how the burden of representation with which documentary photography has been saddled gets revoked in photographs that purposefully yield little in the way of ‘productive evidence’ about land and agriculture in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. As even this truncated summary would suggest, the idea that photography is everywhere has more critical purchase today than ever before. Whether or not new imaging possibilities and the internet’s transformation and re-contextualization of the image are reflected in art and documentary photography in India, how people see and experience the self and sociality with the support of visual technologies such as the phone camera and social media signifies a profound shift in how subjectivities are being lived out in the contemporary moment, and which undoubtedly is a key point of interest in the book’s closing chapter by Joan Fontcuberta; concluding the collection with a chapter of this kind opens up the field of view to photography’s futures directions, which has implications for India but not only. Setting the context for Kathleen Wyma’s consideration of the work of Binu Bhaskar, Arunkumar H.G. and P. Sainath are the themes of rural to urban migration, farmer suicides and a neoliberal government’s ‘political promises’ and ‘slick slogans’. Despite having professional designations – film-maker, artist, journalist – which she concedes are varied, and whose photographic engagements belong to different visual registers, their work commonly addresses the country’s global financial competitiveness, catchily distilled in the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) 2004 election marketing slogan ‘India Shining’, farmer’s experiences of crisis around labour and a current rebranding in glossy advertisements of rural India as an ‘experiential’ tourist destination. Drawing from Chantal Mouffe’s theory of antagonistic art practice, the chapter explores departures, in at least two of the bodies of work, from a cliché-ridden ‘thick visual record of rural India’ piped through the channels of journalism. Supported through visual references to Bhaskar and Arunkumar, Wyma argues that within aesthetic choices lie the possibilities for rehabilitating photography’s ability to engage a public that arguably has been led down a representational if not political ‘cul-de-sac’ through excessive exposure to reportage photography which overemphasizes labour and dignity in suffering. The mitosis of images on the internet, having diminished the capacities of well-meaning journalistic and documentary images to generate affect or timely information about rural India, has meant that the environment in which viewers engage with photojournalism and documentary photography has irreversibly changed; this is not to downplay the enormous importance of documentary’s bearing witness to history, and in this regard the informative value of P. Sainath’s photojournalism is acknowledged. Nonetheless, Wyma’s chapter grapples with shifts in the affective powers of the documentary image in a visual ecosystem of plenty.


In a not altogether unrelated analysis, Avrati Bhatnagar engages with the role of the photographic image in Chhattisgarh Tourism Board campaigns dedicated to selling a relatively new state to the rest of India. Bhatnagar in her critique of how Chhattisgarh is essentialized and trivialized in its visual branding as a destination for tourism describes the erasing from its pitch of the very people whose distinct ethnic profile provided justification for the formation of the new Indian state in the first place. Landscapes too are similarly emptied out to offer tourists the subject position of an ‘explorer’ venturing into ‘untouched and unpeopled reaches of the state’. Bhatnagar finds in independent photojournalism contrasting images showing the lives of the local population in the face of Naxalite insurgency, mass displacement and everyday struggles with the state alongside statesponsored military training camps and outposts dotting Chhattisgarh’s rural areas. Discussion attends to how photography in its politicized, censored and fictionalized modes of visually narrating the state to an Indian public supports a set of competing claims around questions of state identity and belonging. Memories of February 2002, when schools suddenly shut down and an

unexpected holiday was declared on ten successive days, forms the starting point for Chinar Shah’s exploration of the differential nature of photography in journalistic and artistic representations of the communal riots that broke out in the western state of Gujarat in 2002, claiming the lives of 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus. The afterlife of two portrait images acquiring iconic status after being picked up by the news media provide the focus for an analysis that makes problematic a political and aesthetic distance from which photojournalism ‘represents’ the victims and survivors of violence. Discussing the case of Qutubuddin Ansari, who became the ‘face of the riots’ after being shot in tears by photographer Arko Datto for Reuters, she looks at photography’s ability to inflict a form of violence all of its own: compounding Ansari’s trauma of living through the event was that of living with an image that would be republished time and again in print and online media. In a tandem discussion around artistic practice – in the form of Shah’s own photographic work and a series of portrait images by Ram Rahman – circumstances under which photo-based art may open up access for survivors of violence to Ariella Azoulay’s conception of a ‘citizenry of photography’31 are explored. A ‘civil political space’, it is argued, arises from the participation of survivors in artistic collaboration, not only in the making of Shah’s and Rahman’s images but also in their dissemination. In turning their bodies into a site of protest, the photographed survivors of riots become active participants in a citizenry of photography. The satellite image’s ability to go beyond the visual spectrum in its presentation of views of earth from space versus a scarcity of people on the ground with the expertise to see through multi-spectral images, being churned out by the Indian space industry, forms the ground of inquiry explored by Muthatha Ramanathan in her chapter. Concerned with the inability of many end-users of

remote sensing applications to read data embedded in the pixel, she uncovers a troubling confluence between rapid advancements in imaging technologies and a sluggishness within government institutions in creating access and training opportunities among the ranks of the spatial technology sector where demand for satellite images exists. Informed by ethnographic fieldwork examining changes in land use, conducted in South India between 2004 and 2009, she arrives at an understanding that regardless of how illuminating the datum and spheroid information the satellite image contains, complex webs of relationships bridging the land and various social actors are what ultimately activate pixelencoded information – NGO workers viewing the satellite images in question had the advantage of being physically present in the location visualized or remotely sensed. The NGO’s terms of visual engagement, in which the power of the satellite image was simultaneously capitalized upon and challenged, are characteristically very different to the spatial accuracy sought by state actors working remotely out of research labs. Ramanathan thereby offers a salutary reminder of how knowledge is not beamed from the top down but built from the bottom up. Nishant Shah’s chapter redirects the gaze from interpretations of the selfie that fall back on its obvious relationship to narcissism and its continuities with earlier photography practices serving human expression to bring attention to three propositions: the selfie is a digital object which hides more than it reveals; the selfie is a networked object; the selfie does not simply bring the subject and its own object status into visibility but it also strategically makes itself, and the self within it, invisible. Attending to these propositions, Shah brings the reader to a point of understanding that the selfie is more than just an image, and has a function that goes beyond representation; the selfie moreover, as he points out, is party to the ‘new biometric technosociality in emerging networks of Digital India’. While the selfie is a photographic form, it is also a digital object that, unlike the photograph as we might have once known it, is not entirely human-readable. While we might be able to locate meaning in selfies, analysis in Shah’s chapter is more concerned with the selfie’s implications in collective intelligences of storage and querying that are far more ‘resilient, robust and reliable than fragile human remembering’. Shah’s interpretation of the selfie not only as a photograph but as a digital object brings a new inflection to discussions around memory, a theme on which photography scholarship has had much to say in the past; as he points out, if we are moving away from practices associated with memory to those of storage, so that the things we remember are equal to the things that we can store, then the selfie can be seen as one marker of this shift from the remembering self to the self-in-storage. Shah brings to bear on a multi-sited investigation of the selfie, the need to study them as born digital objects that only explain themselves through their ‘endless loops of circulation and instant digital deaths as they get buried under incessant information flows on our data streams’.

‘A few years ago, I stopped using photography as a means of artistic expression’ is how Fabien Charuau in a confessional voice begins his investigation of the networked digital image. Charuau’s chapter tackles some of the challenges posed by the algorithm for photography theory: the image, having an online existence, hibernating in cloud storage and hardware, and depending on an algorithm to be rendered into an image, is a visual object with a complexity of a different order to that of the film negative and printed photograph. Charuau closely observes the life of images on the internet, into which he enfolds reflections on his own artistic practice, focusing on paradoxical connections between the visibility of rendered digital images, the invisibility of data embedded in image files and the visual ‘emergences,’ or ‘self-organizing information crystals’ algorithmically generated out of image files. With reference to four of his ‘photo’-based artworks, Charuau situates motivations propelling his practice-based exploration of the computational image within larger debates in media studies, philosophy and information theory. The closing chapter sees Joan Fontcuberta reflect on image and screen over-saturation together with the advent of homo photographicus, a term he uses to describe the actions of populations around the world for whom producing, consuming and sharing images seamlessly integrate into the rhythms of daily life. It is within this context that he presents the notion of ‘post-photography’ as an opportunity to reappraise photography and our nature as subjects in a globalized economy of images. Within a ‘post-photography’ theoretical framework, Fontcuberta situates a number of artists who, through strategies of recycling images and repurposing online tools, critically respond to the internet’s transformation of the image and intensification of visual excess in a hyper-technologically mediated world. The ubiquity of images, however, should not fool us into thinking that everything is there on the internet; on the contrary, being a highly controlled visual space, power and knowledge are equally manifest in what is excluded or censored from web space, what in Fontcuberta’s phrasing are the ‘missing images’. An example of this is presented through reference to Chinar Shah’s Bin Laden Situation Room, a photographic work premised on the singular image that stands in for all the images of Bin Laden’s assassination which were either never shot or which have been removed from view. Bin Laden Situation Room, Fontcuberta points out, brings to its most radical point a critique of the idea that everything that happens on earth finds its visual counterpoint on the internet. Significantly, although this work has come out of India, it could have been made anywhere with an internet connection – it comprises entirely of the same iconic image downloaded from 454 different websites; more crucially, what it says about the control of the image and its corollary, the ‘control of reality’, as Fontcuberta points out, is equally relevant to the position occupied by photography in India and the globalized world. In the case of a field of enquiry as liquid as photography and under-researched as the case in question, the challenge for this publication has been to construct a

framework capacious enough to accommodate theorizing around photography’s performativity and richness of semantic meanings in: history, memory and the archive; state propaganda, violence and surveillance; mapping and landscape; print and online; art and documentary practices. Notwithstanding the historically contingent nature of the photograph, which has seen it assume an array of guises – daguerreotypes, calotypes, tintypes, albumen prints, X-rays, polaroids and digital images to name but a few of these – and seemingly endless number of entry points for inquiry, the book has assumed a bifurcated temporal axis along which intersect the varied critical approaches of our contributors to writing about photography in relation to its history and the contemporary moment. The ambition has not been to create order in a broader field of theory and practice that is constantly reordering itself. Rather, propelling our solicitations for contributions to this book was a belief in the need to pose a particular set of questions befitting the current moment – from the afterlife of images dating back to early Indian photography, or of how meaning in the cases of such images gets recast through artistic appropriation, consumption and re-contextualization in contemporary settings, to photographic responses to questions of ‘development’, statehood, communal violence or of the disruption in a specifically Indian context brought about by the digitalization of culture, and the after-effects of this in a visual field in which photography’s role is so central. The collection of chapters which have subsequently emerged in the compilation of this book signals a gesture towards the diversity and complexity of photography archives and contemporary practices. A book of this comparatively compact size is necessarily what it is not only

on account of what gets included but also based on its many missing pieces; if negative space acts as a compositional element that counterbalances, the missing content in this case accentuates the book’s form and structure. A comprehensive look at documentary, photojournalistic and art photography coming out of India, the historical trajectory of technological transformations affecting photography’s development since its inception in India c. 1840 or anything close to the full extent of photography’s usages in contemporary and historical periods cannot be accommodated within the framework of a book of this size. Notwithstanding this, the organization of the book’s content has arisen from deliberate consideration of the kinds of discussions that might benefit thinking around photography in India at the current juncture. The turn towards computational tools and technology, the phenomenal spread of selfie culture and the growing obsolescence of the photographer in the face of ongoing enhancements to the technological intelligence of consumer and professional cameras, visual surveillance systems, drone-operated cameras and other automated gizmos are considered alongside images that exist in print and live in archives or on the walls of people’s homes. It is our hope that this publication will stoke the interest of readers, and in so doing catalyse

a diversity of much-needed conversations around both the distinctiveness of photography in India and its indivisibility from global developments in an everexpanding field.

Notes 1


Geoffrey Batchen proposes that while Louis Daguerre’s process was the first to be recognized for having fixed a photographic image, by this time photography as a concept had already emerged. He argues that to exclusively credit one or more individuals erases from history the distributed experimentation which brought photography into the world. Geoffrey Batchen, Burning with Desire: The Conception of Photography (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1997). Sunil Gupta and Radhika Singh, Click! Contemporary Photography in India (New

Delhi: Vadehra Art Gallery, 2008), 1. 3 4 5

Alain Willaume and Devika Daulet-Singh, India Now: New Visions in Photography

(London: Thames & Hudson, 2007) and Gupta and Singh, Click! Contemporary Photography in India. Gauri Gill, Sunil Gupta, Radhika Singh and Pooja Sood, Camerawork Delhi, vol. 1, no. 1, December 2006, 1. G. Thomas and Ray Desmond made significant contributions to historical scholarship on Indian photography in the 1970s and 1980s. However, their histories of photography engaged almost exclusively with British colonial archives, in particular the British Library’s India Office Collection in London. The tendency for historians in roughly the same period researching Indian photography was to focus on ‘fixed chronologies, dates, and broad transformations and trends’, providing

descriptive accounts of key photographers and events as opposed to engaging in a critical analysis of images’ relationships to archival and historical contexts, see Ray Desmond, Victorian India in Focus: A Selection of Early Photographs from the Collection in the India Office Library and Records (London: Stationary Office Books, 1982) and John Falconer, ‘Ethnographical Photography in India: 1850–1900’, Photographic Collector 5, no. 1 (1984). For more on this, see Mahadevan Sudhir,

‘Archives and Origins: The Material and Vernacular Cultures of Photography in India’, Archives 4, no. 1 (2013). Siddhartha Ghosh’s contribution in Bengali to historical scholarship on early Indian photography Taking Pictures: The Practice of Photography by Bengalis is also worthy of note; a section in the book dealing with early women photographers in Bengal during the colonial period was translated and

6 7 8 9

published as a journal article by Debjani Sengupta: ‘Zeena Studios: Early Women Photographers of Bengal from Taking Pictures: The Practice of Photography by Bengalis’, in Translation 4, no. 2(2014). Christopher Pinney, Camera Indica: The Social Life of Indian Photographs (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press and Reaktion Books, 1997), 34. Zahid Chaudhary, Afterimage of Empire: Photography in Nineteenth-Century India (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2012). Ibid., 9. Ibid., 4.

10 11 12 13

Pinney, Camera Indica, 74. Ibid. Ibid., 88. Alain Sekula, ‘Reading an Archive: Photography between Labour and Capital’, in The Photography Reader, ed. Liz Wells (London and New York: Routledge, 2002),

444. 14 Alain Willaume and Devika Daulet-Singh, India Now, 13. 15 ‘Steve McCurry: India’ Available online: steve-mccurry-india-9780714869964/ (accessed 20 December 2016). 16 Ibid. 17 Ibid. 18 Amitabh Kant, Branding India: An Incredible Story (Uttar Pradesh: HarperCollins, 2009), 20. 19 Photoink is among the few galleries in India dedicated exclusively to photography – sharing in this domain with Tasveer which became the first pan-Indian gallery devoted exclusively to photography when it was founded in 2006. Established in

September 2001 by Devika Daulet-Singh as a photo agency and a publication design studio, in 2008 Photoink expanded into a gallery exhibiting Indian photography and works by international photographers. 20 Alain Willaume and Devika Daulet-Singh, India Now, 17 21 Ibid., 8. 22 Mika Elo, ‘Introduction: Photography Research Exposed to the Parergonal Phenomenon of “Photographic Powers”’, Photographic Powers: Helsinki Photomedia 2014 (Helsinki: Aalto University Publication Series, 2014), 8. 23 Ibid.

24 Daniel Rubinstein, Johnny Golding and Andrew Fisher, eds. On the Verge of Photography: Imaging beyond Representation (Birmingham: Article Press, 2013); Sean Cubitt, Daniel Palmer and Nathaniel Tkacz, eds. Digital Light (London: Open

Humanities Press, 2015); Martin Lister, ed. The Photographic Image in Digital Culture (London: Routledge, 1995). 25 According to Telecom Regulation Authority of India’s annual report, there were 60 million new internet users in 2016.The report revealed that the majority of new users access the internet via mobile. However, India’s population of 1.3 billion places current internet penetration at roughly 30%, a relatively low figure on an international scale.

26 ‘Digital India: Power to Empower’, last modified 18 December 2016, http://www

27 Ibid. 28 Ibid. 29 Walter Benjamin, ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’, in Illuminations, ed. Hannah Arendt, trans. Harry Zohn (RHUS: New York, 1969), 256–257, quoted in Sekula, ‘Reading an Archive’, 451. 30 Enwezor Okwui, Archive Fever: Uses of the Document in Contemporary Art (New York and Gottingen: Steidl and International Center of Photography, 2008), 1.

31 Ariella Azoulay, The Civil Contract of Photography (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008).

Select Bibliography Chaudhary, Zahid. Afterimage of Empire: Photography in Nineteenth-Century India. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2012. Elo, Mika. ‘Introduction: Photography Research Exposed to the Parergonal Phenomenon of “Photographic Powers”’. In Photographic Powers: Helsinki Photomedia 2014, edited by Mika Elo and Marko Karo, 6–11. Helsinki: Aalto University Publication Series, 2014.

Gupta, Sunil and Radhika Singh. Click! Contemporary Photography in India. New Delhi: Vadehra Art Gallery, 2008. Gutman, Judith Mara. Through Indian Eyes: 19th and Early 20th century Photography from India. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982. Kant, Amitabh. Branding India: An Incredible Story. Uttar Pradesh: HarperCollins, 2009. Lutz A., Catherine and Jane L. Collins. Reading National Geographic. Chicago and

London: The University of Chicago Press, 1993. Okwui, Enwezor. Archive Fever: Uses of the Document in Contemporary Art. New York and Gottingen: Steidl and International Center of Photography, 2008. Pinney, Christopher. Camera Indica: The Social Life of Indian Photographs. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press and Reaktion Books, 1997.

Pinney, Christopher. The Coming of Photography in India. London: British Library, 2008. Sekula, Alain. ‘Reading an Archive: Photography between Labour and Capital’. In The Photography Reader , edited by Liz Wells, 443–452. London and New York: Routledge, 2002. Willaume, Alain and Devika Daulet-Singh. India Now: New Visions in Photography. London: Thames & Hudson, 2007.




Faces within faces In ‘The Surface of Each Day Is a Different Planet’, 1 a video installation that considers, among other things, the dense presences of human beings in archival traces, we find ourselves face-to-face with a haunting archive of faces in the Francis Galton Collection in the Science Library of the University College of London. That encounter finds its way into the text spoken in the work. The silence of hundreds of faces begins to yield. Faces light up like coal in a brazier. Ablaze, radiant, pensive, troubled, hungry, calm, assured, insane, inflamed. Piling eye upon eye, ear upon ear, wrinkle upon wrinkle, feature upon feature, smile upon grimace, Francis Galton,2 mathematician, statistician, polymath and Victorian colossus, wants to see his picture of the world when he looks at a crowd of faces. His world is small, his laboratory crowded, his assistants are tired, their calipers are falling apart. They have never measured so many in so little time. When Galton files away thousands of faces or fingerprints into numbered and indexed folios he isn’t just creating a repository of physiognomies. He is collecting and classifying the content of souls, turning, he thinks, the keys to the mysteries of the locked cabinet of human character. This is an expanded and revised version of an essay with the same title originally published in the Lalit Kala Contemporary 52 (2012) in a specially themed issue titled ‘Depth of Field’ dealing with photography as art and practice in India.


But the ‘ghost’ image of a composite of madmen from Bedlam has strangely gentle eyes. Galton’s wager – that if you were to stick the faces of eighty-six inmates of the Bedlam asylum on top of each other you would end up looking into the eyes of madness – has gone oddly awry. Criminal composites produce a saintly icon. A quest for the precise index of what Galton thinks is ugliness in a row of sullen East London Jewish schoolboys yields amazing grace. ‘The individual photographs were taken with hardly any selection from among

the boys in the Jew’s Free School, Bell Lane. They were the children of poor parents. As I drove to the school through the adjacent Jewish quarter, the expression of the people that most struck me was their cold, scanning gaze and this was equally characteristic of the schoolboys. The composites were made with a camera that had numerous adjustments for varying the position and scale of the individual portraits with reference to fixed fiduciary lines. But so beautiful the results of these adjustments are, if I were to begin entirely afresh, I should discard them, and should proceed in quite a different way. This cannot be described intelligibly and at the same time briefly.’ The faces and fingerprints whisper a thousand secrets to Galton, but they do not let him in on their greatest mystery. The face of the crowd is a face in the crowd, fleeting, slippery, gone before you blink, always gentle, always calm, always someone you think you can recognize but can never recall.

The absent time between exposures One of the things that has struck us whenever we have had the opportunity to browse in an archive of early ethnographic and anthropometric photographs, or even portraits, is the time that it would have taken to take an exposure for these images. Daguerreotypes and early glass negatives, which is what a majority of the material that we have looked at are, required the ‘subject’ to sit or stand still for lengths of time that would try our patience today. The nineteenth century saw an explosion of anthropometric photography.

Every ‘race’ was photographed and measured, down to the last fingernail. In some cases, such as the inhabitants of the Andaman Islands, 3 there are now more photographs in archives in different parts of the world, than there are actual living people. The population of images has by now outnumbered that of bodies. When looking at these images, we are always struck by the fact that it would

have required an elaborate apparatus of coercion and restraint to ensure that, say, an ‘Andamanese’ would stand still against a grid for a length of time sufficient for an acceptable exposure. In more ways than one, taking such an image is a demand made on the photographed to deliver up a coerced, choreographed passivity. Every photograph in any such archive is a record of the arrested dance of power.


This gets even more interesting when we realize that even several contemporary practices of photography are intimately tied up with the production of legal and illegal presences. Most people have to be photographed in certain ways, for certain purposes. This we know already from the passport photograph, and from forensic photography. Some spaces are prohibited from being photographed (like most public utilities in Delhi, which always exhibit prominent ‘Photography Prohibited’ signs). In many spaces, like on the metro in Delhi, it is impossible not to be photographed, because of the ubiquity of surveillance cameras. In some spaces, like in an unauthorized or illegal urban settlement in Delhi, the presence of a person with a camera is read as an opening gambit in a manoeuvre of surveying that will ultimately end with the flattening of the neighbourhood. The surface of the photograph then has to be seen as a contested terrain. Appearing on it, or disappearing from it, is not a matter of visual whimsy, but an actual index of power and powerlessness. A careful examination of the photographs that bear portraits of ‘wanted’ and ‘missing persons’ will reveal the strangely blank, intense lack of intensity in the eyes of those who appear in these images. They are there, in the picture, but they look as if they were not there. The temperature of truth varies, and sometimes, when it is too hot to handle,

you need to cool it down with distance and irony. Sometimes, in order to preserve what is true in a document, we have to surround it with an ambient coolness, an archival temperature, control factors such as humidity, so that the truth endures. Naked truth is fragile, brittle and short-lived. Working with facts is sometimes a prelude to a long process of deliberation about the conditions of its storage. Sometimes these deliberations can take on the character of productive fantasy that is a better antidote to amnesia than is the brittle facticity of the archival idem. Also, often, when we are dealing with facts, we come to realize that the

annotations that produce the ‘fact’ in the archive are themselves ruses, often designed to paper over a systematic amnesia. The inscriptions in the archive are also instances of overwriting and erasure. When looking at a face in a photograph in an archive we are sensing the ghosts of several other faces as well. These absences and presences constitute a strange, spectral composite.

The camera as witness and actor The arts and sciences of memory changed the moment photography entered our consciousness. Until that time, it was possible to dispute whether or not an event had occurred. After photography, the debate is no longer possible to frame in those terms. The question is no longer about whether something did or did not occur. The question is: was there a camera on hand to show us whether or not it did occur? The camera is both witness and actor. Photography, especially in the archive, is a form of theatre.

As in any performative genre, photography occasionally demands a degree of the suspension of disbelief. We are not asked to simply see, but also to believe what we are seeing. The photographic historian and archivist Joan Schwartz writes, Photography was not just a new way of seeing; it was a new way of believing. It was ... a ‘technology of trust’; or what record keepers would consider a ‘trustworthy information system’... and yet, … The rhetoric of transparency and truth – or in archival terms, authenticity, reliability and objectivity – that came to surround the photograph raised serious questions about the very nature of truth, particularly in relation to art. At the surface of the problem was the degree to which a mechanical device could produce a truthful picture of reality.4 Following from this, we could say that photographs are not traces of truth per se because they are themselves implicated in the production of what we have come to know to be true. It is in this vein that John Tagg in his influential book on history and photography, The Burden of Representation says, ‘Photographs are never “evidence” of history, they are themselves the historical’. Or, in other words, the ‘real’, as the philosopher Jacques Rancière would have it, is an ‘effect to be produced’ rather than a ‘fact to be understood’.5 What makes history is not necessarily what gets historicized. The archival photograph is a two-legged beast; it both makes history, in the sense that it ‘constitutes’ historical evidence for us, and at the same time it also unmakes history, because it excludes that which falls outside its frame and the time it took to make the exposure that resulted in the photograph. The archival photograph contains both the presence and the absence of the historical within its surface. Reading the photograph then is to read into all the things it says, and at least into some of the things it does not say. Listening to its silences is an act of the imagination. It is here that the artist is able to do a few things that the historian is inhibited from doing. How do we relate this question of the active production of a sense of the

real to the practice of contemporary art? Art, as we understand it, does not ‘show’ reality; it ‘produces’ truth. The truths produced by art are not necessarily mimetic, nor do they lay claim to comprehensiveness or completeness. But the succour that art brings to the senses have something to do with a sense of the repleteness of an experience, even when that experience is presented to us elliptically, enigmatically and with an acute awareness of the absence of the empirical datum. What does a photographic archive do to an artist when she enters the archive? What does the artist make of the accumulation of history that the archive represents? What work can contemporary art do in the archive? In some senses, the question of the performance of the ontological status of the photographic

trace in an archive is made most apparent when contemporary art meets the archival photograph. The art historian and critic T. J. Demos, writing about the paradoxical

relationship between truth, evidence and the production of contemporary art, says, To produce the real as an effect means to engage in a process of contemplation and construction, of gradual understanding that brings changes in perception. Poetry as evidence, then suggests a commitment to emancipation via continual experimentation, creative invention and self-transformation. Contemporary art, as both a practice and a discourse, defines a privileged realm in which the complexities of this conclusion, the sometimes paradoxical outcomes and the radical possibility of repositioning evidence as a new poetic paradigm – can be animated and addressed.6 To consider the photograph in the archive, then, is to consider not just a problem of history, but also a question of the poetics of the real, of memory and oblivion.

The bare bones of a picture The archive shapes facts. It produces the narrative and the story that the facts are made to tell. In other words, the archive, by its sequential, cross-indexed and jussive ordering of notings and data, can also render a figment of the imagination into a fact, or at least blur the borders of fact and fiction. One possible task for the artist in the archive then is to prise the archived fact back into the realm of interpretation, through hermeneutic procedures that privilege the imagination. It is to ask what gets forgotten, or what can be only recovered through fantasy, through speculation, through the oddness, humour and irony, whenever the archive produces its fixity of memory. The drama of the photograph in the archive consists in this tension between

the claim to truth and the ruses necessary to the making and contestation of this claim. This fact has come alive to us most recently while working with a remarkable photograph ‘Scene at Sikanderbagh’ (or to give the image its proper title: ‘Interior of the Sikanderbagh after the Slaughter of 2,000 Rebels by the 93rd Highlanders and 4th Punjab Regiment. First Attack of Sir Colin Campbell in November 1857, Lucknow, March or April 1858’) currently in The Alkazi Collection of Photography. 7 The photograph was taken in 1858 by the itinerant photographer Felice Beato as part of an album of scenes related to the mutiny of 1857. Our quotation of the photograph as artists first took the form of a sustained forensic reflection that constituted a significant section of the work that we have already referred to – ‘The Surface of Each Day Is a Different Planet’.

Sikanderbagh, or Secundra Bagh, is a relatively small, walled pleasure garden on the eastern outskirts of the North Indian city of Lucknow. During the siege of Lucknow in the war referred to as the ‘mutiny’ of 1857 in the forces of the British East India Company in India, Sikanderbagh became a site for some of the fiercest fighting. An image by the itinerant photographer Felice Beato (whose sojourn in India

is bracketed by stints in the Crimean War and the Second Opium War) shows the pavilion within the garden where, as Beato’s own note (inscribed on the image) dispassionately recalls for us, ‘two thousand Indians were mercilessly slaughtered in November 1857, by the 93rd Highlanders and the 4th Punjab Regiment, in the course of the attack led by Sir Colin Campbell’. This photograph was taken in March 1858, roughly four months after the actual fighting at the site took place. At first glance the picture suggests a sentimental melancholia, stately

nostalgia for a time gone by, or the fleeting resonance of an arrested time – a baroque ruin, men in studied poses, a fine horse. But then, our eyes begin to work, and travel. The photograph seems to have been taken in the clear light of day, perhaps at noon. There are no shadows to obscure the fact that the ‘scene’ is the result of a careful act of arrangement. The skeletons are clean, picked to the bone, white against the dun earth, as they would be in a painterly tableau. We know something about the relative rate of decomposition of cadavers, and the time it takes for a body to be reduced completely to a bare skeleton between the November and March of a North Indian winter. If the bodies were of the rebels of the mutiny of 1857, they could not have become so clean, so soon. Had they been picked clean by scavenging animals from shallow graves, they would not have remained so well integrated as skeletons. It is possible, in fact highly likely, that they may not be the bones of the dead rebels slaughtered at Sikanderbagh at all, but props, macabre prosthetic additions, ‘other peoples’ bones’ brought in to set the scene because the originals are ‘missing’ or just not good enough for a decent picture. The bones (whosoever they may in fact have belonged to) have been placed with thought to symmetry and order, just as the carefully held attitudes of the men suggest the exact degree of forethought necessary to create the illusion of spontaneity. Who were these four men? Were they involved in arranging the bones, or even in digging them up, carrying them and placing them at the visiting photographer’s bidding? What testimonies do bleached bones and a crowd of disinterred skeletons offer up to posterity? What can the bones tell us? In attempting to ‘listen’ to the drama of this photograph, we have found ourselves drifting from the archive to the theatre. This is partly because this photograph, more than anything else, helped us understand that the archive is a theatre, that the witness is also an actor.

The archive of tomorrow Today, photographic images come at us not as static presences, but as kinetic elements, as a set of kinetic envelopes; they flicker onto light boxes, television screens, computer terminals and mobile phones. Wherever we look, there are photographs – as fetishes, as memorabilia, as ornaments, as seductions, as instruments of governance, as items of evidence in police reports and newspaper stories, in posters for missing and wanted people stuck to the surface of a wall, in a newspaper or a pulp magazine or as advertisements on the curving surfaces of a metro station. The photograph and the photographically inflected object have a very different

status from the commemorative or iconic function that they might have had at an earlier time. The photographic image is no longer necessarily a decision translated into a trace triangulated between a human eye, a mind and the shutter behind the lens of a recording device. The signal that forms an image after passing through the lens of a surveillance camera or of a camera mounted on a probe in deep outer space, submerged under the ocean or folded within the body’s recesses answers to different imperatives from that which was formed by a camera held by a human hand in front of a human eye. An image formed by a camera attached to an electron microscope, an X-ray machine, a magnetic resonance image recorder or to a drill boring into the earth follow present instructions. Automatic screen grabs that flicker on and off the surface of millions of devices dance to the hum of algorithms. There is no eye, no mind that necessarily frames these images before registering them. And yet, these images get stored, read and processed. A growing infinity of frames harvested from surveillance footage is scanned for faces by facerecognition software and other forms of artificial intelligence. Someday, these scans will return to haunt us in as yet unpredictable ways. We are the first generation that has committed our faces to databases. Here, our photographs are being pickled over time, to generate acts of recognition and patterning in ways beyond our control and volition. We could call this the un-selfie, the portrait for which we did not pose. The eventual cross-indexing of the un-selfie with the selfie, the satellite feed with the Instagram moment, will yield a strange new moving target of being and becoming, recorded at varying degrees of resolution. A casual glance at renditions of ourselves in the mirror of the database may not yield recognition, even as it offers all sorts of other kinds of information. We will blur into our future selves, and into the future selves of others, equally multiplied. Our digital faces will initiate processes that we do not know and set off alarms that we have not programmed. They will open and shut doors. They will be our lock and key, our ball and chain. They will be our unscripted instructions and notes to our un-selves.

Photographs, stored in hard drives, deleted and catalogued repeatedly, scanned, resized, drained or saturated in terms of colour are both the substance and the detritus of our existence. These are the layers that will constitute the photographic archive of tomorrow. Their contingency, their volatility only underscores the question of finding a poetics appropriate and commensurate to the problem of understanding the archival act. As Sven Spieker argues ‘in the archive we encounter things we never expected to find; yet the archive is also the condition under which the unexpected, the sudden the contingent can be sudden, unexpected and contingent. Or, differently put, nothing enters the archive that is not in some sense destined to be there from the moment of its inception’.8 And yet, Contingency is not the same as organized, yet its precise morphology can be detected only by accident (literally). The archive does not give access to history: it is, or aims to be, the condition of historicity itself. The archive therefore is not simply a departure, a cipher for the condition of innovation: it gives a name to the way in which the new is also a return, an iteration in the true sense of the word.9 When detritus and substance coincide with an increasing regularity (as we would argue they do in today’s world, where somebody’s urban renewal is the destruction of somebody’s habitat), we come face-to-face with an interesting dilemma: that of the impossibility of being able to make ‘constitutive’ images that build desired or desirable realities. The images that yield themselves to us do not in themselves create opportunities for redemption, nor do they offer utopian possibilities. Nor is it possible for us to view them as extensions of our subjectivities – a set of personal visions. We find it difficult to make images do the work of manifestos, pamphlets or diaries. What we are able to do is to make images that work as notations that encrypt a set of rebuses. That allow the new to return, and that enable us to read the returned as something new. Reading an image in this manner, which is one of the first steps one can take as an artist when confronted with an image retrieved from an archive, is to read into its absences, and (therefore) into its potentialities. Just as a set of notes point to realities larger, more fulsome and complex than the mere act of their listing allows for, so too, reading a photograph that functions as notation involves knowing and understanding that what we see also contains a great deal that is amiss, that has faded, degraded, disappeared or is in a condition of distressed visibility. The less-than-visible elements in an image are just as interesting as the visible. Sometimes, in fact they may be much more arresting. Walter Benjamin, in his ‘Short History of Photography’, 10 written in 1931,

spoke conspiratorially of photographs as indices of ‘scenes of a crime’ saying (prophetically, though he was unaware of his prophecies made alive today by

mobile phone cameras) that ‘the camera is getting smaller and smaller, ever readier to capture fleeting and secret moments whose images paralyse the associative mechanisms in the beholder’. This led in his view to a situation wherein ‘photography turns all life’s relationships into literature’. If we take this view seriously we have to consider photography first of all as the literature of the relationship between visibility and obscurity, and as a commentary on the tension that binds the barely visible to our retinal surfaces. Working with images today is working with an ever-expanding archive of pictures that grows around us by the second. Some photographs hang on walls. Some become monumental icons. Some get lost in files and folders in filing cabinets. Others are worn as pendants. Some end up on gravestones. Others end up in the garbage. Probably most get sent into photographic digital limbo, when probably a million times each second, the delete button is pressed on a digital camera. Wherever they are found, and howsoever they circulate, the photograph indexes distance and proximity, intimacy and difference, it tells us instantly stories about comfort and discomfort, and whether or not the presence of the photographer in a given situation was welcomed, challenged, ignored or merely entertained. Our understanding of the photographic archive of the past and the

contemporary practices of photography infect each other. The moment of taking a photograph today and the moment of looking at a photograph taken in the past produce a similar field of forces that get activated in the interval between the click of a shutter in a camera and the filing of a photograph in a hard drive or an archive. Between these two instants lies an entire history of the performance of a claim to truth. The photograph is a chronicle of that history, and our role as artists today is not to repeat that claim but to subject it to an imaginative trial. This is what has made us move from the archive to the theatre,11 with the photograph as our guide.

Notes 1

2 3 4

‘The Surface of Each Day Is a Different Planet’ (Raqs Media Collective, 2009). Scenario constructed with furniture, illumination and projected single screen video (thirty-eight minutes) with archival photographs, animation, sound and spoken text. First screened at The Lightbox, Tate Britain, 2009. For more on Galton, see Martin Brookes, Extreme Measures: The Dark Visions and Bright Ideas of Francis Galton (London: Bloomsbury, 2004). See Elizabeth Edwards, ed. Anthropology and Photography (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1994). Joan M. Schwartz, ‘Records of Simple Truth and Precision: Photography, Archives and the Illusion of Control’, in Archives, Documentation and Institutions of Social

Memory: Essays from the Sawyer Seminar, ed. Francis X. Blouin Jr and William G. Rosenberg (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007), 71. 5 John Tagg, The Burden of Representation: Essays on Photographies and Histories (London: Macmillan, 1988), 65. 6 T.J. Demos, ‘Poetic Justice: On the Art of Evidence’, in The Question of Evidence, ed. Diana Baldon and Daniela Zyman (Vienna: Thyssen-Bornemisza Foundation, 2008), 53. 7 For more on this photograph, and on the photographs of the Andamanese referred to earlier, see Zahid Chaudhary, ‘Phantasmagoric Aesthetics: Colonial Violence and the Management of Perception’, in Cultural Critique 59 (2005): 63–119. 8 Sven Spieker, The Big Archive: Art from Bureaucracy (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008), 173–174. 9 Ibid. 10 Walter Benjamin, ‘Short History of Photography’, trans. Phil Patton, in Artforum 15, no. 6 (1977): 46–51. 11 This move is evident in the process that has led to our collaboration with the theatre director Zuleikha Chaudhari and the actor Manish Chaudhari with whom we have produced ‘Seen at Secundra Bagh’, an experimental theatre performance, based on our text responding to Felice Beato’s eponymous photograph. ‘Seen at Secundra

Bagh’ premiered at the Kunstenfestival, Brussels, in May 2011.

Select Bibliography Benjamin, Walter. ‘Short History of Photography’. Translated by Phil Patton, In Artforum 15, no. 6 (1977). Brookes, Martin. Extreme Measures: The Dark Visions and Bright Ideas of Francis Galton, London: Bloomsbury, 2004.

Demos T.J. ‘Poetic Justice: On the Art of Evidence’. In The Question of Evidence , edited by Diana Baldon and Daniela Zyman. Vienna: Thyssen-Bornemisza Foundation, 2008. Edwards, Elizabeth, ed. Anthropology and Photography . New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1994.

Schwartz, Joan M. ‘Records of Simple Truth and Precision: Photography, Archives and the Illusion of Control’. In Archives, Documentation and Institutions of Social Memory: Essays from the Sawyer Seminar , edited by Francis X. Blouin Jr and William G. Rosenberg. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007. Spieker, Sven. The Big Archive: Art from Bureaucracy . Cambridge: MIT Press, 2008. Tagg, John. The Burden of Representation: Essays on Photographies and Histories .

London: Macmillan, 1988. Zahid Chaudhary, ‘Phantasmagoric Aesthetics: Colonial Violence and the Management of Perception’. Cultural Critique 59 (2005): 63–119.


‘I took some pictures of them, and I even committed the sacrilegious act of trying to condense the splendid and gorgeously coloured map which Nature had spread before us into 8½ inches of plain brown photograph! I shall probably be punished when I see the result.’1 The ‘splendid and gorgeously coloured map’ that Lady Dufferin refers to with feminine demureness is the view from her Simla residence in the foothills of the Himalayas. The extract is from one of the many letters that she wrote to her mother during the four years of Lord Dufferin’s term of office as the Viceroy of India. Certainly, by the time she reached India, Lady Dufferin was well travelled, having accompanied her husband on his various appointments as Ambassador to Canada, Russia and Turkey. She was also an eminent journalist, and published letters and personal journals kept while she was a resident abroad. However, it was not until she went to India that she decided for the first time to record her experiences abroad with a camera. This chapter aims to provide a close reading of a selection of images from

Hariot Dufferin’s album entitled My First Efforts in Photography, India 1886.2 Through a study of Lady Dufferin’s letters to her mother, which were published in two volumes as Our Viceregal Life in India, the research concentrates on the site of production and attempts to address the question of whether Lady Dufferin’s photographs reflect her lived experience in India. Secondary to this central theme is the question of the extent to which she could visually engage with the realities of colonialism during her first foray into the art of photography.


The chapter begins with a brief overview of Lady Dufferin’s background and circumstances in India. It then sets out the contexts from which to attempt a reading of her images, looking firstly at colonial photography in India during the latter half of the nineteenth century and secondly at contemporary Victorian ideologies surrounding femininity that were circulating in Britain during this period. The chapter then offers a reading of a selection of Lady Dufferin’s photographs, and makes suggestions for interpretation of her choices with regard to content, subject and composition.

Background Hariot Georgina Rowan-Hamilton (1843–1936) was the eldest daughter of Catherine-Anne Caldwell and Captain Archibald Rowan-Hamilton of Killyleagh Castle in County Down in the north of Ireland. In 1862 she married Frederick Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, the first Marquis of Dufferin, whose family had enjoyed prominence in the north since the eighteenth century. Seen as the pinnacle of his political career, Lord Dufferin’s appointment as Viceroy coincided with a time of significant political upheaval in both Indian and British politics.3 Women such as Lady Dufferin found themselves in prominent philanthropic

positions within the Empire, an area which allowed women to engage in the public sphere while also maintaining a feminine persona. 4 Lady Dufferin’s role in India was very visible due to her position. In addition to coping with the demands of viceregal life with its endless official dinners, balls and parties, sightseeing, touring and attendance at local theatres and fairs, she undertook many official visits, independently of her husband, to schools and hospitals.5 Her most significant achievement was the establishment of the National Association for Supplying Female Medical Aid to the Women of India, which became known as the Countess of Dufferin’s Fund. This scheme is generally regarded as the starting point for a tradition of western medical care for Indian women in seclusion.6 While several studies of her Fund are in circulation,7 Lady Dufferin’s photography has been largely neglected as a focus for academic enquiry. A number of reasons for this can be considered. First, women’s photography of the period has often been perceived as belonging to the realms of domestic leisure and traditionally has not usually been considered valuable in terms of political or scientific currency.8 Secondly, Lady Dufferin’s images differ significantly from those colonial photographs taken in India during the final quarter of the nineteenth century for government or scientific purposes, and have therefore not been considered for inclusion within the canon of colonial photography.


Colonial photography It is helpful to compare Lady Dufferin’s imagery with colonial photography of the time.9 It has also been useful to locate her Indian album within the wider context of colonial photography projects undertaken specifically in India. Although a full comparison and chronology is beyond the scope of this chapter, suffice to say here that Lady Dufferin’s photographic activities can be located a decade after Dr J. F. Watson and J. W. Kaye’s landmark scientific survey The People of India, published in eight volumes between 1868 and 1875.10 However her photography pre-dates William Crooke’s Tribes and Castes of the North-Western Provinces and Oudh (1896) and although J. D. Anderson’s The Peoples of India was published in 1913, the photographs for the latter were taken in the 1880s and 1890s.11 It is worth noting, then, that Lady Dufferin was engaging in photography during this wave of intense institutional activity which had as its primary aim to photograph and record the people of India to establish the colonial territory. Photographs taken under the auspices of the British colonial administration

and the military operated to support the imperial power, justify its intervention in colonized territory and construct difference between the colonizers and the colonized. As James Ryan points out: ‘As one of the key wonders of the Victorian age photography was thus widely regarded as a most powerful means of revealing the realities of the world and Britain’s expanding presence in it.’12 Photography was used by the British imperial administration to create colonial authority, by objectifying and classifying its subjects into racial types. Photographs of this kind often employed strategies of taking full-face and from the front, a trend sparked by the requirements of the Ethnological Society of London established in 1843. As the aim was to classify and objectify the ‘other’ into a scientific specimen, it was common practice to photograph ethnological or anthropological subjects naked or almost naked.13 Anthropometry, which involved the measuring and recording of body parts and proportions, was a common practice which, after 1869, often placed human subjects against a grid to be photographed, measured, objectified and compared to others.14 Investigating the development of anthropology and photography, Christopher Pinney finds significant links between Foucault’s writings on discipline, surveillance and the west’s uses of the camera in the colonial period when ‘photography appears as the final culmination of a Western quest for visibility and scrutiny’.15 Invariably, power is placed in the hands of those who control the mechanisms or apparatus by which it is possible to be seen. It is essential at this juncture to acknowledge Ireland’s position with regard to the British Empire and colonial photography. While a full elaboration of Ireland’s turbulent past and subsequently complex position with regard to the Empire is beyond the scope of this chapter, suffice to point out here that Irish photography

within a British colonial context is equally problematic to define.16 As Justin Carville argues, ‘Ireland was simultaneously the subject of photographic imagery that circulated within the colonial imaginary, while Anglo-Irish photographers actively participated in the visualisation of other colonised territories.’ 17 Although it will be demonstrated in this chapter that Lady Dufferin’s images differ significantly from institutional colonial photography, they nonetheless offer a visual recording of her surroundings and experiences in colonized territory.

Women's travel writing Our Viceregal Life in India is an illuminating record and a valuable primary resource in the research process. It reads as part travel-narrative and part expeditionary report, with lengthy descriptions of life at the viceregal lodges in Calcutta and Simla, as well as accounts of viceregal tours through India in 1885 and Burma in 1886. However, in extrapolating information from Our Viceregal Life in India, it is essential to first consider the arguments and propositions of Sarah Mills and Indira Ghose in regard to women’s travel writing.18,19 Mills advises that caution must be used regarding the use of diaries or letters to provide context for photographs, pointing out that ‘Travel writing cannot be read as a simple account of a journey, a country and a narrator, but must be seen in the light of discourses circulating at the time.’20 This was largely due to Victorian ideologies circulating in Britain, which placed women into primarily domestic roles as wives, mothers and managers of the home. Analysing Foucault, Mills explores the idea that particular discourses structured women’s textual production, arguing that women’s colonial writings were constructed from ‘within a range of power nexuses’.21 Unlike their male counterparts, then, women were not easily able to adopt a traditional imperialist role. In terms of representing character in travel writing, there was ‘a concern to present the narrator as feminine, with lengthy descriptions of the domestic’. 22 For this reason, women wrote more tentatively and less assertively about truths of the rule of empire than men. Certainly, there is evidence in Lady Dufferin’s letters to suggest such tenacity. Writing to her mother she stresses that most of her routine activities are undertaken while the Viceroy is ‘in his study all the day’, and that she ‘would never attempt to tell you about affairs of state’.23 This comment is particularly telling with regard to the separate spheres that Lady Dufferin and her husband inhabited, and that she is unwilling to discuss political issues. The central thrust of Mills’ argument, then, is that women wrote from within a set of discursive constraints during the high colonial period, and that these manifested in their writings as a persona carefully constructed to reflect the Victorian feminine ideal. To reinforce this point, Ghose’s study

concentrates on women’s travel writings specifically in India. She proposes the existence of a female colonial gaze, through which women in the nineteenth century constructed and maintained a feminine persona, concealing political contexts and relations of power. The point to make here, however, is that although initially applied to women’s writing, both Ghose’s and Mills’ theories might also be explored in terms of Lady Dufferin’s photography. It is this visual record, explored in the readings that follow, that we are concerned with in this chapter.

My First Efforts in Photography, India 1886 One week after the viceregal couple’s arrival in India, Lady Dufferin remarks: ‘The number of frightful caricatures of us which is being called into existence is fearful, for we never move anywhere that we don’t see a photographer pointing at us from the top of a carriage, or from some unexpected vantage-ground.’24 Her elevated position meant that Lady Dufferin was photographed frequently, not least by Lala Deen Dayal who was appointed as the Viceroy’s official photographer.25 It is somewhat surprising, then, that she took up photography at all; such was her disdain for its sudden and constant presence. Lady Dufferin took her first photographs during the Viceroy’s autumn tour of India in October 1885 and continued throughout 1886. Reasons for her apparently sudden interest in recording with the camera are unknown. There is some evidence to suggest that, like painting, photography was deemed a fashionable hobby for women of the upper classes residing in colonial India; indeed, an amateur photographic tradition had been established more than a decade before the Dufferin’s arrival.26 Her writing suggests that she was so charmed by her surroundings in India that she was motivated to record them visually, commenting that,‘There is absolute pleasure in existing in a place like this, and I am always wishing I could show it to those at home.’ 27 Perhaps she was also encouraged by the technological innovations of the 1880s which made photography much more convenient – cameras and equipment became portable, development did not have to be immediate and the invention of glass plates allowed for shorter exposure times. Regardless of the reasons for her new interest, Lady Dufferin’s Indian album

appears at first glance to be coded in similar ways to what has become known as tourist photography. Indeed, with regard to the central argument of this chapter, events and experiences which have been described meticulously in her letters are omitted from her photography. The photographs are devoid of any reference to the descriptions of schools and hospitals she frequents in the course of her medical fund work, and there are no photographs to illustrate the written accounts of visits to maharajahs, political proceedings or hunting expeditions.

Instead, the album offers the viewer an array of palaces, temples, landscapes and groups of friends and viceregal staff, as will be demonstrated in this section. The number of photographs selected for analysis has had to be limited for the purposes of this chapter. With this in mind, images that offered an atypical compositional element were selected; in other words, those that disrupt our interpretation of what might otherwise be the mere visual recordings of travels. Lady Dufferin’s first photographs were taken near Simla, site of the viceregal summer residence, and a social epicentre for the European ruling classes and a site of a European colonial culture for a few months of the year. Several photographs, such as Temple below Elysium (Figure 2.1), allude to and visually construct this Western European culture. While on an excursion to see the temple in Simla, Lady Dufferin took the opportunity to arrange a group for a photograph. She observes: I photographed the Temple and all the party; but I find one’s friends are most impatient sitters, and are afterwards in a desperate hurry to see how they look in the picture. They make me quite nervous, and I cannot acquire the sangfroid of a professional, and insist upon settling each person as I think best, so my groups have to take their chance.28

Figure 2.1 Temple below Elysium, Simla, c. 1885. Courtesy Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) and Dufferin and Ava Archive, Clandeboye.

Her observation as a photographer suggests traits of Victorian feminine character but also assertiveness in controlling her sitters. A careful positioning of the people in this particular photograph is telling of the colonial attitudes of the official and social circles in which Lady Dufferin moved. The group have been arranged informally at the front of the temple, in iconic colonial dresses: the men in pith helmets or bowler hats, boots and riding britches; the ladies in long skirts, hats and long-sleeved jackets, and all wield riding crops or canes. Two of the men lie head to head on their sides, propped on their elbows, while other members of the party lean or sit casually against the temple wall and open windows. The arrangement of the party in this manner suggests an informal attitude to group photographs and the relaxed poses of her sitters signify Lady Dufferin’s control. Furthermore, this composition is suggestive of her privileged position in India and even of staking a claim on the surroundings. Lady Dufferin writes frequently of parties and balls held at the viceregal

residences. In particular, her writing strongly suggests an interest in costumes and dress, which are described in meticulous detail. Her album contains a series of photographs taken against the same backdrop, depicting groups or pairs of friends, family and viceregal staff. Figure 2.2 is one example, when a group has

Figure 2.2 Group of staff after fancy dress ball, Viceregal Lodge, Simla, c. 1886. Courtesy PRONI and Dufferin and Ava Archive, Clandeboye.

been arranged on the verandah at the Simla residence. Servants or domestic staff in white turbans and sashes can be seen in the background. Not content with visual depiction alone, she goes to great lengths in her writing to describe the costumes: In the evening some of our gentlemen put on their dresses, and they did look so comic in the midst of our everyday surroundings. There was Lord William as the most perfect Chelsea Pensioner, hobbling in on a stick and coughing painfully. The coat is beautifully made, and he wears the decorations of many battles, and his cap has a great peak to shade his poor old eyes, but he has not been able to withstand the coquetry of wearing white trousers, and that is the only thing that is not strictly correct in his costume. But I do think that a Chelsea Pensioner, however rheumatic, would wear white trousers in India, especially if he came to a Viceroy’s ball. Don’t you?29 Her attention to detail suggests Lady Dufferin’s awareness that she was expected to maintain the ideals and attitudes of nineteenth-century femininity while abroad. This persona is carefully maintained throughout her letters, suggesting that she may have had possible future readers in mind in addition to her mother. The Body Guard Sentries in Figure 2.3, taking centre stage on the verandah

of Government House in Calcutta, have been photographed in precisely the same location as the fancy dress group in Figure 2.2: the greenery-clad structure in the background can be seen in both photographs. There is a marked difference, however, in the attire and body language of her subjects. The sentries, in uniform and standing to attention, each hold a staff or standard, their sober facial expressions suggesting that they are on duty and perhaps not expecting to be photographed. There is stark contrast in the demeanour and pose of Lady Dufferin’s sitters in this image when compared with the group in Figure 2.2, which captured an atmosphere of middle-class leisure and frivolity. The bodyguards, along with other members of staff, are described in Lady Dufferin’s writing, explaining that she and her husband ‘each have a magnificent sentry in the passage near our bedrooms – they are very tall men, in handsome uniforms’. 30 She then goes to great lengths to detail the duties of her staff: and then there are heaps of servants, ‘some in rags, and some in tags, and some in no clothes at all’. One ‘caste’ arranges the flowers, another cleans the plate, a third puts candles in the candlesticks, but a fourth lights them; one fills a jug of water, while it requires either a higher or lower man to pour it out. The man who cleans your boots would not condescend to hand you a cup of tea, and the person who makes your bed would be dishonoured were he to take any other part in doing your room. The consequence is that, instead of

Figure 2.3 Body Guard Sentries, Viceregal Lodge, Simla, c. 1885. Courtesy PRONI and Dufferin and Ava Archive, Clandeboye.

one neat housemaid at work, when you go up to ‘my lady’s chamber’ you find seven or eight men in various stages of dress, each putting a hand to some little thing which has to be done.31 The last sentence in this entry suggests that Lady Dufferin is accustomed to having staff at home, and is used to a position of privilege. It also highlights her apparent concern with domestic arrangements, and by photographing the

sentries in uniform and on duty she is perhaps reassuring her mother that her every need is well attended to by myriad members of staff. The sentries can be read then as a prominent feature of her day-to-day, yet privileged, existence at the viceregal lodge. Inspired by India’s dramatic scenery during the Viceroy’s Autumn Tour, Lady Dufferin also took a number of landscape photographs. Ajmer was a location that she seemed to find particularly alluring, as the extract from another letter conveys: The beauties of this place have made me energetic, so I got up early and went out from seven till nine to try and take some photographs. Within half a mile on the lake there are fifty or sixty bits that one longs to do, they are all so lovely; and one might spend months in Udaipur without exhausting the carvings and the old temples and the endless variety of objects which excite one’s admiration.32 The Lake and Bund from the Residency, Ajmer, 1885 (Figure 2.4) was taken on 10th November and is likely to be one of the results of this particular outing. While the act of composing a photograph reorders unfamiliar and distant lands into a more conventional form which can entice viewers, it must be remembered

Figure 2.4 Lake and Bund from the Residency, Ajmer, c. 1885. Courtesy PRONI and Dufferin and Ava Archive, Clandeboye.

that landscape itself is never neutral; rather, it is ‘a cultural construct’ invested with power relations.33 This point is worth considering with regard to Lady Dufferin’s landscape photographs, which, despite their picturesque appearance, are nonetheless an articulation of her privileged position, and are therefore in themselves invested with power relations. At first glance Figure 2.4 seems to be a well-composed landscape

photograph, with the central white building leading the eye along the lakeshore and into the mountains in the background, which disappear into the haze despite the wide depth of field. However, just beyond the greenery-clad wall in the foreground are the head and shoulders of a figure in uniform, probably a bodyguard or sentry, carrying a staff. Although he is discreetly positioned in the photograph, one interpretation of his presence might be that the sentry signifies the official channels through which Lady Dufferin was looking at and photographing India; the title of her photograph and the sentry’s presence imply a sense of the photographer looking outwards at the scene from the Residency. Moreover, research suggests that use of the picturesque in photography can serve to conceal confrontation or alteration of colonized people and lands. Lady Dufferin’s use of the picturesque, then, can be read as an intention to conceal political issues common to the processes of colonization, as Sampson points out: ‘Theoretically then, an avowed devotee of the picturesque would not admit elements into the frame, suggestive of, say, social conflict between landowners and local labourers. In other words, the scene should not allow for serious social or cultural discourse, but rather foster an emotive version that would seem to have no connection with present-day political realities.’ 34 Although not included here, Lady Dufferin’s Burmese images, taken in February

1886 in the wake of a coup by British troops, represent a somewhat poignant moment and add to the argument of circumnavigating realities. Her striking photographs of Mandalay’s pagodas, temples and shrines are worth mentioning as they can be read as a negotiation of Burma’s very recent crisis rather than a direct engagement with real events. Furthermore, one entry in her journal in particular is indicative of ideological constraints. During her visit to Mandalay, Lady Dufferin commented: ‘It is, of course, very interesting to hear all the details of the taking of Mandalay, but I must not weary you with too voluminous a report of our proceedings and all that we hear.’35 Her sentiment here has parallels with her imagery in that it evades depictions of military or political incidences. On this point it is worth noting that the significance of taking photographs can act as a form of distancing the photographer from reality or society, arguing that ‘The act of photography becomes an act of separation from society that insulates the spectator from any interrogation of his own position and his relation to those people or places he encounters.’36 Lady Dufferin’s preference for taking photographs, then, rather than being on the other side of the lens suggests a negotiation of her position and the visual construction of her personal experiences.

Figure 2.5 Breakfast table, Government House, Calcutta, Dufferin and Ava Archive, Clandeboye.


1885. Courtesy PRONI and

Propriety was at the forefront of the Victorian feminine ideal during the high colonial period, and, despite emerging educational and career opportunities, women were expected to be wives and mothers first and foremost.37 This is evident in Lady Dufferin’s writing, when she records an account of her domestic undertakings in preparation for the Duke and Duchess of Connaught’s visit in January 1885. In spite of many servants she had at her disposal, she takes charge of the domestic realm stating that she ‘did much housekeeping, hung pictures, arranged rooms and saw that all was in apple-pie order for tomorrow’.38 These comments, together with photographs such as Breakfast Table, Government House, Calcutta (Figure 2.5), suggest a desire to be perceived as appropriately concerned that domestic arrangements and general orderliness within the viceregal household should be a priority – and here, in a carefully composed scene of her daily life at the viceregal lodge is the visual evidence she can send home, along with a letter, to her mother. The viceregal residence in Calcutta was described in Lady Dufferin’s journal

as being very open to the air. The brightly lit scene in Figure 2.5 suggests that conditions at the residence were conducive to taking photographs indoors; sunlight floods this apparently informal scene from the left-hand side of the

frame. It could be argued that, for the mid-1880s, this is a modern photograph, as it appears to be unposed and almost candid. Indeed, its apparent informality stands out in contrast to Lady Dufferin’s carefully arranged groups in Figures 2.1 and 2.2. Viewer’s positioning here is seemingly of a fly-on-the-wall, yet the scene has been carefully composed to include objects that connote grandeur and privilege: the large potted plants, the chandelier in a central position at the top of the frame, the polished stone floor reflecting the morning light and two other tables to the left of the frame draped in white tablecloths and adorned with silverware and china. The servant seems to hold the viewer’s gaze more than anything else in the photograph, his body language and uniform suggesting that he is on duty. The imagery in this photograph connotes a scene of domesticity, of being ‘at home’ while abroad. The scene adds to the idea of the visual construction and fulfilment of domestic duty and evokes an enticing atmosphere of the exotic as well as the intimately domestic. Despite its informal observational and unposed style, this image, with its icons of splendour, could be read as a negotiation of Lady Dufferin’s complex position within colonial India: that of holding a public role as vicereine along with being a dutiful wife concerned with home and hearth.

Conclusion Lady Dufferin’s compositional choices suggest that negotiations were at play between Victorian expectations of her gender and her public position at the heart of the British imperial project in India. Lady Dufferin’s writing suggests she thought of photography purely as a creative outlet, a source of amusement unconnected to her official duties. At the same time, her photographs of picturesque landscapes, groups of friends and everyday scenes of the domestic connote privilege and detachment from affairs of state. Collectively, what Lady Dufferin’s photographs tell us is that she was restricted to viewing India through the closely safeguarded official channels of the colonial administration. Yet Lady Dufferin’s choices in photographic subject and composition are indicative of tensions between the spheres of Victorian femininity and life at the heart of the colonial administration in India. Her photography, then, can be located at an intersection of the colonial and the domestic; one way to read her compositions is as a response to a conflict between prescriptive nineteenthcentury ideologies and her lived experiences of India. Most notably, many significant aspects of Lady Dufferin’s public role are recorded in her writings but occluded from her photography. However, subtleties of authority and control are contained within her photographs; the people she photographed and the picturesque scenes she composed come to stand in for realities of the colonial situations with which she cannot visually engage.

To return briefly to Mills and Ghose, it could be argued that Lady Dufferin’s photographs construct a feminine persona and, furthermore, conceal the realities of the Empire. Hers is an India as seen through the eyes of a woman closely involved with the colonial administration yet arguably distanced from it by the ideological expectations of the Victorian feminine ideal. In eliding overt references to colonialism, then, one suggestion might be that Lady Dufferin’s photographs can be read as the visual articulation of a nineteenth-century female colonial gaze in India at the height of the colonial administration. While her photographs clearly do not sit comfortably within the traditional

colonial photography paradigm, Lady Dufferin’s images reflect her desire to capture the beauty and romance of her experiences in India, yet arguably also the incongruities of her privileged colonial existence abroad. Furthermore, it can be argued that her images represent a unique and personal vision of India at a particular moment in its colonial history. It is their very uniqueness that qualify them for further academic attention.

Notes 1 2 3


Lady Dufferin, Our Viceregal Life in India Volume II (London: John Murray, 1889), 30. My First Efforts in Photography album by Lady Hariot Dufferin, Public Records of

Northern Ireland, PRONI D1071/J/D/6. Growing nationalist sentiment was manifest in the formation of the Indian National Congress in 1885, an issue which had parallels with the announcement of Gladstone’s first Home Rule bill for Ireland in 1886. For more on this see https://, 2007:39. Philanthropy was an avenue of opportunity open to women who desired a more public role, and while charitable activities were seen as proper and appropriate for the middle and upper classes, such endeavours also contributed to the notion of a nurturing and familial Empire. Catherine Hall, ‘The Early Formation of Victorian Domestic Ideology’, in Fit Work for Women, ed. Sandra Burman (London: Croom

5 6

Helm, 1979). Sean Lang, ‘Saving India through Its Women’, History Today 55, no. 9 (2005): 46–51. The Fund stated its aims as ‘providing medical tuition to doctors, hospital assistants,

nurses and midwives; medical relief through dispensaries, female wards, female doctors and female hospitals; and training nurses and midwives’ (Hancock Forbes 2005: 86–87). However, more was at stake with the establishment of Lady Dufferin’s Fund than medical provision for the women of India. After the mutiny of 1857 and the subsequent threat of Indian nationalism, Britain was eager to re-establish good relations with India; as Sean Lang points out, it was hoped by Britain that the

establishment of the Fund would constitute a well-timed gesture of benevolence. Hindu and Muslim women were forbidden to be in the presence of men, including doctors, who were unrelated by birth or marriage. Almost all Indian doctors at this time were male (Lang 2005: 47).

7 8 9

Lang, ‘Saving India through Its Women’; Daniel S. Roberts, ‘Merely Birds of Passage: Lady Hariot Dufferin’s Travel Writings and Medical Work in India, 1884– 1888’, Women’s History Review 15, no. 3 (2006): 443–457. Rozika Parker and Griselda Pollock, Old Mistresses: Women, Art and Ideology (London: Routledge, 1981). See Elizabeth Edwards, ed. Anthropology and Photography 1860–1920 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press in association with the Royal Anthropological Institute, London, 1992 ); Eleanor Hight and Gary Sampson, ed. Colonialist Photography: Imagining Race and Place (London: Routledge, 2002); James Ryan, Picturing Empire: Photography and the Visualization of the British Empire (London: Reaktion, 1998); Clark Worswick and Ainslie Embree, The Last Empire: Photography

in British India 1855–1911 (London: Gordon Fraser Gallery, 1976). 10 The 480 photographs, taken by men in military, medical and political circles in the services of the government and scientific institutions, depicted people from a wide range of castes, tribes and races and are ‘widely acknowledged to be among the most important nineteenth century attempts to harness photography to the service of ethnographic documentation’, Hight and Sampson, Colonialist Photography, 52.

11 Christopher Pinney ‘The Parallel Histories of Anthropology and Photography’, in Anthropology & Photography 1860–1920, ed. Elizabeth Edwards (New Haven, CT:

Yale University Press in association with the Royal Anthropological Institute, London, 1992b). 12 Ryan, Picturing Empire, 16. 13 Edwards, Anthropology & Photography 1860–1920. 14 Ibid., 102. 15 Ibid., 74–76. 16 Justin Carville, Photography and Ireland (London: Reaktion, 2011), 19. 17 Ibid. 18 Sarah Mills, Discourses of Difference: Women’s Travel Writing and Colonialism (London: Routledge, 1991). 19 Indira Ghose, Women Travellers in Colonial India: The Power of the Female Gaze (Delhi and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998). 20 Mills, Discourses of Difference, 69–70. 21 Ibid., 18. 22 Ibid., 4. 23 Dufferin, Our Viceregal Life in India Volume 1, 167. 24 Ibid., 8. 25 Eadaoin Agnew and Leon Litvack. ‘The Subcontinent as Spectator Sport: The Photographs of Hariot Lady Dufferin, Vicereine of India’, History of Photography 30, no. 4 (2006): 350. 26 Photography had arrived in India by the 1840s and the first amateur photographic societies were formed in Bombay in 1854 and in Madras and Bengal the following year (Marien 2010: 118). It is interesting to consider here the history of British women, including two of Lady Dufferin’s predecessors Charlotte Canning and

27 28 29

Harriet C. Tytler (1828–1907) who became interested in photography and its related activities while in India. See Werner Marien 2010; Hight and Sampson 2002; Worswick and Embree 1976. Dufferin, Our Viceregal Life in India Volume 1, 29. Ibid., 142. Dufferin, Our Viceregal Life in India Volume II, 42. Dufferin, Our Viceregal Life in India Volume 1, 16.

30 31 Ibid. 32 Ibid., 228. 33 Liz Wells, ed. Photography: A Critical Introduction, 2nd edn (London: Routledge, 2004), 303. 34 Eleanor Hight and Gary Sampson, Colonialist Photography, 90. 35 Dufferin, Our Viceregal Life in India Volume 1, 305. 36 Spurgeon Thompson, ‘The Politics of Photography: Travel Writing and the Irish Countryside, 1900–1914’, in Images, Icons and the Irish Nationalist Imagination, ed. Lawrence W. McBride (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1999), 118. 37 Hall, ‘The Early Formation of Victorian Domestic Ideology’, 1979. 38 Dufferin, Our Viceregal Life in India Volume 1, 36.

Select Bibliography Agnew, Eadaoin and Leon Litvack. ‘The Subcontinent as Spectator Sport: The Photographs of Hariot Lady Dufferin, Vicereine of India’. History of Photography 30,

no. 4 (2006): 348–358. Bush, Julia. Edwardian Ladies and Imperial Power . London: Leicester University Press, 2000. Dufferin, Lady Hariot. Our Viceregal Life in India: Selections from My Journal 1884–1888, Volumes I & 2. London: John Murray, 1889. Edwards, Elizabeth. Anthropology and Photography 1860–1920. New Haven, CT: Yale

University Press in association with the Royal Anthropological Institute, London, 1992. Ghose, Indira. Women Travellers in Colonial India: The Power of the Female Gaze. Delhi and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998. Hall, Catherine. ‘The Early Formation of Victorian Domestic Ideology’. In Fit Work for Women, edited by Sandra Burman, London: Croom Helm, 1979. Hall, Stuart. ‘Foucault: Power, Knowledge and Discourse’. In Discourse Theory and

Practice: A Reader , edited by Wetherell et al., London: Sage, 2001. Hancock Forbes, Geraldine. (2005) Women in Colonial India: Essays on Politics, Medicine and Historiography. Available online: ClNEJwXLNQIC&pg=PA86&lpg=PA86&dq= source=bl&ots=Zis4KQeve5&sig=nemA

aLHIwnKF0XEyGmMIx0X5niA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj-Lnv04jTAhWJC8AKHX3 mBAIQ6AEIIDAB#v (accessed 5 May 2011). Hight, Eleanor and Gary Sampson, eds. Colonialist Photography: Imagining Race and Place. London: Routledge, 2002.

Kapur, Narinder. The Irish Raj. Antrim: Greystone Press, 1997. Kenny, Kevin, ed. Ireland and the British Empire. Oxford University Press, 2004. Lang, Sean. ‘Saving India through Its Women’. History Today 55, no. 9 (2005): 46–51. Marien, Mary W. Photography: A Cultural History, 3rd edn. London: Laurence King,

2010. Mills, Sarah. Discourses of Difference: Women’s Travel Writing and Colonialism. London: Routledge, 1991. Parker, Rozika and Griselda Pollock. Old Mistresses: Women, Art and Ideology. London: Routledge, 1981. Pinney, Christopher. ‘Underneath the Banyan Tree: William Crooke and Photographic Depictions of Caste’. In Anthropology & Photography 1860–1920, edited by Elizabeth

Edwards. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press in Association with the Royal Anthropological Institute, London, 1992a. Pinney, Christopher. ‘The Parallel Histories of Anthropology and Photography’. In Anthropology & Photography 1860–1920, edited by Elizabeth Edwards. New Haven,

CT: Yale University Press in association with the Royal Anthropological Institute, London, 1992b. Roberts, Daniel S. ‘Merely Birds of Passage: Lady Hariot Dufferin’s travel writings and medical work in India, 1884–1888’. Women’s History Review 15, no. 3 (2006): 443– 457. Ryan, James. Picturing Empire: Photography and the Visualization of the British Empire. London: Reaktion, 1998.

Spencer, Frank. ‘Some Notes on the Attempt to Apply Photography to Anthropometry during the Second Half of the Nineteenth Century’. In Anthropology & Photography 1860–1920, edited by Elizabeth Edwards. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press in association with the Royal Anthropological Institute, London, 1992. Thompson, Spurgeon. ‘The Politics of Photography: Travel Writing and the Irish Countryside, 1900–1914’. In Images, Icons and the Irish Nationalist Imagination,

edited by Lawrence W. McBride. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1999. Trollope, Joanna. Britannia’s Daughters. Great Britain: Hutchinson, 1983. Worswick, Clark and Ainslie T. Embree. The Last Empire: Photography in British India 1855–1911. London: Gordon Fraser Gallery, 1976.


Itinerancy It has become a truism for criticism on photography to note the relation photographs have to the past, or to analyse strange new temporalities that photographs make possible in their indeterminate position between imaging the past and being objects in the present. The aim, in any case, is to read photographs as forms of transmission: of a previous time into the present, of one part of the world appearing by means of reproduction in another part of the world. If Kant was correct in deducing that time and space – the axes of photographic transmission – are the categories of our understanding rather than objective conditions of the world we perceive, then photography bisects the very perceptual system (if you will) of our cognitive embeddedness in the world. Its proliferation in increasingly mobile forms – its quantitative increase – only deepens its qualitative effects. These effects are myriad, and in this short essay I will focus on two: photography’s effects on the very notion of medium, and, connected to this, its effects on knowability. These effects seem particularly heightened in the digital age but in fact have attended photographic practices since their inception in the nineteenth century. Approximately 200 years have passed since the invention of photography, long enough for the medium to become crystallized as one of the central forms in which the past is transmitted. I was led to reconsider photographic medium not in the conversion of photographs into digital data but in the decidedly analogue work of a contemporary Pakistani artist, Imran Channa. In a three-part series Channa renders iconic and non-iconic images of India/Pakistan partition into graphite drawings with obsessive attention to detail, resulting in an uncanny rendering of


The familiar image in an aesthetic register that has converted the automatism of the camera’s eye into an image touched in its most minute details by the artist’s hand. The artist then proceeds to erase, smudge or redraw the image again, resulting in abstract forms that bear only the faintest resemblance to the original photograph. The work does far more than merely question the verisimilitude of photographic vision; it reorients our understanding of photography’s place as a vehicle of the past’s transmission and as a placeholder for ever-changing collective memory. It does so by relying on tendencies that have adhered to photographs since their invention. I will have much more to say about Channa’s work, but in order to grasp its critical interventions we require a brief detour through the early history of photography in British India, a history that already demonstrates flexible tendencies at the heart of the photographic medium. These tendencies form the very groundwork for what I am calling photography’s itinerancy. Early photography wrought important changes in what we call medium, and

also in what people came to consider as the knowable world. I will briefly note some of these changes and to do so I will shuttle across photography’s early history in India and its contemporary circulation – in particular, from the work of nineteenthcentury photographer Linnaeus Tripe, to the work of contemporary Pakistani artist Imran Channa, who renders photographs into graphite drawings. With this juxtaposition I hope to open up some questions concerning photography’s itineraries, and by ‘itinerant photography’ I mean to refer to several kinds of traffic: traffic between parts of the globe, between aesthetic forms, and between photography and other mediums. To do justice to these itineraries one has to disturb the very notion of ‘South Asian photography’. After all, photographic practices everywhere articulate with local forms of representation, forms that modulate the alteration, distribution and cultural meanings of the photographs. How does one hold on to the historical specificity of South Asian photography (i.e. what Christopher Pinney once called Camera Indica)1 and also keep in play the larger world-historical shifts in which the subcontinent is also enmeshed? The trade routes that stretched through the subcontinent had already made it, like many places in Asia, the product of constantly changing aesthetic and political influences. If one looks at the general arc of photographic history, from its early experiments, to its emancipation from those older forms of seeing, to its use in newspapers, its culturally mediated use in rituals and ceremonies, and now into the digital age, one has to concede that photography is, as a medium, highly elastic and flexible. It might well teach us that medium has its elastic and flexible aspects and it requires that our methods of interpretation shift with respect to such flexibility. When a photograph enters the newspaper, the newspaper becomes, in a certain sense, a part of its medium. If we conceive of medium as itself composed of historically accreted forms – because medium is never merely given, never purely natural – then one is forced, when interpreting photography, to keep in view the historically specific way in which matter becomes medium.


It is because artistic mediums are so flexible that cultural and historical accommodations can be made even within photography; as a medium photography wends its way through constantly changing and contradictory forms of seeing, markedly attaching to itself cultural practices and forms of representation in its various global contexts. Such itinerancy creates entirely new genres and forms of looking that photography has made possible from its inception: from ethnographic photographs, to topographical views, the modern snapshot, the painted image, the devotional image and, of course, the selfie. Although these forms of cultural embellishments and accommodations are wondrous in their own right, they merely point to the general tendency of all photography itself: as a medium it is poised to disturb the contours of other mediums. For example, some early photographs from Lucknow show courtly figures embellished with inscriptions and miniature-style drawings;2 photographs in newspapers seek, by means of their visual rhetoric, to lend objective truth to the reportage and thereby change the nature of the newspaper; photographs inserted within modernist painterly experiments change the character of painting, etc. Surely none of this is news, but I am underscoring the plastic nature of medium in order to emphasize that our own methodologies for understanding photography require a similar pliability. What I would like to explore is how one might attend – within the same method of interpretation – to two simultaneous facts: first, that photographs are conditioned by the political and historical circumstances that produce them on the one hand, and second, that photographs also bring into focus a whole host of insights, that, if too rigorously contextualized and historicized, risk becoming so qualified that their analytical charge becomes untranslatable to other contexts. This is to say that even as we historicize South Asian photography – its technomaterial realities, its forms of transmission, its culturally conditioned practices we must simultaneously allow our analyses a certain openness to overlapping contexts. Photography itself travels by means of reproducibility, and photographs come into encounters with unanticipated contexts. What might it mean to keep our analyses open to such itinerancy, an aspect of the medium itself? For one, it might imply that statements about South Asian photography are interesting not because they constitute, once again, a particularizing discourse about a regional photographic practice, but because regional practice itself has much to teach us about larger issues such as the claims of memory, truth, beauty or devotion, etc. Historicizing photographic practices in this way opens up regional specificity rather than particularizing it, both by understanding regional differences as being embedded in global social relations and by examining the unintended representational effects of photographic practices. As we will see, one of these unintended effects is on our very understanding of what counts as medium, and because of this, as a technology photography is poised to supply a unique form of translation, across geography and generations, but also across ways of knowing.

Medium Working at an early period of photographic practice, when photography held out the promise of scientific objectivity for some, and was a fertile field of aesthetic experimentation for others, Linnaeus Tripe produced a series of photographs documenting architectural sites. For a period of eight years, from 1852 to 1860, Tripe worked in the service of the British army as a photographer, documenting the Madras Presidency as well as sites in Burma. His expedition to Burma, in particular, was intended to gather information in the service of the colonial state’s growing economic and political interest, as Burma would eventually be enfolded into direct colonial rule. Tripe’s photographic projects were part and parcel of the familiar attempts at gathering knowledge about India – the colonial officials who hired him asked him ‘to record accurately and in detail the historical monuments, geological features, botanical elements, and inhabitants of the country, together with their customs, dress, and occupations’.3 In other words, the primary importance of these photographs, from the perspective of the colonial state, was their indexical truth: that these antiquities and landscapes really did exist in this form. Alongside this indexical function, Tripe’s work also performs some aesthetic

interventions: it continued the picturesque aesthetic, and it extended the medium of architecture itself. By the time Tripe took his picturesque scenes, the conventions of the picturesque were well established and already popularized. Tripe, like many of his contemporaries, hired assistants to retouch his photographs, adding picturesque elements like clouds, reflections and shadows.4 Here, the photographic medium readily meets the demands of picturesque conventions (Figure 3.1). Anthropologist Nicholas Dirks has analysed Tripe’s photographs as documents of a certain colonial loss: they invoke the usual colonial nostalgia for an ancient Eastern civilization even as they record, almost in spite of themselves, the transition within the colonial order marked by the 1857 rebellion.5 This rebellion was a critical shift in colonial governance in India since the rule of the East India Company was replaced with the direct Crown rule. This meant that the princely states in India gradually became mere theatrics dependent on the British largesse. Tripe’s photographs are situated at this historical transition. They invoke, in their subject matter, the mystery of great civilizational loss, the fall from grace of an ancient civilization. The picturesque embellishments – the darkening of shadows, the deepening of cloud forms – bring out the melancholia latent within the picturesque tradition all along, especially its obsession with ruins. Even when Tripe recorded ancient buildings still in use, his photographs show them as vacant and unpeopled. Tripe was particularly drawn to photographing architectural sites. Architecture,

perhaps more than landscapes, lent itself to photographic technology at this time by the sheer fact of its stillness. And yet the medium of architecture requires

Figure 3.1 Linnaeus Tripe. Hullabede: Suli Munduppum from the Northeast, December, c. 1854.

a bodily relationship to the space as organized by the building. Tripe’s medium cannot possibly approximate architecture, but I would like to speculate here about the elasticity of artistic medium and note that if Tripe relies on the flexibility of photography as a medium, his photographs also point to a certain flexibility of architecture itself. Here it would be useful to be reminded of a term from literary studies, ekphrasis, which refers to poetry or prose that takes up an object as its concern and describes and meditates on it. Ekphrasis comes from the Greek words ek, meaning ‘out of’, and phrasis or ‘speech’/‘expression’. The most famous example of this is, of course, John Keats’s poem ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’. The wonderful and mystifying character of ekphrastic expression is that the object that is rendered into language might be imaginary or it might be a real object. Even if it were a real object witnessed by the writer, its conversion into language makes it imaginary for the reader.6 The ekphrastic object is necessarily ambiguous – whether it is something found by the writer or created by the writer is beside the point. It is, in a deep sense, both found and created. My account of ekphrasis borrows from psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott’s definition of the transitional object, which for the child is often an object of play: ‘Of the transitional object it is a matter of agreement between us and the baby that we will never ask the question: “Did you conceive of this or was it presented

to you from without?” The important point is that no decision on this point is expected. The question is not to be formulated’. 7 The ekphrastic object is akin to the object of play because it is invested with a certain libidinal energy and is a means for traversing the boundaries between the child and the world, including its objects and people. It is, in short, across such transitional objects that the relations between me and not-me crystallize. My wager is that all photographic images inhabit this ambiguous representational state of which ekphrasis is a figure, naming an age-old itinerant tendency at the heart of representation itself. Photographs are forms in which the world has revealed itself and yet they are also conjurations and productions. It is not at all accidental that Walter Benjamin designated play as the twin of semblance: all forms of mimetic practice involve, in his understanding, a distribution across play and semblance. Notions of semblance have a commonsensical appeal to our understandings of photographs because they seem (at least on the surface) to address the symptomatic discourses about photography’s objectivity or its lack thereof, or its indexical truth or aesthetic intervention. The play aspect of photographs often eludes our gaze and has to be read back into critical histories of photography. This aspect itself opens up a field of critical questioning because as a term it has a neutral charge, much like semblance. It points in the direction of greater critical attention to experimentation, improvisation, contingency, anachronism, creativity and the production of the wholly new. It also evokes non-instrumentality, purposiveness without purpose (Kant’s classic definition of beauty) and transformation. It represents, in other words, a dynamic field of practice that concern with semblance can often overlook. For my purposes here I isolate this particular and paradoxical character of the object of play: its status as both found and created. This is how one might understand Tripe’s architectural photographs: the

buildings are found by him in the real world of nineteenth-century India and Burma, and yet they are also conjured by him. The photographs are objective records and yet they enframe and interpret at the same time. These two aspects of photography are not in conflict but the photographs themselves are evidence of this paradox. Architecture as a medium has its photographic aspect, and it would be a reduction to assume that architecture as a medium is only to be authentically experienced in person. Tripe’s photographs translate architecture into photography. His architectural photographs are ekphrastic translations, and like all translations, this one adds something to the original: it adds to it an element of indexical truth, that is, of the building really having been there at that time. These buildings really did exist in this state when Tripe photographed them; and yet these buildings ceased to exist in precisely this form immediately after being photographed. The photograph makes time itself the focus of our gaze, drawing out an element in the life of buildings that might otherwise be ignored. It draws out what might be communicable in the past. In Tripe’s photographs, the

time that enters our experience of this architecture is Tripe’s own historical era, a sense we might not experience if we visited one of these buildings today. As we contemplate the ancient value of these architectural wonders, the photographs remind us that this value is one that has been transmitted by a more recent past. The photographs become one among other forms of this cultural transmission; their reproducibility makes the objects within the frame commutable across both time and space. Finally, as with any photograph, the time of viewing, too, becomes a part of the photographed object’s history, and the photograph’s own history (all photographs refer to two objects simultaneously: the image photographed and the photograph itself).

Translation This way of conceiving photography and its travels is indebted, of course, to Walter Benjamin, who not only sought to rip objects of study out of their contexts in order to see them in a fresh light, but also analogized such flashes of insight with the reading of non-sensuous correspondences in the world and its received traditions. In ‘Task of the Translator’ Benjamin writes, ‘just as the manifestations of life are intimately connected with the phenomenon of life without being of importance to it, a translation issues from the original – not so much from its life as from its afterlife’.8 The manifestations of life bear a connection to life itself but in themselves are not of importance to it. What are photographs but one aspect of the manifestations of life, and while photographs bear a connection to how life might be lived, in themselves they are not critical to it. This analogy between translation and photography is not far-fetched if one considers the itinerary of truth in Benjamin’s corpus: it appears in the early essays in the form of ‘god’s word’, a nonsensible intention that runs through all languages and that translation reveals but only partially; in the later essays truth is the historical possibility created by visual technologies itself, both in the flashes of contingent insights that technological reproducibility makes possible and moments of danger in which thought must rescue cultural inheritance from the historical narratives that entrap it. Photographs bear a relationship to truth but not in the positivism of their indexical rhetoric, but in the intentionless manner in which the indexical is subject to resignification. All photographs might well be translations in Benjamin’s sense in that they reveal, however partially, hitherto unforeseen aspects of the world, and make those aspects durable. This is why Benjamin specifies that ‘a translation issues from the original – not so much from its life as from its afterlife’.9 When the photograph is read in a new context, its content might finally be grasped, perhaps for the first time. So translation illuminates the original, and does not simply replicate it. Yet

such illumination is hardly a guarantee, and visual technologies are remarkably

capable of impeding insight. This is the case not only in straightforward ideological manipulation of visual technologies but in the unintended cases too where a certain photograph becomes so iconic that its meaning is covered over by its iconic charge. Sometimes replication dissembles the original even while transforming it. Consider how technological reproducibility has extended and transformed the afterlife of certain originals: Eisenstein’s representation of Lenin has supplanted the image of the original figure himself, the infinite number of identical snapshots taken at the Taj Mahal and other auratic tourist sites make the photographs the referent for the sites themselves, the grainy and iconic images of nuclear explosions signifying the atomic age, concealing as much as they reveal, etc. Once an image becomes iconic, that is to say, once it becomes shorthand for an entire set of associations, a historical narrative, a mark of the zeitgeist, or whatever, it veers away from revelation and becomes opaque once again. This is a special kind of opacity: rather than the generative opacity of having come to the limits of knowledge (the opacity of the unthought), this opacity is the result of an overabundance of meaning, and not just any meaning but an inchoate and collective meaning already agreed upon. Without the collective aspect of meaning making an icon can hardly be called an icon, and yet the mystery that resides in the heart of the iconic image rests there not because it is out of collective reach, but because the sheer multiplicity of collective meanings has installed it there. The afterlife of iconic images – their transmission across time and space – ensures that any insight to be gleaned from the image is foreclosed by inherited narratives surrounding the image, a kind of collective noise. In other words, the very flexibility of the medium can risk impeding translation. Iconic images, freighted and overdetermined, travel widely but might not quite be ‘seen’ since so many fragmented narratives and libidinal investments render them hyper-visible and simultaneously opaque. The data ratio of well-known images is transmitted alongside all this noise. How to attend both to this collective noise and to the past (already lost) that the image referenced? This is among the questions posed by Imran Channa in his tripartite series,

entitled Error, Erasure, and Memories. Each series takes up the problem of iconicity from a different angle. The artist’s source materials for Error and Erasure are iconic photographs of the partition taken by photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Margaret Bourke-White and Bert Hardy. In the Memories series the artist mixes the iconic images of this historical catastrophe with the source material of his own personal photographs taken around Lahore and Shikarpur. Many of the iconic images of the partition were originally published not in South Asia but in magazines such as LIFE, which sponsored Margaret Bourke-White’s partition series. As in Tripe’s case in the nineteenth century, the production of ‘South Asian photography’ continues to occur by means of complex geopolitical systems of economic patronage, news reportage and the demands of an already-

globalized audience. Channa’s three series are composed of process work – that is, the series might result in particular pieces, but the artworks’ unique form of abstraction and also realism makes sense only when one considers the artist’s process for each series (Figure 3.2). In Error, Channa painstakingly reproduces an iconic image from the partition

as a graphite drawing, and then smudges the drawing in arc-like formations (Figure 3.3). In some of the pieces one can still see the lingering traces of the

Figure 3.2 Margaret Bourke-White. October 1947: Boy sitting on rock ledge above refugee camp, c. 1947. Courtesy of The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images.

Figure 3.3 Imran Channa. Error I (work in progress on left, finished work on right), c. 2015. Courtesy of the artist.

original image but these are overtaken by the signs of being crossed out and smudged. Art historian Iftikhar Dadi has pointed to the manner in which the original drawing, sometimes faintly visible is interrupted by and also interrupts the smudges that spread across the paper, noting a ‘sensation of profound tension between abstraction and realism’.10 In Erasure on Paper, the graphite drawing based on original photographs is almost completely erased, with perhaps a section here or there still showing some original details (though smudged). The human figures in these drawings, and even the landscapes, seem uncanny in the originary sense of the word: both familiar and made foreign, like a memory on the cusp of recall. All that remains of the historical event is a trace, and though this trace is borrowed from the photograph, it has another nature entirely: it is that trace stripped of its iconicity, as if one were struggling to arrive once again at a familiar sense of an event but is continually faced with its radical alterity from what one thinks one knows (or can recall). When iconic images become anamnesis, this work suggests, we become dangerously certain of what we think we know (Figure 3.4). The final series, Memories, extends this meditation deeper towards the opaque and the unknown. Once again Channa renders the original photograph into a graphite drawing with obsessive faithfulness, but now the work is smudged laterally in one direction and then another, creating evenly spaced striations across the page. After the work has been smudged entirely, the artist once more draws the same drawing over the smudged image, then smudges it again. The resulting series produces a set of dark opaque drawings that look both abstract and photographic. The source image is still visible but only in its transformation – smudged but with a finely grained sense of order and regularity. As Dadi remarks, ‘this tension between the regularity of the striations and the primeval organic shapes of the massed forms can be allegorized as the tension of the individual lives that are caught up in modern ideological regimes that grind on, and the gyres of history continue to turn ceaselessly, over the bodies and lives of individuals and communities’.11 Since the artist included his own personal photographs as some of the source material that, in the final series, becomes impossible to tell apart from the iconic source material, it suggests that the collective meaning making of historical events and the distortions created by means of such narratives are of a piece with personal recollection (Figure 3.5). These three inter-related series ask us to consider what it might mean to

search for the truth of the historical catastrophe of the partition today when its history is received through photographs and narratives that have already become familiar and were probably always forms of conjuring. The partition continues to haunt the subcontinent not only because of the geopolitical interests that became crystallized in ongoing political and economic contestation, but also because the narratives and meanings of the iconic images remain uncertain, while national historical accounts remain self-interested. These artworks, by translating

Figure 3.4 Imran Channa. Erasure on Paper I, c. 2015, Graphite on Paper, 52 × 35 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Figure 3.5 Imran Channa. Memories, Series. 2015. Graphite and erasure on paper. 29 × 43 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

photography into another medium, offer up an entirely novel kind of evidence: the inheritance of a tradition whose meaning remains uncertain, and also the disturbance of representation in our memories and received histories. Each series insists on the centrality of the original photographic referent, painstakingly making the presence of the event appear as the condition of representation, but not selfevidently so. Memories, in its evenly spaced striations retains the character of technologically reproduced images, but now rendered almost entirely opaque. In a political climate where the afterlife of the partition continues to unfold, and in which all sides place stakes on their own tendentious accounts of its history, Channa’s work provides the kind of illumination that Benjamin valorized: in some historical circumstances the truest insight is to adduce evidence of blindness, distortion and the grinding of individual lives into opacity. Note how the indexical trace continues to operate in Channa’s work, but not in any literal sense: redrawing the photograph by hand bears a relationship to the indexical trace but is not the same as an indexical trace. How might we read this gesture back into the history of South Asian photography? Recall that Tripe’s photography, as a form of ekphrasis, was already situated somewhere between conjuring and reportage, all the while translating architecture into photography, revealing aspects of architectural experience specific to photographic vision. We discover new phenomenological aspects of architecture as a result of photography, and from this vantage point the two mediums interpenetrate. Such malleability of medium can be traced in other early photographic practices, from

spirit photography to the photographic still life to the photographically based drawings in newspapers. The forms of medium flexibility that Imran Channa deploys in his artwork extend back into the earliest days of photographic practice. And yet more than this, Channa’s work suggests that such malleability of medium might well rest on age-old practice of reading correspondences in the world. By rendering iconic photographs into their corresponding drawings and then erasing, blurring or grinding down the representational links between the overly voluble iconic image and its copy, Channa foregrounds the practice of reading itself. The icon becomes enigma, or, more accurately, is translated into one. The past event reveals itself to be less easily known than we had expected, and, in turn, our forms of reading reveal their limits. Imran Channa’s work points to another kind of contingency that always lurked at the heart of the photographic index: in addition to pointing to the unseen, the as-yet-to-be-unconcealed in every photograph, this contingency points to the possibility that nothing might finally reveal itself, or that revelation might yet take the form of opacity. If the glimmer of truth is partially visible by means of translation, there still remains that which cannot be communicated, and holding fast to this incommunicability might well be the critical move that preserves history from lapsing into narratives that serve the present status quo. Marking such moments of opacity would mean to begin to make inventory of the losses incurred in the traffic of inherited traditions. The malleability of medium is the condition of the past’s translation, not its result, and Channa relies on the malleability of photographs, that is, their itinerancy, and plays with their form of semblance and correspondence, in order to remind us of the histories to which photographs are never adequate.

Notes 1 2 3 4

Christopher Pinney, Camera Indica: The Social Life of Indian Photographs (Chicago: Chicago UP, 1997). See further discussion of such photographs in Zahid Chaudhary, Afterimage of Empire: Photography in Nineteenth-Century India (Minneapolis: Minnesota UP, 2012), 131–139. Janet Dewan, ‘Linnaeus Tripe: Critical Assessments and Other Notes’, The Photographic Collector 5, no. 1 (Fall 1984): 49. For further discussion of Tripe’s innovative retouching and alteration techniques, see ‘Captain Linnaeus Tripe: Photographer of India and Burma, 1852–1860’, Exhibition Catalogue. Washington DC: National Gallery of Art, 2015, especially pp. 5–48: ‘The Pioneering Photographic Expedition of Linnaeus Tripe’ by Roger Taylor.


Nicholas Dirks, ‘Colonial Amnesia and the Old Regime in the Photographs of Linnaeus Tripe’, in Traces of India: Photography, Architecture, and the Politics of Representation,

ed. Maria Antonella Pelizzari (New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 2003), 197–216.


For an account of ekphrasis in relation to photography, see Andrew D. Miller, Poetry, Photography, Ekphrasis (Liverpool: Liverpool UP, 2015). 7 D.W. Winnicott, Playing and Reality (New York: Routledge, 2005), 17. 8 Walter Benjamin, Selected Writings Vol. 1: 1913–1926 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2000), 254. 9 Ibid. 10 Iftikhar Dadi, ‘Spectral Memories’, in Exhibition Catalogue of ‘Enclosure/Erasure’ (Karachi: Koel Gallery, 2015). 11 Ibid.

Select Bibliography Benjamin, Walter. Selected Writings Vol. 1: 1913–1926. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2000. Chaudhary, Zahid. Afterimage of Empire: Photography in Nineteenth-Century India.

Minneapolis: Minnesota UP, 2012. Dadi, Iftikhar. ‘Spectral Memories’. In Exhibition Catalogue of ‘Enclosure/Erasure’. Karachi: Koel Gallery, 2015. Dewan, Janet. ‘Linnaeus Tripe: Critical Assessments and Other Notes’. The Photographic Collector 5, no. 1 (Fall 1984). Dirks, Nicholas. ‘Colonial Amnesia and the Old Regime in the Photographs of Linnaeus Tripe’. In Traces of India: Photography, Architecture, and the Politics of

Representation, edited by Maria Antonella Pelizzari. New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 2003. Miller, Andrew. Poetry, Photography, Ekphrasis . Liverpool: Liverpool UP, 2015. Pinney, Christopher. Camera Indica: The Social Life of Indian Photographs. Chicago: Chicago UP, 1997.

Taylor, Roger, Crispin Branfoot, Sarah Greenough and Malcolm Daniel. Captain Linnaeus Tripe: Photographer of India and Burma, 1852–1860. London: Prestel, 2014. Winnicott, D.W. Playing and Reality. New York: Routledge, 2005.

4 IMAGES OF DEATHS AND MARRIAGES: SYRIAN CHRISTIAN FAMILY ALBUMS AND ORAL HISTORIES IN KERALA Pooja Sagar In the summer, when the sweltering heat and the din of three children became unbearable, my mother would send me, the eldest, away to her ancestral house in Thiruvalla, in the erstwhile Kingdom of Travancore, Kerala. In the words of Arundhati Roy, May in Central Travancore is, ‘a hot, brooding month. The days are long and humid. The river shrinks and black crows gorge on bright mangoes in still, dust green trees. Red bananas ripen. Jackfruits burst. Dissolute bluebottles hum vacuously in the fruity air.’1 In this landscape, stood my house of exile with whitewashed walls and wooden

rafters. The aesthetic of walls was decorative, consisting of framed photographs hanging on rusty nails, taxidermy of antelopes, wild beasts and a wooden cross. In the living room, black-and-white photographs of my great grandmother and grandfather, and a family portrait hung on the wall. As these photographs filled some empty spaces on the walls and gave cover to generations of house lizards, their arrangement seemed to have a narrative quality that struck me as a child. Through this chapter, I pursue the stories they tell by studying the portraits from my family’s albums taken on the occasion of marriages and funerals. I will analyse the structures of the portraits by juxtaposing memories of these images collected through oral history interviews against the image itself to expose a hitherto unexplored complexity to argue that photographic images are events. Event is an important concept in the theoretical framework of Gilles Deleuze who proposes that the events are produced in chaos. By drawing on this postulate already established by Deleuze’s philosophical argumentation, I will make visible


the chaos embedded in the photographic images in my enquiry. Such an attempt will cut through the order that is prima facie visible in the family portraits. By analysing the historical relevance of the temptation to order, particularly as means of establishing the identity of the Syrian Christian community, and within this, locating the memory of the photographic event as it unfolds in the oral history interviews, narratives of the images become complex and multifold. Personal memories, connections to history and family photos are crucial sites of my investigation. In a way, the chapter is aiming at bringing together the personal, anecdotal nature of oral histories into the reading of photographic images from family archives. These photographs belong to the family archives of Karikkatu Shankaramangalam, a Syrian Christian family that claims long-standing relations with its history and formation of the community, to which my mother once belonged. My mother married outside of the community to a man from another religion. This severed her relationship with the activities ordained by the church. She struggled but eventually succeeded in rebuilding the conviviality that she lost in the act of marrying outside the community. I therefore became an insider and an outsider to the images; outsider to the sense of community since I was a daughter of a daughter who ran away with the man she loved and an insider by being present in its narratives. While examining these images I found myself to be a spectator negotiating with my aspirations to be an insider to the community.2

The aesthetics of genealogy A brief history of the origin stories of the Syrian Christians of Kerala will reveal some evidences of the genealogical practices among the Christians of Kerala. The Syrian Christians of Kerala claim that they have been originally converted to Christianity by doubting Thomas, one of the twelve Disciples of Christ who is said to have arrived in the town of Malyankara near Muziris in 52 CE.3 Muziris was then a prosperous seaside trade post of the Chera dynasty. It is speculated that the immediate aim of the arrival of the apostle could have been to spread the gospel of Christ among the Jewish traders on the coast of Kerala. While little archaeological evidence is available to prove that St. Thomas actually arrived in Kerala, the myth is widely accepted among the believers.4 Out of the thirty-two families that St. Thomas converted to Christianity, Shankarapuri, Pakalomattom, Kalli, Kalliankavu were powerful families, especially Pakalomattom, whose members became heads of the Nazrani (Syrian Christian) community, Archdeacons and Metropolitans.5 While cultural claims, particularly the ones regarding origins, are not sacrosanct, the community’s memories seem to perpetuate these narratives despite their fallibility. Karikkattu Shankaramangalam, the key family in my research, is a branch of the Shankarapuri family that migrated towards the South and settled in Thiruvalla.6


Secondly, the genealogical ordering is made visible in visual and aesthetic elements such as the arrangement of the photographs on the walls of the living rooms of the extended family. Invariably, while photographing the living rooms of different houses, I saw that the photograph of the oldest member of the family always seems to take the prominent position on the wall, either by being hung above the other pictures or by being the largest of all. This adoption of the aesthetics of genealogy, I claim, is a Christian tradition particularly modelled after the chronological conventions of genesis followed in the Bible. From Adam and Eve, to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and Moses, there is a conspicuous thread of lineage drawn across generations, from father to son and so on. The Syrian Christians in Kerala seem to have adopted this genealogical structure strictly into their practices seen also in adoption of biblical names converted to vernacular localizations: Mathew is Mathai, Joseph is Ouseph and Peter becomes Pathrose.7 Family portraits are elaborately directed and orchestrated events. In the

picture taken in 1952, on the occasion of the marriage of the youngest son in the family, close to sixty-five members of the Shankaramangalam family assembled in straight lines, on chairs and benches, under the shade of a mango tree on a hot afternoon for an image that would thereafter become an iconic image for the family. Prints of this image were distributed to all households in the family. What we see here in this photograph is not only the members of the family coming together to take a photograph but the consolidation of ideas such as lineage, ancestry and cultural integrity that the family wants to project by ordering itself into a functional genealogical entity, which gets replicated every time the image is reproduced (Plate 1). Roland Barthes says, ‘the photograph mechanically repeats what could never be repeated existentially’.8 The moment of the photograph is also a moment of establishing itself as a family, physically by coming together of all the members of the family. Secondly, the distribution of the family portraits among the members of the family validates Barthes’s construction of indexical nature of photography as authenticating the past and the people’s memory associated with it. While operating with oral history narratives in describing this memory, it is essential to understand the two languages that operate here, the ‘critical and the expressive’.9 That is to say, in writing about photography, Barthes emphasizes the importance of emotions associated with the experience of the photograph. Oral history provides evidences of emotions in memory that can be used to analyse the status of the photograph as an event. It offers glimpses into the experience of being photographed. Appachan (Kochumman) and Ammachi (Checha) had fourteen children. It was the youngest one, Kochichayan who was getting married. The girl’s name was Sheela, she is from a prominent family from Kochi, very modern

and I had a part to play in arranging the alliance. Ammachi knew Sheela wouldn’t find it comfortable to stay in a village like Thiruvalla. Therefore, the ancestral house was eventually entrusted to Ommachan (another son) instead of Kochichayan, the rightful heir. On the day of the wedding, we were really anxious about meeting the needs of all our guests, especially with regards to all the food that was to be served. The house was busy and lively, with full of people. As the 94-year-old Aley T. Philip recalled the wedding of her cousin from when she was thirty years old, she began to string together the event as she remembered it. She vividly remembered the occasion on which the photograph was taken.10 The number of guests who arrived and the rituals that led up to the marriage was overwhelming. Amidst the rush, she remembered the photographer who summoned all the members of the Karikkattu Shankaramangalam family to convene under a mango tree. All the men lined up in the back rows and the children sat on the ground. Appachan and Ammachi (grandmother and grandfather) were seated in the centre. The photographer used a tripod for the camera and once or twice, he craned his neck from behind the black cloth that covered the camera to arrange the scene. A. Philip’s memory of the happiness in seeing her whole family together was noticeable. In this particular oral history interview with A. Philip, it was the people present in the photographs that triggered the process of recollection of the event. The interviews also pointed to A. Philip’s respect for women’s education and disdain for opulence. The past and present erupted simultaneously through the images that she presented in her narrative as the memory skipped, often jumped, sometimes ground to halt on different occasions. People and places transformed as she took me through the memory lanes of many decades. She often juxtaposed her knowledge of someone with stories from the past as well as the present, and updated her narratives in sync with their current status. The photographs were seen to shape the memory and the memory in turn shaped the photographs. Barthes explains this nature of meaning production in the photograph

through the concepts of punctum and studium. He categorizes the unexpected recognitions and remembrances occurring through photographs as punctum. This is also the historical experience wielding the indexicality mentioned earlier. The photographic referent offers a material connection to the past. This is distinct from, but collaborates with, studium, which offers a range of meaning to everyone at a glance, a ‘denotative’ and immediate meaning to the photograph. Barthes constructs the photograph as a site of an event by conceiving an inseparable duality between the studium and the punctum like ‘the class of laminated objects whose two leaves cannot be separated without destroying them both’.11 He sets two conditions, which are useful for the analysis of family portraits in this chapter; firstly, it is impossible to isolate the photographic referent, and secondly, there is

a particular moment of being which the photograph has captured. It is necessary to note here that Barthes is dismissive of the expression of the rite of the family through the photograph because of the limitations of historical and sociological frameworks, which do not yield an understanding of the total phenomenon of the photograph, as it is possible in philosophy.12 He shuns the understanding of the rites of the family as relevant only to the sociologists; his own objective is to seek an essence of the photograph sans cultural explanations.13 Even as he discusses the potential of history that brings fluidity to the static image, it is seen as part of the punctum that rises from the scene.14 By reproducing the image taken in 1952 multiple times, the family asserts its identity not only as a family, but also reconfirms its position with the genealogical past. More importantly, past is an active referent evidenced through the memories of the people in the family portrait. Therefore the essence of the photograph is incomplete without the memory of the past that brings it alive.

Beyond order and genealogy The concept of event is commonly used to understand structures of occurrences. Both Barthes and Deleuze employ the concept of event to examine meaning making in language. They agree that out of the several differential occurrences of a particular photographic moment, the photographic apparatus captures a particular form emerging from that moment. For Deleuze, the actualization of the event is seen in this act of capturing the form in the frame, as it emerges from chaos. However, this form begins to disappear and reappear infinitesimally in the memory of the image.15 Let us go back to the day on which the family portrait was captured. There

were hundreds of invited guests and more than sixty members of the family, women and children. A photographer with his large tripod and camera and the omniscient black screen arrived in the morning. No one remembers who operated the camera that day. ‘Must have been someone from the studio in Thiruvalla’, said a family member. They remembered the desks and benches drawn to set the scene. They remembered the incessant chatter, the wedding finery and jokes about the newlyweds who were sent to stand in different corners in the composition of the photograph. In the Deleuzian framework of understanding events, utterances are the propositions that order the transformative outcomes of the event; they order the causalities. Language fixes the limits of these utterances. While Barthes attempts to extract a singular moment of truth from the photograph, a moment he identifies with death as it transforms the body into a moment of the past, Deleuze understands the nature of life as chaotic, that is, a multiplicity of emotions, thoughts, memories, objects, etc., and all of these, he says, become the ‘differential realities’ for us.16 The ordering of this chaos

happens when some of these narratives come together within a paradigm, here the screen being the medium, which is able to capture this multiplicity, the endlessly bifurcating paths is unified through the screen. Event constitutes the full potential of possibilities inherent in all beings from which a change of state of affairs or patterns in the bodies is initiated. Did the family exist before the family portrait? Chronological sense of times is broken once photographs and memories are revisited and a new sense of times emerges. By capturing this specific moment in time, the photograph creates a new time for the family; from the chaos they are ordered as a family. Moreover, this event is an incorporeal transformation; that is to say it essentially changes the nature of things, from the multiple possibilities of occurrences, a particular form and content materializes. As one has to also account for the emotions and evocative utterances that emerged through the oral history interviews; the meaning of the image requires an explanation that goes beyond the genealogy, which is limited to the ordering of the material bodies. Memory releases the photographic referents from its frozen state and begins the active production of meaning. It is only when you include memory in the scope of theoretical enquiry do you find the essence of the photograph existing ‘in both directions or senses at the same time – of future and past’ offering a paradox of infinite identity like Alice in her Wonderland.17 Incorporeal transformations are virtual and exist in the differential plane of the potential things and therefore more useful in the abstraction of the constitutive forces within objects. This particular family portrait transforms the genealogical tendencies seen in the family into an incorporeal moment where the family becomes ‘the family’ through the photograph. This moment of production is the event, the re-constitutive potential within the photographic image.

Portraiture of deaths and oral histories Deaths in the family are occasions of sobriety. Customs associated with death do not require a photographer to be present; neither is there an urgent need for any photographic evidence of the passing. After all, what can be more sure and certain than the heart stopping? Yet, within the cellophane films in family albums of Karikkattu Shankaramangalam, I found photographic images of deaths. Firstly, the walls of the Karikkattu Shankaramangalam create a unique space where the dead and the living converse with each other. It is interesting to note that the ghosts of the past extend their presence through these images. The members of the household as well as visitors are incapable of escaping their hoary presence (Figure 4.1).

Figure 4.1 Death of Chakkalamannil Thomas Philip: setting 1, c. 1972. Courtesy Chakkalamannil, Ashtamudi, Kollam, Kerala.

Photographs of funerals were filled with moments of thespian intensity often because of the carefully orchestrated staging seen in the images. By carefully directing the placement of each of the subjects in the picture to achieve a dramatic effect, the scene of death becomes a staged event (see Figure 4.2). A portrait of this kind has great potential for visual storytelling; there is someone

who looks lost, someone who stares directly into the camera that breaks the fourth wall, someone who scrutinizes the death or someone who is hidden by other heads. Then there is of course the dead man, covered with garlands, the wooden cross, placed above his head and the eye is drawn towards the ‘body’. It is interesting to note that as soon as life exits the body, it becomes and is referred to simply as the ‘body’.18 The clock in the background is part of this choreographed stylistics along with placement of the young men and women, contradicting the lifeless body in the foreground. The bereaved sit or stand in careful regard of the dead while the photographer sets up his tripod and exposes his photographic plates to light. The clock freezes the moment the photograph has been captured. In the second image from the same scene, the photographer seems to have experimented with the set-up until he achieved the perfection he desired. In this image, there is a careful selection of subjects around the deceased in a visual composition that emulates Da Vinci’s The Last Supper, the

Figure 4.2 Death of Chakkalamannil Thomas Philip: setting 2, c. 1972. Courtesy Chakkalamannil, Ashtamudi, Kollam.

horizontal body replicating the supper table in Da Vinci’s piece with two rows of animated people behind the body. The visual aesthetic of this iconic Da Vinci painting and its biblical source is familiar to the Syrian Christian families of Kerala. The second composition reintroduces the order and piety even without the wooden cross that is present in the former. The subjects in the photograph are more consciously involved in their mourning. This is an act of active intervention of the photographer, a clear instance of where he becomes an auteur. The image carries a nexus of meaning, not just the private and the personal, but also a correlative aesthetic that produces metaphorical subtexts. The viewer catches the reference as memory is subtly provoked through the imagery of the Christ in the Last Supper in this frame. While in Da Vinci’s Last Supper, a sense of impending death is captured, here lies death, final. The last image from the funeral series in the archives of Karikkattu Shankaramangalam is perhaps the most surreal of all. This image was taken much earlier than the previous two, in the year 1926, shot with a hand-held camera at home, where the funeral took place. Going with the technology available in Kerala during the time, my best guess is that the image was taken using a twin lens reflex camera, perhaps a Rolleiflex or a Hacoflex, German brands, often imported to Kerala from Malaysia. The subject in the photograph is a young boy who died from diphtheria (Figure 4.3).

Figure 4.3 Death of Kunjangala, c. 1926. Courtesy Karikkattu Shankaramangalam,

Thiruvalla, Kerala.

This image captures death in an almost poetic form. Light falls on one side of the boy’s face, leaving the other side in shadow, pointing to the duality of life and death, ‘of causes and effects, of corporeal things and incorporeal events’.19 Time and space are pulled between life and death. It is the opposite of ‘unto death do us part’; it is to reach ‘a region where language no longer has any relation to what it denotes, but only to that which it expresses, that is to sense’.20 A remarkable abstraction of the essence of life, the image also points to the bold cultural practice among the Syrian Christians of documenting the body in its final material existence. The photographs taken on such occasions seem to challenge the intrinsically ‘private’21 nature of death by making it available for remembrances, often public as death is not hidden and forgotten, the image reconstructs the memory of the living through the viewer. I asked the family what the picture meant to them. Here is the picture of Kunjangala (little brother): ‘The boy was round, rosy and used to run around the house, and I used to call him Kunjangala’, recalled A. Philip. She recalled his last hours, his struggle for breath and the cough that made him sound like a barking dog. He was crying in agony and struggling to breath. He was going from Ammachy’s hands to Appa’s and back. I did not know that I was witnessing death pangs of the child though Appa, Ammachy, Pappychayan and the others present there knew. I was at that point sent away to Eraviperoor. In

no time Kunjangala was dead. It must have been a wrench for Appa and Ammachy and all our relatives because two sons died within a year of each other. Many even said that there was some evil eye on our house. One thing I still remember clearly. A few days earlier, Kunjangala’s forearm had come in contact with the hot chimney of a lighted lantern and the letters – MADE IN GERMANY – got seared into his forearm. Even when he died the mark still remained. Thus, he went to heaven as a little angel bearing the marks – MADE IN GERMANY. … I have a faint recollection of a photo being taken by Iypechayan of Mananthara of both of us. I was told to smile when Kunjangala would give me a flower. I remember instead of smiling, I laughed loudly. … In those days taking a photo was a rarity. The picture came out well and

it was from that, that Kunjangala’s photo was enlarged. The framed picture is still with us. 22 A. Philip said that the death of this boy scared people. A boy older to Kunjangala had died when he was six months old. Another brother lived up to three years and died, as he was a ‘blue baby’, a term used to refer to babies with congenital heart defects. To point us to the criticality of history, Susan Sontag says, ‘images that mobilize conscience are always linked to a given historical situation’.23 Although vaccination was not new to Central Travancore in Kerala during the 1930s, diphtheria did not get the same priorities as small pox did. The image of Kunjangala’s funeral becomes one of the last images of diphtheria before it was eradicated.24

Conclusion The personal history and memory, history of the community as well as the history of technology of its production exist simultaneously in these photographs. The essence of the photograph is inseparable from the memory it creates. While the photographic images such as family portraits are important for the family’s rites of passage, at their core, they are events produced in chaos, transcending being, time and space. In this essay, I have tried to illustrate the intricate fabric of the photograph as an event, by laying out the history of the community and personal memory, and presented a narrative that includes the family in the frame of analysis. Through oral history accounts, I have attempted to capture the language in the memory of the photograph to identify the propositional qualities that lend to its incorporeality. Lastly, in an attempt to argue for the unclassifiable nature of a photograph, to establish that it is impossible to establish an order of things here, ‘why this object was chosen’ and not the other, Barthes argues that there is always invisibility in the photograph. ‘Whatever it grants to vision and

whatever its manner, a photograph is always invisible: it is not it that we see’. 25 When I first saw the photographs that I have presented in this essay, I saw order, of genealogy of the family, of the composure and composition. Invisible to me were the emotions, which attribute many meanings to the image. I see the chaos in photographs, the chaos that is infinite, incessant and intrinsic to family portraits.

Notes 1 2 3 4

Arundhati Roy, God of Small Things (New Delhi: IndiaInk, 1997), 1. Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida (London: RHUK, 1993), 17. Z.M. Paret, Malankara Nasranikal (Kottayam: The Malankara Orthodox Church Publications, 2015), 21–22. Historian Bobby Thomas argues that the claim that St. Thomas converted Brahmin families to Christianity cannot be true as the Brahmin migrations to Kerala happened only between the sixth and eighth century AD. He argues that the Brahmin conversions to Syrian Christianity can only be an ideological propagation by

5 6

members of powerful families to claim an upper caste status. See Bobby Thomas, Christianikal: Christumathathinoru Kaippusthakam (DC Books, 2015), 244. Thomas, Christianikal, 245–248. An elaborate genealogy can be found in the family’s Kudumbacharithram (records of

family history) 7

Z.M. Paret argues that the Syrian Christians follow the tradition of naming the

first-born son after his father and the daughter after the mother by emulating the same tradition in the Brahmin Namboodiri community of Kerala. See Z.M. Paret, Malankara Nasranikal, 10–15. 8 Barthes, Camera Lucida, 4. 9 Ibid., 9. 10 Hereafter referred to as A. Philip. 11 Barthes, Camera Lucida, 6. 12 Ibid., 7. 13 Barthes clearly states his reason for turning a blind eye towards social, cultural or historical analysis of photographs in Camera Lucida. He says that the critical approaches to understanding photographs are redundant with historical and sociological readings that simply suffice to locate the photograph as an object of

social integration or assertion of the family. They always seem to fall short of being able to understand the photograph in itself, in isolation. To understand the essence of photography, he therefore examines the structures of time and reciprocation of bodies in the image through concepts such as the event, the spectator, the operator, and so on. 14 See further development of the argument in Marianne Hirsch, Family Frames: Photography, Narrative and Post Memory (Harvard University Press, 1997).

15 Gilles Deleuze, Logic of Sense (London: Continuum, 2005), 9. 16 Gilles Deleuze, Essays Critical and Clinical (London: Verso, 1998), xxvi. 17 Alice realizes that she is perpetually growing in both directions, becoming larger and smaller. Further discussion in ibid., 4.

18 This term was seen repeatedly being used by the members of the family in my oral history interviews.

19 20 21 22 23 24

Deleuze, Logic of Sense, 29. Deleuze, Essays Critical and Clinical, 27. Liz Wells, Photography: A Critical Introduction (London: Routledge, 2004), 161. Oral history interview with Aley T. Philip, October 2015. Susan Sontag, On Photography (New York: Picador, 2001), 17. In the early twentieth century, at least four vaccines were available in India

(smallpox, cholera, plague, and typhoid). Diphtheria killed many until the 1930s when it was included in the Extended Immunization Program (EPI). See Chandrakant Lahariya, ‘A Brief History of Vaccinations in India’, Indian Journal of Medical Research 139 (2014): 496–500. 25 Barthes, Camera Lucida, 11.

Select Bibliography Barthes, Roland. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography . Translated by Richard Howard. London: RHUK, 1993. Deleuze, Gilles. Essays Critical and Clinical. Verso, 1998. Deleuze, Gilles. The Logic of Sense: 10. London: Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd., 2005. Freund, Alexander and Alistair Thomson, eds. Oral History and Photography . Palgrave

Studies in Oral History. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. Hirsch, Marianne. Family Frames: Photography, Narrative, and Postmemory. Harvard University Press, 1997. Lahariya, Chandrakant. ‘A Brief History of Vaccines & Vaccination in India’. Indian Journal of Medical Research 139 (2014): 491–511. Paret, Z.M. Malankara Nasranikal . Vol. 1. 10 vols. Kottayam: The Malankara Orthodox

Church Publications, 2015. Sontag, Susan. On Photography. New York: Picador, 2001. Thomas, Bobby. Christianikal: Christumathathinoru Kaippusthakam . Kottayam: DC Books, 2015. Wells, Liz, ed. Photography: A Critical Introduction . London; New York: Routledge, 2004.


Two years before her death in 2012, Homai Vyarawalla, popularly known as India’s first woman press photographer, transferred her entire collection of negatives and prints to the Alkazi Foundation based in New Delhi in order for them to be preserved in analogue and digital forms. Vyarawalla (or Mrs Vyarawalla, as I called her) personally supervised the packers and one of the last boxes to be taped-up contained the contents of a wooden chest of drawers that stood in the outer room of her home in Baroda, Gujarat. The drawers were packed with worn-out negative jackets made of leather. Homai Vyarawalla had never bothered too much about them as she had all her ‘important’ negatives, ‘particularly of significant political events and figures stored in Tupperware boxes in the more privileged recesses’ of her steel almirah. Placed inside hand-made envelopes, each negative was identified and captioned in her neat longhand. Over the past five years, the somewhat neglected and unmarked negative jackets in the wooden chest of drawers have begun to speak.1 This is the first time that Homai Vyarawalla has not been around to help identify the people, place, time and location. So these images emerge, as it were, from the hazy but magical mists of anonymity. Their origins are yet to be traced or perhaps they may never be. But they tell stories, about Homai Vyarawalla and the life and time of her subjects in 1950s and 1960s. In this speculative chapter, I explore a largely unidentified section of Vyarawalla’s negatives that feature middle- and upper-class women dressing up at social events. If ‘dressing up’ could be seen as different from ‘dressing’ – a more utilitarian attitude towards clothes, what could Vyarawalla’s


many pictures of fashion shows and costume contests tell us about gender, race and identity at this historical moment? As a photojournalist, Homai Vyarawalla photographed key events that defined the life of a newly formed nation state from the 1940s. What would ‘Nehruvian India’ – a period mostly defined through postindependence mainstream politics – look like if it were viewed through the lens of women’s fashion and other forms of masquerade? 2 And, what could these images that straddle photojournalism as well as a form of fashion photography reveal about her practice? Emerging work on fashion culture suggests that the complex and contradictory terrain of fashion cannot be explained solely through the somewhat limited framework of objectification and consumption.3 Challenging preconceptions about fashion’s obsession with modernity and ‘newness’, this scholarship focuses on the role of fashion in everyday life that is marked by adaptation, recycling, inventiveness and creativity. One of the many digitized jackets at the Alkazi Foundation contains photographs of a fashion show in what seems like a bungalow in Lutyens’ Delhi. It is perhaps the home of the British high commissioner.4 Indian and expatriate women strike poses on a small extended verandah with make-shift curtains as a backdrop. The Indians are mostly in elegant sarees while the rest sport the latest in global fashion as they appear in evening gowns, coats and hats, dresses, pants, shorts, jumpers and swimsuits. There is a live orchestra with drums, violin and piano but we also see a pair of tablas (a pair of Indian drums), perhaps to accompany what appear to be choreographed dance moves performed by some of the Indians. The women are clearly elite – from the many diplomatic missions in New Delhi. The Indian women may have been the wives of senior bureaucrats in the government. Despite the privilege and exclusivity of the participants, there is something unspectacular and intimate about this fashion show in the late afternoon sun. In the absence of a catwalk, the participants walk down a manicured lawn, past the scrutiny of other admiring women seated under the trees (Figure 5.2). A dog crosses the path of an elegant young woman modelling a dress. There

is a set of ‘sporty’ women with tennis racket, riding crop and identical twins wearing the same clothes. Mothers walk with their daughters, both dressed in the same fabric and another model poses with her pet dachshund – the little dog wears a coat fashioned from the same cloth as its owner! (Figure 5.1) We see a similar preoccupation with ‘tableaus’ in other fashion shows photographed by Vyarawalla. Besides women and occasionally men dressed in fashionable evening clothes, there is a ‘bride’ with her bridesmaid and little children in their night dresses walking the ‘catwalk’ holding dolls. Pairs of Indian and foreign women accompany each other on the ramp. Many of the shows appear to have an ‘Indian’ theme. Jennifer Craik notes how the term ‘fashion’ is seldom used in the context of non-Western cultures that are instead associated with the timelessness of ‘costume’: ‘The two are defined in opposition to each


Figure 5.1 Fashion show at the British High Commission, Delhi, c. 1960s. Courtesy HV Archive/The Alkazi Collection of Photography.

other: western dress is fashion because it changes regularly, is superficial and mundane, and projects individual identity; non-western dress is costume because it is unchanging, encodes deep meanings, and projects group identity and membership’.5 Vyarawalla’s photographs of the event seem to challenge these dichotomies. Many images point to the resilience of the saree as a fashionable garment that continued to reinvent itself. In her photographs, stylish dresses and gowns are fashioned from sarees, indigenous fabric and trimmings and many models wear Indian mojris and jutis (handcrafted ethnic closed shoes). We see a family pose together all dressed in Madras checks. The man wears a patterned lungi (a traditional garment wrapped around the waist and lower part of the body) made of the fabric but he also sports an eye patch like a pirate! In all these photographs, the spectacle of a ‘show’ seems mediated by the familiarity of family and community where fashion, costume and fancy dress seamlessly overlap.

Figure 5.2 Fashion show at the British High Commission, Delhi, c. 1960s. Courtesy HV Archive/The Alkazi Collection of Photography.

Fancy dress parties and costume shows were an integral part of middleand upper-class leisure culture in India in the 1950s and 1960s. Homai Vyarawalla photographed many parties at the exclusive Delhi Gymkhana club that opened its doors to elite Indians from the administrative services only after independence. The elaborate masquerades at these events demonstrated the attraction of ‘otherness’ and a fascination for exotic ‘native’ attire from across the world.6 Fancy dress parties at the Gymkhana included subjects dressed in Japanese kimonos or as pirates, maharajas and well-known black protagonists from Hollywood cinema.7 The obsession with being ‘Indian’ was equally popular and evident in Vyarawalla’s photographs of ‘brides of India’ or ‘clothes of India’ contests that were staged like fashion shows. Middle- and upper-class women walked the ramp as they modelled attire from different states such as Punjab, Kashmir and Kerala (Figure 5.3).

Figure 5.3 Costume show, Delhi Gymkhana club, c. 1960s, Courtesy HV Archive/The Alkazi Collection of Photography.

These pageants could be seen as representative of nationalist impulses in the early decades after independence. Prime Minister Nehru had coined a popular term to describe this imagination of a multi-ethnic India – ‘unity in diversity’. Often set against the backdrop of the map of India, these events seemed to project a dominant hegemonic imagination of nationhood even when they focused on regional identity. A Homai Vyarawalla photograph from the personal collection of Uma Chakravarti (then Doraswami) has the wives of government officials showcasing the costumes of South India at a function in Delhi in 1953–54. The women (mostly Tamil) were clearly doing their bit towards official policy in the early days of the nation state. A historian, Chakravarti notes that while they wore sarees in various traditional styles, the image is marked by an emphasis on upper caste (and class). Missing from this representation, for instance, were the styles of the saree worn by agricultural laborers and

forest dwellers in the Tamil region.8 These shows were very popular among the expatriates living in India. Vyarawalla’s negatives of a garden party in Delhi depict older white women being ‘Indian’ in an interesting bricolage of tableaus. One of her subjects’ sports a saree worn in the Coorgi style while another in a heavy brocade salwar suit (a pair of trousers and top) poses with a carved brass pitcher.9 A group of women imitate the Hindu god Krishna playing the flute with Radha. A photograph of a white woman in a khadi (hand-woven cloth) saree with two little children dressed in Nehru caps and jacket at the event gestures towards the strong imprint of Nehru (Figure 5.4). Could ‘outsiders’ merely masquerade as ‘Indians’? Or could they also constitute the idea of ‘being Indian’. The heterogeneity of actors in all these photographs of ‘costumes of India’ that include local as well as expatriate women seems to interrogate the idea of ‘Indian-ness’ and who could be an ‘Indian’.

Figure 5.4 Costumes of India show by expatriate women, Delhi, c. 1960s. Courtesy HV Archive/The Alkazi Collection of Photography.

One could trace an older ancestry for this photographic fascination with costume and identity. After the mutiny of 1857 the British Governor-General Lord Canning commissioned the ambitious ‘People of India’ survey (1868–75). Ostensibly to understand the bewildering maze of caste, regional and other local identities, the project has been viewed as a colonial mechanism of control and surveillance. Photographers travelled all over the country to take portraits of the native population. The survey was published in eight volumes in which people were classified under simplistic and often racist descriptions. These categorizations continued to have an afterlife in advertising after independence. In 1953 the multinational oil company Burmah Shell carried a series of sketched print advertisements mimicking the photographic portraits of the ‘People of India’ with descriptions of the ‘hard working, bold and cheerful Lambada woman’ or the ‘graceful and attractive Andhra peasant’. 10 The tag line on the every advertisement reads, ‘Burmah Shell-In India’s Life and part of it’.11 The Tata group of Textile Mills had a similar campaign titled India’s People and their Costumes, describing the dress of local communities.12 These advertisements were published in magazines like the Illustrated Weekly and Onlooker that catered to middle- and upper-class Indians. Though the preoccupation with costume in elite leisure culture was clearly in conversation with a range of interests nationalist, colonial as well as commercial – this still does not fully explain the deep obsession with ‘dressing up.’ In the next section I will look at these shows through the lens of fashion and display, suggesting that Nehruvian India may in fact have been a kaleidoscope of competing aspirations where national as well as personal desires collided. In work on the global emergence of the modern girl in the 1920s, Liz Conor notes how ‘being seen’ and ‘appearing’ was integral to the experience of being modern.13 Visual technologies such as the cinema, professional and domestic photography, print culture and advertising helped create this display. Women had always ‘dressed up’ for the camera in India. The personal photo collections of many elite families include images of cross-dressed women smoking or posing like their favourite film stars, celebrities or fashion icons using hometailored clothes. This often included attire not always considered socially appropriate but more acceptable in intimate (and at times all women) spaces.14 By the mid-twentieth century, the middle-class woman started to appear in the printed magazines. D.F. Karaka, the editor of the tabloid Current, once wrote to Homai Vyarawalla requesting photographs of ‘good looking Delhi women for our front page with brief notes about them’.15 Publications like Current, the Onlooker as well as women’s magazines like Femina and Eves Weekly foregrounded the visibility of glamorous bodies even as they anticipated an emerging form of fashion photography in features and advertisements. The public circulation of elite social events like charity and fashion shows or parties in women’s magazines made fashion accessible to other more ordinary readers. Women’s

fashion magazines also shifted the focus of ‘looking’ from men to women.16 Of all these publications, the Onlooker was the most exclusive. The magazine carried photographs of social events all over the world, as well as portraits of presentable young women in the cities of Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta and Madras with elaborate descriptions of their outfits. The page of contents is testimony to the elite world of the Onlooker – ‘no one is entitled to take photographs for the Onlooker nor attend any function as our bonafide representative unless he can show a letter of authority signed by the Editor.’17 As a ‘bonafide’ freelancer for the magazine, Homai Vyarawalla had privileged access to these events. The digitization of her negative jackets reveals that not all the photographs that she took made their way to the Onlooker. In the next section I describe how Vyarawalla’s presence as a woman photographer may have encouraged her non-professional subjects to be able to live out other fantasies of dressing up for the camera.

Figure 5.5 Costume show, Delhi Gymkhana club, c. 1960s, Courtesy HV Archive/The Alkazi Collection of Photography.

Jane Gaines and Charlotte Herzog suggest that women are trained in clothes, and from very early on they become ‘practiced in presentational postures, learning in the age of mechanical reproduction to carry the mirror’s eye within the mind, as though one might at any moment be photographed’. 18 Photograph after photograph of women posing for solo pictures before and after the shows is testimony to this (Figure 5.5). In these images Vyarawalla captures candid and interstitial moments as her subjects shift between shyness and reticence of the non-professional and the desire to imitate the postures of a fashion model. Women hold up their skirts to the side in an amateur manner to display the designs fully. Some look awkwardly towards the photographer as if waiting for a cue. Other more camera-savvy models turn their bodies at a more glamorous and flattering three-quarter angle. The progression of negatives reveals how these subjects may have internalized gestures and poses from fashion photographs. Women, both expatriate and Indians, in their traditional attire get photographed in the same physical setting. They stand with one foot forward, resting their arm on the top of a mantelpiece, as they mimic the classic stance of a model. One could visualize others cueing up outside the frame of the photograph rehearsing the same. Some change attire enacting a solo fashion show for the photographer. For the white woman, being ‘foreign’ or ‘native’ allowed her the luxury of performing the ‘other’ with its accompanying accoutrements. One of Homai’s subjects poses languorously with her body leaning backwards as she blows a cigarette at the camera in an Indian skirt and deep-necked knotted blouse that leaves her midriff bare. The same cast of familiar (though still unidentified) faces seems to recur in different occasions – at fashion shows at the British High Commission, in costume shows at the Delhi Gymkhana and at parties after. The pictures that appear to be in conversation with global and local cinema as well as fashion speak of the pleasures of adornment, of appearing and being seen.19 These performative images that were staged and ‘made’ were quite different

from Vyarawalla’s photographs ‘taken’ during the fashion shows. In the latter, her skills as a photojournalist were directed towards capturing a clean stilled image in the midst of movement. The fashion show is traditionally punctuated by the ‘paused’ moment on the catwalk when models freeze momentarily like a photograph and for photography enabling stylish and sophisticated pictures of relatively stationary bodies. Both the model and the photographer sought to arrest movement – one through technologies of the body and the other through the technology of the camera. As a press photographer, the use of a high shutter speed was not new for Vyarawalla but the fashionable body (like the famous politicians that she shot as a press photographer) had to be stilled in a manner that was elegant.20 It would not do to capture these bodies in disarray. If her sharp images of women pirouetting and sashaying down the garden ‘catwalk’ were captured with a photojournalist’s sensibility, the more staged and rehearsed

stances of individual women taken before and after the shows reflected the codes of fashion photography. I would like to end with a brief mention of Homai Vyarawalla’s own discomfort with the trappings of ‘womanly things’ like clothes, jewellery and appearance. As the only woman photojournalist in her time, her survival in a male-dominated arena was contingent upon the stripping away of an overtly feminized presence.21 Like most working women she took pride in looking smart and often tailored her own clothes. At the same time, Vyarawalla asserted her right to non-fussy, functional clothing. In dressing the way she did, she was not only expressing her sartorial preference as a working woman but also as a woman. Vyarawalla always maintained that these choices had made her feel more at ease in all male spaces. It was only when she retired and shifted to Pilani, Rajasthan, with her son that Homai Vyarawalla learnt to enjoy the company of women. In Pilani she was one of the chief organizers of not just ikebana (Japanese art of flower arrangement) and cookery contests but theatre as well as occasional fashion and costume shows. The photographs discussed in this chapter are suggestive of a comfortable and pleasurable interaction between the photographer and her subjects that seem to prefigure a collaborative female synergy that she would return to later in life. Homai Vyarawalla’s photographs indicate that fashion in Nehruvian India was

not just alert to global and national influences – it was also in conversation with the local, the regional and the ‘traditional’. Despite being set in elite and upperclass spaces, her images reveal how the exclusivity of the fashion show was often displaced by the familiar ambience of an audience composed of proud husbands, supportive friends and children. All-women events may have given voice to other kinds of imaginations where her subjects staged elaborate masquerades for the camera. The pictures speak of the pleasures of ‘dressing up’ where Indian and expatriate women could play out fantasies in private and public spaces. A diversity of differently shaped and sized bodies (that included older women) participated enthusiastically in these shows that seem to be marked by the non-judgemental pleasures of same sex looking.22 Homai Vyarawalla’s photographs suggest the need to be more attentive to imaginative yearnings whose possibilities weren’t necessarily satisfied during a given historical moment. Nehruvian India may have pushed women to perform being ‘Indian’, but perhaps there was something else happening in these gatherings as women ‘dressed up’ and took to the stage.

Notes 1

Some of the material in this chapter was digitized and presented at a curated show

for the Alkazi Foundation held during the India Art Fair, 2015 titled ‘Inner and Outer Lives: The Many Worlds of Homai Vyarawalla’ (from 31 January to 24 February 2015).

2 3

The ‘Nehruvian era’ is a term used to describe the early decades after independence that were dominated by the nation building policies of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru who passed away in 1964. For a lucid summary of interdisciplinary contemporary debates on fashion, see Cheryl Buckley and Hazel Clark, ‘Conceptualizing Fashion in Everyday Lives’, Design/Issues, 28, no. 4 (Autumn 2012): 18–28.

4 5 6

Homai Vyarawalla worked for the British Information Services till 1951. Jennifer Craik, The Face of Fashion: Cultural Studies in Fashion (London & New York: Routledge, 1994), 18. For instance, in her work on orientalist fashion in Hollywood, Berry has drawn attention to a global fascination with Arabian Night theme parties as a commodified form of multiculturalism. For further discussion, see Sarah Berry, Screen Style: Fashion and Femininity in 1930s Hollywood (Minneapolis, London: University of

Minnesota Press, 2000), 134–141. 7 A popular character in the fancy dress party was that of ‘mammy’ – the black American character in Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 novel Gone with the Wind that was later adapted into a film. 8 Conversation with the author, 2010. 9 Coorg is a small hill station located in Karnataka marked by its distinct style of draping the saree. 10 See the Illustrated Weekly of India, 18 October 1953, 16; 15 November 1953, 34. 11 While it drew upon colonial imagery for these advertisements, the company’s larger strategy was tied to its efforts to fit in with discourses of nation building and infrastructure in early post-independence India. 12 The Onlooker, October 1949, 19. 13 Liz Conor, The Spectacular Modern Woman: Feminine Visibility in the 1920s (Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2004). 14 See Nishtha Jain’s documentaries, Family Album, 2010 and City of Photos, 2005. Also see Nony Singh’s performative photographs of her family (2013). 15 Sabeena Gadihoke, Camera Chronicles of Homai Vyarawalla (Ahmedabad; New Delhi: Mapin, Parzor, 2006), 193. 16 For further discussion, see Martin Harrison, Outside Fashion: Style and Subversion (New York: Howard Greenberg Gallery, 1994).

17 The Onlooker, October 1949, 9. 18 Jane Gaines and Charlotte Herzog, Fabrications: Costume and the Female Body (New York: Routledge, 1990), 3. 19 It must be mentioned here that in the photographs viewed so far, the Indian women do not ‘cross over’ in terms of dress and are not seen modelling Western attire. 20 I am drawing from the distinction made by David Campany between the staged film still and reportage, both of which sought to solve the same problems of visual clarity and narrative stillness. For further discussion, see David Campany, ‘Once More for

Stills’, accessed 10 April 2017,, Paper Dreams: The Lost Art of Hollywood Stills photography, ed. Christoph Schifferli, 7–13 (Göttingen: Steidl, 2006).

21 In interviews the photographer has spoken about a ‘no-nonsense persona’ in order to create a distance between her male colleagues and herself. 22 Bruzzi and Gibson have described the same-sex rituals of everyday fashion that include the erotic as well as non-erotic pleasures of dressing up and looking at the dress codes of others. For further discussion, see Stella Bruzzi and Pamela Church Gibson, Screen Style: Fashion and Femininity in 1930s Hollywood (Minneapolis;

London: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), 3.

Select Bibliography Berry, Sarah. Screen Style: Fashion and Femininity in 1930s Hollywood. Minneapolis, London: University of Minnesota Press, 2000. Bruzzi, Stella and Pamela Gibson, eds. Fashion Cultures: Theories, Explorations and Analysis. London: Routledge, 2000.

Buckley, Cheryl and Hazel Clark. ‘Conceptualizing Fashion in Everyday Lives’. Design/Issues 28, no. 4 (Autumn 2012): 18–28. Campany, David. ‘Once More for Stills’. In Paper Dreams: The Lost Art of Hollywood Stills Photography, edited by Christoph Schifferli, 7–13. Göttingen: Steidl, 2006. Conor, Liz. The Spectacular Modern Woman: Feminine Visibility in the 1920s.

Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2004. Craik, Jennifer. The Face of Fashion: Cultural Studies in Fashion. London & New York: Routledge, 1994. Gadihoke, Sabeena. Camera Chronicles of Homai Vyarawalla . Ahmedabad, New Delhi: Mapin, Parzor, 2006.

Gadihoke, Sabeena. ‘The Collector of Memories’. In Nony Singh: The Archivist. Dreamvilla Productions, 2013. Gaines, Jane and Charlotte Herzog. Fabrications: Costume and the Female Body . New York: Routledge, 1990. Harrison, Martin. Outside Fashion: Style and Subversion . New York: Howard Greenberg Gallery, 1994.


Introduction This chapter offers new insights into the history of India’s Emergency (1975–77) by examining the state’s use of photography. It analyses the ruling Congress Party’s bulletin Socialist India, which regularly used photographs to depict the regime’s popularity. When the party represented mass support through photographs of crowds, rallies and audiences, women dominated the bulletin’s visual landscape. This is in stark contrast with women’s absence from its text and their continuing absence from scholarship on the Emergency. Situated against this absence and in a discussion of how photographs function as historical sources, this chapter argues that these female-dominated images evidence the Congress government’s attempts to project widespread, pan-Indian female support for Emergency measures. These photographs provide an integral means of inserting women into dominant narratives of Emergency politics. In June 1975 Prime Minister Indira Gandhi faced crises on many fronts. The previous year witnessed numerous protest movements against the state in the midst of an increasingly precarious economic climate.1 In response, Gandhi held state elections in Gujarat in early June 1975 and the Congress lost to the Janata Front, a coalition of opposition parties backed by Jayaprakash Narayan (JP). Opposition intensified when on 12 June Justice Jagmohanlal Sinha convicted


Gandhi of corrupt election practices in the Allahabad High Court. This ruling bolstered the JP movement’s agitations and, amidst calls for her to step down, Gandhi imposed the Emergency on 26 June. The events that followed are well known and this remains one of the most controversial periods in independent India’s history. Authorities instituted a range of measures aimed at silencing dissent and arrested opposition under preventive detention laws. Gandhi suspended elections, imposed press censorship and amended the constitution, expanding central power and restricting citizens’ fundamental rights. Her government also aggressively pursued slum clearance and coercive sterilization programmes. The violations of rights that these programmes engendered have become synonymous with this period. When Gandhi called for elections in March 1977 they functioned as a referendum on Emergency rule and citizens voted overwhelmingly against it.2 Political commentators have long analysed these events. Recently historians have also turned their attention to them. Bipan Chandra’s and Ramachandra Guha’s studies reorient existing literature to focus on the underground resistance movement.3 There has also been a shift towards histories from below, as Emma Tarlo examines the urban clearance and sterilization policies, focusing on how these manifestations of the Emergency affected people’s daily lives. 4 The recent opening of the archived collections of the Shah Commission of Inquiry, established to investigate the regime’s excesses, has given an impetus to historical research on the subject. Historians Patrick Clibbens and Rebecca Jane Williams draw on these records in their work on slum clearance and sterilization, respectively.5 However, women remain absent from this existing literature. Scholars have not considered how women engaged with the State of Emergency, either in support or resistance, or how its measures affected women specifically. Some attention has been paid to the gendered dimensions of Gandhi’s female leadership,6 and a handful of women appear in accounts of resistance.7 But what about the women who supported this regime? The Congress and Communist Party of India (the only main opposition party to initially support Gandhi’s Emergency declaration) both had affiliated women’s groups. Did Gandhi’s government seek to mobilize their support for its increasingly authoritarian actions? This chapter begins to address these questions and analyse the nature of this support by examining the Congress’s use of photography in its literature. It proceeds with a close analysis of women-dominated images that appeared in its bulletin Socialist India. I focus on its visual depictions of support in particular moments of crisis – the declaration of Emergency rule in June 1975 and Gandhi’s sudden call for elections in January 1977.

Photographs as historical sources Jenifer Tucker and Tina Campt note that the use of photography in historical enquiry ‘has become a topic of urgent intellectual and cultural history around the


world’, as methods of shaping historical narratives continue to change ‘in ways that compel attention to the employment of photographs in historiography’.8 That historical photographs reflect and perpetuate power relations and function as sources for historians is well established. This has been a central concern in research on colonialism and the camera. James R. Ryan, for example, demonstrates the importance of photography in establishing the British Empire’s imaginative geography.9 Photographs can illuminate ‘the politics of colonial perception and deterministic attempts to construct ethnicities and landscapes’. Close analysis of such images can also subvert these constructions and ‘actually serve to fracture the narratives that they appear to support’. 10 Photographers have also positioned photographs as a means to resist these relations and expose the colonial gaze. Annu Palakunnathu Matthew’s ‘An Indian from India’ juxtaposes images of herself with historical images of Native Americans to explore Indian identity and fracture colonial constructions of it.11 Describing photography as a performance of power, Paul Frosh argues that it

is ‘best seen grasped not as a medium of visual communication, but as a manifest performance of the power to make visible’.12 Socialist India’s photographs are not just visual manifestations of the Congress Party’s communications. They also yield insights into its possession of the ‘power to make visible’, which is particularly critical given that Gandhi’s institution of censorship invested this power almost exclusively with the government. The materials discussed in this chapter indicate what it chose to make visible under Emergency conditions in order to foster support and suppress dissent. Assessing Gandhi’s leadership, Trina Nileena Banerjee emphasizes the importance of visual materials in the construction of Emergency power. The posters of Gandhi that proliferated in Delhi, the ‘visual spectacles that marked the public space with images of Indira’s supposed popularity ...formed a large part of the combined propaganda machinery that kept the Emergency juggernaut rolling’.13 Socialist India’s photographs visualizing people’s support for the regime contributed to this machinery. Frosh argues, ‘both the act and the material product of the act, the photographic

product, generate multiple and interrelated meanings’.14 The photographs and their material context within the party’s mouthpiece are historically informative and the latter complicates our analysis beyond what these images picture. The photograph is by no means an ‘objective’ representation of reality. Robert Rapstein notes that ‘the camera is omnivorous; our eye unconsciously selective’, as all photographic data ‘reflect not only the photographers’ interest but also their biases and assumptions’. 15 As such, Tucker and Campt observe that ‘it is hard to deny that there remains, for many historians, a persisting tentativeness and even distrust about the use of visual materials as historical sources that differ from historians’ scrupulous, rigorous assessments of other types of historical documents’.16 However, for Socialist India’s Emergency images the very selections that cause this distrust are historically informative. The photographer

often chose to capture segregated women’s sections of mass, mixed gender crowds.17 This is evident from some of the captions, which demonstrate that not all of these images feature snapshots of women’s only meetings or rallies. Socialist India’s editors made similar choices to present these women-dominated images in majority, at particular times and alongside particular text. These selections are historically significant. The photographs and their material context evidence the importance of women in the Congress government’s political strategy and their attempts to project the Emergency’s popularity.

Mobilizing women's support In his exploration of Gandhi’s final term in office, Diego Maiorano highlights that Gandhi appealed to India’s ‘weaker sections’ for electoral support throughout her career.18 This facet of Gandhi’s political strategy was central to her discourse on and justifications for Emergency rule. She claimed that stringent measures were necessary to protect national integrity and safeguard the interests of minorities. In a speech in the Lok Sabha (Parliament’s Lower House) in July 1975, she stated, ‘millions of people are extremely poor and are hankering after a better life, for greater equality of opportunity, for social justice… Therefore, it is a question of striking a balance between the political rights of the individual and the social and economic rights of the people’. 19 Gandhi used this rhetoric about the need to alleviate minorities’ sufferings to justify Emergency restrictions on individual rights. She also claimed that the nation’s minorities supported the Emergency: ‘at this moment all the poorer people, all the minorities, are with us’.20 Maiorano asserts that while women constitute part of India’s ‘weaker sections’: [N]o significant attempt was made by Mrs Gandhi to appeal to women nationally. Of course, she made sporadic attempts to win their support; however, it is hardly arguable that Mrs Gandhi was a feminist. This does not mean that women did not support her. Indeed, they constituted one of Mrs Gandhi’s key constituencies, although no significant attempt to mobilize them was made.21 Maiorano is right to note that Gandhi was not a feminist and she regularly distanced herself from women’s issues.22 However, she frequently aligned women with the nation’s minorities. Speaking in a Rajya Sabha (Upper House) debate on a government report on their status, for instance, she referred to women as the ‘biggest oppressed minority’.23 At a public meeting in Hyderabad in December 1975, Gandhi defended Emergency measures, claimed that they were beneficial for the underprivileged and asserted that these groups supported the regime: ‘Democracy should never mean the voice of a few against the rights

and liberties of the many, she said. The poor, peasants, workers and women had all stood solidly behind the Congress’.24 This location of women alongside minority groups suggests that an analysis of the party’s appeals to the weaker sections should also account for its appeals to women. This is supported by the Congress Women’s Front bulletin, Women on the March (WOTM), which evidences multiple attempts to mobilize and project women’s support. It often engaged with the party’s discourse on the Emergency, for example, replacing the usual cover of one issue with a pro-Emergency poster.25 In August 1975, WOTM reported that the government ‘called upon the women’s organizations in the country to actively involve themselves in family planning work’.26 October’s editorial on Emergency measures stressed, ‘women have got a very extensive role to play at this present juncture … after the declaration of Emergency there is a new sense of discipline among the people’ and exhorted readers to ‘think about what women can do’ to sustain this.27 Another article underscored the need for vigilance to enforce the regime’s economic programme, asserting ‘women are the fittest to keep such vigilance’.28 The Congress also presented the Emergency as a tool for women’s uplift. It claimed that the International Women’s Year ‘saw yet another significant event for the welfare of women in this country. The event was the national Emergency’.29 A wealth of evidence from WOTM suggests that women supported the Emergency and that the Congress sought to mobilize this support. In contrast, Socialist India rarely featured reports on this. However, women’s visual presence in the latter is striking, suggesting that they formed an important part of its strategy especially at climatic moments during the Emergency.

Putting women in the picture Two types of photographs appeared in Socialist India during this period. Some represented individuals in the upper echelons of the Emergency government, particularly Gandhi, reflecting the regime’s increasing centralization of power. Those not featuring government leaders showed crowds at rallies and speeches, depicting popular support for the declaration of Emergency and its measures. Women frequently dominated these. Such images illustrated Socialist India’s coverage of the conflicts leading up to June 1975. Facing widespread agitations, the government dissolved the Gujarat assembly and announced elections in the state for early June.30 Three images graced the cover of the bulletin’s ‘Gujarat Election Special’,31 including close-ups of Gandhi addressing a public meeting in Siddhpur (northern Gujarat), the crowd and Congress President Dev Kant Barooah speaking with male Congress candidates. The close-up of the crowd depicting popular support showed only women and children, an exclusively gendered representation of public solidarity. Women, specifically mothers,

embody popular support on this page. The bulletin captioned this: ‘the women in the audience are seen trying to protect themselves from the scorching sun by raising a long piece of cloth over their heads’. 32 The photograph simultaneously underscored women’s centrality to electoral politics and foregrounded their vulnerability, as ‘raising a long piece of cloth to cover their heads’ they braved the heat and sun to show their support. Strategically placing this image next to the one of Gandhi speaking, Socialist India suggested an affinity between her and the female audience. It cemented this in a Press Trust of India report entitled ‘Women know their

Sisters’, which depicted the ‘warm welcome given to the Prime Minister wherever she goes in Gujarat’. This framed a more specific discussion of her popularity among women: ‘women are turning out in large numbers to see and hear Smt Indira Gandhi on a whirlwind election tour in Gujarat’. 33 The report repeated the emphasis on sacrifice and vulnerability embodied in the cover page’s caption: ‘Braving the severe heat they gather at roadsides sometimes with mangal kalash to welcome her and to have a close glimpse of the Prime Minister.’34 Its depiction of Gandhi’s interactions with these female supporters brings Maiorano’s contentions that she did not seek to mobilize women into question: At every meeting she refers to the hardships housewives have to undergo in these difficult days with high prices and shortage. ‘As a mother I very much understand your difficulties. Housewives have to bear the brunt of running the house. In keeping with Indian culture and tradition you will never eat before you have fed your men and your children. If the kitchen is empty by then you might say “today is my upvas (fast)”’, she says. Smiles dance on the faces in the women’s enclosure and cheers go up.35 Gandhi mobilized gendered identities and, more problematically, the subordinate status of women in her electoral campaign, invoking solidarity with the female crowds to rally voters.36 This report’s reference to the ‘women’s enclosure’ demonstrates that these meetings often separated female audience members. Photographers chose to capture this section separately, and editors chose to use this to showcase popular support. This strategy shaped Socialist India’s use of photographs in its 5 July 1975 issue, which included a photo special entitled ‘The People’s Tryst with the Prime Minister’.37 This title invokes Jawaharlal Nehru’s independence speech ‘Tryst with Destiny’ and indicates the party’s intention to display Gandhi’s popularity. Women dominate it, as half of its eighteen photographs picture women exclusively. This is entirely disproportionate to women’s presence in the bulletin’s near-forty pages of text, which included only one report on Gandhi’s message to the International Women’s Year conference. While women hardly featured in the

Congress’s textual commentary on the Emergency, they occupied a significant presence in its visual depictions of mass support for its measures. The first page of this special included three images of the prime minister

and one depiction of popular support. This captured a large crowd of women and children marching with placards and signs. The women are prominent and easily identifiable by their covered heads and dress. The bulletin captioned this close-up, ‘women and children marching in hundreds to the Prime Minister’s residence on the 14th’.38 The projection of mass support on this page is distinctly gendered, embodied by women and specifically mothers. This photo depicts a march that took place on 14 June, before Gandhi imposed the Emergency. Socialist India used pictures retrospectively in this issue, drawing on images of crowds captured in the pre-Emergency atmosphere, when rallies and addresses dominated Delhi. However, considered alongside the rest of the issue’s content (which focused almost entirely on Emergency measures), their presence here implies that these women extended their support to the newly imposed regime. Similarly, the second page of this special included three images of the party elite – the prime minister speaking, a group of journalists surrounding her and the Chief Minister of Orissa accompanying Gandhi to a rally. Again, Socialist India used an all-female crowd to represent popular support: ‘a group of women from the hill areas in colourful costumes listening to the Prime Minister on the 18th’. The text foregrounded the female composition of the crowd in their ‘colourful costumes’ and stressed the fact that they were ‘listening to the Prime Minister’, invoking that particular solidarity between Gandhi and female supporters.39 Women’s support continued to dominate the next page of images. Figure 6.1

depicts ‘a large contingent of women from the south’ who called at Gandhi’s residence to offer their support:40

Figure 6.1 ‘A large contingent of women from the South, who passed through Delhi on 21 June in the course of their Bharat Darshan (holiday/tourism) tour, called on the PM.’ ‘The People’s Tryst with the Prime Minister’ Socialist India, 5 July 1975, 18c. Socialist

India images, Indian National Congress.

Foregrounding these women ‘from the south’, the bulletin attempted to straddle geographical distance, suggesting pan-Indian female support and appealing to women as a category regardless of their location or other affiliations. This page also featured an image captioned, ‘PM with Congress Seva Dal (grass roots organization) workers, who came to express their unstinted loyalty’. Although the text does not gender this audience, the image does. Depicting exclusively female workers, it pictured Gandhi standing on an elevated podium addressing the seated and smiling women, whose eyes are all fixed on her. Another image featured ‘a group of elderly women singing kirtan (devotional songs)’. Showing Gandhi facing a group of women holding signs, the final photo on the page depicted ‘Muslim women carrying placards “women’s raj” and “down with men”’ as they ‘called on the Prime Minister’.41 This is a more radical expression of women’s mobilization, quite unlike the other visual representations of support as it allows the women an agenda outside of praising the prime minister. Although according women visual dominance, Socialist India featured Gandhi

first and foremost; she appears in each photograph and in the forefront, often positioned standing over groups of female supporters. Generally, the bulletin did not seek to showcase these women or their respective causes. Rather, it focused on the vast nature of female support for the prime minister and Emergency government. This continued in the final page of this special. One image showed ‘a group of young college girls turned up on the 19th. Their placard hailed Smt Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi as the “Lokpreye (loved by the people) PM”’. Although this pictures the college girls holding a sign, Gandhi is open-mouthed in the image; she is the one speaking. Figure 6.2 shows ‘a group of pilgrims who passed through Delhi’ and ‘made it a point to be photographed with her – a memento to adorn their homes’:42 The picture features a group of women but Gandhi stands tall and dominant. The caption also genders their intention. Unlike those on the previous page campaigning for ‘down with men’, these women urged to be photographed with the prime minister for purely domestic purposes; creating a ‘memento to adorn their homes’. This highlights the diversity of women featured here. The images in this collection featured college girls, elderly women, pilgrims, Congress workers, mothers, women from the north and south, from rural and urban locations, both Hindu and Muslim. This offers a distinctly gendered representation of public support for the Emergency, whereby the government appealed to women as a category, transcending other areas of distinction. Such visual depictions continued in Socialist India throughout 1976 to 1977, most frequently at significant milestones or points of vulnerability for the party, when the need to project an image of mass support was most pressing. These dwindled during the last months of 1976 but noticeably returned when on 18 January 1977 Gandhi announced that the nation would go to the polls in March. In the subsequent election fervour the bulletin revived the use of photographs

Figure 6.2 ‘On 25 June, a group of pilgrims who passed through, Delhi made it a point to be photographed with her – a memento to adorn their homes.’ ‘The People’s Tryst with the Prime Minister’ Socialist India, 5 July 1975, 18d. Socialist India images, Indian National Congress.

and on 12 February again began visualizing mass support. One page covering Gandhi’s election campaign included an image of ‘a vast sea of humanity’, a thronging crowd with barely discernible faces, reinforcing the caption’s emphasis on volume. The close-up image showed only women, smiling and raising their arms in the air, actively supporting Gandhi’s campaign with visually prominent gestures.43 This same stress on female-dominated crowds saturated the 5 March issue, which was primarily concerned with supporting Gandhi’s campaign. It reported on meetings and quoted from her election speeches, reproducing her reflections on the Emergency: ‘though it was a bitter pill, it had its effect. There was discipline all over the country and economic stability was also achieved’. Figure 6.3 illustrated these speeches and depicted the crowds she addressed:44 It superimposed a close-up of Gandhi at a microphone next to a cropped image of the large crowd, resulting in a skewed perspective that visualized only female supporters. Socialist India’s issue on election results is rife with visual representations

of India’s electorate foregrounding women. A report entitled ‘Spotlight on the

Figure 6.3 ‘Prime Minister Indira Gandhi described herself as ‘a sister of the people and a “sevika” (servant) of the country’ while addressing an audience in Delhi on 1 March.’ Socialist India, 5 March 1977, 3. Socialist India images, Indian National Congress.

Elections’ featured pictures of men and women queuing in a constituency in Haryana along with an image of a woman voting, as we can see in Figure 6.4.45, 46 Although the caption remains neutral the photograph is distinctly gendered. The bulletin presented this Adivasi not as a voter, but as a woman and mother, child in arms, latched to its mother’s breast. Such a gendered emphasis ran throughout a photo special within the same edition entitled ‘Election Cameos’, where visual depictions of the election focused exclusively on women.47 Despite the fact that these usually showed women physically casting their votes, the bulletin’s presentation of the images and their captions often depoliticized them. In the above example the Adivasi woman’s motherhood is in the visual fore – she is primarily a mother rather than a member of the electorate. Another image showed ‘an official applying indelible ink on the finger of a voter at the Rae Bareli Constituency where the PM, Smt Indira Gandhi, contested’.48 The caption suggests a connection between Gandhi and the pictured woman by drawing attention to this female assertion of franchise and relating it to her own constituency. Another image showed ‘vote conscious tribal women in colourful attire in a booth in the north eastern region’.49 The constant picturing of women casting their votes implies some kind of electoral agency. However, this suggestion also remained steeped in the bulletin’s stress on stereotypical female identities, particularly in instances that pictured women with children or alongside comments on their ‘colourful’ attire. This depoliticization of women voters continued in the final pages of this feature. Two of the pictures depict close-ups of female voters’ bodies so that the rest of the voting background is not visualized.50 The women’s faces are veiled and in both instances the images show their hands placing papers into the ballot box. This contrasts to the practice, in the earlier moment of crisis following the declaration of Emergency, of visualizing large crowds of gendered support. Collectively, these isolated pictures of women voting on the regime still resonate with women as a group because of the diversity of women featured. ‘Election Cameos’ depicted mothers, elderly women, Adivasis, women from the

Figure 6.4 ‘An Adivasi (tribal) voter exercising her franchise.’ ‘Spotlight on Elections’

Socialist India, 26 March 1977, 14. Socialist India images, Indian National Congress.

northeast and veiled women. While visualizing engagement from various groups, this emphasis on individual and isolated voting practices contrasted with the few visual depictions of men in this election special. It featured, for example,

one image captioned ‘voters on a tractor proceeding to a polling station in Rohtak’51 and another showing ‘male voters standing in a queue to cast their votes at a polling booth in Sonepat constituency in Haryana’.52 Both images depicted male voters in masses – in a long queue and piled, overflowing into a truck. By representing women almost always in isolation, Socialist India refused to visualize their collective voting power, whereas it foregrounded this in its depiction of men’s voting practices. The two images of women reinforce this sense of depoliticization as their faces appear hidden.

Conclusion Women’s dominance in Socialist India’s visual landscape contrasted their comparative absence from its text. Aside from brief captions, many of these images stand isolated; their origin, location or photographer not referenced. As such, the images give a distinct impression of female mass support for the party and its Emergency measures, without conveying many details of this or actually voicing women’s agency. At first glance these photos, representing popular support for Gandhi’s Emergency government in feminized visual form, appeared sporadically. But closer inspection suggests that Socialist India used these most frequently in times of political strain or importance, such as in the weeks immediately preceding and following Gandhi’s declaration of Emergency rule, on its one-year anniversary, during the All India Congress Committee’s annual session at Gauhati in November 1976 and in the run-up to elections in March 1977. This chapter has illuminated this by focusing on the party’s deployment of these images at two moments of state crisis. The sheer volume of these images, their proliferation in these moments of crisis and the unbalanced depiction of female crowds and popular support point to the Congress’s concerted efforts to depict a large female rather than male following. These photographs offer an important intervention in the historiography of the

Emergency. They highlight a political strategy whereby the Congress government specifically sought to mobilize women in support of Emergency rule, projecting visually striking representations of that support. Anirudh Deshpande asserts that if historians choose to examine only textual sources ‘they do end up limiting the scope of their enterprise. They will consciously turn their back on people who may not figure in documentary sources’.53 These photographs help us account for women’s engagements with the Emergency and their centrality in mainstream party politics. The images are also significant for debates around the use of photographs as historical sources. They demonstrate that ‘biases’, such as the selective choices made by photographers and editors, are historically informative in regard to these strategies. Paul Frosh notes that as ‘dramatizations of the relations of power over visibility and representation, photographic practices constituted a

site of social struggle as well as a mechanism of social control’.54 While illuminating the mechanisms of Emergency power, the photographs also represent a site of struggle; specifically the struggle to move away from androcentric narratives of Emergency politics and include women in these histories.

Notes 1

These protests included a three-week-long railway strike in May 1974, led by Socialist and President of the All India Railwaymen’s Federation George Fernandes; the women’s Anti Price Rise Movement in Maharashtra and Gujarat; and student agitations in Gujarat and Bihar led by veteran freedom fighter Jayaprakash Narayan. For further discussions see Ramachandra Guha, India after Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy (London: Macmillan, 2007), 477–478.

2 3 4 5

Ibid., 493–522. Ibid., Bipan Chandra, In the Name of Democracy: JP Movement and the Emergency (New Delhi: Penguin, 2003). Emma Tarlo, Unsettling Memories: Narratives of the Emergency in Delhi (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2003). Patrick Clibbens, ‘“The Destiny of This City Is to be the Spiritual Workshop of the Nation”: Clearing Cities and Making Citizens during the Indian Emergency, 19751977’, Contemporary South Asia 22, no. 1 (2014): 51–66; Rebecca Jane Williams,


‘Storming the Citadels of Poverty: Family Planning and the Emergency in India, 1975–1977’, Journal of Asian Studies 73, no. 2 (2014): 471–492. Rajeswari Sunder Rajan, Real and Imagined Women: Gender, Culture and Postcolonialism (London: Routledge, 1993); Trina Nileena Banerjee, ‘Political Iconography and the Female Political Leader: The Case of Indira Gandhi, Some Initial Questions’, Humanities Underground (2012). Available online: http:// -case-of-indira-gandhi-some-initial-questions/.


Guha’s chapter mentions the poor prison conditions in which authorities kept two female detainees, Socialist Party leader Mrinal Gore (Guha, India after Gandhi,

499) and film star and friend of Socialist Party leader George Fernandes Snehalata Reddy. He also discusses Snehalata’s death after authorities failed to provide her adequate medical treatment (506). This focuses more on their mistreatment, positioning them exclusively as victims, rather than considering their contribution to the resistance movement. 8 Jenifer Tucker and Tina Campt, ‘Entwined Practices: Engagements with Photography in Historical Enquiry’, History and Theory 48, no. 4 (2009): 1. 9 James R. Ryan, Picturing Empire: Photography and the Visualisation of the British Empire (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997). 10 Patricia Hayes, Jeremy Silvester and Wolfram Hartmann, ‘Photography, History and Memory’, in The Colonising Camera: Photographs in the Making of Namibian History, ed. Patricia Hayes, Jeremy Silvester and Wolfram Hartmann (Cape Town:

University of Cape Town Press, 1998): 5.

11 Annu Palakunnathu Matthew, ‘An Indian from India’ (2013). Available from: http:// 12 Paul Frosh, ‘The Public Eye and the Citizen-Voyeur: Photography as Performance of Power’, Social Semiotics 11, no. 1 (2001): 43. 13 Banerjee, ‘Political Iconography’. 14 Frosh, ‘The Public Eye’, 43. 15 Robert Rapstein, ‘Creating and Using Photographs as Historical Evidence’, History in Africa 17 (1990): 248–249. 16 Tucker and Campt, ‘Entwined Practices’, 4. 17 None of the photographs referenced in this chapter included information about their origins. Socialist India usually, although not always, included a small caption explaining images, but rarely credited them to a particular photographer except for a handful of instances. In its 21 June 1975 issue, the bulletin featured images of Gandhi giving speeches with the following information accompanying the captions – ‘Photos: Gopal Chitra Kuteer’ (18a). This Delhi-based private studio was also credited with photographs that appeared in the 3 January 1976 issue depicting the

75th Plenary Session of the Indian National Congress (28a–28d). On 10 April 1976 the party credited another studio ‘PANA’ for photographs showing the Congress President D.K. Barooah’s visit to Sikkim that graced its front cover. Socialist India also attributed a small number of images to an individual photographer ‘R.D Rawal’ (21 June 1975, 36; 5 July 1975, 2). The Congress did credit external photographers where its bulletin used their images. In all other instances where it provided no detail

the images can only be assigned to the Congress Party, as this bulletin’s publisher. 18 Diego Maiorano, Autumn of the Matriarch: Indira Gandhi’s Final Term in Office (London: Hurst & Co, 2015), 109–110. 19 Indira Gandhi, Selected Speeches and Writings of Indira Gandhi, 1972–1977 (New Delhi: Government of India Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, 1984), 189. 20 ‘PM’s candid replies to frank questions from Mexican journalists’ Socialist India (2 August 1975) 29. 21 Maiorano, Autumn of the Matriarch, 109. 22 On her election as prime minister in 1966, she famously asserted, ‘I am not a feminist. I am simply doing a particular job and would do it wherever I was placed’. See Tariq Ali, The Nehrus and the Gandhis: An Indian Dynasty (Bombay: Popular

Prakashan, 1983), 182. Throughout 1975 to 1977, she spoke at a number of women’s conferences but often denounced them, in one instance in August 1975 opening her address with the statement, ‘I am a bit allergic to such conferences’ (Gandhi, Speeches and Writings, 523), and in another in February 1976 she decried them as ‘repetitive and costly’ (753).

23 24 25 26 27 28

‘PM on Women’s Status’ Socialist India (14 June 1975), 23. ‘PM: Days of License over for Good’ WOTM (December 1975), 6. WOTM (July 1975),1. ‘Women’s Aid in Family Planning Programme Sought’ WOTM (August 1975), 30. WOTM (October 1975), 1. ‘Smt M Chandrasekhar’s call to Kerala Women for Implementing PM’s 20 point programme’, ibid., 2. See also ‘PM asks women to lead consumer movement’ (January

1976, 19); 'PM tells women to play role in revolution' (March 1976, 17-18); 'Exhibition twenty point economic programme' (June 1976, 36), which was organized by women; 'Women's Consumer Vigilance Committee' (September 1976, 26). on

29 Kumkurn Mathur, 'Welfare Plans Galore for Women' Socialist India (21 August 1976), 36. 30 India añer Gandhi, 467. Guha, 31 Socialist India (5 June


32 1. Ibid., 33 Smt is

a standard title of respect for women, especially married women, In several Indian languages, akin to Mrs in English.

34 Kalash refers to a pot or vessel used In Hindu rituals MangaI occasions as a sign of welcome.

or on


35 know their sisters' Socialist India (5 June 1975), 6. 'Women

In 36 Its January 1975 report, the Committee on the Status of Women, established by the government to Investigate Inequality, highlighted the problematic practice of

eating last In the family and the negative impacts of this



their health.

See Towards Equality (New Delhi: Government of India, 1975), 311. Gandhi did not suggest change to this practice of unequal food distribution within the family; rather, she posited It

as an

acceptable solution

to the

problems caused by rising prices and

shortages. 37 'The People's Tryst with the Prime Minister' Socialist India (5 July



38 18a. Ibid., 39 18b. Ibid., 40 18c. Ibid., 41 Ibid. 42 18d. Ibid.,

43 Socialist India (12 February 1977), 18c. 44 Socialist India (5 March 1977), 3. This 45 Image of an Adivasl woman breastfeeding and voting also featured In The Patriot, the Communist Party of India's mouthpiece. Initially pro-Emergency, by the 1977 elections this party publicly revoked this support. The Image is one of the few Images published in The Patriot not credited as a 'Patriot Photo', strengthening my suggestion that these photographs, uncredlted in Socialist India, were the Congress Party's own. See The Patriot, 18 March 1977, 4. 46 'Spotlight


Elections' Socialist India (26 March 1977), 14.

Ibid., 47 15-8. Ibid., 48 16. Ibid., 49 19. Ibid., 50 17-8. Ibid., 51 15 Ibid., 52 16 Anlrudh 53 Deshpande, 'Films as Historical Sources and Political Weekly 39, no. 40 (2004): 4456. 54 'The Public Eye', 47. Frosh,


Alternative History', Economic

Select Bibliography Ali, Tariq. The Nehrus and the Gandhis: An Indian Dynasty . Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 1983. Banerjee, Trina. ‘Political Iconography and the Female Political Leader: The Case of Indira Gandhi, Some Initial Questions’. Humanities Underground (2012). Available online:

-leader-the-case-of-indira-gandhi-some-initial-questions/ Chandra, Bipan. In the Name of Democracy: JP Movement and the Emergency . New Delhi: Penguin, 2003. Clibbens, Patrick. ‘“The Destiny of This City Is to be the Spiritual Workshop of the Nation”: Clearing Cities and Making Citizens during the Indian Emergency, 19751977’. Contemporary South Asia 22, no. 1 (2014): 51–66. Committee on the Status of Women in India. Towards Equality . New Delhi: Government

of India, 1975. Deshpande, Anirudh. ‘Films as Historical Sources or Alternative History’. Economic and Political Weekly 39, no. 40 (2004): 4455–4459. Frosh, Paul. ‘The Public Eye and the Citizen-Voyeur: Photography as Performance of Power’. Social Semiotics 11, no. 1 (2001): 43–49. Gandhi, Indira. Selected Speeches and Writings of Indira Gandhi, 1972–1977. New

Delhi: Government of India Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, 1984. Guha, Ramachandra. India after Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy . London: Palgrave, 2007. Hayes, Patricia, Jeremy Silvester and Wolfram Hartmann. ‘Photography, History and Memory’. In The Colonising Camera: Photographs in the Making of Namibian History,

edited by P. Hayes, J. Silvester and W. Hartmann, 2–29, Cape Town: University of Cape Town Press, 1998. Maiorano, Diego. Autumn of the Matriarch: Indira Gandhi’s Final Term in Office. London: Hurst & Co, 2015. Matthew, Annu Palakunnathu. ‘An Indian from India’ (2013). Available from: http://www Rapstein, Robert. ‘Creating and Using Photographs as Historical Evidence’. History in Africa 17(1990): 247–265. Ryan, James R. Picturing Empire: Photography and the Visualisation of the British Empire. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997. Sunder Rajan, Rajeswari. Real and Imagined Women: Gender, Culture and Postcolonialism. London: Routledge, 1993.

Tarlo, Emma. Unsettling Memories: Narratives of the Emergency in Delhi . Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2003. Tucker, Jenifer and Tina Campt. ‘Entwined Practices: Engagements with Photography in Historical Enquiry’. History and Theory 48, no. 4 (2009): 1–8. Williams, Rebecca Jane. ‘Storming the Citadels of Poverty: Family Planning and the Emergency in India, 1975–1977’. Journal of Asian Studies 73, no. 2 (2014): 471–492.

Socialist India. New Delhi: Indian National Congress. The Patriot. New Delhi: Communist Party of India. Women on the March. New Delhi: Indian National Congress.

7 COPYING AND DE-SYNCHRONIZING: PERFORMING THE PAST IN CONTEMPORARY INDIAN PHOTOGRAPHY Christopher Pinney In South Asia, though the future may not always look open, the past rarely looks closed.1 Ashis Nandy’s observation about the productivity of the past can help us in positioning a number of diverse contemporary photographic practitioners who have engaged the practice of what the recent San Jose Museum show ingeniously termed ‘postdating’.2 ‘Postdating’ names the practice of disordering history, opening the past through a process of ‘de-synchronization’, making what appears to be fixed and unrecoverable available for reshaping and revisioning. The discussion of different photographic practices and practitioners, attempted here, is intended to foster a useful matrix clarifying issues concerning the iterative mobility of doubling, repetition and citation (the raw materials of cultural production and history itself), which would otherwise be opaque if we considered them in isolation. The suggestion is that a wide range of contemporary Indian photographers share a distinctive concern with ‘de-synchronization’. For Nandy this involves a recovery of multiple pasts and identities through new readings of the historical archive. For the photographers discussed here it involves formal and aesthetic strategies that fold time into new shapes and allow the imagination of different kinds of histories. The practitioners include Pushpamala N, Waswo X. Waswo, Olivier Cullman,

Cop Shiva and Gauri Gill. I will also talk about Suresh Punjabi and Naresh Bhatia who have a rather different relationship to this practice but whose work, as I hope will soon become apparent, is central to my argument. Pushpamala’s justly


celebrated work involves what Susie Tharu, in a fine essay in ‘Native Women of South India’, has identified as a subversive embracing of the ‘belated copy’. Pushpamala’s work easily serves as an icon of ‘postdating’ (it is no coincidence that her work features on the cover of Throckmorton’s catalogue). She works with a number of different photographic collaborators to re-enact colonial and other mise-en-scène to perform and deform putatively stable systems of knowledge. A Toda woman is incarnated against a chequered screen of the sort deployed by colonial anthropometry, and nationalist icons inspired by the painter Ravi Varma are re-animated. Susie Tharu suggests that Pushpamala’s practice deploys repetition and performance to derail conventional linear histories of progress rejecting the valorization of ‘creation/expression ... that has underwritten the idea of the artist and the European artwork’ jettisoning this in favour of ‘its despicable and Oriental other: the copy is embraced in all its richness and potential’.3 This embracing of belatedness through perverse re-enactment is perhaps most explicitly apparent in an early body of work which Madhava Prasad perceptively discussed under the rubric of ‘The Last Remake of Indian Modernity’.4 Much of that work (which Prasad describes as ‘historical karaoke’) seemed to explore not the instability of identity (which is the stale concern of certain US and Japanese practitioners with whom she is often juxtaposed)5 but a temporal unknowability: the multiple dis-aligned histories which postcolonies and their subjects must confront in existentially forceful ways that other world citizens don’t. Prasad writes of images which ‘triumph over and appropriate the ruins of the past’, and notes the ‘immeasurable gap of silence’ which separates us from ‘and at the same instant [recalls] a lost object’.6 Pushpamala’s images, Prasad continues, have ‘an autonomy ...a stillness and intractability proper to ruins’. Nandy’s contribution helps us grasp the productivity of this unsettled-ness of unofficial and evasive pasts, rather than (as a Jamesonian perspective might stress) simply assuming it to be a burden. Pushpamala’s practice can be juxtaposed with the French photographer Olivier Culmann’s The Others. This addresses very directly the question of others as the culturally essentialized objects of anthropological inspection (a concern of Pushpamala’s Native Women), but also, in fruitful ways, photography itself as a machine for the presentation of otherness. First, however, some historical context relevant to the small-town studios that Culmann is interested in is in order. This will allow us to think more about un-synchronized pasts. A few years ago I discovered that a long-term friend in Madhya Pradesh, the photographer Suresh Punjabi, was about to throw out his entire archive of analogue negatives following their damage in a monsoon storm. Having persuaded him to let me sort through them we concluded that there were sufficient remarkable images to warrant a small exhibition and publication and


we duly exhibited Studio Suhag! at Delhi Photo Festival and published a small book with Tara Books of Chennai.7 Punjabi’s negatives formed the raw material for what were often complex printing experiments through which he systematically split his subjects. In north India, dostana is the term that is often used to describe a strong bond of male friendship, and also names a particular genre of Hindi film in which two male friends find themselves both in love with the same woman. Dostana movies, together with what are sometimes termed ‘lost and found’ movies (of which Yash Chopra’s Deewaar of 1975 is – if we accept a loose definition of the genre – the defining masterpiece), foreground a splitting of the subject. This, Nandy argues, is one of the residues of a complex colonial history that remains highly visible in India popular culture.8 Nandy suggests that frequently popular film separates out distinct identities that a colonial narrative of modernity has, in theory, collapsed into each other. The official narrative assumes that Indian subjects have become unitary citizens: popular culture, Nandy argues, frequently ‘splits’ these subjects, engaging their complexity.9 Deewaar, in which the narrative tension is provided by the divergent occupations

and moral choices of the two main characters (respectively a gangster and a policeman), exemplifies what for Nandy is unfinished business. The state may have persuaded itself that it has engineered new citizens but popular culture keeps returning us to tensions that remain unresolved.10 Popular cinema, he suggests, makes manifest what he has described as a ‘vestigial dialect’ a nonmodern mode of communication that tenaciously resists modernity’s attempts at homogenization.11 Nandy would concede that these vestigial dialects are as likely to be found in photographic studios as in commercial film, not least because of photo studios’ indebtedness to the language of popular film. In my own investigations into small-town studio portraiture over the past three decades, I have frequently encountered young women acting out filmic fantasies of traditional Kashmiri girls, men who imagine themselves as film villains and aspirant poets who demand to be photographed with what appear to be bottles of whisky in front of which they slump agonistically, recalling the romantic torment of the character Devdas (Figure 7.1). These are all examples of what studio customers eulogize as photography’s capacity to make them ‘come out better’. By this they mean the camera’s ability to produce different, usually superior, versions of themselves. It is in this context that Olivier Culmann’s project (The Others), both as a

body of work and as a conceptual investigation, acquires a powerful resonance. Especially striking are two images in which Culmann poses casually with a group of other people who are also himself, magically interpolated into the same pictorial space by Photoshop. In one of the most striking images three policemen dressed in standard issue khaki gaze insouciantly at the photographer. One figure casually rests his right hand on the shoulder of the character in the middle.

Figure 7.1 Suresh Punjabi, Portrait of Mahesh Punjabi, c. 1980. Courtesy of Studio Suhag.

In a similar fashion, in another image, four subjects appear against a pale blue studio backdrop. All adopt casual poses: the figure on the left rests against a column and on the right a figure sits on a large red plastic dice. In the centre are two standing figures (like the others they are wearing uncomfortably tight jeans), one of whom again extends his arm around his friend performing affection and brotherhood for the camera (Plate 2). These two images serve as the key to Culmann’s wider series, in most of which he is a solitary figure often staring accusatorily at the camera as if demanding to know why we are looking at him. Through their insistent, uncanny repetition of Culmann’s face and body, they stage a question about his self in relation to Indian representational practices. They ask us to speculate on the location, and also the time, of The Others: is it Indians as others, whose space, and time, Culmann seems to so systematically invade? Or is he the other by virtue of his endless displacement in spaces in which we feel he never really

belongs, and in which his out-of-place discomfort, an inability to settle within any singular time, often appears palpable? A third possibility also arises: is the other the image itself? Is the other the invitation to alterity, to ‘come out better’, in the endless iterations of the flesh of the world that photography invites and Photoshop accentuates exponentially? The two images in which, through the generosity of Photoshop, one Olivier Culmann embraces another, visualizes that phenomenological effect that Merleau-Ponty termed the ‘double sensation’. 12 This names that paradoxical feeling when you touch one hand with the other and are then unable to say which hand is ‘touching’, and which is being ‘touched’. Here the binary logic of ‘otherness’ is short-circuited.13 Some aspects of the series, and perhaps Culmann’s own exegesis, suggest that this was intended as an investigation of a society composed of others: it was a French observer’s attempt to inhabit and understand a complex ‘other’, ‘compartmentalized’, society representing itself to itself through different dress codes which signified, class, caste, occupation and religion (here the anthropologist Louis Dumont’s suggestion that castes in India had no self-present identity but could only be the ‘others of others’ resonates).14 The ubiquity of Culmann’s face and body (which, though disguised, is always recognizable) would in this interpretation serve as a foil which underscored the huge variation in the self-presentation by the ‘others’ (i.e. Indians). By contrast, the shock of the double sensation in those images in which there

are multiple Culmanns forces us to question who the others are because the other of the figure whom he embraces is also himself. This should not be the cause for some sentimental humanist celebration concerning the indivisibility of humankind. Rather our phenomenological response to those hands clasped by an other onto his own shoulder should encourage a more profound consideration of the nature of colonial mimesis and the destabilizing trajectory of the ‘copy’. In short, this double sensation can be taken as the ground not for the currently fashionable phenomenology of ‘being’ as the utopian erasure of Cartesian disenchantment but as a pointer in the reverse direction towards irrevocably split subjects and repetition as ineluctably iterative. Here we might stress the first part of Merleau-Ponty’s formulation: there is a ‘doubleness’ (akin to what Rosalind Krauss once described as the ‘two step that banishes simultaneity’).15 He (Merleau-Ponty) is not interested in a ‘single sensation’. Culmann’s doubling echoes themes illuminated by the critic Homi K. Bhabha.

In a celebrated essay on colonial mimicry, Bhabha, quotes ‘Reflections on West African Affairs’, a nineteenth-century text by Sir Edward Cust. Cust expressed his anxiety about ‘conferring on every colony … a mimic representation of the British Constitution’ and the threat this posed to ‘colonial dependence’. 16 Cust’s fear was of a mirroring that threatened hierarchy, what Bhabha in another essay terms the ‘ruse of recognition, its mimicry, its mockery’.17 This points to doubling as threat, to mimesis as a challenge to identities we assumed were fixed, and

speaks to the sense of discomfort we feel in beholding some of Culmann’s disconcerting images. Why is he there? What gives him the right to do that? These are important questions to ask about our expectations of the limits and obligations of others. But mirroring and doubling is not simply about multiplication of a stable essence. As Deleuze, Derrida and Bhabha have all demonstrated, there is never repetition without difference. The Others also speaks about this transformation, or translation, that occurs in Culmann’s re-staging of key tropes of Indian studio practice. Culmann systematically (perhaps too systematically) investigates this question

of the copy, or what it is to become an other of oneself through his enquiry into the torque of iteration in digital photography. A chasm opens up – as is often the case with interesting work – between what the practitioner says and what the images actually appear to testify to which is surely the triumph in a postanalogue age of an otherness which is neoliberal India’s seduction by its own others, that is, the sieved, emulsified, post-analogue fantasy of the west now circulating through Photoshop backgrounds. This used to have a fleeting highly moralized presence in what Nandy called the slum’s eye view of Indian culture in 1970s Hindi films (Deewaar is again exemplary in this respect) in which the west was incarnated as a place of whisky, dancing, polka-dot bow ties and so on.18 But Kashmir and the sharabi poet have been dramatically replaced in many photo studios by a normalized digitally sampled fantasy of Occidental opulence. One of many sources for this imagery (which circulates nationally) is Naresh Bhatia’s Krish Digital shop in Fort, Mumbai, which sells DVDs of large format tiffs of himself, his wife, his son and daughter-in-law, and their children acting out the (literally) headless fantasy of success in the new India of the Adanis and Ambanis.19 Culmann’s own visage invasively inhabits these fantastical spaces of the other’s otherness, making his insistently repetitious enquiry into ‘the others’ of whose otherness he is always, ineluctably, the face, seem unsettlingly apposite. His work produces an iteration (by which I mean something new that arises in the process of creating a ‘copy’). Through a precise, endless repetition, a repetition of his declaratively familiar face, Culmann makes us ask who is the real subject of a portraiture given over to ‘coming out better’. His work has philosophical power when juxtaposed with Suresh Punjabi’s 1970s and 1980s small-town portraiture, but also in the global and digital aspiration-scape that entrepreneurs such as Naresh Bhatia are producing. The endless over-addressed-ness of his face demands that we lose faith in any conventional subjectivity and temporality. Iteration also features centrally in the Bengaluru-based photographer Cop

Shiva’s oeuvre. Like Pushpamala’s, Cop Shiva’s work is explicitly concerned with that zone of what Bhabha describes as the performative/deformative, 20 what Spivak called the ‘graphic of iterability’, 21 where Socratic speech is derailed by the iterative dispersal of writing, that despicable perverse copy about which Tejaswini Niranjana wrote in relation to Pushpamala.

Cop Shiva’s wry and empathetic documentation of Bagadehalli Basavaraju, a school teacher-turned-Mahatma Gandhi ‘impersonator’ (who paints himself in silver to declare his new persona), shows us the Father of the Nation waylaid by sheep, patrolling a railway station platform in front of sceptical travellers, and in a number of other situations which suggest a dislocation of time and of ethics. Bagadehalli is himself a teacher, as befits someone who has a message.

Many images suggest the efficacious transmission of that message. He sits on a schoolroom floor with writing slates proliferating before him rather as gold rupees shower from the hands of Lakshmi. We as viewers become his chelas, able to determine in Socratic-Platonic fashion the nature of his intention and message. The guru seated in front of the writing slates might indeed serve as the perfect emblem not only for the guru–chela relation but also for Plato’s exposition in the Phaedrus of the virtues of speech as a kind of ‘writing on the soul’. Derrida’s famous critique,22 of course, explored the problematic virtues of speech as against writing. Speech, so Socrates argued, was superior to writing because the chela could confirm directly with his guru that his understanding was correct. Writing was thrown to the ‘four winds’ and hence dangerous because uncontrolled.23 Bagadehalli’s apparent readiness to cross-check what will be written on the blank slates suggests an impossible ability to turn writing back into a kind of speech, into conversation and interlocution (Figure 7.2).

Figure 7.2 Cop Shiva. Bagadehalli Basavaraj ‘Being Gandhi’, c. 2012. Courtesy of the artist.

These photographs might be seen to attest to the success of Bagadehalli’s project in what Bhabha calls its ‘pedagogical’ mode: through a magical mode of mimesis we temporarily allow the success of this translational project, we permit Bagadehalli to become the Father of the Nation, much like the schoolchildren who are his ideal constituency. But Bhabha also argues that the pedagogical mode of the nation also depends on performance. The Father has to be made manifest; he has to be enacted. And this performance of a past for the present always introduces something new, what Spivak refers to as a disruptive ‘graphic of iterability’. There is never repetition without difference. Repetition becomes iteration and that performative iteration is never the same as its model. This deformation, which by virtue of the nature of iteration lies at the heart of

performance, has been a matter of some anxiety in India. One of Cop Shiva’s images shows Bagadehalli co-opted into a nationalist mise-en-scène in which a crouching figure waves a tiranga while an appreciative crowd gathers. The Indian state, it transpires, attempts to closely control the production of Indian national flags. It does this through the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act (PINHA), passed in 1971 (though punitively amended in 2003) and which legislates on what can (and cannot) be done with flags. It also regulates the very coming into being of national flags. In theory, following a directive by the Khadi and Village Industries Commission, they can be made only by the Karnataka Khadi Gramodyoga Samyukta Sangha. Based in Hubli they source khadi from Bagalkot where the cloth is separated into three batches to be dyed in the appropriate colours before being stitched together in one of nine authorized sizes according to standards laid down by the Bureau of Indian Standards which (in theory) inspects every batch. That is what drives PINHA. The broader practice is different however. ‘The

condition or effect of interminable iterations’ is as Gayatri Spivak notes that ‘material objects’ and similar phenomena present themselves ‘not as selfidentical but as a space of dispersion’. Here Spivak applies the Derridean insight into the unstable nature of iteration to everyday politics. Nationalism, or for that matter any identity, confronts us with a problem of authority, performance and iteration. It is caught in a paradox: it presupposes an identity, a ‘feeling’ which is self-present and ‘auto-authorized’ but which nevertheless depends on an inscription, a performance, a continual reiteration. It depends on people like Bagadehalli. But this iteration also creates, inevitably, the space in which that authority slips away. This is what Spivak refers to (revealingly) as the ‘graphic of iterability rather than the logic of repetition’.24 In its iteration, its dissemination, its inability not to spill its seed, the nation

becomes what we might think of as an ‘iter(n)ation’, or even better an ‘itar(n)ation’. The alien nature of iterability (i.e. its unsettling of any claim to self-presence) has an interesting South Asian echo for, as Spivak notes, in North Indian languages itar connotes ‘other, different, and low’, carrying as Spivak suggests, ‘an ethico-

political charge’. Stuart MacGregor’s standard Hindi dictionary glosses itar as ‘other, remaining ... inferior’.25 Here linguistic usage supports our case in its gesture to what is abject and disruptive. If Cop Shiva’s photographs provide documentation of an unintentional itar(n)

ation (on the part of the photographer’s subject), the work of Waswo X. Waswo presents us with a highly crafted and theorized, and very deliberate temporal disalignment. His work strives for, explicitly desires, a deferral: his work, which is controversial and for some critics problematically Orientalist because of its romantic infatuation with another, is marked by a profound temporal displacement. The entanglement of America with India, and the intertwining of piety and ribaldry, through imagery that is both subversive and respectful, has a fascinating and rich history. Something of this can be seen in Waswo’s The Danger of Photography a collaborative miniature which engages the desires and pitfalls that underlie his remarkable practice. But consider this against the backdrop of a fascinating image described by the Life photographer Wallace Kirkland in his 1937 autobiography. The image had been painted for him, before he left Chicago, by Julio de Diego, an artist who is perhaps best remembered now for having twice been married to the burlesque dancer Gypsy Rose Lee. The colour image was small enough to fit in Kirkland’s wallet, and was designed as a ‘proper credential’ for his upcoming India journey, but also presumably as a kind of talisman. The original survives in the University of Illinois, Chicago, Special Collections.26 Kirkland explained the iconography of the image: On the left ... was the figure of a well-endowed native woman. She was a goddess representing the fertility of India ... In addition to her other feminine accoutrements she had a third arm which she was using to stick a huge hypodermic needle into me. Julio said it was to safeguard me against the various and sundry evils of the East. He painted me as a rangy fellow, with only one eye and that in the centre of my forehead ... In my right hand I held two cameras, a small one to present my Rolleiflex, and a larger one that was my Graphic ... Like tiny hills below me were rows of pink breasts. The toes of my right foot rested delicately on the tip of a pinkish nipple. We laughingly called them ‘God’s half acre’.27 There is a further detail in the image which also leads us into its remarkable denouement. In the bottom-right corner is a goat, ‘a rear view [with] his tail sticking straight up’. Kirkland spent two days at the Wardha ashram photographing Gandhi and his disciples and just before he left he introduced to Gandhi the complex iconography of Julio de Diego’s image: ‘I explained each object to him in detail – the goddess, the breasts, the cameras, the goat’ and then, having declared that he never collected autographs, nevertheless asks Gandhi for his signature.

The narrative becomes more unlikely at every turn. Kirkland hands Gandhi his fountain pen and gestures to the empty space above the goat whereupon, if Kirkland is to be believed, a mock-Cockney-Gandhi asks, ‘This is my goat. Ain’t it, Kirkland’ before signing his name ‘across the rear end of the goat, just below the upstanding tail’.28 This image prefigures, and somehow predicts, the work of another Midwestern photographer (Waswo), who has found himself a pilgrim in India negotiating expectation and desire, convention and transgression, and using the image as both protective talisman and an invitation to deliberately difficult dialogues. Waswo’s The Danger of Photography, an image from a complex series of collaborations with the miniaturist R. Vijay, immediately takes us to an idealized vision of Mewar, and specifically the lake at Udaipur.29 ‘Gods own acre’ is signalled by the exquisite plenitude provided by a lush palette which juxtaposes verdant foliage with bountiful water, all of this framed by a dark border from which endlessly proliferating vegetation pokes through, evidence of a divine bounty which is one of the aesthetic legacies of the school of painting in nearby Nathdwara which has come to define much of what we now understand by the term ‘Mewar painting’. Our eye is led down the central space of this delightful image to the Jag Niwas, now the Lake Palace luxury hotel, and the elaborate boat built for the filming of the James Bond movie Octopussy in the city in 1983. In the foreground we see two spears of land which almost meet. On one side stands the immediately recognizable and self-parodied figure of the American ingénue pointing his tripod-mounted camera at a naked Indian man who stands opposite him. In the middle, vaguely echoing the lush watery-lotusy picchvais of Nathdwara, numerous quizzical crocodiles strain their necks from the water, puzzled in an engagingly comic way, but also clearly hungry. It is an exquisite image, one that pays respectful homage to Mewar and its traditions but into which it also introduces a question, an anxiety and the potential danger signified by its title. This image was Waswo’s first face-to-face collaboration with Vijay. The

central divide of blue water is a gap, but also a potential bridge: Waswo observes that it is close enough to ‘hop across’. It is an image structured around an ambiguous space, one of desire and anxiety and one which recalls Kirkland’s talisman. ‘God’s half acre’ is figured slightly differently in Waswo’s version but it is equally saturated with the divine and with plenitude. But just as Kirkland was being hypodermically injected by the Goddess to inoculate him from the East, so Waswo retains his American-abroad apparel. Unlike the object of his attention he is fully clothed, this being perhaps akin to Kirkland’s inoculation. And yet it is clear that the figure who he is photographing is the object of desire and fascination and embodies a dangerous fertility, like Kirkland’s Goddess. Waswo explains that the ‘danger’ signalled in The Danger of Photography is

the danger of desire but it is equally also the danger that pervades his work as

a whole. This is something he says in conversation but dwells on at much more length in his self-critical writings in which he identifies and responds to a ‘political’ critique of earlier sepia work (by, among others, Pushpamala). That critique in part demanded that he inhabited a different time, one that conformed to the Indian elite’s ‘idea of the future of their own society’ to cite Nandy as ‘nothing more than an edited [and we might add “synchronized”] version of contemporary North America and West Europe’ (Plate 3). 30 For Waswo X. Waswo there are many chronicities, forms of time and modes

of history. His photography works against contingency but in the cause of an uncertainty. His early fascination with sepia allowed the exclusion of what he was otherwise, as a photographer, doomed (as Walter Benjamin might have said) to include. Colours, obviously, but perhaps more importantly time, or more precisely a certain temporality. The full range of colours perceived by the human eye and registered by the camera insert the photographer, his subjects and the photographer’s viewers in a chromatic simultaneity. Some would call this modernity, co-evality, the global now. But for Waswo this ‘now’ is symptomatic of the ‘meantime’, the regulated and co-ordinated ‘official’ time that Benedict Anderson argued was central to the possibility of the nation-state.31 Sepia, as Waswo perceptively argues, ‘slows things down’; it also very deliberately introduces a dissemination, and evokes that itar(n)ation that Nandy eulogized and which the Dalit theorist D.R. Nagaraj identified as an artisanal world which had been destroyed by modernity’s ‘technicide’.32 Sepia, through its reduction, forces us to spin out of the onward rush of chromatic/temporal inevitability. The production of sepia prints (which involves Waswo placing a silver gelatin print in a solution of potassium ferricyanide and then washing it with sodium sulphide) is part of an important craft process for Waswo, a practice in the face of technicide. But the process also reorders the image, privileging new kinds of form and a different kind of time. It asks us to stop and to look, and to explore not the continuity between the image and its ‘off-screen’ space but its radical difference. As Waswo himself writes the process ‘helps remove the images from the present day, and realigns them with a mythic, invented world’. He is very clear about the different temporality that this process conjures, recalling his vivid memory of the first time one of his photographs ‘metamorphose[d] in a bath of sodium sulphide’. 33 In a striking twist on Benjamin’s observation that it is a different nature that appears to the camera than the eye, Waswo describes how the sepia image transported him ‘to a nebulous Otherworld unsynchronised from the one in which we live’.34 It is a different time that appears to his camera. This is another form of ‘post-dating’. A thinker like Nandy might help us see how the process that Ashish

Rajadhyaksha traces as a historical dilemma has bequeathed the ‘political’ demands that Waswo’s early work was forced to answer. The demand was that he enter the frame of the modern, that he use his camera to synchronize

himself with modernity, with the singular time that was supposedly everywhere, simultaneously ‘now’. Hence he should have worked in colour rather than sepia, should have shown power stations instead of turban-wearing peasants with bullocks. Waswo’s temporality is what Nandy would call an ‘evasive’ past. He ‘play[s] with the past [as] a necessary counterpoint to the dredging of the past that has become a standard marker of enquiry commissions’. 35 Waswo’s pasts are of the non-historicized, non-official kind that include ‘myths, legends, epics and unofficial memories’, not as some Orientalist fantasy but as a way of ‘paying respect to these other ways of negotiating time’.36 Ashish Rajadhyaksha also helps us understand the homage that is implied in

Waswo’s complex engagements across media. This allows us to say something much more precise than (as W.J.T. Mitchell observed) ‘all media is mixed media’. Waswo’s media are mixed in a particular way: his photography is never ‘straight’. It always has something removed (to produce sepia) or something added (the subtle colorations contributed by Rajesh Soni) and is a practice continually in conversation with R. Vijay’s miniatures (paintings, but whose subject, as we have seen, is often photography and nearly always the photographer). These might be seen to mirror what Rajadhyaksha calls ‘the cultural directions that modern production-forms were struggling towards’37 in the late nineteenth and early twentieth-centuries. What he points to here are the kinds of detours and diversions through which Indians declined to let new technologies ‘rage towards the fulfilment of their essence’, to recall Heidegger’s verdict on the trajectory of technology. One example given by Rajadhyaksha is highly appropriate to Waswo’s practice: the Nathdwara manoratha. This depicted the Krishna incarnation Shrinathji symmetrically flanked by goswamis (priests) and devotees. The formal arrangement is not unlike the composition of The Danger of Photography: symmetrical figures face each other across the central dramatic picture space. Rajadhyaksha is interested in how, with the arrival of photography, devotees were no longer painted but photographed and then ‘stuck on both sides of Srinathji, that is, in the positions where devotees were usually painted in the traditional mode’. The ‘cultural direction’ in this case involved diverting the ‘mechanical-reproductive’ via the ‘divine’.38 So we might think of this as another way in which images get de-synchronized, that is, through displacing homogenous empty time with messianic time. Gauri Gill’s recent wonderful collaboration with Rajesh Vangad might be thought as quite unlike Waswo’s project since it seems to be concerned with ‘resynchronizing’ a world with ‘ancient antecedents’ with an Adivasi world view which is overlain as a skein on the surface of her photographs. The work consists of Gill’s black-and-white images of rural landscapes with sparse vegetation. They conjure terrain which land-grabs will soon make available for industrialization and urbanization. This looming disenchantment is overwritten by the Warli muralist Rajesh Vangad. Deploying a style conventionally associated

with women’s flour-paste paintings, Vangad superimposes another set of values and another temporality over the surface of Gill’s photographs. Gill and Vangad’s collaboration is perhaps also in many ways the most ‘ethnographic’ and the least ‘mobile’ of the work I’ve considered here. She writes in an arrestingly ambivalent manner about how on the one hand her photographs captured only a distant and opaque world, but which were also simultaneously doomed to capture the ‘now’ of the moment of exposure and refused in themselves to be animated by Rajesh’s stories concerning, for instance, a ‘particular full moon night in October when a great forest on one hill comes alive, and all the people who spend that night in the forest see shining eyes glitter around them’ (Figure 7.3).39 However, Gill’s work shares with Waswo (and Nandy, and also with

Pushpamala) a disdain for the authorized homogenous empty time of national modernity. Her collaboration with Rajesh is a perfect example of how this turning away from a dominant and consensual temporality decouples itself from the ‘meanwhile’ of the modern, daring to enchant itself with an ‘archaic’ and nonmodern zone of subaltern plurality. Ashish Rajadhyaksha famously noted that for figures such as the oil painter Ravi Varma and the early film-maker D.G. Phalke the European technics of representation posed a fundamental ‘ethical’ problem. Rajadhyaksha focuses on the politics of space, on the way in which what might be thought of as the ‘colonial world picture’ establishes a hierarchy between what is represented and the beholder. For Rajadhyaksha an Indic tradition that

Figure 7.3 Gauril Gill and Rajesh Vangad, God of the Home and Village from the series Fields of Sight, c. 2013-ongoing. Courtesy of the artists.

proliferated complex narratives ‘defined mainly through a series of convergences [interspersed with] points of rest’,40 (an ‘open-ended record’ as Nandy41 puts it) was confronted with radical difference in the form of the ‘Renaissance still frame’. The ethical ‘crisis’, as Rajadhyaksha terms it, was precipitated by new European technologies including printing, photography, oil painting and cinema and lay in ‘how to “enter” the Renaissance frame, how to directly apprehend the real’.42 Gauri Gill confronts a similar issue: how do you reconcile the ‘now’ of photography with ‘ancient antecedents’, how do you visualize an ‘evasive’ doubled time. This is a further variation on the tactic of ‘post-dating’ which, as I have tried to demonstrate, involves copying, deformation, de-synchronization and (occasionally) re-synchronization.

Notes 1

Ashis Nandy, Time Warps: Silent and Evasive Pasts in India’s Politics and Religion

(London: Hurst, 2002), 4. 2

See Jodi Throckmorton, ed. Postdate: Photography and Inherited History in India

(Berkeley: University of California Press, 2015). 3 4 5 6

Susie Tharu, ‘This Is Not an Inventory: Norm and Performance in Everyday

Femininity’, in Native Women of South India: Manners and Customs, ed. N. Pushpamala and Clare Arni (Bangalore: India Foundation for the Arts, 2006), 22. N. Pushpamala, Indian Lady (Delhi & New York: Bose Pacia, n.d.). That is, Cindy Sherman and Yasumasa Morimura.

M. Madhava Prasad, ‘The Last Remake of Indian Modernity’, in Pushpamala N: Indian Lady, ed. N. Pushpamala, (BP Contemporary Art of India Series, Volume 19)

(New York: Bose Pacia, 2004), no pagination. 7 8

Suresh Punjabi and Christopher Pinney, Artisan Camera: Studio Photography from Central India (Chennai: Tara Books, 2013). Ashis Nandy, The Intimate Enemy (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1983) and Ashis Nandy, ‘An Intelligent Critic’s Guide to Indian Cinema’, in The Savage Freud And Other Essays on Possible and Retrievable Selves (Delhi: Oxford University Press,

1995). ‘The double ... dramatizes the discontinuities introduced into Indian society by new social and political forces and simultaneously neutralizes them “ritually” ’. Nandy, ‘Intelligent Critic’s Guide’, 226. 10 ‘The ultra-modern, arrogant, super-competent, western-educated professional has ultimately to turn to his twin – rustic, good-hearted, spirited but nevertheless oppressed boy from the backwaters of village India’ (Nandy, ‘Intelligent Critic’s 9

Guide’, 226–227).

11 Christopher Pinney, ‘Hindi Cinema and Half-Forgotten Dialects: An Interview with Ashis Nandy’, Visual Anthropology Review, no. 11 (1995): 7–16.

12 Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Phenomenology of Perception, trans. Colin Smith (London, Routledge, 1962), 93.

13 ‘When I press my two hands together, it is not a matter of two sensations felt together as one perceives two objects placed side by side, but of an ambiguous set-up ... the body catches itself from the outside engaged in a cognitive process; ...and initiates a “kind of reflection”’ (Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of

Perception, 93). 14 See Christopher Pinney, ‘Le Soi et L’Autre au Studio’, in The Other, ed. Olivier Culmann (Paris: Editions Xavier Barral, 2015), 69–71. 15 Rosalind Krauss, ‘Photography in the Service of Surrealism’, in L’Amour Fou: Photography and Surrealism (London: Hayward Gallery, 1985), 28. 16 Homi K. Bhabha, ‘Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse’, in his The Location of Culture (London: Routledge, 1994), 85. 17 Homi K. Bhabha, ‘Signs Taken for Wonders’, in his The Location of Culture (London: Routledge, 1994), 115. 18 Ashis Nandy, ‘Introduction: Indian Popular Cinema as a Slum’s Eye View of Politics’, in The Secret Politics of Our Desires: Innocence, Culpability and Indian Popular Cinema, ed. Ashis Nandy (London: Zed Books, 1999). 19 I’m indebted to Fabien Charuau for drawing my attention to Bhatia’s work. Bhatia’s images are opulent templates into which other photographers can Photoshop their client’s heads. They are digital maquettes or bozetti for future images that have been facialized by other subjects. 20 Homi K. Bhabha, ‘DissemiNation: Time, Narrative, and the Margins of the Modern Nation’, in Nation and Narration, ed. Homi K. Bhabha (London: Routledge, 1990). 21 Gayatri Chakrabarty Spivak, ‘Revolutions That as Yet Have No Model: Derrida’s Limited Inc.’, Diacritics, no. 10 (1980): 36. 22 Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri Spivak (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976). 23 Socrates declares that ‘once a things is put in writing, the composition … drifts all over the place, getting into the hands not only of those who understand it, but equally of those who have no business with it; it doesn’t know how to address the right people, and not address the wrong’. R. Hackforth, Plato’s Phaedrus, Translated with Introduction and Commentary (Cambridge: Cambridge University

Press, 1952), 158. 24 Spivak, ‘Revolutions’, 36. 25 R.S. McGregor, Oxford Hindi-English Dictionary (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1993), 104. 26 Wallace Kirkland papers, box 27, no. 404. 27 Wallace Kirkland, The Recollections of a Life Photographer (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1954), 13–14.

28 Ibid., 15. 29 Illustrated in Annapurna Garimella, The Artful Life of R. Vijay (Chicago: SErindia Contemporary, 2015), 38. 30 Nandy, Time Warps, 6. 31 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 1991), 24.

32 D.R. Nagaraj, The Flaming Feet and Other Essays: The Dalit Movement in India, ed. Prithvi Datta Chandra Shobhi (Delhi: Permanent Black, 2010), 179. 33 Waswo X. Waswo, Writings, 1999–2014 (, 2014), 6. 34 Ibid., 16. 35 Nandy, Time Warps, 5 36 Ibid., 2. 37 Ashish Rajadhyaksha, ‘The Phalke Era: Conflict of Traditional Form and Modern Technology’, in Interrogating Modernity: Culture and Colonialism in India, ed. Tejaswini Niranjana, P. Sudhir and Vivek Dhareshwar (Calcutta: Seagull Books, 1993), 58.

38 Ibid., 59. 39 Gauri Gill, Gill’s text is available online but not in the hardcopy of Granta 130 (London: Granta, 2015). See also Inderpal Grewal’s insightful commentary, ‘Gauri Gill and Rajesh Vanguard: Fields of Sight’, Trans-Asia

Photography Review 5, no. 2 (2015) 40 Rajadhyaksha, ‘Phalke Era’, 55. 41 Nandy, Time Warps, 2. 42 Rajadhyaksha, ‘Phalke Era’, 55.

Select Bibliography Bhabha, Homi K. The Location of Culture. London: Routledge, 1994. Derrida, Jacques. Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri Spivak, Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976. Krauss, Rosalind. ‘Photography in the Service of Surrealism’. In L’Amour Fou: Photography and Surrealism, edited by Rosalind Krauss, Jane Livingston and Dawn

Ades. London: Hayward Gallery, 1985. Nandy, Ashis. Time Warps: Silent and Evasive Pasts in India’s Politics and Religion. London: Hurst, 2002. Nandy, Ashis. The Intimate Enemy . Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1983. Nandy, Ashis. ‘An Intelligent Critic’s Guide to Indian Cinema’. In The Savage Freud and Other Essays on Possible and Retrievable Selves . Delhi: Oxford University Press,

1995. Nandy, Ashis. ‘Introduction: Indian Popular Cinema as a Slum’s Eye View of Politics’. In The Secret Politics of Our Desires: Innocence, Culpability and Indian Popular Cinema , edited by Ashis Nandy. London: Zed Books, 1999. Pinney, Christopher. ‘Hindi Cinema and Half-Forgotten Dialects: An Interview with Ashis Nandy’. Visual Anthropology Review, no. 11 (1995): 7–16.

Punjabi, Suresh and Christopher Pinney. Artisan Camera: Studio Photography from Central India. Chennai: Tara Books, 2013. Rajadhyaksha, Ashish. ‘The Phalke Era: Conflict of Traditional Form and Modern Technology’. In Interrogating Modernity: Culture and Colonialism in India, edited by Tejaswini Niranjana, P. Sudhir and Vivek Dhareshwar. Calcutta: Seagull Books, 1993. Throckmorton, Jodi, ed. Postdate: Photography and Inherited History in India. Berkeley:

University of California Press, 2015.




Inequality, not IT or software, has been the fastest growing Indian sector this past decade. It has increased at a pace not seen since the time of the colonial raj. PALAGUMMI SAINATH1

Let me begin by introducing a photograph by Binu Bhaskar in which an aged man stands in an open untilled field. With a gamucha (sweat towel) draped around sloping shoulders, rolled up shirt sleeves and dhoti folded above slightly bowed legs, the visage of the man hints at a life marked by physical toil. Although the image connotes rural labour, it betrays a remarkable lack of productive evidence. The man does not plough; he does not plant or harvest; instead, he stands rooted to the earth like an ancient boundary marker or an abandoned Aśokan pillar.2 The theatrical stillness of the man is further underscored by the formal simplicity of Bhaskar’s black-and-white portrait. The vertical axis of the figure pierces through three discrete horizontal registers delineated by the field, the distant rise of a mountain and the cleaving sky. Long shadows extend across the dry grassland to further anchor his sentinel-like presence to the soil and seem to evince the continued endurance and stability of agrarian life in India.


Many years ago Mahatma Gandhi declared that real India existed in her 700,000 villages and the survival of the nation was wedded to the preservation of a rural way of life. Gandhi’s romance with village India met political reality under Jawaharlal Nehru’s initial five-year plans and his commitment to build a selfsufficient agricultural sector. Throughout the 1960s and the 1970s the banner of agrarian development crested government agendas and India witnessed the advance of the Green Revolution. At this time, the introduction of high-yield crops and mechanized farming techniques worked alongside newly developed agrochemicals to ensure food production would meet the demands of an everincreasing population and secure the future livelihood of India’s agrarian base.3 The 1990s witnessed the liberalization of economy and, although political parties proudly proclaimed India was shining, the light fell on urban centres while casting a cloud of increasing impoverishment over the rural regions.4 The dawn of the new millennium may have celebrated the continued growth of the middle class but it also lamented precipitous declines in food production, a surge in debt accrued by farmers and an increase in migration to urban centres.5 These changes suggested that despite the promise of a lucrative, globalized economy, India’s shine remained tarnished at the rural edges. Today, India is arguably no longer found in her villages but rather in ever-

expanding metropolitan centres like Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru or in specially designated tourist zones like Rajasthan, Bodhgaya or Kerala. Although India Shining has long since been adumbrated by a new set of political promises and slick slogans, the difficulties faced by the rural population remain constant. Over a decade ago, journalist/activist P. Sainath noted, ‘[E]ditorials on the economy end, after much celebration of policy, on a mandatory note of “concern” of the poor. Most discussions in elite fora on the economy go the same way. The intellectuals, the economists, the bureaucrats, policy makers, all agree on one thing. Something must be done about poverty. Everyone agrees that “not enough is being done”’. 6 To be sure, journalistic and photographic reportage, NGO and government-led initiatives struggle to both intervene and increase awareness about this pressing social and economic issue; however, farmer suicide, hunger and rural poverty continue unabated. 7 Indeed one wonders if these well-meaning interventions have domesticated the issue in the public imagination and created a representational, if not political, cul-de-sac. It is this impasse and what can be done to engage the public differently

that sits at the heart of my analysis of the aforementioned Tamil Nadu-based photographer and film-maker Binu Bhaskar and the Delhi-/Karnataka-based artist and activist Arunkumar HG. In drawing on Chantal Mouffe’s theory of agonistic art practices I consider how Bhaskar’s ongoing series Farm, Farmers, Workers (2008–) and Arunkumar’s Guardians series (2015) create a dynamic space of interaction through which accepted beliefs about rural life may be interrogated, tested or adjusted and new associations can be cultivated. To


be sure, their photographic engagements intersect with the already-thick visual record of rural India; however, they recode the representational tactics of many journalistic, ethnological or sociological antecedents. In casting their images as portraits, rather than documents of labour, the political efficacy of their endeavour rests on establishing a connection with the identity of the rural worker rather than with their occupation. Although their work plays with the visual idioms of documentary photography, any trace of utility is driven asunder by their production, presentation and reception as art objects. Set within the precincts of the art gallery or museum, their work positions the photograph not as evidence of toil but rather as an agent in a bid to rethink the space of rural life and the narrowly defined productive function of its occupants. The archive has to be read from below, from a position of solidarity with those displaced, deformed, silenced or made invisible by the machineries of profit and progress. ALAN SEKULA8 Before moving on to a discussion of key examples of Bhaskar’s and Arunkumar’s photographic engagements, I would like to first establish how I see their work as a deliberate departure from photographic precursors. The photographic record of India criss-crosses a number of different terrains; housed in national archives, museums, private or familial collections, the images mark out the temporal and spatial transition from the colonial past to the contemporary present. Alan Sekula argues that photographic archives ‘constitute a territory of images’9 that is often rendered stable through ownership; however, at this juncture it might be fruitful to broadly consider how the images of rural workers found in Bhaskar’s Farm, Farmers, Workers (2008–) and Arunkumar’s Guardians series (2015) do not align with a specific proprietary body of images but rather intersect with a disordered collection of photographs that circulate in the fluid domain of the internet. Using the key words ‘rural India’, a quick search on the net reveals an array of

images populated by a diverse range of individuals labouring at assorted tasks: ploughing, seeding or carrying water or wood. This expansive photographic archive does not mark out a specific territory but rather speaks to how images of rural life circulate in the virtual world as flotsam and jetsam in the slipstream of information, and, once disinterred from the rigors of historical or circumstantial context, serve to actively cultivate a zone of public perception. Unmoored from historical order and origin, the virtual archive is richly varied in its rehearsal of the visual motifs of rural life. It may randomly juxtapose vibrant photoshopped images of tourist India with the black-and-white photographs of Edgar Thurston’s taxonomy of South Indian caste or Margaret Bourke-White’s sombre documents of partition. Or, it may position the recent work of Sohrab Hura alongside Werner Bischof’s photographs of the Bihar Famine in 1951. Whether the images were

originally published in tourist brochures, in the annals of anthropology or as pathos arousing photo-stories in mass media publications, their consumption and untethered circulation construct a powerful visual typology of rural India that flattens concrete and lived experience into a manageable (if not consumable) sign. Set as a bulwark against this free-floating virtual archive of rural India stands the initiatives of Palagummi Sainath’s The Peoples Archive of India (PARI).10 For more than two decades, Sainath has actively pointed to the pitfalls of unbridled, if not misguided, development policies adopted in the name of economic progress. He began documenting the abject conditions on the rural margins at a moment when most were celebrating P.V. Narasimha Rao’s dismantling of the so-called “license raj” and India’s subsequent move towards a more liberalized economy.11 Originally published in The Times of India, Sainath’s reports plotted the impact of centrist development schemes to ensure that the economic transformation of rural India was not received in empty or abstract time.12 In doing so, he consistently framed the rural crisis in India as a long-term problem rather than a singular event that could be rectified through the application of a singular or well-meaning panacea.13 In 2015, Sainath extended the reach of his activist endeavours to create Visible Work, Invisible Women, an online, curated exhibition of his documentary still photographs. 14 Compiled and presented under the auspices of PARI, the archive creates a dynamic and dialogic space that focuses on collecting contextdriven and historically rooted material that significantly bypasses the possibility of receiving his photographs as empty or smooth signs of rural hardship.15 The project itself stands as a promethean gesture that aligns with Sekula’s assertion that an archive must operate from a position of solidarity with those who have been disenfranchised by the machinery of profit. As Sainath was one of the first public figures to sound the alarm bell about the impact of neoliberal policies, his consciousness-raising activities function as a historical touchstone for my narrative. What I find most remarkable about Sainath’s images, whether they circulate in newsprint, book form, or through online or physical exhibitions, is how they operate in an evidentiary capacity and, as such, have the ability to privately ‘prick’ social conscience, urge dialogue and effect public action. When set within a loosely defined Habermasian notion of the public sphere, they demonstrate how visual representation can potentially slip into a dialogue about political representation. Without a doubt the photographic initiatives of Bhaskar and Arunkumar align with the consciousness-raising activities of Sainath to capitalize on the photograph’s ability to function as an agent of information; however, I contend that Sainath’s images, though of critical political import, are not agonistic expressions by virtue of their avenues of circulation and the information they offer. Sainath ostensibly uses the photograph as verification of suffering; however, the images of rural workers in the work of Bhaskar and

Arunkumar are positioned not as documentary proof designed to effect the formation of consensus for change but rather are intended to affect new modes of identification with a given social space. Political theorist Chantal Mouffe has advanced a theory of agonistics as a

model for political activism that works within, rather than without, the circuits and institutions of power.16 According to Mouffe, museums and art galleries are ideal spaces for political intervention for two distinct reasons. First, they bear a historical link to assertions of bourgeois hegemony through the production and dissemination of elite culture and secondly (perhaps more directly related to the discussion at hand) the space of the museum and the art gallery has been uniquely marked by the global economic transformation and shifting patterns of consumption. Without a doubt art, like labour and time, has become a valuable product in the post-political, neoliberal world. Delinked from the circumstances of local production and cultural origin, art is trafficked and traded like an empty commodity and the art gallery or museum directly or indirectly functions as a broker in these transactional fields of exchange. However, it is the dynamics of this exchange and how it is potentially reconfigured within the space of gallery or the museum that are key to understanding how the photographs of Bhaskar and Arunkumar potentially stand as agonistic expressions that tacitly encourage the new ways of thinking about life on the rural margins. Mouffe suggests agonistic artistic strategies eschew dialectical possibilities

to illustrate how social and political change is not afforded through compromise or consensus but rather through a contradiction fostered through an encounter with the unexpected. Artistic expressions that abide by this approach make ‘visible what the dominant consensus tends to obscure and obliterate’.17 Without a doubt, ‘making visible’ is tactically deployed in Sainath’s ground-breaking work; his photographs affirm the umbilical connection between the productive rural areas and the consumptive centres of urban India. However, an agonistic approach contradicts well-established ideational foundations (such as the conceptual and representational linkages between rural life and labour) in a bid to draw forth a series of public questions about accepted beliefs. Bhaskar’s Untitled I seizes on the dynamic possibilities of contradiction through its representational denial of rural labour (Figure 8.1).18 The carefully constructed portrait of a single individual standing in an empty field recalls the establishing shot of cinema and attests to Bhaskar’s professional designation as a film-maker. In keeping with this, the photograph captures an expansive field as it extends back towards the distant rise of Annamalai Hill, a sacred site in the Tiruvannamalai District of rural Tamil Nadu.19 However, unlike the cinematic establishing shot, Bhaskar’s image does not anticipate an ensuing action nor does it capture the labour of the central figure. Instead the man marks his unwavering presence; the photograph upends expectation to suggest that the identity of this man as an occupant of rural India is more important than his occupation. Bhaskar stated that he began

Figure 8.1 Binu Bhaskar, Untitled I from the series Farm, Farmers, Workers, c. 2008. Courtesy of the artist.

his Farm, Farmers, Workers series as a means to register the importance of rural life as a tangible lived space rather than as an abstract site of labour.20 Indeed the images in this series are united in how they strike a correspondence between the individual and the land as opposed to labour and the land. In casting the unnamed individual as the self-possessed subject of his photograph, Bhaskar bestows him with a palpable humanity and nuances his narrowly defined role as a functionary in the transactional space between production and consumption. As I stated at the outset, the positioning of the man at the edge of the

photograph recalls a territorial marker or Aśokan pillar; however, in taking heed of this historical reference and the mechanisms of visual interaction encouraged within a museum or art gallery, one might see the iconic figure as a deliberate invitation for contemplative consideration. A closer examination of the figure reveals that he holds a peg in one hand; its splintered top end hints at continual reuse. And while the presence of the stake suggests a past or future action it is not recorded within the image; yet its inclusion hints at its role as a navigational signpost that encourages further exploration of the image. By tracing the top of the stake along an upward diagonal axis towards the outer middle ground of the photograph we discover a cow tethered beneath a tree. The dark shadow of the tree dissipates as it creeps towards a dirt road snaking along the length of

the field. The dappled light forms a visual bridge that encourages a further visual meandering along the curving line of the pathway. A motorbike appears. A dip in the road jettisons the rider air bound where he remains curiously suspended; the top of his helmet aligns with the downward sweep of the distant rise behind him. The crest of the hill establishes a connective sight line that sweeps forward to the central figure. The positioning of the man at the fulcrum of the image encourages a triangular visual journey that reaffirms his central importance within the locality. It is the visual circuits formed by the compositional details in Bhaskar’s Untitled I that allow it to be cast as an agonistic expression that imagines rural life differently. In denying labour a representational space, the photograph fosters new forms of interaction by shifting the act of labour to space outside of the image. In establishing visual routes through the image, Bhaskar coaxes an engagement predicated on active interaction rather than passive consumption. The man does not labour for our benefit, but we labour for his. Arunkumar’s The Guardians and the Dark Field (Plate 4) pushes the transposition of labour a little further to encourage not only visual but also a physical interaction with his images. 21 Arunkumar’s photo-installations harmonize with Bhaskar’s to assert the significance of the farmer at a time when the productive aspects of rural life are a conceptual, if not cultural, pre-given. That said, I would be remiss to not point out how Bhaskar’s and Arunkumar’s images share a striking formal correspondence to frame singular iconic figures against expansive fields that reach to distant horizons. The well-rehearsed leitmotif of labour is evacuated from both examples; however, instead of eliciting an imaginative journey through the image as we saw in Untitled I, Arunkumar’s installation The Guardians and the Dark Field deliberately retools a palpable physical encounter within the public space of the gallery. Like the archive, a museum or art gallery is a site of institutional power;

however, unlike an archive whose collection is often marked by vested interest, museums and galleries are generally received as neutral spaces. However, Carol Duncan counters this assumption to argue that interaction with objects displayed in exhibitions is often cloaked in the language of ritual.22 The gallery functions as a liminal site set apart from everyday spaces; visitors often adopt a reverent attitude and move through the exhibition space like pilgrims. Movement is directed by thematically or historically clustered images and, at key intervals, strategically placed benches offer the possibility to pause and contemplate visual expressions as if venerating a scared object. Sculptures set upon plinths not only declare their importance through elevation but also act to control the directional flow of the public. Though the procession occurs in a civic space it stimulates the private realms of the senses and lays the groundwork for intellectual and aesthetic enlightenment through the logic of eliciting an untroubled, affirmative encounter. The impact of the experience is not only predicated on the ritualized time out of time aspect encouraged by the exhibition space but its function as

a neutral space is also reliant upon effacing the social and political striations existing beyond its walls. Arunkumar’s The Guardians and the Dark Field challenges the seamless

spaces of the gallery; it violates the assumed neutrality of the museum or gallery and challenges the seamless spaces of the gallery to articulate a deep fault line in the public perception of rural life. Set directly on the ground, the installation rejects the lofty heights of a plinth. It troubles the unproblematic viewing space of the gallery as its breadth and height obstruct potential passageways or ideal vantage points. In this way, the multi-panel screen demands active and physical confrontation. A visual engagement with the installation requires a deliberate and physical detour that reroutes the exhibition space.23 Traversing around the accordion-like structure reveals life-size photographs of a woman and three men counterpoised with three images of trees. The trees strike an interesting contrast to guardian-like figures that defiantly stand at the edge of the photographs. The figures may articulate a boundary line as they stand as sentinel-like allowing no trespass; however, the trees are ironically subject to progressive encroachment. Significantly, none of the trees stands in open fields. All are bounded by the advance of development; one offers shade to men at the edge of a rural road, another is juxtaposed with the rise of unwieldy urban housing and the third tree stands on a small atoll of earth, wretched and ruined in a sea of urban traffic. The physical restriction of the trees expresses their fragile existence and draws an analogous relationship to the increasing encroachments on rural life. The tacit tensions that exist between the productive margins of rural India and the consumptive urban centres are given palpable form in The Guardians and the Dark Field through printing of the photographs onto gamucha fabric. The individuals are recognizably intertwined with the weft and the weave of labour in a way that ruptures the transparency of the photographic image and asserts an indelible connection to life beyond the space of the museum. Arunkumar noted, ‘The strategy of the work (obviously) keeps the viewers in mind, mostly within a gallery situation. In my work, the gamucha material works as an agent or a mediator between the subject and the viewer. Gamucha is made of cotton and serves as a symbol for the deaths of many farmers, major economic activities and debates in India.’24 The placement of the life-size photographs into the delicately balanced screen emphasizes the tenuous position of the individuals (a literal or figurative misstep may topple the structure); however, the upright and vigilant stance of the figures articulates a physical presence that will not be easily expunged. The structure of the screen articulates a physical impasse but the act of circumambulation suggests that rural workers will not adjust to our expectations but we must adjust to theirs. In reading both Bhaskar’s Untitled I and Arunkumar’s The Guardians and the Dark Field as agonistic expressions, it is essential to clarify that their engagements articulate an adversarial position through their united refusal to represent labour.

The adversarial, according to Mouffe, is set apart from notions of antagonism. She notes that adversaries share a belief in the ‘democratic principles of “liberty and equality for all”, while disagreeing about their interpretation’.25 Mouffe maintains that an agonistic struggle is a confrontational struggle over interpretation; it is a strategy designed to change the perception of a particular issue. As agonistic expressions The Guardians and the Dark Field and Untitled I reveal the cracks in rural crisis by changing the affirmative role of the photograph as evidence of toil. Both artists play with representational expectations by casting rural workers not as casualties of a neoliberal system of exploitation but rather as decisive agents who rail against further intrusion. It is the postures of defiance rather than those of well-rehearsed defeat that potentially enable viewers to examine their perceptions of rural life and the accepted role of the farmer as a producer. India’s rural regions have passed through the tyrannies of feudalism and illfated state-sanctioned development. The question remains, how to fix it? How does one staunch the flow of people from rural areas into the cities? How does one revert back to the production of subsistence crop when the lucrative promises of cash crops like rubber and cotton are so enticing? How does one challenge the expectation that the rural labour is an unwavering constant? At the outset of this chapter I began with the words of Sainath to underscore how poverty in India is more widespread today than it was under colonial rule. His reference to the colonial moment is ironic, given that pre-independence catchwords like swaraj (self-rule) and swadeshi frequently punctuate the rhetoric of the current BJP government. The populist appeal of these terms suggests that government programmes aimed at developing local production or local initiatives are the way to rectify the rural crisis. In his first speech to parliament, Prime Minister Narendra Modi acknowledged the problems of unemployment, underemployment and urban migration in India by declaring, ‘no one will leave his village if it is provided 24 hours power, good education facilities and industry for employment’.26 However, these comments suggest that change is once again forged through a top-down, technocratic shift in policy rather than a change in perception. The historical efficacy of the Swadeshi movement was predicated on the cultivation of new ways of thinking about what was at stake in the economic relationship between the productive margins of peripheries and consumption patterns of the colonial centre. In advocating local production of commodities like salt or cloth, this anti-colonial movement embraced a self-determined oppositional stance that set the stage for future political independence. Modi’s declarations evince an ironic doublespeak that suggests that the survival of the nation is not wedded to the preservation of a self-sufficient rural way of life but industrializing it to maintain existing flows of capital. His words attest to the continued creep of neoliberalism and affirm that in moments of economic crisis, government response will always privilege ‘the integrity of the financial system over the well-being of the population or environmental quality’.27

I would like to bookend my analysis by briefly introducing Arunkumar’s Vulnerable Guardians (2015) and another photograph from Bhaskar’s Farm, Farmers, Workers series as they succinctly highlight the disconnect between policies levied from the centres of urban India and productive rural margins (Plates 5 and 6). Vulnerable Guardians, like Modi’s rehearsal of pre-independence slogans, repurposes the figures from The Guardians and the Dark Field; however, wooden slats recycled from shipping crates and palettes have replaced the Indiabound signifier of gamucha. Rural space is once again marked by the presence of figures; however, the wood, emblazoned with the marks of cargo transport, culminates in a towering cityscape that bears down on the rural workers. The visual gesture visually highlights the impasse that exists between the localities of production and consumption and whether this relationship is sustainable or serves the greater common good. Bhaskar’s Untitled II underscores what is at stake in another stated agenda of the current government and its bid to build tourist circuits in underdeveloped areas as a means of stimulating local economies.28 The colour photograph counters the spectacular presentations of rural India as a tourist destination and instead captures the trivialities everyday life in rural Tamil Nadu. A man sits on his haunches in the foreground and dispassionately stares out from the picture plane. His posture is not one of territorial defiance as we saw in earlier images but rather one of determined occupancy. The image arguably speaks of inalienable rights to the land and to a particular way of life and in keeping with the conceits of portraiture; the inclusion of the well-fed cow marks the man’s relative wealth and wellbeing. The coil of the rope further demonstrates the preciousness of the cow; however, if we trace its path out from the hands of the man we discover it is ironically not attached to the animal. The functional redundancy of the rope echoes the functional redundancy of government policy and points to unfathomable disconnect between the centrist policies and their application at the rural margins. Throughout this chapter I have suggested that the works of Bhaskar and Arunkumar strategically offer inroads into rethinking the role of the photograph as a site through which consensus or social solidarity may be galvanized towards social change and posited instead that an embrace of an agonistic position may offer critical representational strategies that rupture expectations about rural life and reverse the flow of ideas, policies and perceptions. Bhaskar and Arunkumar draw forth a series of questions that challenge accepted beliefs, and, while much greater consideration of this tactic is warranted, collectively the images discussed in this chapter function as ‘certificates of presence’ 29 in that they all bear a palpable relationship to economic reality, social space and operate from the base line of globalization. When viewed across the expanse of time they register the shifts precipitated by economic liberalization and, in taking heed of this historical frame, it might be productive to see Sainath’s endeavours as

a tactical opening salvo and the photographic engagements of Bhaskar and Arunkumar as interventions that open new lines of attack.

Notes 1 2

P. Sainath, ‘Lost the Compass?’ Outlook, 17 October 2005, assessed 19 June 2016, The use of votive pillars in India weaves through both Hindu and Buddhist traditions; however, I refer to those erected by Mauryan king Aśoka (272–231 BCE) and their function to visually mark out the precincts of his newly established Buddhist kingdom. John Irwin, ‘Aśokan Pillars: A Reassessment of the Evidence-II: Structure’, The Burlington Magazine 116 (1974): 712–727. For further reading on the political


uses of the pillar, see Finbarr B. Flood, ‘Pillars, Palimpsests, and Princely Practices: Translating the Past in Sultanate Delhi’, RES 43 (2003): 95–116. Sudipta Bhattacharyya, Mathew Abraham and Anthony D’Costa, ‘Political Economy of Agrarian Crisis and Slow Industrialisation in India’, Social Scientist 41, no. 11/12 (November–December 2013): 43–63. It is interesting to note that in 1940 Minocher Rustom Masani suggested that offering credit would eliminate the financial difficulties faced by many farmers. Our India (Bombay: Oxford University Press, 1940), 52.

Although this may have been a reasonable proposition in the pre-independence moment, a great number of recent suicides have been linked to the untenable debt accrued by famers as the result of micro-financing. See ‘Hundreds of Suicides in India Linked to Microfinance Organizations’, Business Insider (24 February 2012), assessed 1 June 2016,

-india-linked-to-microfinance-organizations-2012-2#ixzz3doFbsxd1. 4

‘Déjà vu of “Hunger Amidst Plenty”’, Economic and Political Weekly 41, no. 40 (7–13

October 2006): 4227–4228. Post-liberalization saw the withdrawal of subsidies to farmers and in an effort to bolster rural living standards many were encouraged to grow cash crops like cotton or rubber. Although there are a significant number of conflicting views on the impact of liberalization, globalization and the impact of biotechnology on agriculture in India, activist Vandana Shiva notes, ‘[A]griculture driven by multinational corporations is capital intensive and creates heavy debt for


the purchase of costly inputs such as seeds and agrochemicals.’ ‘Seeds of Suicide: The Ecological and Human Costs of the Globalization of Agriculture’, The Vandana Shiva Reader (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2014), 180. Writing in 2007, noted economist Usta Patnaik observes that food grains available per person in India had fallen to pre-independence levels. For more see ‘Neoliberalism and Rural Poverty in India’, Economic and Political Weekly 42, no. 30 (2007): 3132–3150. A number of push and pull factors influence migration; however, studies of the issue tend to be impressionistic rather than quantitative. Some have left rural areas for economic reasons; however, The Human Rights in India Status Report 2012 notes on page 7, ‘[L]arge infrastructure projects, including

dams, ports and mining, environmental conservation projects, and designation of large areas as tax-free Special Economic Zones (SEZs), have been responsible for the displacement of millions of rural families, most of whom have not received rehabilitation.’ The Human Rights in India Status Report 2012, assessed 26 June

6 7

2016, -Report-2012.pdf. For an impassioned discussion of the some of the root causes for migration to urban centres, see Arundhati Roy, The Greater Common Good (Mumbai: India Book Distributer, 1999). ‘Poverty, Development and the Press’, in Everybody Loves a Good Drought: Stories from India’s Poorest Districts (New Delhi: Penguin Books, 1998), KOBO edition. The Centre for Human Rights and Global Justice notes, ‘[I]t is estimated that more than a quarter of a million Indian farmers have committed suicide in the last 16 years – the largest wave of recorded suicides in human history. A great number of those

affected are cash crop farmers, and cotton farmers in particular. In 2009 alone, the most recent year for which official figures are available, 17,638 farmers committed suicide – that’s one farmer every 30 minutes.’ Every Thirty Minutes: Farmer Suicides, Human Rights, and the Agrarian Crisis in India (New York: NYU School of Law, 2011), 1, accessed 19 June 2016, Farmer-Suicides.pdf.


‘Reading an Archive: Photography between Labour and Capital’, The Photography Reader, ed. Liz Wells (London: Routledge, 2003), 451.

9 Sekula, ‘Reading an Archive’, 444. 10 Sainath is the founder-editor of the People’s Archive of Rural India, assessed 10 September 2016, 11 Prior to liberalization the development of the private sector was limited by a series of government-imposed regulations. For more see Sol W. Sanders, ‘India: Ending the Permit-license Raj’, Asian Affairs 5, no. 2 (1977): 88–96.

12 The Times of India reports were subsequently published in the anthology Everybody Loves a Good Drought: Stories from India’s Poorest Districts (New Delhi: Penguin Books, 1998).

13 See Pradip N. Thomas, Political Economy of Communications in India, the Good, the Bad and the Ugly (New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2010), 104.

14 Visible Work, Invisible Women, assessed 10 September 2016, https://

15 Visitors to Visible Work, Invisible Women section of the archive can opt to look at still photographs or a video in which Sainath acts as a docent, offering key contextual

information about his images taken between 1993 and 2002. 16 Chantal Mouffe, Agonistics: Thinking the World Politically (London: Verso, 2013), 202. 17 Ibid., 374. 18 This image was exhibited in Bhaskar’s Alive exhibition held at the Dalsland Art Museum, Sweden (7 June–27 July 2014). For more information see 22 KONST AKTUELLT DALSLAND (June 2014), accessed 2 August 2016. http://www -22-web.pdf. 19 Bhaskar lives and works in the region and the people who populate his images are his neighbours. 20 Binu Bhaskar, conversation with the author, 5 August 2016 Pondicherry.

21 Arunkumar’s photographs were taken on his family farm located in Sahyadri hills of Karnataka. Arunkumar has recently set up a grass roots initiative under the auspices of Sustainable Alternatives for Rural Accord (SARA) in Dombekoppa Village, Shimoga District, Karnataka. For more see

22 Carol Duncan, Civilizing Rituals: Inside Public Art Museums (New York: Routledge, 1995).

23 Included in the exhibition Reviving the Retinal, Gallery OED, Kochi India, March 2014, curated by Kathleen L. Wyma.

24 Arunkumar HG, email message to author, 14 July 2016. 25 Mouffe, Agonistics, 63. Mouffe further notes on page 159, ‘the aim of a counterhegemonic intervention is not to unveil “true reality” or “real interests”, but to rearticulate a given situation in a new configuration’.

26 Shweta Punj, ‘The New Face of Swadeshi’, Business Today, 6 July 2014, accessed 1 September 2016,

-modi-government-economic-policy-neo-swadeshinomics/story/207248.html. 27 David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism (London: Oxford University Press, 2005), 299. 28 President Pranab Mukherjee stated, ‘[T]he government will initiate a mission mode project to create 50 tourist circuits that are built around specific themes.’ Punj, ‘The New Face of Swadeshi’. 29 Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida (New York: Hill and Wang, 1980), 87.

Select Bibliography Barthes, Roland. Camera Lucida . New York: Hill and Wang, 1980. Bhattacharyya, Sudipta, Mathew Abraham and Anthony D’Costa. ‘Political Economy of Agrarian Crisis and Slow Industrialisation in India’. Social Scientist 41, no. 11/12

(November–December 2013): 43–63. ‘Déjà vu of “Hunger Amidst Plenty”’. Economic and Political Weekly 41, no. 40 (7–13 October 2006): 4227–4228. Duncan, Carol. Civilizing Rituals: Inside Public Art Museums. New York: Routledge, 1995. Flood, Finbarr, B. ‘Pillars, Palimpsests, and Princely Practices: Translating the Past in Sultanate Delhi’. RES 43 (2003): 95–116.

Harvey, David. A Brief History of Neoliberalism. London: Oxford University Press, 2005. ‘Hundreds of Suicides in India Linked to Microfinance Organizations’. Business Insider, 24 February 2012. Accessed 1 June 2016. http://www.businessinsider .com/hundreds-of-suicides-in-india-linked-to-microfinance-organizations-2012

-2#ixzz3doFbsxd1. Irwin, John. ‘Aśokan Pillars: A Reassessment of the Evidence-II: Structure’. The Burlington Magazine 116, no. 861 (1974): 712–727. Masani, Minocher Rustom. Our India. Bombay: Oxford University Press, 1940. Mouffe, Chantal. Agonistics: Thinking the World Politically. London: Verso, 2013. Patnaik, Usta. ‘Neoliberalism and Rural Poverty in India’. Economic and Political Weekly

42, no. 30 (2007): 3132–3150.

People’s Archive of Rural India. Accessed 10 September 2016. https://ruralindiaonline .org. Punj, Shweta. ‘The New Face of Swadeshi’. Business Today, 6 July 2014. Accessed 1 September 2016.

-modi-government-economic-policy-neo-swadeshinomics/story/207248.html. Roy, Arundhati. The Greater Common Good. Mumbai: India Book Distributer, 1999. Sainath, P. Everybody Loves a Good Drought: Stories from India’s Poorest Districts. New Delhi: Penguin Books, 1998. Sainath, P. ‘Lost the Compass?’ Outlook, 17 October 2005. Accessed 19 June 2016.

Sanders, Sol, W. ‘India: Ending the Permit-license Raj’. Asian Affairs 5, no. 2 (1977): 88–96. Sekula, Alan. ‘Reading an Archive: Photography between Labour and Capital’. The Photography Reader , edited by Liz Wells, 443–452. London: Routledge, 2003. Shiva, Vandana. The Vandana Shiva Reader . Lexington: University Press of Kentucky,

2014. The Centre for Human Rights and Global Justice. Every Thirty Minutes: Farmer Suicides, Human Rights, and the Agrarian Crisis in India. New York: NYU School of Law, 2011. Accessed 19 June 2016. r-Suicides.pdf. The Human Rights in India Status Report 2012. Accessed 26 June 2016. http://wghr



Global structural realities of tourism are deeply embedded in the modern nation-states that emerged during the late nineteenth and the early decades of twentieth century.1 Seminal works of Benedict Anderson2 and Homi K. Bhabha3 have established how nationalism and national identity are premised on the need for state making to go beyond political, geographical or economic practice(s) to include conceptions of statehood activated through ‘imaginary bonds’4 summoned in the public sphere. With the emergence of the world wide web and corresponding global flows of information, visual representation informs and qualifies such imaginary bonds in unprecedented ways. Travel and tourism, relying strongly on photographic imagery, performatively enact these bonds through authorizing visas and passports, referencing cartographic travel guides and using cultural capital5 in the form of traditions, heritage and landscape. When photographs promoting tourism are sponsored by the state, political discourse amalgamates with visual culture and market economy to play a subtle yet significant role in the reinforcing specific notions of state identity. Chhattisgarh, one of the youngest states in India, 6 rigorously invests in establishing its identity since its foundation in the year 2001.7 Establishing a thriving tourism industry is one of the recognized goals of the state development


authority. This chapter attempts to explore the efficacy of official tourism destination imagery employed in the promotional campaigns of the state – ‘Chhattisgarh: Full of Surprises’ and ‘Credible Chhattisgarh’ – in construing a ‘Chhattisgarhi’ identity and the ways in which it mobilizes imaginary bonds of statehood. This analysis is informed by Judith Butler’s proposal to thematize the photographic frame in ‘Photography, War, Outrage’, where she points at the potential of photographic accounts to be selective.8 That is, if the idea of Chhattisgarh is to be conveyed through a photograph, then what are the limits of such a photographic frame? Where are they located? And what lies beyond them? These are some of the questions which will be raised in the course of this chapter.

‘Chhattisgarh: Full of Surprises’ is a project launched with the formation of the Chhattisgarh Tourism Board (CTB) in 2002 as a part of the larger nationwide ‘Incredible India!’ tourism campaign managed and directed by the central government of India. The state understands the function of CTB as an instrument for socioeconomic development or nodal agency responsible for infrastructural and institutional development with a focus primarily on ecological, ethnographic, adventure and cultural tourism. The latter being especially pertinent to Chhattisgarh since nearly 45 percent of its territory is under forest cover and 32 percent of its population is tribal. The other campaign titled ‘Credible Chhattisgarh’ is a relatively newer campaign activated in the year 2011, produced by the current Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government as a specific invitation for foreign investment and also as a medium of relaying to the public at large, the developmental projects that have been initiated and are being run by the state. Posing as the credible state within an incredible India, ‘Credible Chhattisgarh’ is being promoted as the brand name of a state intent on projecting its image as ‘a dependable and reliable destination for trade and investment’.9 All projects related to development, marketing and investment are thus carried out under this avatar, ranging from global summits, international and national business fairs and similar organized events within the state/country. The two advertisement campaigns are channelled across all forms of media communication – using dynamic websites, television commercials, brochures, posters and giant hoardings which employ visual media so as to construct and promote appealing representations of the state. Situated on the Indian subcontinent’s oldest rock, the Gondwana formations, the state of Chhattisgarh is host to one of the richest mineral reserves in the country10; a metaphorical promised land for development projects in India. Negligence of the economic potential of the region’s natural resources, under the erstwhile Madhya Pradesh government, leading to an underdeveloped and economically disadvantaged indigenous population, was one of the


chief arguments pitched in support of separate statehood 11 for Chhattisgarh. What followed, post 2001, was enormous private and public investment in development projects coupled with extensive urbanization and industrialization, aiding high GDP indices and helping Chhattisgarh establish itself as the fastest growing state in India for seven consecutive years. However, the poverty-ridden predicament remains the same for almost 32 percent of the state population, which continues to live in forest areas, while massive deforestation and mining are having a direct effect on their livelihood. Maoist rebels, active in the region, hold the state responsible as a participant in the reckless plunder and exploitation of resources, land and its own people and often retaliate with acts of violence targeted against state machinery. While the conditions of civil war constantly brew in the rural and forest covered

areas of the state, the city centres in Chhattisgarh are seeking to transform into homogenized urban spaces12 with the typical characteristics of global urbanization projects. Actively engaged in what the state tourism website as of July 2016 identified as ‘aggressive marketing and promotion for comprehensive development’, the state is caught between the opposing pulls and demands of economic development and threats posed to the traditional, the ethnic and the local. On the homepage of the campaign website, a slideshow displays a photograph of the bucolic Chitrakote falls, hailed as the ‘Niagra Falls of India’, located in the Bastar district of Chhattisgarh. This image is quickly followed by another – one of an eight lane and beautifully lit highway at night, symbolically leading up to a distant horizon, trailed by an image of an under-construction dam, neatly tying up the narrative. Fittingly, the very concept of modernity in India invokes a hybrid phenomenon 13 that demands the preservation of its distinctive traditions and juxtaposes tradition with the modern to engender a paradoxical vision of an essentially modern-yet-traditional state. What emerges then is a conscious attempt by the state, in the form of a tremendous development drive and devising official policies, to maintain both a precarious balance between ‘preservation’ of local traditions, cultural values and infrastructure and an ongoing civil war, characterized by repression at the domestic level and a continuous flow of constructive news to the outside world. The two promotional campaigns ‘Credible Chhattisgarh’ and ‘Chhattisgarh: Full of Surprises’ – conceptualized by the state are thereby serving policy and commercial purposes in so far as they are competing with tourism markets elsewhere in the country and internationally. Thus, Chhattisgarh as a newly formed and conflict ridden state, engages in such policies of self-representation, at times to act as a counter-trope to the internal conflict and at times as an answer to the demands of modernity and state making itself. The campaigns are not just a medium to relay a specific account of

Chhattisgarh or mere invitations to the global tourist. Advertising photography, according to Malcolm Brand, not only informs the consumers of the choices

available to them in the market, as in this case informing potential tourists about travelling opportunities in Chhattisgarh, it also simultaneously engenders desire. It also invests products with what a Marxist perspective would describe as false meaning14 through concealment of the social relations that would have gone into the production of the image or the commodity. Glamorous and idealized travel imagery used in the campaigns thus creates a desire for a pastoral country experience in Chhattisgarh deftly glossing over the sociopolitical upheaval that pervades across regions of this tribal state. In keeping with Marshall McLuhan(1964) oracular pronouncement about the role of media technologies in the postmodern world, where he sees the medium and the message collapsing into one,15 the campaigns curate tourism as well as mediate reality in a glossy avatar. Just as an individual performs her identity,16 in a similar manner performativity is important for the state government as well. James Buzard in his exploration of tourism imagery in postwar Britain, draws this link between mediatized tourism campaigns and performance of identity by the state. According to Buzard, such a campaign makes meaning through multiple articulations; that is, through ‘the authoritative representation of “ourselves,” or “our” landscape, traditions and way of life’. 17 In a similar manner, the Chhattisgarh campaign by selectively featuring the state’s culture, traditions, people and natural landscapes, remakes ordinary places into extraordinary sites.

Mediatized destination imagery is constantly informing and shaping the experience of potential tourists even before they have embarked on their journey. Myths18 that are generated in this process are later carried on by the tourists. In establishing the relation between photography and commodity culture, Anandi Ramamurthy observes how ‘tourists, having already consumed an array of exotic and glamourized photographs of the place before arrival, search out these very images and sites to visit and photograph in order to feel that their trip is complete’.19 Photography in this way participates in the creation of social constructs through selectively featuring elements from culture and society, renovating the banal into cultural and social myths. This is a phenomenon described by John Urry, using the term ‘en-gaze-ment’ 20 – transformation of the immediate environment’s material reality into a cultural imaginary. It therefore becomes important to explore myths being propagated around Chhattisgarh, how they are being produced and the kinds of banal realities which are featured. Tourism destination imagery, along the lines of what is employed in the CTB campaigns, can be roughly classified into four categories: (a) Smiling portraits of locals in traditional, mostly tribal wear, (b) constructive engagement in industry and state building, (c) landscapes and cultural sites devoid of any people and finally, (d) rituals, fairs and festivals. Invariably, all of the Chhattisgarh ‘people’

represented in brochures and websites are tribal or rural. Individual portraits are restricted to coy women and smiling men in traditional or ‘tribal’ wear. Tribal costume – jewellery, headdress and clothing – is presented as markers of a distinctive exotic identity and therefore Other-ness. For the potential urban tourist, subjects adorned with tribal costumes and jewellery are a matter of curiosity and fascination; the same people dressed in modern clothes would not prove as intriguing. This fascination, lying at the heart of all tourist activity, arises from the inability to identify with the Other-ness of the costume and the culture it represents and the ensuing desire to ‘discover’ the same. It is not surprising that major tourist spots across the globe have a concept of a fancy-dress photo booth, where the tourist can try on/wear the ‘get-up’ of the locals and have their photographs taken. In this manner, the tourist claims herself to have not only travelled but been a Chhattisgarhi for the duration of her visit; abandoning the self and embracing new experiences and ways of life, all become part of the vacation experience. The photographs initiating this particular set of imagery thus become a conscious choice obfuscating the urban, modern side of contemporary lifestyle. According to Anandi Ramamurthy, the tourist photo-booth parallels the earlier studio-anthropological photography. Inside this studio, the tourist participates in further consolidating an image of the state and its people. While the studio space in contemporary visual culture has often been equated with the Bakthinian carnivalesque21 – a site where ‘play’ and fantasy come into work and fixed identities and notions of the self are challenged and subverted, 22 it is interesting to note that the agency to participate in the carnivalesque and subvert identities remains with the tourist. The local emerges as a generic type on whose Other-ness the subversion is temporarily projected. For Ramamurthy, the purpose of these images ‘is not to encourage an understanding of a culture, but rather to commodify and consume yet another aspect of a place through the photographic image – the people’.23 Apart from the identifiably ‘tribal’ clothing, another recurring motif in the

images of the ‘people’ is their absorption at work and conspicuous aversion to the camera’s gaze. Helen Wilkinson talks of the importance of such naturalism in commercial photography24 in relation to a 1930s Horlicks advertisement. According to Wilkinson, naturalism is deliberately played upon in order for the photographs to be construed as reflective of reality and thus rendering veracity to the images. In one of the images, for example, the potter is seen busy at his wheel, the image showcasing the vitality of the movement of the wheel and his sincere engagement with the task at hand. The keen ‘absorption’ 25 of locals in their work and refusal to meet the spectator’s eyes puts on display a people who are unaware of the camera’s presence and are far more focused on activities which are always concerned with production. Material production, especially of art and craft objects that are unique signifiers of the state’s rich traditional heritage and also valuable import goods, contributes

to the process of state making and is crucial in delineating its cultural identity. The imagery, therefore, deliberately misrepresents an arguably disaffected population, dissimulating their subjugation, particularly during times of conflict. Instead, the photographs choose to portray its people as dexterous, steadfast, industrious and productive; committed to the notions of state building and eager to contribute to the process. Supplementing this imagery of a harmonized local population is the inviting

imagery of tourist landscapes, absolutely devoid of human presence, which ideally appeals to the viewer’s sense of discovery and conquest. M. Hummon remarks in regard to such images: ‘nature landscapes are frequently unpopulated as a means of symbolically distancing the state from the urban civilization of daily life’.26 Erik Cohen establishes how ‘unspoilt’, ‘primitive’ and ‘remote’ are used almost universally as markers of desirability.27 The tourist is encouraged to imagine herself as an explorer who will ‘discover’ untouched and unpeopled reaches of the state. The metaphor of discovery overflows in the imagery and informs all instances in the campaign. These themes are further accentuated with slogans such as ‘I discover(ed)’ used on the posters.28 These invite the well-to-do, eager-to-explore urban family to engage in a cultural exchange that simultaneously offers the discovery of a geographical space, an ancient culture and the discovery of the self. The cultural and geographical experience thus is made to appear as necessarily the experience of the Other, invoking the city and the pastoral dichotomy, wherein the pastoral signifies the utopian world of selfrealizations and discovery. The CTB poster, for example, establishes a trajectory of discoveries crosscutting the public experience of the tourist and the private encounters of the ‘I’ with his wife. The heterosexual male narrative identifies itself through subsequent domestication of wilderness through discovering, that is ‘knowing’, the characteristics of wild animals – the leopard, the Bastar mynah – and the female body alike. It thus codifies the rural and exotic as feminine and tourism as a masculine activity establishing a power relation between the two. Such a process of knowledge production (based on difference) through appropriating spaces to project-specific identities emerges, according to Edward Said,29 from a colonial ideology of subjugation through narrativization. Consistently, such a process causes the site itself to lose its own specificity gaining meaning only through interpretation by and as an Other. The official tourism campaign, as a result, generates a symbolic narrative for the state which neatly dissociates the site of production of cultural values from its consumption. Further, Jean Baudrillard theorizes absence itself as a form of violence.30 The strategic absence of inhabitants from crucial sites renders these spaces divorced from the history of its people, hinting at an erasure of crucial narratives that would have been capable of nuancing the emergent idea of the state. Stuart Hall, in his encoding/decoding model of communication31 proposes three possible readings of an image: a preferred reading, a negotiated reading, and an oppositional

reading. I carry an oppositional reading of these images of hauntingly deserted landscapes, in accordance with Hall’s argument, which provoke the viewer to acknowledge the conflict that unfolds in such locations every day. Then, there are images of rituals and festivals which complete my typology of the culturally rich tourist destination, offering a comprehensive experience of nature and culture. Significant dates in the local calendar are turned into glamorous events that are tracked, followed and attended by tourists from distant locations, generating a spectacle. The extant ‘Punni Mela’, for example, which used to cater to pilgrims on foot on their way to important religious sites in the northern part of the country, has been reinvigorated as the ‘fifth’ Kumbha at Rajim (a town fifty kilometres from Raipur) in recent years. The ‘Rajim Mela’, as it has been rechristened, has developed into a major cultural attraction and an annual event owing to huge investments by the state government. Such events help in addressing the new state’s needs to be modern and yet embedded within tradition. While the development projects urbanize the state with high-tech hubs in its capital, fairs and festivals are reinstalled in order to preserve the culture and traditions, which are perceived as threatened by the economic drive. The photographs used in the tourism imagery further metaphors of preservation of culture through their propensity to archive memories and the readiness of such an archive to be reproduced in easily accessible and manageable digital forms. Specific cultural events and practices are captured and preserved in photographic form and mediated across various platforms. As these photographs, denoting the peculiar, the ‘authentic’ and the primitively tribal travel across the world, they summon the curious tourist to look for exactly such mythical experiences, reducing social practices to mythologies and culture to an audience oriented staged experience. What results is a selective process where multifaceted expressions of culture, history and social forms are turned into identifiable and consumable icons32 in the form of photographs, tending towards trivialization and essentialism.33

The state narrative, however, is only one of the many narratives that tend to reflect the idea of Chhattisgarh. If the postmodern critique of metanarratives34 has led to anything, it is to being wary of concepts like nationalism and state identity and any sense of the homogeneity that they seek to induce in the public imagination. For Stuart Hall, pursuing alternative narratives marks the emergence of a democratic trend against hegemonic national (and subnational) identities. 35 Engagement with ‘new subjects, new genders, new ethnicities, new regions, new communities’, has given previously invisible groups ‘the means to speak for themselves for the first time’.36 Hall’s insights help construct the ground for further contextualizing the state-sponsored destination imagery through engaging with

independent photojournalist projects that cover the Maoist-State-Tribal conflict in Chhattisgarh. The project titled ‘The Other Modernity’ by photographer Sanjit Das presents

the other side of the state making project of Chhattisgarh. Das travels to areas affected by the insurgency and captures the lives of people who live amidst the conflict in a geographical space which is simultaneously a jungle, war zone and host to the wealthiest iron ore and coal deposits in the country. The project looks at five major themes which characterize the daily encounters of the tribal people of Chhattisgarh – Poverty and Structural Violence, Industrial Encroachment, The Tribal Question, Sanctuary & the Limits of the Government and Police Repression.37 The project insightfully treats the tribal predicament as a form of modernity instead of being an outcome or the lack of it. Das points out: This is not a story about the struggle of backward people to achieve modernity or development. The experiences of rural India are already acutely modern, since the structural violence they face is a direct result of the policies and practices developed by India’s elite. This ‘Other Modernity’ carries warnings of still-greater violence as India’s resources are stretched to breaking point.38 Das’s project presents a very stark and pertinent contrast to the images used by the Chhattisgarh Tourism Board. It creates a dialectic that complicates the simplistic projection of spaces and people of the state as a collective. The photographs are powerful statements clearly articulating the inadequacy and abject marginalization with which the people in tribal regions lead their life. A man glares directly into the camera 39 with deploring eyes, while in the background piled-up logs of wood hint at the deforestation and illegal trade of wood that is rampant in the region. The absorption of the docile citizen present in the Chhattisgarh Tourism Board photographs is dramatically deflated. In another photograph in the collection, a woman in tattered clothes sits on the floor grinding barley, while a toddler stands next to her naked. The image reflects the material deprivation that the family is subjected to. These people are not smiling, neither do they seem satisfied. The woman’s aversion to the camera’s gaze is motivated by disinterest and dejection as opposed to strategic absorption. Next, the caption of a photograph of a deserted hut from a Maoist affected area informs us that ongoing strife forced the occupants of the house to flee the village. The image contrasts with the aesthetics of the deserted monuments and temples as featured in the media campaign. The photographic narratives attempt to expose the pretence of the state narratives as ‘incredible’ or sustainably developed by displaying what remains neglected or ‘unseen’ through the state’s lens. In a photo-essay compiled for the Caravan magazine, Harikrishna Katragadda creates a similar effect. His photographs document life at the Chhattisgarh

Counter-Terrorism and Jungle Warfare (CTJW) College in Kanker district, a government-established institute meant to train police personnel and locals alike, to combat the increased presence of Naxalites in the region. Such is the success of the training programme that surrounding states, especially within the Red Corridor of the country, have started training their police forces here and the government plans to open another such college within the state. A soldier stands in the front overlooking the training grounds as the words - ‘fight the guerrilla, like a guerrilla’ are painted in the backdrop, in one of the images (Plates 7 and 8). The picture underscores the militarization of the state and the deepening polarity of allegiances that already haunts the people living in conflict zones. One either enrols in such colleges offering ‘self-defence’ training against the threat that Naxalites pose or comes across as a supporter of their outfits. The images display training activity in a detached manner, reflecting on the normalization of violence in lives of people. The nonchalance of the imagery almost settles war and conflict as banal activities of everyday life. Compared to the imagery discussed in the previous section, the image of Chhattisgarh that emerges from such projects punctures the rhetoric of the state-sponsored campaigns as ‘incredible’ or sustainably developed. The limits of the photographic frame of destination tourism imagery in ‘Credible Chhattisgarh’ are thrown into sharp relief.

What happens, though, when the invisible is made visible through such contrasting narratives as freelance photography projects in Chhattisgarh? Instrumentalized in the state narrative, the local population of Chhattisgarh is once again subjected to interpretation and selective representation from the standpoint of an outsider, in this case the photojournalist. Determined to expose ‘reality’ while at the same time produce captivating and unforeseen images of such a ‘reality’, the photojournalist’s predilection for the aesthetic resounds the concerns raised by Butler in the introduction of this chapter; the penchant to be selective and the potential to manipulate present therein. By virtue of the endorsements they carry, on the one hand, the tourism destination imagery focuses on uplifting, positive and inviting aspects of the state. On the other hand, photojournalistic images of Chhattisgarh have the potential to bring out the conflicted, the ‘neglected’ and also the dramatic that stimulates the viewer, in its attempt to duly fulfil the generic expectations from independent journalistic photography – which could tend to thrive on conflict and furthers it in the form of a spectacle40 for public consumption. As the dispute between tradition and development and the state and the tribal is sought to be resolved using media technologies and (visual) cultural policies, violence of oppression and of revolt against the repression, are all subsumed within mediatized images. When juxtaposed together, the narrative

that emerges to inform the identity of Chhattisgarh in the popular imagination is what Boris Groys terms the ‘paradox-object’,41 where one image can be rid of only by being replaced by another image – that is, the image of the critique of an image.42 The idea of Chhattisgarh that emerges from this paradox is at times that of a homogenous picturesque state which appears to be excelling at global and national development indices, populated with a constructive mass of dedicated Chhattisgarhi citizens; by contrast, at other times, it is a state reeling under conflict and systemic exploitation of its own people, land and resources. Both the Chhattisgarhs (amongst several others) simultaneously exist as photographic images in a spiral of representations within this paradox and they exist because of each other – each image presented as a critique or a foil to the other. To come back to the question raised at the beginning of this chapter – seemingly

what lies beyond the photographic frame of the tourist destination imagery of Chhattisgarh, are other photographs in a complex montage that constructs a paradoxical state narrative reflective of an ironical modernity. In the process of state making, aspects of a cultural and leisure-based practice like tourism are mythologized and transformed into extraordinary spectacles. Photography plays a crucial role in the production of this spectacle through visualizing these myths and influencing public imagination. ‘Credible Chhattisgarh’ thus evolves from being a tourism market strategy to a particular brand of state identity, exhibiting the nexus of photography, identity and state formation in affecting sociopolitical discourse.

Notes 1

Melanie K. Smith and Mike Robinson, Cultural Tourism in a Changing World: Politics, Participation and (Re)presentation (Clevedon, UK: Channel View Publications, 2006),

2. 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Ibid., 4–5.

See Homi Bhabha, Nation and Narration (London: Routledge, 1990). See Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (New York: Verso, 1991). Smith and Robinson. Cultural Tourism in a Changing World, 3–4. Under the Madhya Pradesh Reorganization Act, 2001. Second only to Telangana which was formed in the year 2014. Judith Butler, ‘War, Photography, Outrage’, PMLA 120, no. 3 (2005): 822–827.

Debiprasad Nayak, ‘Come to Credible Chhattisgarh, State Says’, The Wall Street Journal, November 2010.

-credible-chattisgarh-state-says/. 10 Source: ‘2014 Regional Competitiveness Analysis and a Master Plan on Regional Development Strategies in India’. World Scientific Publishing Co. Ltd, 2014.

11 Pradeep Kumar, ‘Demand for New States: Cultural Identity Loses Ground to Urge for Development’, Economic and Political Weekly 35, no. 35/36 (2000): 3080. 12 Taking cue from an understanding that all urban development projects seek to construct globally homogenous spaces best described by the example of airports and shopping malls, which irrespective of the city appear similar from inside. 13 Arjun Appadurai, ‘Architecture and Amnesia in Indian Modernity’, paper presented at the Global Cities Conference at Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Göttingen, Germany, 9–12 August 2009. 14 Raymond Williams, ‘Advertising the Magic System’, in Problems in Materialism and Culture (London: Verso, 1980), 322. 15 The same argument is later vouched for by Jean Buadrillard. 16 Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New York: Routledge, 2006), 25. 17 J. Buzard. ‘Culture for Export: Tourism and Autoethnography in Postwar Britain’, in Being Elsewhere: Tourism, Consumer Culture, and Identity in Modern Europe and North America, ed. Shelly Baranowski et al. (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2001), 301–303. 18 Ibid., 302. 19 Anandi Ramamurthy, ‘Spectacles and Illusions: Photography and Commodity Culture’, in Photography: A Critical Introduction, 3rd edn, ed. Liz Wells (London: Routledge, 2004), 207. 20 See John Urry, The Tourist Gaze (London: Sage, 1990). For Urry, the interest of the tourist to travel faraway lands to witness the mundane rituals of daily life are motivated by the tourist imagery. The tourist travels the distance to take a similar

21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28

photograph at the location, limiting her engagement to the photographic image instead of the tourist location. Refer to Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1941). See Christopher Pinney, Photos of the Gods’: The Printed Image and Political Struggle in India (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004) and Arjun Appadurai, ‘The Colonial Backdrop’, Afterimage 24, no. 5 (1997): 4. Ramamurthy, ‘Spectacles and Illusions’, 224. Helen Wilkinson, ‘“The New Heraldry”: Stock Photography, Visual Literacy, and Advertising in 1930s Britain’, Journal of Design History (1997): 24–26. Lisa Vergara, ‘Perspective on Women in the Art of Vermeer’, in The Cambridge Companion to Vermeer, ed. Wayne Franits (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 54. D.M. Hummon, ‘Tourist Worlds: Tourist Advertising, Ritual, and American Culture’, The Sociological Quarterly 29 (1988): 183. Erik Cohen, ‘Primitive and Remote – Hill Tribe Trekking in Thailand’, Annals of Tourism Research 16, no. 2 (1989): 45. Roland Barthes, ‘Rhetoric of the Image’, in Image, Music, Text, trans. Stephen Heath (New York: Hill and Wang, 1977), 31. Barthes terms such text, which acts as a link between the image and its contexts, as ‘the anchorage’. It is used to control

29 30 31 32 33

the reader’s interpretation of pictures. In case multiple interpretations are possible, the anchorage brings the reader to the intended interpretation discarding other possible options. Refer to Edward W. Said, Orientalism (New York: Pantheon Books, 1978). Jean Baudrillard, ‘The Violence of the Image’, lecture presented at European Graduate School, EGS Media and Communication Program Studies Department, Saas-Fee, Switzerland, 2004. Stuart Hall, ‘Culture, Community and Nation’, in Representing the Nation: A Reader, ed. David Boswell et al. (London and New York: Routledge, 1999), 36. Brian Human, ‘Kodachrome Icons: Photography, Place and the Theft of Identity’, International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management 11, no. 2/3 (1999): 80–82. James Clifford, ‘On Collecting Art and Culture’, in The Predicament of Culture, ed. James Clifford (Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press, 1988), 218. Invoking Clifford’s concept of ‘metonymic freezing’, where culture seems to freeze in a limited frame in destination imagery.

34 See Jean-François Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, trans. Geoff Bennington et al. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984).

35 Hall, ‘Culture, Community and Nation’, 36–37. 36 Ibid., 42. 37 ‘The Other Modernity’, last accessed 10 August 2016. longterm_projects/the_other_modernity/modernity_title.html/. 38 Ibid. 39 Ibid., see figure. 40 Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle (New York: Zone, 1994), 3–14. 41 See Boris Groys, Art Power (MIT Press, 2008), 8. 42 Ibid., 8–9.

Select Bibliography Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. New York: Verso, 1991. Appadurai, Arjun. ‘Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy’. Theory, Culture & Society 7, no.2 (1990): 295–310.

Appadurai, Arjun. ‘Architecture and Amnesia in Indian Modernity’. Paper presented at the Global Cities Conference at Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Göttingen, Germany, 9–12 August 2009. Appadurai, Arjun. ‘The Colonial Backdrop’. Afterimage 24, no. 5 (1997): 4–7. Bakhtin, Mikhail. Rabelais and His World. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1941. Barthes, Roland. ‘Rhetoric of the Image’. In Image, Music, Text. Translated by Stephen

Heath, 32–51. New York: Hill and Wang, 1977. Baudrillard, Jean. ‘The Violence of the Image’. Lecture presented at European Graduate School, EGS Media and Communication Program Studies Department, Saas-Fee, Switzerland, 2004.

Baudrillard, Jean. Simulacra and Simulation. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994. Benjamin, Walter. ‘Little History of Photography’. Selected Writings 2, no. Part 2 (1999): 1931–1934. Bhabha, Homi. Nation and Narration. London: Routledge, 1990. Bordo, Susan. ‘Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body’. Bulletin of the History of Medicine 68, no. 4 (1994): 754–758. Butler, Judith. ‘War, Photography, Outrage’. PMLA 120, no. 3 (2005): 822–827.

Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity . New York: Routledge, 2006. Buzard, J. ‘Culture for Export: Tourism and Autoethnography in Postwar Britain’. In Being Elsewhere: Tourism, Consumer Culture, and Identity in Modern Europe and North America, edited by Shelly Baranowski and Ellen Furlough, 299–319. Ann Arbor:

University of Michigan Press, 2001. Chhattisgarh Tourism Board. Official Website of Chhattisgarh Tourism Board. Last modified: 7 July 2012. Clifford, James. ‘On Collecting Art and Culture’. In The Predicament of Culture, edited by James Clifford, 215–229. Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press,

1988. Cohen, Erik. ‘Primitive and Remote – Hill Tribe Trekking in Thailand’. Annals of Tourism Research 16, no. 2 (1989): 30–61. Das, Sanjit. ‘The Other Modernity’. Last modified: 10 August 2016. http://www.sanjitdas .com/longterm_projects/the_other_modernity/modernity_title.html. Debord, Guy. The Society of the Spectacle . New York: Zone, 1994. Groys, Boris. Art Power. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008.

Hall, Stuart. ‘Culture, Community and Nation’. In Representing the Nation: A Reader , edited by David Boswell and Jessica Evans. London and New York: Routledge, 1999. Human, Brian. ‘Kodachrome Icons: Photography, Place and the Theft of Identity’. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management 11, no. 2/3 (1999):

80–84. Hummon, D.M. ‘Tourist Worlds: Tourist Advertising, Ritual, and American Culture’. The Sociological Quarterly 29 (1988): 179–202. Katragadda, Harikrishna. ‘Guerrillas in the Mist’. In The Caravan. Last modified: 27 Jul. 2013. Kumar, Pradeep. ‘Demand for New States: Cultural Identity Loses Ground to Urge for Development’. Economic and Political Weekly 35, no. 35/36 (2000): 3078–3082.

Lyotard, Jean-François. The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. Translated by Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984. McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding Media: The Extension of Man . New York: New

American Library, 1964. Miles, Malcolm. Cities and Cultures. London: Routledge, 2007. Nayak, Debiprasad. ‘Come to “Credible Chhattisgarh”, State Says’. The Wall Street Journal, November 2010. Pinney, Christopher. Photos of the Gods’: The Printed Image and Political Struggle in India. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Ramamurthy, Anandi. ‘Spectacles and Illusions: Photography and Commodity Culture’. In Photography: A Critical Introduction, 3rd edn, edited by Liz Wells, 205–256. London: Routledge, 2004.

Richards, Thomas. Commodity Culture in Victorian Britain. London: Verso, 1990. Said, Edward W. Orientalism. New York: Pantheon Books, 1978. Smith, Melanie K. and Mike Robinson. Cultural Tourism in a Changing World: Politics, Participation and (Re)presentation. Clevedon, UK: Channel View Publications, 2006.

Urry, John. The Tourist Gaze, London: Sage, 1990. Vergara, Lisa. ‘Perspective on Women in the Art of Vermeer’. The Cambridge Companion to Vermeer, edited by Wayne Franits, 54–55. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. Wilkinson, Helen. ‘“The New Heraldry”: Stock Photography, Visual Literacy, and Advertising in 1930s Britain’. Journal of Design History 10, no. 1 (1997): 23–38.

Williams, Raymond. ‘Advertising the Magic System’. In Problems in Materialism and Culture, 320–336. London: Verso, 1980.


Introduction In February 2002, I was a fourteen-year-old; overjoyed at the unexpected holiday our schools gave us for almost ten days. The schools shut down because the city of Ahmedabad and other parts of the state of Gujarat were under curfew. Much later, I discovered that the city had been burning. Rioting mobs had vented themselves so much that it became one of the worst communal riots in the history of India, claiming lives and livelihoods of thousands of (primarily) Muslims. The area we lived in was deemed ‘safe’ because it was a Hindu area. My parents were proud and relieved by a strange sense of security that we were living among ‘our own’. Barring these scraps of information, the rest of that time period remains a blur. This issue of security became a matter of greater pride as communal

tensions and resulting segregation grew in the state. The violence remained unacknowledged in school or at home. When I returned to my all-Hindu school after the ‘holidays’, it was back to business as usual. The normalcy was bizarre and alienated us from the immediate violence and atrocities the city had witnessed. Ever since, my failure to instantly recognize, even as a teenager, the dehumanizing violence that had unfolded in 2002 has haunted me. How was the scale and nature of the violence so carefully hidden in plain sight? These riots had cracked Gujarat’s social fabric by alienating, ghettoizing the Muslim community in the state. Cut off from the news, since our parents who had made up their minds that

the reality was too grim for our young minds, imagination ran wild and free. My young mind could only imagine Bollywood-esque scenes of people in open cars


with guns blazing around the city, screaming on top their voices with no reference to death, pain or suffering of the most horrific kind. A decade later when I started scratching the calm surface, looking for traces of riots, my immediate family and friends acted as if nothing had happened. I visited residential and commercial areas where mass killings had occurred only to find that these places had been taken over by the majority Hindu population, previous inhabitants discarded and erased from its history. Where were the traces of this violence that had left these invisible scars, that even a decade later, eluded me? The only mark, I can suppose, was the complete absence of it. The quest to look through photographs began here. It was an attempt to piece together a past that I lived through but also drove past. I started looking through photographs in the press, retracing steps I had, apparently, taken through history while sleepwalking. Images that my mind had created back then were replaced by those of charred and abandoned bodies piled up on each other; dead children; trails of blood; people in agony; burning of a train, houses, and almost the entire old city of Ahmedabad. But two images surfaced repeatedly: one of a supposed perpetrator shouting in front of the camera with an iron rod in his hands, with a backdrop of fire and smoke and another of a tearful man desperately pleading for his life. These were the alleged faces of the Gujarat 2002 riots, of grief and triumph, representing extremes of human conditions. This chapter follows the life and afterlife of these two photographs, and the subjects of these images, the almost epithets for the riots. The chapter aims to rethink the experience of trauma and its connection to photography, the photographer and its viewer. Journalism and documentary photography have often made claims of representing reality by preserving historicity in the form of a frozen moment. However, the experience of trauma is not really frozen in time, and neither are the images of trauma. They surface repeatedly and bring up new, agonizing memories and feelings. Ulrich Baer describes trauma as ‘the puzzlingly accurate imprinting on the mind of an overwhelming reality, an event that results in a deformation of memory yet cannot be attributed solely to the content of an occurrence or to the subject’s predisposition to such mnemonic derailment’.1 In this essay, I argue that photographs of trauma can give rise to new traumatic experiences and, thus, may expose its subjects to a completely unimagined and unintended future. Central to this is the idea that the nature of trauma extends to the nature of photography of trauma and bypasses decisiveness, isolated moments, intention of the author, its claim to reality or even certain aesthetics. Photography presents possibilities of bringing a whole new set of experiences and readings of an event, not necessarily embedded in the event itself. A photograph is not an object in a decisive grasp of history, time and space but is ‘radically exposed to a future unknown to its subjects’.2 This essay also struggles with the question: does atrocity cease to exist once

all the evident traces of violence have left the frame of the camera? Can atrocity


be represented only through certain tropes such as evidence of blood, tears, rage and fire or are there other ways of engaging with narratives of trauma and people beyond these conventions and singular ways of seeing? In this context, the essay further examines two bodies of photographic works, made ten years after the riots to further contextualize photographer’s positioning in creating narratives of trauma. Paul Lowe in reading Hannah Arendt’s Banality of Evil says that the spaces in which atrocities take place are often nondescript, everyday and banal.3 Ram Rahman’s Untitled work on riots survivors and my own work, Silenced Ruptures, attempt to represent these atrocities of everyday post-riot life by actively engaging in a conversation with survivors.

Faces of 2002 Gujarat riots Qutubuddin Ansari, a tailor by profession, once recounted how his seven-yearold daughter’s schoolmates would perpetually ask: ‘Why do we always see your father crying?’4 The seemingly benign question became Ansari’s reality when Arko Datta, an esteemed photojournalist with Reuters, captured an image of him pleading for his life. The image is made iconic by what we don’t see, that which prompted Ansari to breakdown, wearing a blood-speckled shirt. Ansari survived the riots but not the image of him begging for his life. In the coming years, it became impossible to visually separate memories of the 2002 riots from Ansari’s moment of desperation; every news piece – print or videocarried the image. BBC correspondent Soutik Biswas writes, ‘Over the next few years, Mr Ansari lost half-a-dozen jobs as people recognized him and journalists hounded him relentlessly. Political parties used the picture to woo Muslim votes. A group blamed for dozens of bomb attacks across India used the picture in an e-mail claiming to have carried out an attack. Muslim organizations freely put out adverts using the picture.’5 One of the most shocking moments for Ansari was when Indian Mujahidin used his photograph during 2008 Delhi blasts implying that the act was to avenge the 2002 Gujarat riots. The photograph transcended the original event of trauma and added new layers to the experience, leaving Ansari scarred for years to come. Haunted by his own photograph, Ansari took refuge in Calcutta, a city far from his home in the winding streets of Ahmedabad. Fourteen years later, Ansari is still unable to escape the label of being the ‘face of riots’. Recently, he returned to his homeland to fight legal cases to prevent the misuse of his photograph (Plate 9). Originally, the photograph was carried with a caption: ‘An Indian Muslim

stranded in the first floor of his house, along with a few other Muslims and surrounded by a Hindu mob begs to the Rapid Action Force (Indian paramilitary) personnel to rescue him at Sone-ki-Chal in Ahmedabad, March 01, 2002.’ The closely cropped image foregrounded Ansari’s narrative beyond facts the

caption suggests. Even though it tries to reinforce the supposed objectivity of the photograph, the image has a life of its own now. In case of Ansari’s photograph, the image gained newer meanings after it was released through various appropriations, as did Ansari. It is important to think about nature of photography, not in the narrow sense of its popularity to document reality, but in its unbound capacity to create forever-evolving fictions. It is this web of fictions that constructs our understanding of reality. As Žižek point out, ‘What a cynic who “believes only his eyes” misses is the efficiency of the symbolic fiction, the way this fiction structures our experience of reality.’6 In an interview with Deepal Trivedi of Mumbai Mirror, Ansari said, ‘I wish I had died in 2002 because I am not able to answer my children when they ask me “Papa, every time we saw [sic] your picture, why are [sic] you crying and begging”?’7 The photograph that supposedly saved him, made him wish for death. The popular story is when the police stopped to rescue these men including Ansari, the press photographer Datta was travelling with the RAF (Rapid Action Force – Indian paramilitary). Without the media presence, the RAF was likely to have not stopped to save them, earning Datta the title of a saviour. Many photographers and journalists as they yield the power of a camera, assume by photographing any conflict, the work automatically goes in the realm of anti-conflict and outside the ‘machinery’ of war.8 Conflict not only creates photographable bodies but also makes it impossible to restore their privacy. Martha Rosler says, ‘It is easy to understand why what has ceased to be news becomes testimonial to the bearer of the news. Documentary testifies, finally, to the bravery or (dare we name it?) the manipulativeness and savvy of the photographer, who entered a situation of physical danger, social restrictedness, human decay, or combinations of these and saved us the trouble.’9 Although, Datta as a photographer never claimed to be a saviour, he was awarded the label the same way Ansari was awarded his; the camera that granted it also took away the condition of being safe. Some of the biggest awards in photography cater to photojournalism and social documentary practices and reduces the horror of the content to its aesthetic quality. I am not suggesting that aesthetics are in opposition to the political or that aesthetics undermines the political. However, in photo awards, the aesthetics seem to gain greater emphasis. Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin write on their experience of being on jury panel at the World Press Photo: As we progressed the long serving secretary and master of ceremonies, Stephen Mayes, announced in dry tones the result of each round of votes, a stream of INS and OUTS, occasionally elaborating, ‘birds of paradise IN, snakes OUT, suicide bomb IN, dead children OUT, women with acid burns IN, Chairman Mao impersonator OUT, Guantanámo Bay detainee IN, sumo wrestlers OUT...' At times this feels obscene. We are asked to judge whether

for example a photograph of a child suffocating to death in a mudslide is sufficiently beautiful to win a prize. On this occasion it seems not’.10 Newspapers are not the only framework that informs photojournalism of its functions, viewership and ethics. Contextualized in different settings, images call for different reactions from the viewer – often turning the viewer into a voyeur or a passive consumer without ‘feeling implicated or responsible for what we are seeing’.11 The photographer, the viewer or apparatuses like award functions are not detached from what constitutes and produces atrocities. Ariella Azoulay in the essay ‘The Execution Portrait’ says: Picturing atrocity, then, is not an activity external and subsequent to the horror itself, restricted to photographers, journalists, researchers or various human rights agents and organizations who take it upon themselves as part of their moral or civil duty. It is rather an activity that takes place as part of the atrocity and of the conditions that enable its appearance, its very being.12 Ansari was not only a victim of the riots; he was also a victim of a camera. We cannot only look at photography as an object that fills gaps in historical narratives of violence or trauma. It transcends these historical contexts, since a photograph is always open to finding new meanings in future that may not be intended or be contained in one history. Many historical and political contexts affect a photograph and its meanings. Baer says, ‘I therefore close my discussion of the affinities between photography and trauma by insisting that they both mark crises not of truth but of reference. The images considered open questions not about their facticity but about the ways in which some events attain full meaning only in retrospect – or to use the Freudian term, nachträglich, or belatedly – and how this belated registration may facilitate or block remembering or forgetting.’13 Sebastian D’Souza took the other equally iconic image from the time. In the photograph, we see a man holding an iron rod with a saffron band around his head, uninhibitedly yelling in front of the camera with a backdrop of arson and violence. The photograph came to represent the ‘perpetrators’ of violence. This man was later identified as Ashok Parmar, a cobbler by profession (Plate 10). The story of how the image came to be is controversial. Parmar in his meeting

with the activist Harsh Mander claimed that he had posed for this image on D’Souza’s request,14 while D’Souza, in an interview with the Hindustan Times journalist Indrajit Hazra, claimed that the photograph wasn’t posed. The photographer emphasized that he had a telephoto lens on him and had shot the image from a long distance without having ever spoken to the man in the

image.15 War photographers are often accused of getting their subjects pose for an image. For years, Parmar’s image has visually represented the other side of the Gujarat riots. If journalism can claim truth and objectivity by creating an opposition between posed and candid images, then this photograph remains in a liminal space. Photographic fiction is so close to reality that there is no way to visually determine the ‘truth’. Talking about documentary fictions, Joan Fontcuberta says that it is not about truth or falsity but ‘our capacity to believe, our ability to accept a proposition we believe to be true (whether it is or not)’. 16 Photography does not resolve an event by lending sight to it but complicates our understanding of reality along with our ethical relationship to it. Noticeably close to the national elections in 2014, CPI(M), a leftist political party, organized a seminar where both Qutubuddin Ansari and Ashok Parmar were invited as guests.17 There was an unprecedented announcement of peace and brotherhood as Ashok Parmar gave flowers to Ansari asking for his forgiveness. Photographs of Ansari receiving flowers, water and shaking hands with Ashok Parmar smeared pages of newspapers against the backdrop of the horrific original images from 2002 riots. The survivors of 2002 riots are still waiting for judicial justice and perpetrators are still to be prosecuted. But these two men, who came to symbolize the event, became mascots of peace representing a larger community that had been affected by the riots. Ansari became the representative figure that survived the riots but continued to suffer. Ansari not only bore the burden of personal upheaval but now also bears the burden of the entire community’s trauma. On the other hand, Parmar came to represent a changed human being, now interested in peace, assuming he was the person his photograph claimed him to be. Both bodies have been made usable by different propaganda machineries and party politics, made to sit anywhere on the spectrum of peace and hatred. This created a faulty illusion of happily ever after without engaging with the survivors, with the symbolic gesture of giving flowers seen as engagement enough. Such tokenistic gestures undermine not only personal trauma but also the suffering of a larger community still awaiting justice.

Silenced ruptures In 2012, a few NGOs fighting legal battle for survivors of Gujarat 2002 riots came together to host a memorial to mark a decade since the worst communal violence in the state. 18 This memorial took place at Gulbarg Society in Ahmedabad, one of the major sites of violence where approximately sixty-nine people were killed and many went missing. 19 While the rest of the city has seen ‘development’ that has erased the collective memory of violence, this residential society remains standing as a reminder of the riots. The residents had left after

the riots, to never return. However, ten years later, residents of the society, other survivors, NGOs and artists entered this abandoned society to remember the event in its silence of last ten years. In this context, I’d like to talk about two art interventions at this memorial; the first, a work I created and the second one by a photographer, Ram Rahman (Plate 11). When I started working on the project, the only visual material available were media photographs. After visiting a few rehabilitation colonies and talking to many families, I set out to make a documentary work. The moment the survivors would see me with a camera, they would direct themselves in front of an appropriate background and pose with a grim face, even though we might have laughed over a joke just a few moments ago. Years of photojournalists making rounds had trained them to pose in a certain way for the camera. Most cameras had turned the survivors into perpetual victims through an inherited visual language. The image of a laughing man cannot represent that stock requirement of images of riots survivors. Pain must be visible in a stereotypical way for the image to have any value to the print media. After months of collecting stories and talking to many people, the images in my camera remained stock-like, which oddly was not representative of my experience of interacting with the survivors. One day I was walking in a rehabilitation colony near the biggest dump yard

in the city. The stench of garbage surrounded the colony and mountains of garbage gave it a visual landscape. Metaphorically, survivors were also thrown away like garbage at the fringe of the city. Instinctively, I covered my nose because I could not tolerate the smell. Amused at my sight, a young boy from the colony came to me and began to imitate me. Instantly, the full weight of my position as an outsider dawned on me. The only thing I could represent was a mockery of the outsider trying to save herself from the air that these families were forced to inhale. That became the photograph for the memorial, a boy covering his nose and face, a response to Ansari’s haunting photograph pleading for compassion. Having printed it on flex, I had hoped once the memorial was over, the image could become a temporary shed for someone. Many people living on the streets in India make temporary houses out of similar material. However, the survivors later reclaimed the photograph. Many of them, who had dedicated their life to the cause of bringing justice, now display that photograph wherever they go. Even without me, the image travels as a sign of protest to seek justice. Ram Rahman made portraits of Gulbarg survivors in Delhi in 2006 during a

public witness programme, where survivors and activists came together to hear the survivors speak. The portraits of survivors and activists pierce through the image, as they look straight at the camera. Talking about his work, Ram said, ‘At the time I did not know what to do ... but I felt it was important to document the survivors and the activists who were helping them get justice.’ Ram’s images are not in the liminal space of candid or posed, nor do they try to convince

the viewer of its candidness. They are posed photographs, in collaboration with survivors and activists with no visible markers of horror or victimization either in their gestures or expressions (Plate 12). These portraits resist the convention of explicitly showing horror for them to

be considered images of riots. These images are not easy inserts in the cultural memory of riots. They seek engagement of the viewer to imagine atrocities that lurk behind the piercing gaze. Azoulay in her writing on images of atrocities says, ‘Hence, the object of the claim “this is an atrocity” cannot be the photograph itself or the way in which it pictures it, but rather the photographic event in which it was taken, and eventually the photographic event of viewing it.’20 In 2012, much after these portraits were made, Ram visited Gulbarg society

where the memorial was to take place. In those dark and neglected ruins of what was once a place bustling with life, Ram found a home for his portraits. Visitors had to peek inside a house to view these photographs of survivors and activists. This juxtaposition between contemporary family-like portraits and a home in ruins does not take us back to one moment of violence but seeks the viewer to imagine its presence in day-to-day lives of many who once lived in these houses and now, had been displaced beyond our sight. Both works are, on the one hand, a critique of the state violence and on the other, a critique of photography that turns violence into a spectacle. These works do not assume to tell the stories of violence by mobilizing visual tropes of shock and suffering as evidence. Unlike other documentary or journalistic works, both projects depart from the rhetoric of social documentary practice and its belief in photography’s power to represent ‘truth’. The intention here is not to represent reality as objectively as possible through candid moments captured in frenzy of war. The photographer and the photographed are not distanced by the focal length of the lens but come together to collaborate with an understanding of common interest. The act of displaying these images at the memorial extends their potential for a ‘civil political space’ in which, survivors may claim a place in the ‘citizenry of photography’ by collaborating not only at the level of making of the photographs but also of their dissemination and ownership.21 Azoulay says, ‘The civil political space … is one that the people using photography – photographers, spectators, and photographed people – imagine every day.’ 22 For Azoulay, the photographed persons are participant citizens, just as the photographer or the spectator that forms the civil contract of citizenship through acts of photography. Survivors of the Gujarat riots do not remain in a frozen moment without having much agency over their images. By taking charge of their own photographs, modes of representation and interventions in the mainstream dissemination of their images – the survivors of riots turned their bodies within these photographs into a site of protest. In this manner, the photographed became active participants in the citizenry of the civil contract of photography.

Conclusion Azoulay in Civil Imagination says, ‘The event of photography has two different modalities of eventness – the first occurs in relation to the camera or in relation to its hypothetical presence while the second occurs in relation to the photograph or in relation to the latter’s hypothetical existence.’23 These events seemingly look sequential and linear in connection to their relations to camera and the photograph. However, that sense of linearity falls apart as we begin to disentangle the connection between them. Today’s India is divided by growing communal tensions between Hindu and Muslim communities. With each instance of violence, stories of partition surface time and again. A generation that has not seen partition or witnessed that violence has somehow inherited communal hatred. Partition is in fact an ever-present narrative of this time and gets ‘used selectively by the aggressors …’24 This narrative is largely consumed by the present generation through partition photographs available online, being completely decontextualized from other narratives and appropriated for multiple political propaganda messages. The phrase ‘go back to Pakistan’, referring to the partition of India, has become a trump card to use against any resident or working Muslim in India who dares to speak against the popular, upper caste, masculine, Hindu rhetoric. Recent Indian history is scarred with violence of the 2002 Gujarat riots, Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013, Dadri mob lynching that killed a Muslim man for allegedly being in possession of beef, and incidences of everyday communalism that affects prospects of job, love, home and dignity. Thus, discussion around Qutubuddin Ansari or Ashok Parmar’s photograph and the eventual peace proposition event cannot be looked at in isolation and has to be contextualized in this larger political history of India. While the peace event may appeal to many within this context, it is, in fact, a promise of an empty happy ending assuming the origin of the event lies in the photograph of Ansari pleading for his life and that it can be representative of an entire community. Therefore, it is rather urgent to talk about not only ethics of image production but also ethics of image consumption within contemporary discourse of photography.

Notes 1

Ulrich Baer, Spectral Evidence: Photography of Trauma (Cambridge MA: The MIT Press, 2002), 8. 2 Ibid., 7. 3 Paul Lowe, ‘Picturing the Perpetrator’, in Picturing Atrocity: Photography in Crisis, ed. Geoffrey Batchen et al. (London: Reaktion Books, 2014), 189. 4 Dionne Bunsha, Scarred: Experiments with Violence in Gujarat (New Delhi: Penguin Books, 2006), 3.

5 6 7 8 9

Soutik Biswas, ‘The Face of Gujarat Riots Meets his “Saviour”’, BBC News, 27 February 2012, Slavoj Žižek, ‘With or without Passion: What’s Wrong with Fundamentalism? – Part 1’, The Symptom (2005), accessed 6 April 2017, Dipali Trivedi, ‘Stop Using Me’, Mumbai Mirror, 12 April 2016, http://mumbaimirror Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, ‘Unconcerned But Not Indifferent’ in Documentary: Documents of Contemporary Art, ed. Julian Stallabrass (London, Cambridge, MA: Whitechapel Gallery Ventures Limited, The MIT Press, 2013), 101. Martha Rosler, ‘In, Around and Afterthoughts (on Documentary Photography)’, in The Contest of Meaning: Critical Histories of Photography, ed. Richard Bolton (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1992), 308.

10 Broomberg and Chanarin, ‘Unconcerned But Not Indifferent’, 99–100. 11 Ibid., 100. 12 Ariella Azoulay, ‘The Execution Portrait’, in Picturing Atrocity: Photography in Crisis, ed. Geoffrey Batchen et al. (London: Reaktion Books, 2014), 249. 13 Baer, Spectral Evidence, 181. 14 Harsh Mander, ‘From Godhra to Una: The Face of Gujarat Riots Has Attached His Name to the Dalit Cause’,, 28 August 2016, from-godhra-to-una-the-face-of-the-gujarat-riots-has-attached-his-name-to-the -dalit-cause. 15 Indrajit Hazra, ‘The Forgotten Man’, Hindustan Times, 4 March 2012, http://www .html.

16 Joan Fontcuberta, Pandora’s Camera: [email protected] after Photography (London: MACK, 2014), 110.

17 ‘A Decade of Genocide’, A seminar organized by CPI(M) sponsored, Kannur, Kerala, 3 March 2014.

18 Citizens for Peace and Justice led by the activist, journalist Teesta Setalvad organized the memorial in conversation with riots survivors, lawyers, artists, film

makers, students and other organizations such as SAHMAT: Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust. 19 The Gujarat government released figures of number of people that were killed and went missing during the riots. Many NGOs and human rights organizations have contested these overall figures. However, many newspaper articles as well as human rights reports over last many years have reported that sixty-nine people were killed in the gated community of Gulbarg. 20 Azoulay, ‘The Execution Portrait’, 252. 21 Ariella Azoulay, The Civil Contract of Photography (New York: Zone Books, 2008), 12. 22 Ibid. 23 Ariella Azoulay, Civil Imagination: A Political Ontology of Photography, trans. Louise Bethlehem (London, New York: Verso, 2015), 26.

24 Urvashi Bhutalia, The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India (New Delhi, India: Penguin Books India), 7.

Select Bibliography Azoulay, Ariella. Civil Imagination: A Political Ontology of Photography. 2010. Translated

by Louise Bethlehem. Reprinted in the English Language. UK: Verso, 2015. Azoulay, Ariella. The Civil Contract of Photography. New York: Zone Books, 2008. Azoulay, Ariella. ‘The Execution Portrait’. In Picturing Atrocity: Photography in Crisis, edited by Geoffrey Batchen, Mick Gidley, Nancy K. Miller, and Jay Prosser, 249–260. London: Reaktion Books, 2014. Baer, Ulrich. Spectral Evidence: Photography of Trauma. Cambridge MA: The MIT Press,

2002. Bhutalia, Urvashi. The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India. New Delhi, India: Penguin Books India, 1998. Bunsha, Dionne. Scarred: Experience with Violence in Gujarat. New Delhi, India: Penguin Books India, 2006. Bhagat, Varsha. Protest Movements and Citizens’ Rights in Gujarat (1970–2010).

Shimla, India: Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, 2015. Broomberg, Adam and Oliver Chanarin. ‘Unconcerned but Not Indifferent’. In Documentary: Documents of Contemporary Art, edited by Julian Stallabrass, 98–103. London, Cambridge, MA: Whitechapel Gallery Ventures Limited, The MIT Press, 2013. Fontcuberta, Joan. Pandora’s Camera: [email protected] after Photography . London:

MACK, 2014 Lowe, Paul. ‘Picturing the Perpetrator’. In Picturing Atrocity: Photography in Crisis, edited by Geoffrey Batchen, Mick Gidley, Nancy K. Miller, and Jay Prosser, 189–200. London: Reaktion Books, 2014. Rosler, Martha. ‘In, Around and Afterthoughts (on Documentary Photography)’. In The Contest of Meaning: Critical Histories of Photography, edited by Richard Bolton,

303–342. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1992. Žižek, Slavoj. ‘With or without Passion: What’s Wrong with Fundamentalism?–Part 1’. The Symptom (2005). Accessed 6 April 2017.


I loved to sketch and particularly with charcoal, pen and ink. This love for handwork and the form included a love for map aesthetics. But I do remember that when I wanted to learn how to make maps in graduate school in the mid1990s, I had to confront the digital environment and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). I went with the flow but the double-click never clicked inside my head.1 I did not have a mathematical or programming background. I was constantly trying to understand what digital technologies did by looking at the results of every operation on the computer monitor. This chapter outlines my engagements with the digital image that is produced

by satellite remote sensing technologies – multispectral images that have become the backbone of a huge industry in natural resources management in India. Satellite images are raster representations of electromagnetic radiation from the earth’s surface.2 Their potential lies in the argument that materials on the earth’s surface can be measured in different dimensions through the electromagnetic radiation that they emit. For example, while the canopy of evergreen forests and deciduous forests may not look very different in aerial photos or only in the visual spectrum, they can be differentiated on the basis of the electromagnetic radiation they emit. While the satellite image allows us to ‘see’ the earth from space, and in ways beyond the visual spectrum, how do we learn to ‘see’ the satellite image? How do cultural and political practices of the Indian space industry and its allied sectors enhance or constrain our reading of the satellite image? And, how do practices on the ground challenge the power of the satellite image? These are some of the questions that propel this chapter through the spaces between people and pixels. I draw from my ethnographic research conducted between 2004 and 2009.


After graduating with a masters in geography, I landed a job in India in a multidisciplinary research project that was studying the causes and impacts of deforestation in the Western Ghats of India. I got my foot in through the door because I knew how to work with ArcView, a GIS software. I took the job. Imagine my discomfort when in the first week of work, my boss called me to troubleshoot something to do with map projection display in the software. The team wanted to test what this US-returned geography graduate could do. I couldn’t solve the problem. I brought nothing special to the team but an extra pair of hands, and an extra brain – both of which were struggling like others to make sense of the digital environment. While it certainly gave us a rush to constantly swipe the satellite images up and down, left and right, and ‘fly’ over the landscape in which we were attempting to measure deforestation, how were we to measure our acts of measurement? How were we equipped to harness the digital data embedded in the pixels? Was the fly-by effect enough to justify the trappings of the Indian space programme, and a spatial technology industry? 3 Now when I look back at those days it is very clear to me that the ambiguity of this digital environment – its power to make and obfuscate – was what permeated the air in that office. Let me lay out the details of this ambiguity. In a research project that was investigating land use change over two decades, satellite images presented significant power to see – power to see change in a landscape and to pinpoint change at the level of a pixel. There was also power to overlay property boundaries onto land use maps, pinpoint what type of changes have occurred where, and power to tell people of a particular region what changes they have wrought on their landscape. These were some of the objectives of the study in which I was involved. The change data that came out of the mapping process was to play an important role in the project because it contained the evidence for where, what type of change had occurred in order to inform policy and academic debates on deforestation. However, in the political economy of the Indian spatial technology sector of the late 1990s, I personally found that this power was not easy to create. Satellite images were expensive. Hence, environmental research projects

operating in a project-funding environment had to be picky about the number of time frames for which they wanted satellite images, the extent of area they wanted to map, and the kinds of satellite images they wanted for change detection. Second, software licenses were expensive and this limited the computing capacity of the project team. But most important for me, at the level of a project staff, the biggest scarcity was in terms of expertize. Who could we go to if we wanted to know how to import a raw image? How to geo-rectify a raw image? How to get accurate geodetic information about datums, spheroids, and so on, to aid us in the geo-rectification process?4 The spatial technology sector was far from organized in the late 1990s, despite Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) and the then National Remote Sensing Agency’s (NRSA)


pronouncements about the utility of satellite images for the natural resource management needs of the country.5 We ended up doing a lot of bootstrapping for each process in satellite

image processing. Since there was no authority in this field, and no standards, everybody was more or less reinventing the wheel. The topic of conversation during tea breaks in conferences and workshops was about geo-rectification, and root mean square (RMS) error, and accurately overlaying property boundaries.6 Access to experts was scarce. And to a certain extent the policies of the Indian State institutions were deterrents. While the country at large was never allowed to ignore the launch of a new satellite, and the scientific advancements each new launch enabled, there existed very few state-sponsored initiatives to support the use of these powerful images. The initiatives that existed – be it the user interaction workshop organized by NRSA or the local state-run remote sensing centres – provided a rather dull environment where users could not push questions in order to get solid answers. The feeling was one of separation. While they had their labs and technicians who were churning out databases, and interpreting maps, every time I visited one of these centres, I was made to feel like a lesser citizen who did not need to know the details. I would sometimes leave wondering if it was all an effort to create a mirage – did some of those technicians really know what vector data structures looked like behind the computer monitor? Or were they only digitizing maps? My boss on the other hand was a stickler for detail and accuracy. There were times when he would quiz me on my high school trigonometry, while I was trying to geo-rectify an image. He would tell me, part jokingly, that as the sole geographer on the team I had to be the gatekeeper of these issues. I was often left frustrated and wondered why my bachelor of science professors taught me only the graphical method and not the geometric method of map projections. Despite this, I survived. I was sent to Survey of India to enquire about the spheroid and datum used for the Indian topographic sheets. I met a retired Survey of India official to cross-verify the datum and spheroid information. I was asked to find out the physical location of a geodetic point so that I could verify the accuracy of our handheld global positioning system (GPS). At the end of my three years in this research project, I felt that I was brimming with a specific set of skills – the skills to ferret out information in an environment of scarcity and to cross-verify if that information was accurate and correct. None of the other information we needed was as easily available as the satellite images! There was a disconnect between the people in the technical sector and those of the applications sector. Yet for me, at the level of my daily work practice, the fly-bys were getting to be more intimate. My field trips to the area and my visual familiarity with the satellite images on the computer screen brought me closer and closer to the landscape. Looking back today I don’t see the problem being the practice of bootstrapping. Instead, the point I want to highlight through this recounting is that bootstrapping

occurred in a specific environment of scarcity at the level of practice, and this scarcity was being negotiated against the backdrop of a heavy symbolism of the Indian satellites in the sky (Plate 13). I found that magazines that wrote about the GIS industry in the country placed much emphasis on political and organizational issues of the industry. Ravi Gupta, a leading observer of the GIS sector in India, points out the lack of a national spatial data infrastructure, the absence of a proactive stance of the Indian State, and the secrecy that shrouds access to spatial data in India, which is predominantly owned, produced and consumed by the state. 6 While this points to an important set of issues, I would like to highlight that what is often missing from the discourse is the use of data that is embedded in the satellite images. What lies digitally within the pixel really? And how might we access the power of these remotely sensed pixels?7 This brings me to another aspect of obfuscation that I perceived in the Indian

spatial technology sector – limited engagement with content or in other words data and the measurement of data. As a geographer I was puzzled by the set of variables typically extracted from satellite images and incorporated in a GIS; the set was often limited to rainfall, slope, land use/land cover, drainage and soil. I wondered if these layers were adequate to address the natural resource management issues of the country. Each of the variables were also defined in very broad terms and accordingly measured. For example, rainfall was represented by annual figures for several regions, which depended on the vagaries of the seasonal monsoon. Land use and land cover were represented through broad classes such as fallow, first season crop, second season crop, double crop, forest, grasslands and wastelands. There was little attempt to capture the people – environment interactions in landscape, and there was little explanation for what was left out of the classifications. Also, most thematic layers were represented at small scales of 1:50,000 or 1:250,000 which were often too coarse for village-level studies. These issues of data become even more relevant to think about when the data produced by the state becomes the most visible source in the absence of any institutional frameworks for data sharing and data access. The meaning of ‘where’ was rather superficial. A common end objective was literally to see ‘where’ things are on colourful maps that were churned out of a GIS but almost never included an exploration of the relationships behind the ‘where’. I also found that there were different views of what these technologies could provide. In 2009, when I met a senior civil service official to discuss the use of GIS in the state planning department, she told me that while there was always talk of GIS-based planning, bureaucrats in the Planning Department still carried on with conventional methods of planning that were based on financial outlays and budget allocations. However, a retired technocrat from ISRO expressed his frustration with agricultural planning officials, for instance, who insisted on using

the traditional method of crop cutting surveys instead of using satellite images and GIS to calculate crop estimates. Here he took pains to explain to me that mapping change, rather than mapping the universe every season and every year was a lot more ‘scientific’. He went on to add that ‘scientific’ method meant thinking about the most sophisticated way to measure something and using the latest computing capabilities offered by the digital medium. In the same year, the GIS coordinator of a district level planning department told me that most of what he and his staff did in their well-equipped lab was digitization. He also added that staff at the Space Applications Centre (SAC) at the federal level were busy developing algorithms for spatial analysis but would never communicate the techniques in a manner that his team could learn to apply them. In 2011, one of India’s leading news journals, Frontline, published an article on the recent review conducted by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India about the effectiveness of ISRO’s seven satellites that were operational between 2003 and 2008, and the performance audit of the NRSA. 8 The main findings of the study substantiated for me the discomfort I felt as a project staff between 1998 and 2001. One of the main findings was that three out of the seven satellites were

operating at less than 50 percent of their full capacity. Full capacity was taken to be the maximum number of scenes they were designed to beam down to the control centre. Of the three, two were designed for land-based natural resource applications, and the third was designed for oceanographic studies. In terms of returns on investment, where revenues generated from satellite image sales were compared with original investment costs, all satellites showed negative values. This was the case even when sale revenues were compared with the operating costs of each of the satellites. NRSC’s response is very telling that the pricing structure was never intended to make up for the initial investment costs, and that other intangible benefits that result from the use of satellite images need to be added to the sales revenues. The report also points out that NRSC has not done enough to understand user needs in terms of data requirements. This points towards the symbolism that is assumed by technocrats in ISRO, as does the evidence of obfuscation that I perceived. I insert here a quote from a speech delivered by Madhavan Nair, former

chairman of ISRO from 2003 to 2009, to illustrate the official claims about these technologies and their potential for rural development We need to substantiate the government’s efforts to start a revolution, which can take its 6 lakh villages ‘fast forward’ in time - converting them into economically viable units and growth engines. Realizing the advantage of space as a vantage point, the visionary in Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, the father of the Indian space programme, saw an opportunity to exploit the space technology as a resource for community outreach, capable of serving the remote villages

transcending geographical boundaries. And today, India’s space programme distinctly exemplifies how space technology could be the harbinger of rural development.9 The trend of spatial technology-based rural development has also spurred in some ways, and overlaps in many ways with the claims of the information technology (IT) industry in India, which is ratcheting up the utility of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to solve the problems of rural development. Underdeveloped people and underdeveloped areas are becoming convenient legitimation for these technology industries in the country. I argue that these claims are often put forth and legitimized through a

separation of the technical and the social. However, there is indeed a messy middle ground of practice and materialities that are often brushed aside in representations and discourse on satellite images as well as in discourses of rural development interventions that are premised on the utility of satellite images. There are several ambiguities in the process of practice, and hence I argue that many of these claims such as the aforementioned quotes, should be read as ‘mixed questions’ in a manner highlighted by Latour, ‘questions that pertain simultaneously to the domain of the social and to the domain of natural sciences’.10 These are questions that demand further investigation in order to repoliticize the construction and practice of technology and development, and the satellite image that straddles both zones. In an attempt to move away from this partitioning, following Latour, in the rest of this chapter I share some insights from an ethnography of the practice of using satellite images for land use management and rural development. I intended to conduct an ethnography of spatial technology-based planning in a state-sponsored rural development project in order to develop an understanding of the web of relationships that surrounded the use of satellite images. However, a grant I had received for fieldwork was not given clearance by the Indian government because my proposal had the key words ‘remote sensing’ and hence my research was considered a threat to national security. I also had difficulties gaining entry to any state-sponsored institutions, which used remote sensing and GIS. When I would visit various government offices and explain my field research objectives, I was met with the response, ‘We will call you after the maps are made. Then you can come and analyze the maps.’ So much for an ethnography of practice! I gave up my idea of an ethnography of a state institution with some reluctance

and widened my search for cases. One day when I was directed to an NGO that had used satellite images and GIS in a watershed development project, I decided to follow the lead. The NGO, Jalaa,11 was established in a drought prone, semiarid district of interior northern Karnataka. Ashok, the director, traced their early explorations in agriculture and GIS planning to 1989 when they began

experimenting with dry land agricultural practices along with an expert from an agricultural research institution. He explained that the agronomist undertook a systematic experiment, which comprised of yield cuts to assess the impact of soil conservation interventions on crop productivity.12 Systematic yield cuts revealed that it was indeed possible to increase productivity and farming incomes through these environmentally sustainable dry land agricultural techniques and so Ashok wanted to replicate such practices in a cluster of villages in that area. This was when Ashok felt the need for a map that would give him an idea of the region populated by the twenty or so villages. He said, ‘If I had an overview of how water flows, if I had an overview of land, water, trees, then I could come up with an integrated plan for dry land farmers’ livelihoods. I did not know anything about GIS then but I always thought through the logic of the “overview”, so that I could “see”’. So, the agronomists’ methods of systematic yield cuts were not enough for Ashok in terms of technologies; he wanted ‘visual’ technologies that allowed him to ‘see’, collate, aggregate, and form databases. His first point of contact with ISRO was in the early 1990s. He thought the satellite images would provide him the overview. But the images were of a scale too coarse. The pixel resolution was about 36 metres. This was of no use to Jalaa as the dimensions of individual farm plots in this semiarid region were sometimes smaller than 36 metres and could not be adequately captured in this resolution. He was told by the ISRO officials to walk the land instead. He was indeed walking the land. He learned that many people who were end users of ISRO satellite images at the time were people such as district planning officials who did not often walk the land and who made plans for areas as large as entire districts. So Ashok, instead of joining the bandwagon, decided to drop the idea of working with satellite images for the overview that he needed. By the time Ashok revisited satellite images a few years later, Jalaa had already

begun implementing watershed projects which were either state funded or donor funded. By 1997, ISRO had increased the spatial resolution of multispectral data to 23.5 metres and had developed a panchromatic black-and-white band of 5.8 metres.13 The combination of these two types of data turned things around for the NGO and rekindled their interest in satellite images, and thereby spatial data and spatial planning. They could finally derive the fine-grained overview of the cluster of villages in which they worked. They developed a large scale, individual farm plot level, spatial database prototype, which was used for watershed planning (Plate 14). One of the biggest gaps of digital spatial data in the Indian spatial technology

industry has been the availability of spatially accurate cadastral maps in digital format. Cadastral maps show property boundaries. Property boundaries or land ownership data is of utmost importance for interventions in natural resource management and rural development applications. Today cadastral maps are available at the Revenue Office in hard copy. However, these maps are of British vintage and only show survey number boundaries. Today, most survey numbers

are bifurcated into several smaller plots due to family partitions and sales over the years. The individual plot boundaries demarcated by low bunds on the ground are visible on the panchromatic satellite images, which are of a high spatial resolution of 5.8 metres. Jalaa was also able to see small drainage lines on the satellite images. Being able to create a spatially accurate survey and plot level map and detailed drainage map provided a shot in the arm for Jalaa’s interventions in soil and moisture conservation. Using the satellite images, they were able to create the desired overview at a village level and even sub-village level, which is mostly nonexistent in already-existing forms of official spatial data (Figure 11.1) (Plate 15). The detailed plot and drainage map also became their base for a detailed plot level spatial database. It is also noteworthy that the basic unit of aggregation in their spatial database was not just a plot but a plot-household complex or plothousehold relationship. This demonstrated to me a certain complexity in the NGO’s understanding of agrarian processes vis-à-vis crude land use representations that perplexed me in a state-created spatial data as mentioned above. This database design placed emphasis on the stories and the decisions taken by individual households on the ground, in addition to focusing on standard biophysical variables such as soil, vegetation, slope and so on. An understanding of the design of GIS that derives from the field and thence from a deep database is uncommon in this sector which is dominated by coarsely defined overlay models wherein the digital

Figure 11.1 Cadastral maps of British vintage with survey number boundaries. Digital Image.

power of the image and environmental–social relationships are untouched.14 I was intrigued to see a development NGO put serious thought into what they wanted measured in the agrarian landscape, how to measure it, how to represent it and towards what end. The meaning of ‘where’ was far from superficial. What did the NGO do with this detailed spatial database derived primarily

from satellite images? Bhagat, the watershed engineer in the NGO, and the main architect of the watershed plan or in other words, soil and moisture conservation plan, had first explained to me about how he visualized spatiality in a watershed and thereby his parameters of planning, ‘Water flows according to slope. Managing water is managing slope. So slope is the main reason one needs to be aware of catchment area. That is the scientific way.’ However, amongst farmers, bunding is viewed within the context of a cluster of practices such as ploughing, drainage, and cropping pattern. Soil is a big concern for farmers given the aridity and local geology of this region. In fact, most farmers, except those in stream courses, said that bunds were firstly built to trap soil and actually create arable land. The next priority was to increase soil moisture, and only the third priority was to level slope. In the NGO’s watershed project, Bhagat was focused on slope, and this was

tied to water, and the movement of water. ‘Water’ is different from ‘soil moisture’, the latter being the priority for farmers in this semiarid region with highly variable rainfall and a cropping pattern of millets that has evolved over many centuries. Bhagat always articulated that he wanted the water to seep underground and not flow. Whereas farmers always told me their intention in building bunds was to increase soil moisture, reduce soil erosion by reducing the velocity of water, and let the water flow downstream. However, my end objective is not to show this difference. It is instead to look at articulations among different actors and thereby make sense of the relationships on the ground that work with what the satellite image could offer. Can the details of what Bhagat articulates be read off the image? Does the image add value to Bhagat’s intimate view of the landscape, and thereby strengthen ex-ISRO chief Madhavan Nair’s proclamations, and how? This narrative would not be complete without looking at Bhagat’s practice of watershed planning in a historicized manner. This is where the proclaimed power of the satellite image lies intricately entwined with its use postproduction, rather than in its creation. While Bhagat began with an initial strong focus on slope in order to determine the position of soil and water harvesting structures in the landscape, he did not stick with this practice. He talks of how the GIS database gradually altered his planning. The relationships that became visible between the detailed plot maps, drainage maps and soil surveys in the spatial database made him widen his focus from slope to include the interaction of soil and other social variables such as gender and caste of plot owner, size of and socioeconomic vulnerability of a given household. Bhagat began to occasionally shift the location of soil and water harvesting structures to plots of socioeconomically more disadvantaged households.


The detailed maps that constituted the NGO’s spatial database were prepared from high resolution satellite images by the director of the NGO, Bhagat, a soil scientist and a team of field staff. All these actors traversed the ground and negotiated undulating terrain, conversed with farmers, and technological processes to build the database alongside implementing watershed development programmes on the ground. Their spatial plan for land development was built across many iterations over a course of six to seven years. The point I wish to highlight is that the actors in this case did not realize the potential of the satellite images through heavy engineering or complex programming of land use models, or out of an obsession for spatial accuracy. Instead, their detailed largescale maps and database emerged out of proximity to its constituents and an understanding of spatial relationships as they are continuously produced in the landscape. This, I argue, is political in the face of the shallow spatial models that are largely propagated in the Indian spatial technology industry which only foreground visual aspects of the image, many of which I was perplexed by when I was working as a project staff, for instance, the preoccupation towards the creation of standard layers, with the overlay model. In the case of this specific NGO, relationships were being read into the image, and vice versa. The power of the image was realized in relationship to processes and practices on the land.

Conclusion While earlier sections of this chapter trace the contours of ambiguity that largely permeate the accessibility of the satellite image as made available by the Indian State, in the later sections I draw from a more focused practice of fieldworkers accessing the image in an agrarian location. Having explored these varied topographies, I now take a step back to make sense of the power of satellite images. Towards the end of my fieldwork, I had the opportunity to interview two retired ISRO scientists. Both conversations threw more light on the ambiguities of remote sensing applications within the larger contexts of the Indian space programme and the country at large. The first scientist talked to me in a rather animated fashion, reliving the excitement of his days in Thumba, the rocket launch station in Kerala. Once ISRO had gained some footing in the design and manufacture of rockets and satellites, the question of space applications was considered. While communication, education, and meteorology were foremost in the list of applications for a developing country, remote sensing also cropped up. He explained how they fitted a Hasselblad multispectral camera to a

helicopter and captured images of agricultural and horticultural plantations in parts of Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab in order to test the potentials of remotely sensed photos for natural resource management. He talked of a set of

significant images of coconut plantations in Kerala; tops of healthy coconut trees showed up as pink, and unhealthy coconut trees a lighter shade of pink. They were pleased to be able to differentiate this and shared this with Indira Gandhi, the then prime minister of India. Funding was difficult to procure, and it was an uphill task for ISRO to convince the government for funds for remote sensing applications. In the early seventies, ISRO also tried to garner support from users. He, for instance, mentioned that they invited M.S. Swaminathan, considered the architect of the Indian Green Revolution, for user meetings so that they could garner support for remote sensing applications. This conversation illustrated to me the contingent history of the Indian space research. While the space programme was in the interests of the newly independent Indian State in order to establish its scientific sovereignty, the nature and trajectory of developments including core rocket and satellite technologies and applications arose out of several considerations and relationships. The second scientist provided a different perspective on satellite applications. In the sixties, most of the research in ISRO was focused on the core technologies of rockets and satellites and not on applications. Sounding rockets occupied centre stage in research, and there was barely any application value in sounding rockets given the short time they were in space. Only when the bigger satellites were developed did applications research come into vogue. The bigger satellites obviously had more time in space and more capacity to carry other equipment. From the late seventies onwards developing applications became the need of the hour in a developing country like India. Today, given the large-scale development on the applications side and the fact that Indian satellites have a life span of five to ten years, he felt that it is now important to balance the emphasis on applications with more research on cost effective core technologies of launch vehicles and satellites. Insights from the aforementioned two conversations together substantiate the conjunctural nature of scientific developments and thereby the production of satellite images and their proclaimed power. These conversations highlight that the remote sensing application (and the images produced) is one among the many different contested objects holding the Indian space programme together. The CAG audit report that I refer to earlier in this chapter serves to inflect the path of the space programme’s progress, and the story that I narrate from a particular agrarian location in the country should be taken into account, particularly through the articulations of practice amongst fieldworkers. In its eagerness to promote the utility of satellite images, the state apparatus has over the last three to four decades promoted ways of seeing the land and natural resources that are rather reductive of processes on the ground. This is visible in the dominant models of watershed management too in which Bhagat was originally trained. There exists a body of social science literature that has critiqued satellite technology in India as a reductive technology that serves to

entrench the instrumentality of powerful actors such as the state who often are the only ones to have access to these visual planning tools.15 There are also critiques of land management programmes at a global level that derive data from satellite images in a manner that privileges only the biophysical processes and invisiblizes social explanations of environmental change. Turner provides a detailed critique of the ‘uneven adoption’ of remote sensing and GIS technologies in the hands of environmental experts in the Sahelian landscape of Africa. The explanations built by these experts have become the dominant explanation for landscape change and have adverse livelihood implications for the people who actually populate these landscapes.16 In following the relationships on the ground in this specific semiarid location in India, I add to this debate that the rich articulations amongst all the actors on the ground does provide a glimpse of the power of the satellite images being realized in a manner that serves a wider constituency of actors. The satellite images are neither inherently powerful as proclaimed by the state nor inherently reductive as proclaimed by some critics. I argue that the real power of the images can never be delinked from the walk on the ground and the relationships that surround its use. It is only when we can see the relationships that tie up various objects and actors that it is possible to catch glimpses of revolutionizing representations of the world we live in.

Notes 1

Latour uses the term ‘double-click’ to symbolize the instantaneous supply of information in the digital environment: ‘[T]he dream of honest thinking, of nondeformation, of immediacy, of the absence of any mediator, what I like to refer to as double-click communication – not that communication nor information work that way, every mouse owner knows that, but that is just a way to designate a dream.’ B. Latour, ‘What If We Talked Politics a Little?’, Contemporary Political Theory 2


(2003), 145–146. Remote sensing satellites are designed to measure certain wavelengths of visual and electromagnetic radiation, which can discriminate various phenological attributes of vegetation, amongst other characteristics of the earth’s natural resources. Satellite images are comprised of a number of bands that are dependent on the range of the electromagnetic spectrum that each satellite is designed to measure. For example, the Indian Remote Sensing satellite IRS-1C was designed to


capture radiation in the green, red, near infrared and middle infrared wavelengths. In the case of IRS-1C each satellite image is thus comprised of four bands and the digital image one sees on the computer screen is a composite of these bands., date accessed 29 March 2017. Spatial technology comprises Geographic Information Systems (GIS), satellite remote sensing applications and digital cartography. In the last four decades this industry’s growth has followed that of the IT sector, and digital geographic information has become very valuable for an entire range of applications such as


retail, planning, governance, surveillance. Michael F. Goodchild, ‘Twenty Years of Progress: GIScience in 2010’, Journal of Spatial Information Science 1 (2012): 3–20. Since satellite images are representations of huge swathes of the earth’s surface, they need to be stretched in a way that makes them account for the curvature of the earth. Moreover, many applications involving the satellite image also require positional accuracy, for example, calculating the total extent of a mining area, and knowing its exact position on earth.


National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA) became the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) in 2008. As much of the research that informs this paper was

conducted prior to 2008, I use the older name of this institution. 6 7

R. Gupta, ‘Prospects and Problems of GIS in India’, Towards Digital Earth – Proceedings of the International Symposium on Digital Earth (1999) Science Press. The informational content in a satellite image is primarily dependent on two parameters, the spectral and the spatial resolutions of the satellite sensors. As

mentioned in an earlier note the range and number of spectral bands determine the applications for which the specific satellite image can be used. The satellites of the Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) series, for example, are known to be well suited for vegetation and crop applications. The spatial resolution of the satellites determines how fine grained a pixel grid is used for recording the spectral information and is

denoted in terms of metres on the ground. For example the IRS-1C satellite had a spatial resolution of 23.5 metres for the green, red and near infrared bands, and a spatial resolution of 70.5 metres for the mid-infrared band. The finer the spatial grid, the more defined are features on the ground in terms of shape and also spectral content. For instance, finer spatial resolution would be required for highly fragmented forest landscapes or urban landscape applications with more number

of linear features. These two main types of informational content in satellite images can then be interpreted either visually or digitally through various digital modelling techniques that use the digital spectral values embedded in each pixel. 8 R. Ramachandran, ‘Sensing Deficiency’, Frontline (2011). 9 Nair, M. ‘Space Technology Applications for Rural India’, Lecture, 8th Bharat Ratna Rajiv Gandhi Memorial Lecture, AGRASRI, Tirupati, 2009. 10 B. Latour, ‘The Impact of Science Studies on Political Philosophy’, Science, Technology, & Human Values 16, no. 1 (1991): 3–19. 11 All proper nouns used in my ethnography are pseudonyms. 12 Yield cut is a method of measuring crop yields through repeated yield measurements of the same acreage of land, such as a 1 metre by 1 metre plot of

land, after every new treatment/ experiment 13 When these two types of images are merged they offer a powerful combination of multispectral data in each pixel and the fineness of visual detail in the Black and White band. 14 One of the most prevalent methods of spatial analysis in GIS is the spatial overlay. This method has a long and contested history in the discipline of geography. In this method, a specific region or place is discretized into map layers such as hydrology, vegetation, soil, settlement. These layers are then overlaid to aid spatial decision largely through spatial overlap and spatial correlation of

decisionmaking criteria that pertain to predetermined factors that comprise the

layers. For instance, predetermined factors to locate a waste dump could be safe distance from hydrological features and settlements. These two layers are overlaid and potential sites for waste dumps are identified. Critiques of this method are that it is tautological, reductive and stem from mechanistic, systems thinking.

F. Harvey,‘From Geographic Holism to Geographic Information System’, The Professional Geographer 49 (1997): 77–85 15 W. Hoeschele, ‘Geographic Information Engineering and Social Ground Truth in Attappadi, Kerala State, India’, Annals of the Association of American Geographers 49 (2000): 293–321. P. Robbins and T. Maddock, ‘Interrogating Land Cover Categories: Metaphor and Method in Remote Sensing’, Cartography and Geographic Informations Science 27 (2000): 295–309. 16 M.D. Turner, ‘Methodological Reflections on the Use of Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Science in Human Ecological Research’, Human Ecology, no. 31 (2003): 255–280

Select Bibliography Goodchild, Michael F. ‘Twenty Years of Progress: GIScience in 2010’. Journal of Spatial Information Science, no. 1 (2012): 3–20. Gupta, R. ‘Prospects and Problems of GIS in India’. In Towards Digital Earth – Proceedings of the International Symposium on Digital Earth. China: Science Press, 1999.

Harvey, F. ‘From Geographic Holism to Geographic Information System’. The Professional Geographer 49, no. 1 (1997): 77–85. Hoeschele, W. ‘Geographic Information Engineering and Social Ground Truth in Attappadi, Kerala State, India’. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 90, no. 2 (2000): 293–321. ‘IRS-1C Satellite’, CSRE.IITB. Accessed 10 January 2017.

isro/irs-1c.html. Latour, B. ‘The Impact of Science Studies on Political Philosophy’. Science, Technology, & Human Values 16, no. 1 (1991): 3–19. Latour, B. ‘What If We Talked Politics a Little?’. Contemporary Political Theory 2 (2003): 145–146.

Litfin, K. ‘The Gendered Eye in the Sky: A Feminist Perspective on Earth Observation Satellites’. Frontier: A Journal of Women’s Studies 18, no. 2 (1997): 26–47. Liverman, Diana, Emilio F. Moran, Ronald R. Rindfuss, and Paul C. Stern. ‘People and Pixels: Linking Remote Sensing and Social Science’. Report. Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education; National Research Council, Committee on the Human Dimensions of Global Change, Washington, DC: National

Academy Press, 1998. Nair, M. ‘Space Technology Applications for Rural India’, Lecture, 8th Bharat Ratna Rajiv Gandhi Memorial Lecture, AGRASRI, Tirupati, 2009. Ramachandran, R. ‘Sensing Deficiency’, Frontline, 2011. Turner, M.D. ‘Methodological Reflections on the Use of Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Science in Human Ecological Research’. Human Ecology 31 (2003):

255–280. Robbins, P., and Maddock. T. ‘Interrogating Land Cover Categories: Metaphor and Method in Remote Sensing’. Cartography and Geographic Informations Science 27, no. 4 (2000): 295–309.


The ubiquity of selfies is undeniable. While the production of selfies – the capacity to create images of ourselves, filtered through advanced digital image manipulations which were once in the realm of the expert professional in hi-tech studios – is, in itself, a subject of fascinating scrutiny, perhaps even more interesting is the way in which we make these selfies perform so many different functions. A selfie, while in its techno-aesthetic architecture might seem to be generic, the different roles that the selfies take are quite bewildering. We have seen that selfies have not just become ways of self-expression but also experimentation. 1 Especially with young users selfies become a way by which they experiment with their gender, bodies, sexualities and identities, creating a polyphony of visual selfrepresentations unavailable to any preceding generation.2 Selfies have come to bear testimonial weight.3 They become the verification tools that affirm that an incident, an event, a visit or an encounter happened. 4 Despite our familiarity with the manipulation capacities of selfies, we rely on them now to embody the digital social web maxim of ‘Pic or it did not happen’. Selfies have come to stand in as witnesses, where important cultural events, social phenomenon, political crises or interpersonal moments are captured not by collective memory but by the zeitgeist of selfies that surround us.5 The selfie is not just a space for personal expression but also a way of claiming the public and the political, granting ‘selfie citizenships’ to its users.6 On popular social media sites, selfies have also become a way of identification, where the verification of the ‘true self’ behind an


account often demands a selfie as an authentication mechanism. 7 Similarly, for the disembodied encounters of the web, especially on dating and connecting sites, the selfie becomes the only ‘real’ proof of the existence of the person behind a profile name.8 Spammers and click-bait marketers have started using the selfie as a vehicle for engaging user behaviour, making the selfie perform the function of viral connection. 9 Selfies have often been used as vehicles of cyberbullying, slut-shaming, revenge pornography and doxing, resulting in very dire and material consequences for people put into precarious conditions. Once decried as a self-involved narcissist form that was the stronghold of teenagers filtering away their imperfections, the selfie has not only come of age but has now entered the labour markets of digital playgrounds where it performs a variety of jobs that support and extend the factories of our online interactions. Especially in emerging networked societies like India, selfies have become a way of straddling multiple literacies, transcending the traditional identity-based separations, and allowed for the explosion of a new public that finds its voice and visibility on the seductive interfaces of our mobile digital devices. The selfie has come to be at the centre of a variety of technosocial practices. Politicians and celebrities have used it to reach out to their followers and fans in order to concretize landmark events, like in the case of Narendra Modi whose selfie was popularized after he cast his vote in the elections that made him the prime minister of India.10 Modi’s campaign continues to use the selfie as an aesthetic of reaching out with their popular app that allows people to capture #SelfiesWithModi.11 Selfies have also been clearly used as a space for public dissent and expression. Take the example of Gurmehar Kaur who decided to use a note-card selfie, protesting against the polarization of hatred discourse that marks the contemporary relationships between India and Pakistan. Kaur took a selfie with a card that read ‘Pakistan did not kill my dad, war did’, and became one of the most viral faces of talking with more nuance about the easy binaries that the accelerated social web produces. The same instance though, also betrayed the darker sides of selfies – where Kaur’s political position subjected her to intense harassment, bullying, mockery, shaming, intimidation and threat by those who used her selfie as an occasion to attack her self.12 This is a trend that we have seen emerging in teen cultures where young users are often the victims of sexual harassment and cyber-bullying, as their selfies get circulated and distributed outside of their knowledge and consent. The selfie is a promiscuous digital object, as it moves and travels between databases and networks, circulating without any discernment, producing clicks and likes. The ubiquity of the selfie often gets translated into abundance. There is much work done, in digital cultures and in critical analyses, about the work that we have to do to produce the selfie. Especially in media theory and practice, there have been many conversations about how the point and shoot selfie devices disrupt, enhance and reproduce the older visual aesthetic conventions of the


camera. The discourse around this is both exhaustive and emerging, and so trying to provide even a momentary snapshot of it is futile. However, in the close attention given to the selfies, which is largely about the selfie as an object, the visual frames within which it is established, the hermeneutic visual analysis of the subjects and the contexts, and the meanings and uses of the selfie within the digital cultures, are precisely what I want to make a point of departure from. I want to suggest that while the detailed aesthetic, visual, narrative and subjective focus on the selfie is important, most of it deals with the selfie as another photographic instant – a digital version of the photographic image, often subjecting it to older forms and tropes of contextualization and content analysis that we are already familiar with. Instead, I want to suggest that the selfie, while it might look like the photographic image, has only incidental correlations with it. I want to propose that we need to think of the selfie as a digital object, which, in one of its layers, simulates the photographic image, but that screen-based presence of the selfie is a very small part of its existence. It is necessary, in positioning the selfie as a digital object, to free it from the discursive history of the photographic image and look at three particular tropes that signal a point of departure in understanding the form, format and function of the selfie as a part of the digital turn. First, questions of empowerment and victimhood, representation and truth claim, knowledge making and making identities have been very insightfully theorized in emerging scholarship around the selfie. Elizabeth Losh’s material contextualization of the selfie through feminist media theory, analyses the almost exhaustive Selfiecity project, of how the selfie becomes a simultaneous tool with the ‘possibilities both for a liberating performance of gender and sexuality and for victimhood via female objectification’. 13 This rehearsal of the staging of representation of the body and its biometrics, for Losh, have other intersections with distance, transparent mediation, the reemergence of ‘authoring over authorship’ and the fetishization of sensing over seeing. As she examines the various layers of context, relationship, situatedness and networked phenomena of the selfies, Losh reminds us that selfies do much more than ‘merely promote a democratization, openness, and transparency’ and calls for a new framework of ‘cyborg identities, networked subjectivities, and partial literacies’14 that would be needed to both locate the selfies in the oeuvre of the photographic and visual analysis as well as in the new conditions of networked data-rich circuits of circulation that they belong to. Second, the selfie has been rightfully installed as not just an image but as an ‘ironical object’ that consolidates both the subject in its performative self and the technologies of invasive mediation that the digital infrastructure supports. The presence of the selfie has to be understood not only in what it shows and tells but also in the agencies that it produces. As Theresa Senft, who started the Selfie Researchers Network, in collaboration with Nancy Baym point out, ‘first

and foremost, a selfie is a photographic object that initiates the transmission of human feeling in the form of a relationship … A selfie is also a practice – a gesture that can send … different messages to different individuals, communities, and audiences’.15 Thus, they turn the gaze away from the pathologized narcissism which is often attributed to the selfie and ask us to relook at the selfie as more than the surface image that meets the eye. Instead of celebrating the selfie as an unfettered opening up of human expression, though, they argue for the selfie to be a trigger, which catalyses multiple conversations about authenticity, agency, and aggregation of data in the new digital networks. Third, the selfie needs to be examined as a digital object rather than as

an extension of the photographic object. Padmini Ray Murray (2017) in her decisive talk on practicing digital humanities in the global south reminds us that the question of embodiment is the one that challenges our global conceptions of the digital the most. Murray’s insistence on recognizing that the formulaic templates of digital production and their homogenizing database logics are subverted when we recognize the conditions of production and the context of the subject which are often erased from the hyper-circulated digital objects. With the emergence of phenomenon like Dalit History Months, where many from the Dalit community in India have found a new appropriation of the otherwise ‘seen but not heard’ cultures of selfies, and the digital object’s capacity to disrupt our sense of witness and agency, Murray points out, need a better understanding of the selfie as more than a photographic image. Roopika Risam (2015) in her body of work in postcolonial Digital Humanities further argues that discarding the digital materiality of the selfie as an object of circulation is to fall back into the colonial traps of preservation, archiving, and memory making that do not do justice to the ambitions, aspirations, and the agencies that are betrayed in the production of the selfies. In this essay, I take all these interventions at heart and am grateful for their

calls to explore and explode the selfie through a different framework and shifting the attention from the work in the selfie to the work of the selfie. Consequently, instead of spending time understanding the aesthetics, logistics, mechanics and mediations of the selfie – either as an extension of the photographic practice or as the development of a new visual vocabulary – I hope to bring forth dimensions that might become the building block of researching and receiving the selfie. The essay makes three propositions around the selfies: First, the selfie is a digital object and it hides more than it reveals. Second, as a networked object, the selfie is inherently self-referential – a selfish object. Third, the selfie doesn’t just work at interfaces of visibility but it also strategically makes itself and the self within it, invisible. Through these propositions, I look at the work that the selfie does in the new biometric technosociality in emerging networks of Digital India.

Self/ie in storage The inherent tension in the world of the social web is between hiding and revealing. In the post-Snowden era that we live in, there is a collective public anxiety about how much of our selves is known by government databases, social network algorithms, and Big Data analytics that are creating profiles of every action, every transaction, every flick of the eye and stroke of the key, as we go our merry way on the internet. At the same time, we are coming to terms with the fact that visibility is the new currency – that our private data is a commodity which can buy us conveniences and perks that make life more interesting if not easier.16 This trade-off between what we reveal, what we hide, what mechanisms we develop in order to protect what we hide and track what we reveal, is embedded in our everyday practices of the web. The aesthetic choices of expression-of-the-self negotiate with the circulatory

options of the selfie. The decisions of the filters applied to self are directly in contradiction to the authenticity claims of the selfie. The control exercised on the sharing of the self through flimsy social media privacy controls are directly in opposition to the default opt-in mass-circulation of the selfie. The presence of selfies conflates the registers of self-making, and then it is no wonder that it incites such polarized views. On one hand, are people who take the selfies as an extension of visual art practices that captured self-portraits offering the artist a great opportunity at self-representation and introspection. On the other hand are those who look at the selfie as all that is wrong with the indulgent, narcissist, inward-looking individualistic social web, where the self gets reduced to a formulaic template and becomes nothing more than a series of flattened images that do not respect either the fine art of self-portraiture, or the relationship of the self and the selfie. This conflation of the self and the selfie – the selfie as a verification of the self; the self as an authenticator of the selfie – introduces a new relationship between the self and its image because neither claims to be the original but serves as the validating authority for the other. The selfie is the proof that you were physically present at a particular location or were in a certain mood or in the company of other people. The self-uploading of the selfie is considered as a process of verification that this is not a photoshopped or a doctored image – that this is indeed what you were doing; that this is not an image captured by somebody else. The selfie, in its immense virility and instant seduction, is more than just the

image. It is an illustration of how digital technologies are constantly producing ways of enumerating, counting, identifying, tagging, and managing the self through processes of quantification. If the role of the digital is to convert memory into storage, so that the things we remember are equal to the things that we can store, and that we are always in quest of finding more ways of storing things

than we can remember, then the selfie is a shift from the remembering self to what I call the self-in-storage. The self-in-storage is symptomatic of the Big Data operations and practices that surround us. It reminds us that deep in the server clouds is a database with an algorithm that has watched you more keenly than your parents, your partners, your friends or your shrink, and that even when you are tired of producing information, it gathers data about you, continuing to grow and decay even as you pass through time. The self-in-storage is a departure from the informational self. The informational self – as in the Self conceived within the frameworks and concepts of information societies – was established in a state of negotiation. We were the fountainheads of information, thus producing a range of identities of authorship and creation, of rights of entitlement and interpretation, of mechanisms of contestation and challenging the ways in which our selves were written. However, the self-instorage that the selfie reifies is no longer a written self or a writing self as we have understood in our narrative histories. This self is produced through an amalgamation of big data and analytics that seek to know us, indeed, construct us beyond our own will, knowledge or agency. Hence, the famous story of Target, revealing a young woman’s pregnancy

to her family even before she could, based entirely on data about her shopping patterns has become a part of our digital realities. 17 The science fiction scenario of Amazon’s same day shipping plans, where based on the movement of your mouse and your history of shopping; Amazon is going to start shipping things to your address even before you complete your order, developing a ‘self-tuning system’ of increasingly accurate predictions has emerged as the natural default of networked transactions.18 The equally futuristic story that seems to be right out of Minority Report, is where surveillance agencies are helping authoritarian states to create predictive modelling of where protestors will converge, thus creating blockades on the roads to stop them from congregating rather than worry about disbanding a group that has already assembled.19 The visibility of the self through the selfie, this notion of the self-in-storage has

been quite prominent in Big Data debates. However, the selfie resists the notion of Big Data. As it refuses to be counted, refuses to be contained within a frame, travels across numerous and unpredicted circuits within a network, circulates in different forms within different contexts, and yet gets mapped back to the self that produces it, suggests something else. We have to stop thinking about Big Data and start focusing on Big Analytics. While it is important for data societies to count, trace, track and enumerate the data objects – like the selfie and the immense amount of metadata it carries with itself – eventually the real questions of control, of hiding, of revealing, and of negotiation lie with analytics, protocols, data filters and architectures of querying, manipulating and arranging this data. The inability of making sense of selfies, to give them meaning, to understand their form, format or function, is an indication

of how Big Analytics severely dislocate the authorial and central position that we have ascribed to the informational human subject. Big Analytics is a clear shift that for the first time in human history, we are now producing human data for nonhuman readers. The sheer amount of information that is now available to us, and the incredible data mining and harvesting that occurs from this information means that we do not have the ability either to write or read data. Both these tasks are performed by machines, tools, algorithms and protocols that are designed through human intervention but supersede human meaning-making processes. Digital objects like the selfie are not human-readable. We might be able to

locate meaning in them, engaging with them and be a part of their content, but they are now being produced to be parsed by collective intelligences of storage and querying that are far more resilient, robust and reliable than the fragile human remembering. Which is why it becomes so difficult to talk about the selfie. Given its profligacy for proliferation, the selfie remains elusive and refuses to be pinned down to our existing mechanisms of understanding it. Because which selfie are we going to look at? At one? At a series? At a collection? Do we follow its journey through the endless repetition through the networks? What happens when a selfie morphs? Or somebody photobombs it? Or if it is a twofie? Or a Groofie? What does a selfie become in a peer-2-peer network environment like Chat Roulette? Or when it enters the realms of webcam and user-generated pornography? Is it the same selfie when you use it to verify yourself and when Facebook asks you to identify and tag others in their selfies, generating evidence of our biometric existences in their digital database? This bafflement that the selfie produces to digital studies is why it is so irritating. Because it emulates earlier human aesthetic forms, its glossy seductive flattened visibility is only a reminder of the much larger menacing complex of power and control that remains invisible in the fun-and-game discourse of digital cultures. And perhaps, the way in which to understand the selfie is not to look at its visibility but at what it makes invisible – the complex machinations of power, control and manipulation that hide behind the glossy interface of the selfie and create new challenges for us to think about what we see and what we don’t, what we hide and what we reveal online.

Simulated self, networked selfie Perhaps the biggest charges against the selfie generation is that it is a practice that is inherently inward looking – a perversion of the great innovations of the camera to capture the external reality, positioning the picture taker as not only the creator but also the subject of the picture. And yet, it is not a critical reflection of introspection into the inner mechanisms of the self. It is empty. It is momentary.

It is formulaic and memetic. The selfie, it is posited, is a selfish form, only related to the vanity and desire of the selfie-maker, who simulates the self in conditions of hyperreal textures. This emphasis on the selfish nature of the selfie, actually insists that the selfie has an exteriority – the self – and fails to consider that the selfie, if it has to be considered selfish, has an entirely different relationship with the self. The selfie, like all digital objects,20 only has a relationship with itself. The selfie’s selfish relationship with the self borrows from older visual and meaning-making practices. However, the vocabulary, grammar and syntax of the selfie as a digital object have more to do with digital networks than it does with the oeuvre of photography and visual cultures. The digital object is not representational but simulational. So, when you go to your Facebook page, for instance, you know that it does not exist. There is no such thing as an original Facebook page that your page represents. Similarly, like the flowing river, you can never go back to the same Twitter feed twice. A Tumblr post, by the time you return to it, has changed. The websites post-Web-2.0 revolutions do not represent an external reality. They are in a state of simulation. Where, they simulate themselves. The Facebook page does not have an original that it tries to re-present. In fact, it references and simulates itself, much like Wikipedia, where the documented source takes precedence over real lived experiences and phenomena. The selfie, then, even as it might look like an older representational object (like the photograph from a photo album or indeed, like the deformed self-portraits of angst-ridden painters), needs to be understood through simulation. The selfie has to be understood not as an extension of older forms or representing an external reality. The selfie is a simulation of itself. This can happen only when we distinguish between the form of the selfie and the content of the selfie. It might be possible to narrativize the selfie so that we can look at the individual elements that make up the frame of that particular image. We could make discerning and insightful observation about the class, society, consumption, youth cultures and so forth. But in doing so, we are subjecting the selfie to a framework that is not its own. To really look at selfies, to study and understand them, we are going to have to study them as born digital objects, and largely selfish – only explaining themselves through their endless loops of circulation and instant digital deaths as they get buried under incessant information flows on our data streams. The selfie is a selfish object – an object of circulation, an empty signifier that prompts and generates a particular sociality, the focus point of gathering data rather than meaningful in itself – and is perhaps the best studied in the recent cases around revenge pornography that have taken such a huge share of public and legal attention around the world. Revenge porn, as a genre, is a series of naked or sexual or obscene images or moving images of women which are uploaded by disgruntled or jilted boyfriends and partners. In another essay, I

have looked at how dedicated websites like IsAnyoneUp and countless others,21 which made people like Hunter Moore earn the notorious title of the ‘most hated man on the Internet’,22 have cropped up around the world, identifying and shaming people as sluts, humiliated for their sexual desires and bodies. It would be obvious that this is a problematic practice of misogyny and a grievous invasion of privacy and trust, and yet revenge porn websites and portals, celebrating frat boy and lad cultures continue to flood the internet. In the landmark law that was passed in California in 2013, bringing down Hunter Moore and his acquaintance Garry Evans, propelled by the mother and daughter duo – Charlotte and Kayla Laws, who prosecuted them for images of Kayla found their way on this website, has some interesting prompts to understand the nature of the selfie as a form rather than as content. While the law did ban IsAnyoneUp and Moore and Evans are facing multiple criminal charges, the case has a particular caveat that is worth mentioning: The case against Moore and Evans was won, not on grounds of moral reprehensibility or Hate speech and violence against women. It wasn’t even won on grounds of protectionism or safety and security of the victims that were invoked on these websites. Eventually, the court case was won, because Moore and Evans were found guilty of hacking into Kayla Laws’ computer and taking images of her which she did not put into circulation. These were images taken by somebody else, which had been stolen, and that led to a downward spiral for Moore and Evans.23 Tellingly, despite the indictment of the duo, the law does make a clarification that selfies – nude or sexual pictures of one’s own self, will not be given the same protection as would be given to others capturing images of you. So if a third person has taken sexual images of you and is circulating them on the internet with the express purpose of exposing and shaming you, then you will be protected by such a law. But if you took a selfie of yourself, then you are at everybody’s mercy. Because the selfie cannot be contained in a frame.24 The selfie is not the same as an image taken by somebody else. The selfie does not have an original beyond itself. The selfie is not a reference to anything, according to this law, that is your own, your personal, or your bodily. It is, in fact, a reference to the networks of circulation it is going to enter. It is in never-ending, always stretched temporal and physical space and cannot be regulated or protected through older laws that cover visual practices. This is how selfies are selfish. They create self-referential loops of infinite but decaying circulation, spreading through viral contagion and then, rather than infecting anything else – the networks they travel on, the devices they are stored in, the clouds that they dwell on – they kill themselves. And immediately are replaced by something else that looks and feels like the older selfie but is still different. Selfies are more shared against than sharing – the agency and power to share is very minimally with the user and is generally subject to algorithms of mass circulation.

This shift that the selfie invokes, from representation to simulation, has, then, very clear ramifications for our narrative structures of representation politics and rights-based discourse that always imagine that the self-in-storage is the creator of information and that protecting and governing that information, as well as granting the self-in-storage more access and better control would ensure an informational democracy and equality. The selfish selfie, reminds us, in its inwardness and flatness that it is not even about us. It is about itself. And this mode of approaching digital born object has interesting challenges thrown up for how we think about ourselves in the limbo of the interwebs.

The disappearing self/ie In this third proposition, I shift my own attention from the visibility of the selfie to the invisibility or its disappearance. A large part of our conversations around selfie have been very literal, both in recognizing the selfie and its emergence. The focus is always on the selfie’s appearance and the appearance of the self in the selfie. However, if we start thinking of the selfie as an object of irony, hiding as it reveals, simulating itself while pretending to represent something else, we might also want to see the disappearance of the selfie and the disappearance of the self from the selfie as hugely critical. While the selfie might seem like just another social media fad that we all dabble in, for a lot of the younger people, it is more serious. Selfies and the publicity that they bring are not always positive. Bad selfies or ones that contest the status quo of young adult sociality can lead to mass-unfriendings and exclusion without any warnings. Selfie videos, which are equally visible in the user-generated video content websites like YouTube or even on message-sharing platforms like WhatsApp and SnapChat, are often the currency of social survival and friendship in the lives of digital natives. To the generally accepted terrain of fun and games that selfies are placed in, I want to introduce a specific genre of selfie-videos, which might help delineate the different layers of visibility and invisibility around a selfie. Note-card videos are videos where the person making the selfie video, hides his/her face, and instead draw the camera to focus on note-cards which are held in front of their faces or bodies. The note-cards have a series of words, sentences, or sketches which tell a particular story of trauma, of pain, of anger, of frustration and of sheer neglect and desperation that belie the otherwise smiling duckfaces of a selfie. In these note-card videos, we see young adults, often victims of intense sexual harassment, cyber-bullying or neglect, making videos where their selves, or their faces are hidden, but we can see their words as well as their personal spaces like bedrooms, where these videos are shot in company to soulful music.

The note-cards play with the same paradox of revealing and hiding, where, as they hide the person behind them, they also reveal stories which are otherwise hidden in the volatile world of social media, or which come out as secrets – weapons which can be used for harassment and blackmail. Possibly the most viral note-card video we know of is Ben Breedlove’s where Breedlove made a two part video titled ‘This Is My Story’.25 Breedlove, who was born with a congenital heart condition and knew that his time was coming to an end, made the heart-wrenching videos narrating his struggle of ‘cheating death’ and telling an inspiring story of living with courage in the face of all odds. When he died on Christmas Day in 2011, his videos went viral, as his family found them just hours after his death and distributed them online. Ben Breedlove died, but his selfie video lives beyond him. The same holds true for Jamey, a young man who was harassed and bullied because of his bisexual orientation. Jamey Rodemeyer, a harassed teen, made a video ‘It Gets Better’ that went viral,26 and every time you see the young man, fighting tears, blinking them out, smiling, and telling others to hold on, because things will get better, it brings a pang of realization that shortly after he made that video, he killed himself. 27 The Indian queer collective Orinam also started a series where you get survival stories of young queer bodies using the note-card as a way of communicating their pain. In the case of Amanda Todd things became even more traumatic.28 Amanda’s

video is particularly haunting, because for the most part of the video, Amanda directs the focus of the camera to her cards, as she narrates her mistakes as well as the intense bullying and harassment that followed. In Amanda’s case, the selfie-video was a non-selfie video – it was a video that obliterated her self from the selfie. And shortly after the selfie was erased, Amanda killed herself. Her non-selfie video is the last we would ever see of her. What is left of her is the incredible pain and the stories of horror that get thrown out of secret closets and as these stories become more visible, Amanda’s selfie and then her self, disappear. The invisible selfies then, as much as the visible ones, remind us of the close relationships between the self and the selfie. They ask us whether we shall forget to remember the self behind the selfies, or if we shall someday remember to forget the selfies that replaced the selves. In either of the cases, the selfies, the performance of the self in them, the surrogate relationship that they have where they stand-in for the self, and the way in which the obliteration of one seems to be mapped on to the disappearance of the other, makes us think about digital objects and their relationships with our biological bodies and practices, virility and memes. That in the tensions between the self and the selfie are the building blocks that might help us think what ‘digital life’ can be.

The work of selfie in the age of biometric reproduction Susan Sontag in her extraordinary thesis On Photography (1973) pronounced that the benignly lurking photograph is actually a violent act of aggressively reconstructing the body through the logic of the camera and the person behind it. The absolute vulnerability of the subject being captured, and the incapacity of the subject to negotiate with the final image, or be in possession of the craft and frameworks of the image-making, makes it an object of complete control and domination. As Sontag writes, ‘the camera doesn’t rape, or even possess, though it may presume, intrude, trespass, distort, exploit, and at the farther reach of metaphor, assassinate – all activities that, unlike the sexual push and shove, can be conducted from a distance, and with some detachment’. 29 The selfie carries all these motives of and impulses of penetrative intrusion and invasive circulation as a part of its photographic lineage and text. However, it is clear, in these propositions, as we understand the selfie as a digital object, that it is not just a description of the self but a prescription of it. The primary way of understanding the selfie has been to think of it through the lens of representation, looking at how the self gets portrayed, communicated, expressed and desired in these ‘self-portraits’. Through this essay, I want to propose that we need to stop thinking of the selfie through the accepted and familiar terrain of representation, where we think of the image as an extension of the self, preserving the self as ontologically sacred, pristine in its prelapsarian presence. Instead, we need to think of the selfie as perverting the self, as opening up into becoming what Wendy Chun calls ‘leaky’. This shift from preservation to perversion is also a shift in the focus from the work of making a selfie to the work that the selfie is made to do in the networked societies that we are building. Especially in emerging digitalization landscapes like India, where the digital has not yet accrued enough gravitas and weight to be seen as anything more than an implementation and information delivery system, the work that the selfie is being made to do needs special attention. Thus, in the face of the biometric identity-driven Aadhaar project,30 where our faces are being consolidated and correlated in massive national databases that work towards interoperable governance systems, it is important to understand what the circuits of the selfie might be. The Aadhaar subscription requires for the subject to enter into a liveimage-enrolment, where a picture of the face is used as the key biometric data to verify the subject in the system. While this particular image-making might seem to follow a larger history of facial recognition in governance system, the Aadhaar opens up a whole new question. The selfie in the Aadhaar database is not just a description but a verification of the identity. The live-camera action mimics the

selfie event because it confirms authenticity of the live moment rather than the older studio picture that used to be a part of the identity cultures. The Aadhaar identity card picture is not in a stand-alone universe. It immediately

triggers and can be used to do a biometric connection with all the other selfies and images that we might have floating in the digital cloud.31 This means that the original Aadhaar ‘forced selfie’, which is owned by all the different intermediaries within this digital ecosystem, can now enter into a conversation with all the other ‘voluntary selfies’ that the subject might have shared on the web. This opens up the innocuous selfie taken at a party, surrounded with large quantities of indulgent food, as a data-set for the health-care provider to figure out how to build a customized profile of the future well-being of the subject. Selfies taken on adventure holidays might become the basis by which the insurance providers recalibrate the profile of this risk-taking subject. In more invasive governmental regimes, the picture on a queer dating site, generally thought of as anonymous, might suddenly become a way by which the private identity might tie to the public identification, thus putting the subject in precarious conditions. A satellite image of a person in protests might be correlated with their official Aadhaar image, bringing upon them the wrath of an authoritarian state apparatus cracking down on voices of dissent. We need to stop thinking of the selfies as merely agential choices that the

subject makes in order to express themselves. Selfies might begin with a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) aesthetic where we pretend that there is an unmediated direct connection between the self and its image. However, the aesthetic and interface manipulations of the selfie that are available to the user in the guise of filters, effects, tones and editing are mimicked by much larger structures of governance and regulation, which produce the connection of selfies as the web through which the self in the selfie can be controlled and contained in unprecedented ways of surveillance. Selfies, then, are not the objects of our self but the context within which

our self is constructed, simulated, rehearsed, staged, stored, remembered and forgotten. Selfies do carry the traces of visual vocabulary and framing devices of the photographic image, but unlike the photograph, which was a gesture towards an external reality, the selfie remains a self-contained and inter-referential network, working as a trigger for further connections, with no meaning in itself, always looking to betray the self by extending and contracting its reach and scope without its consent, agency, or knowledge. In fact, selfies, far from being the unfettered celebration of the self, continue to frame the self as a quantified self – catalysing a quantification of personal and public information – falling in line with the neoliberal logic of making the self, open to intense and invasive commodification. The work that we make the selfies perform is also the precarious labour that we make the self perform – first in production of selfies, then in the circulation of the selfies, and eventually in protecting the self from

the networked contexts that the selfies produce, demanding affordances and compromises. Selfies, in this case, will need to be understood not only as a frivolous filtered social fad or cultural trend that the young do but as critical digital objects that, under the scrutiny of algorithmic governances, database logistics, and artificial intelligence logics, become ways by which the future of the self is being prescribed, one share at a time.

Notes 1

For further details, Jill W. Rettberg, Seeing Ourselves through Technology: How We Use Selfies, Blogs, and Wearable Devices to See and Shape Ourselves (London:

Palgrave Macmillan, 2014). 2

For further details, S. Livingstone et al., eds., Children, Risk and Safety on the Internet: Research and Policy Challenges in Comparative Perspective (Bristol: Policy

Press, 2012). For further details, Robert Payne, The Promiscuity of Network Culture: Queer Theory and Digital Media (New York: Routledge, 2015). 4 For further details, Helen Grace, Culture Aesthetics and Affect in Ubiquitous Media: The Prosaic Image (New York: Routledge, 2014). 5 Larissa Hjorth and Olivia Khoo, ‘Intimate Entanglements: New Media in Asia’, in Routledge Handbook of New Media in Asia, ed. L. Hjorth and O. Khoo (New York: Routledge, 2015), 1–14. 6 Adi Kuntsman, ‘Introduction: Whose Selfie Citizenship?’, in Selfie Citizenship, ed. A. Kunstman (Manchester: Springer 2017), 13–20. 7 For Further details, Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Updating to Remain the Same: Habitual New Media (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2016). 8 For further details, Koen Leurs, Digital Passages: Migrant Youth 2.0: Diaspora Gender and Youth Cultural Intersections (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2016). 9 Chrystal Abidin, ‘Communicative Intimacies: Influencers and Perceived Interconnectedness’, Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media and Technology 8 (2015), accessed 19 May 2017, doi:10.7264/N3MW2FFG. 10 Rohit Bhan, ‘Narendra Modi Takes a Selfie after Voting in Ahmedabad’,, 3 September 2012, accessed 20 December 2016, 3


11 Eric Bellman and Dhanya Ann Thoppil, ‘Modi Breaks the Internet with 70,000 Selfies’, Wall Street Journal, 2 February 2015, accessed December, 2016, https:// -selfies/. 12 Amala Dasarathi, ‘Gurmehar Kaur and the Spectre of Nationalism’, FeminismInIndia .com, 1 March 2017, accessed 24 May 2017, https://feminisminindia .com/2017/03/01/gurmehar-kaur/.

13 Elizabeth Losh, ‘Beyond Biometrics: Feminist Media Theory Looks at Selfiecity’, (2014): 3, accessed 28 May 2017, 97/88c80b2ca59b2a5d8db6aa3be86297bd6d90.pd. 14 Ibid., 5. 15 Theresa Senft and N.K. Baym, ‘Selfies Introduction – What Does the Selfie Say? Investigating a Global Phenomenon’, International Journal of Communication 9 (2015): 19. 16 For further details, Gary T. Marx, ‘Personal Information as Influences on Attitudes towards Surveillance’, in The New Politics of Surveillance and Visibility, ed. V. Ericson and H.D. Haggerty (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006). 17 For further details, Victor Mayer-Schöneberger and Kenneth Cukier, Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Thin (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013).

18 H. Herodotou et al., ‘Starfish: A Self-Tuning System for Big Data Analytics’, Cidr 11 (2011): 261–272. 19 Andrew G. Ferguson, ‘Predictive Policing and Reasonable Suspicion’, Emory Law Journal 62, no. 2 (2012): 261–325. 20 For further detail, Duncan J. Watts, ‘Networks, Dynamics, and the Small-World Phenomenon’, American Journal of Sociology 105, no. 2 (1999): 93–101. 21 Nishant Shah, ‘The Selfie and the Slut’, Economic Political Weekly 50 (2015): 17, accessed 20 May 2017,

22 Alex Morris, ‘Hunter Moore: The Most Hated Man on the Internet’, Rollingstone .com, 13 November 2012, accessed 10 February 2017, http://www.rollingstone

.com/culture/news/the-most-hated-man-on-the-internet-20121113. 23 Emily Greenhouse, ‘The Downfall of the Most Hated Man on the Internet’, The New Yorker, 28 January 2014, accessed 10 February 2017, tech/elements/the-downfall-of-the-most-hated-man-on-the-internet. 24 Jonathan Lloyd and Wire Reports, ‘Revenge Porn Site Founder Pleads Guilty to Hacking, ID Theft’, NBC Los Angeles, 16 February 2015, accessed 10 February 2017, -Moore-Guilty-Plea-294199191.html. 25 For further details, Christina Ng, ‘Texas Teen Ben Breedlove Posted Powerful Videos BEFORE CHRISTMAS DEATh’, American Broadcasting Company, 2011. 26 For further details, Dan Savage and Terry Miller, It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living (New York: Penguin Books, 2011). 27 Sarah Anne Hughes, ‘Jamey Rodemeyer, Bullied Teen Who Made “It Gets Better” Video, Commits Suicide’, The Washington Post, 21 September 2011, accessed on 22 June 2017,


-suicide/2011/09/21/gIQAVVzxkK_blog.html?utm_term=.6233f68edcef. 28 Michelle Dean, ‘The Story of Amanda Todd’, The New Yorker, 18 October 2012, accessed 2 March 2017, -of-amanda-todd.

29 Susan Sontag, On Photography (New York: Rosetta Books, 1973), 9. 30 Usha Ramanathan, ‘A Unique Identity Bill’, Economic and Political Weekly 45, no. 30 (2010), 10–14. 31 For further details, Ashish Rajadhyaksha, In the Wake of Aadhaar: The Digital Ecosystem of Governance in India (Bangalore: Centre for the Study of Culture and Society, 2014).

Select Bibliography Abidin, C. ‘Communicative Intimacies: Influencers and Perceived Interconnectedness’. Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media and Technology 8 (2015). Accessed 19 May 2017. doi:10.7264/N3MW2FFG. Chun, W.H.K. Updating to Remain the Same: Habitual New Media . Cambridge: MIT Press, 2016. Ferguson, A.G. ‘Predictive Policing and Reasonable Suspicion’. Emory Law Journal 62,

no. 2 (2012): 261–325. Grace, H. Culture Aesthetics and Affect in Ubiquitous Media: The Prosaic Image . New York: Routledge, 2014. Herodotou, H. H. Lim, G. Luo, N. Borisov, L. Dong, F.B. Cetin, and S. Babu.‘Starfish: A Self-Tuning System for Big Data Analytics’. Cidr 11 (2011): 261–272.

Hjorth, L. and O. Khoo. ‘Intimate Entanglements: New Media in Asia’. In Routledge Handbook of New Media in Asia, edited by L. Hjorth and O. Khoo, 1–14. New York: Routledge, 2015. Kuntsman, A. ‘Introduction: Whose Selfie Citizenship?’ In Selfie Citizenship, edited by A. Kunstman, 13–20. Manchester: Springer, 2017. Leurs, K. Digital Passages: Migrant Youth 2.0: Diaspora Gender and Youth Cultural Intersections. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2016. Livingstone, S., L. Haddon, and A. Görz, eds. Children, Risk and Safety on the Internet:

Research and Policy Challenges in Comparative Perspective. Bristol: Policy Press, 2012. Marx, T.G. ‘Personal Information as Influences on Attitudes towards Surveillance’. In The New Politics of Surveillance and Visibility, edited by V. Ericson and H.D. Haggerty

Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006. Mayer-Schöneberger, V. and K. Cukier. Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013. Murray, P.R. Dismantling the Master’s House: Practicing Digital Humanities in the Global South, 2017. Accessed 28 May 2017. Dismantling_the_Masters_House_Practising_Digital_Humanities_in_the_Global

_South. Payne, R. The Promiscuity of Network Culture: Queer Theory and Digital Media. New York: Routledge, 2015. Rajadhyaksha, A. In the Wake of Aadhaar: The Digital Ecosystem of Governance in India. Bangalore: Centre for the Study of Culture and Society, 2014. Rettberg, J.W. Seeing Ourselves through Technology: How We Use Selfies, Blogs, and Wearable Devices to See and Shape Ourselves. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. Risam, R. ‘Toxic Femininity 4.0’. First Monday 20, no. 4 (2015). doi: 10.5210/


Savage, D. and T. Miller. It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living. New York: Penguin Books, 2011. Senft T.M. and N.K., Baym. ‘Selfies Introduction – What Does the Selfie Say? Investigating a Global Phenomenon’. International Journal of Communication 9

(2015): 19. Sontag, S. On Photography. New York: Rosetta Books, 1973. Watts, D. ‘Networks, Dynamics, and the Small-World Phenomenon’. American Journal of Sociology 105, no. 2 (1999): 93–101.


Through the illusion of meaning and causality … do we not cover over the fact that we do not and cannot fully understand or control computation? That computers increasingly design each other and that our use is ... a supplication, a blind faith? Programmed Visions – WENDY HUI KYONG CHUN

A few years ago, I stopped using photography as a means of artistic expression. Now, I pick up the camera only when commissioned to do so. My sudden desertion of the photographic act was not on account of nostalgia for analogue, rather, I see the digital camera for the powerful tool of artistic creativity it is. But the upload button on my computer screen complicated things: once on the internet, my images would lose their singularity and become complex objects, whose paradoxicality left me confused. They would clone on their own, associate with other images and do things I did not intend them to. More important, their meaning would shift and rarely be what I had in mind when creating them. They would automatically acquire an organic digital life, which was both, connected to and disconnected from my initial creative impulse. Rather than create more images in a time of overabundance, I turned my artistic practice to studying the life of the digital image on the web. Upon shifting my gaze from the capture of images to their study in vivo, the non-linear nature of the internet became actively


apparent. The internet is a rich facet through which to explore our reality and consciousness. It is fascinating to observe how the simple true-false binary – contiguous to the basis of computation – can lead to inaccessible complexity. One of the questions I now explore through my renewed art practice is how complexity makes itself accessible. My first encounter with the paradoxical nature of the digital image was with my project ‘Send Some Candids’ in 2011 (Plate 16). I wanted to document the sexuality of Indian men, but photography felt limiting to represent this complex intimate reality. That’s when I noticed that some of the men were already documenting their own sexuality using their mobile phone cameras. They would sneakily shoot unsuspecting women in public places. Indian pornographic forums are brimming with voyeuristic photos. This offered an insight into the psyche of those who upload these photos; how the camera was used as a tool of sexual oppression. I felt at that moment that working with singular photos did not yield any further meaning and was dangerously anecdotal. I decided to work with batches of photos and devise an apparatus that could process these images. A sample batch of 100 photos was played as a slide show on the screen of a mobile phone. The slide show was recorded as a video by a second camera phone. This was the first iteration. The recorded film was then once again played and recorded by the two mobile phones. The images would degrade quickly and after twelve iterations of this simple process they would reach a stable state in which stains of colour would emerge from the initial photos. These stains of colour would move on the screen but their overall structure would stay the same even after thirty iterations. It was as though the stability in the system was reached through self-organization. The essence of the photographs appeared to have been refined, allowing the emergence of something visually new. They had an organic shape; they looked alive (Plates 17). With this insight, I continued my experiments with digital images. In my

project ‘Being Seen Trying’ (2014) (Plate 18), I attempted to reveal the ‘spiritual’ essence of images broadcast during online darshans. A darshan or ‘auspicious sight’ is a visual and spiritual connection with the deity, experienced in Hindu temples. This is an ocular closed circuit where you are ‘Seeing’ and ‘Being Seen’ by the deity. Temples can now be accessed online and you can pray in front of the screen of your computer. Cameras installed in the temple broadcast live video feeds of the deity and also of the devotees present and praying: I decided to focus on the faces of the devotee. The technological tools used in the online darshan websites are evidently tools of surveillance: from the CCTV cameras to the software used for the broadcast. Feeding the low-quality pixelated videos of devotees into a face detection software seemed the obvious next step: a kind of feedback loop where ‘the Seeing’ and ‘the Being Seen’ are digitally actualized. A sign of the intimate integration of digital media in our societies, online darshans are now accepted as a ‘valid’ spiritual experience and deemed


almost as powerful as their ‘real-life’ counterparts.L It is interesting to note that believers praying in front of their computers are well aware that the recipient of their prayers is only represented by pixels relayed by software and cameras. And yet this knowledge does not detract from the spiritual aura of the darshan. The complex process of the algorithm is wilfully overlooked for the comfort of a seemingly simple and direct interaction with the divine. The bandwidth fluctuations of the video and the glitches affecting the broadcast are taken not as technical restrictions but as signs of the strength of the online darshan and of the power of this spiritual and algorithmic communion. Praying through the proxy of a computer screen and CCTV cameras reveals the awe digital images can inspire; the abstract mathematical object effortlessly becoming the recipient of spiritual awe. After these two projects, I became more aware of the phenomenological

significance of our interactions with the digital realm. It is also a place, I realized, where seeking causation and linearity can turn into a wild goose chase; a complex system whose essence is mainly paradoxical. A key paradox of the digital is its simultaneous visibility and invisibility, tangibility and intangibility. Because it originates from the evolution of the computer architecture, it is a productive paradox to harness. In Wendy Chun’s book Programmed Visions, she demonstrates that programmability could be seen as an ‘ideological belief’ that fuels the organization of the modern liberal state. She narrates how the role of hardware in computer architecture has been quickly superseded by the role of software. By the 1970s, the complex visuality of the mode of operations of the computers became gradually hidden under the flat simplicity of the graphic user interface (GUI). GUI enables users to interact more directly with computers and has changed the way we understand our relationship with the digital.2 Though GUI lets the users map the ‘increasingly complex world allegedly driven by invisible laws of late capitalism’, Chun also notes that this inversely renders it possible for the users to be easily mapped. For her, these reductive maps are not Frederic Jameson’s potentially ‘insightful, clarifying’ cognitive maps. She argues that the constant need for mapping obfuscates the complexity of the system: ‘as our interfaces become more transparent and visual, our machines also become more dense and obscure’.3 Computing has a paradoxical essence: visual interfaces and obscure machines, a shallow transparency hiding a complex density, a simple visibility and an invisible complexity. The error message during an application crash is evidence of the whirring of

tiny delicate gears of the software. Hidden beneath the surface of our screens, the software operates tirelessly. Maxwell’s entropy demon4 gave its name to the hidden UNIX orphaned processes that work endlessly behind the interfaces. For Chun, these demonic processes are anything but benign. They are our most diligent digital slaves, as also our masters. They have an undisclosed hidden agency over our interactions with the digital realm: ‘they render central processes

for computation – processes not under the direct control of the user – daemonic: orphaned yet supernatural beings between gods and men. Indeed, the interface is haunted by processes hidden by our seemingly transparent GUIs that make us even more vulnerable online, from malicious back doors to mundane data gathering systems’. 5 Working covertly in the digital netherworld, the behaviour of the demonic algorithms is and will stay unknown to us. This sense of loss of control over the machine is aggravated by a departure from a Cartesian perspectival frame in the distribution of digital images on the internet, as identified by Daniel Rubinstein. He notes that images on the internet do not follow a ‘chronological temporality’ and their ‘instant multiplicity’ 6 makes them immune to the ‘paradigms of representation …: image/model, subject/object, figure/ground’.7 This falling away of an ocular-centric rational representation is experienced increasingly as a departure from the Western Enlightenment perspective on reality and from the Cartesian rationale of understanding and representing it. The life of the bits of information that are processed by the software follows its own computational reality, a ‘logic of the digital image’,8 which is unknown and complex for its human users. Generating a felt randomness, the behaviour of images on the internet is often perceived to be irrational. The texture of the reality that the digital realm proposes to us is radical, a

domain whose essence is paradoxical: visible and invisible, tangible and intangible, rational and irrational. This ‘strange and untamed world’9 is the revelator of new properties in photography. The digital turn makes some of the obscure zones in the studies of photography impossible to ignore anymore: its relationship or lack of it with the truth has invited reinvestigation. I find digital images deeply fascinating. They are the most accessible bits

of the information floating on the internet, yet they are problematic. They don’t always behave as pure information, nor can they be read only semiotically like a regular photograph. There is more to see in a digital image than the sum of its pixels: what we are allowed to see is decided by algorithms, and what we don’t get to see is an important essence of the image. In a decisive gesture, algorithms have killed the uneasy truce that photography had with reality. The pixel on the screen is there through complex, unknown algorithmic interventions seemingly irrational to the observer. This radical change in the way images are created, distributed and seen brought the indexicality of photography (its ability to accurately represent reality) under renewed scrutiny. In semiotic terms, an index is ‘a mode in which the signifier is not arbitrary but is directly connected in some way (physically or causally) to the signified – this link can be observed or inferred’.10 For Charles Sanders Peirce, a photograph is a recording and can be qualified as an index. The extent to which a photograph is an impartial recording is at the crux of ever-evolving attempts to make sense of photography. In the writings of Roland Barthes, André Bazin and, to a certain extent, Susan Sontag, photography retains its indexicality and is framed as a truthful record of reality.11 It

is in the digital age that photography theory showed up its inherent contradictions, demanding in its articulation a radical departure from the old ways. Quite early in the 1990s, Lev Manovich, in his article ‘The Paradoxes of the

Digital Image’,12 rightly remarks that images created by CGI (computer generated imagery) are closer to reality than photographic images, or rather too close for comfort: their extreme accuracy is filtered down to match our expectations of a photographic description of reality: ‘the goal of computer graphics is not realism but only photorealism’. This, to him, shows that we accepted a long time ago ‘the photographic image as reality’: an image which is not photorealistic doesn’t seem real. In 1997, Paul Levinson questioned ‘the very reliability of the photograph as mute, unbiased witness of reality’ because of the ‘... fallibility of technological manipulation and the potential for human refinement of production’.13 The digital manipulation has the potential to interfere with supposedly accurate photographic recording. Furthermore, the indexicality of analogue and digital photographs is questioned by Tom Gunning, who proffers a new understanding of the term as the visual accuracy and recognizability of a photograph. 14 This interesting turn introduces continuity between analogue and digital in disbanding the semiotic approach and in focusing on a phenomenological study of the verisimilitude of images. Gunning thus expresses ‘a phenomenological fascination with photography that involves a continuing sense of the relation between the photograph and a pre-existing reality’.15 In 2002, Paul Frosh, speaking of stock images, describes the digital image as a ‘code without a message’ turning upside down Barthes’s assertion that a photograph is ‘a message without a code’.16 In 2013, Daniel Rubinstein pointed out that the issue is not really with image-making but with image processing. Whether the photons hit a film coated with argentic crystals or a CMOS sensor, the latent image is (in an unseen way) the same. The processing of the digital image is really the crux of the matter. For Rubinstein, the latent digital image is a digital file that can be expressed in manifold ways. Digital camera manufacturers made sure we wouldn’t get lost while transitioning from analogue to digital and that the processing algorithms would give us results visually similar to film processed photographs. But, as Rubinstein points out, the result can be any number of visual outcomes. A digital image is a file and the algorithm that makes it a photograph can be used to generate completely visually different output.17 Rubinstein introduces here the notion of the ‘unknowability’ of the latent image, a notion at play with respect to the analogue and the digital image: For if we consider the unknowability of the latent image seriously, we will have to admit that the relationship between the ‘real’ and the image has slipped from our grasp. If the image and the object share a commonality then this commonality contains within it something radically unknowable which cannot be accounted for by visuality alone, but by the presence of the invisible

within the visible as well as of the sensory within the intelligible. In fact, the old binary model ‘object–image’, has to be replaced by the ternary ‘objectunknowable–image’ where the unknowable makes room for the processing operations that convert events in the physical world into something we recognize as an image. This observation applies equally to the analog and to the computational image.18 Thus, Rubinstein’s incisive insight into the nature of the image as a process. Images are not only statements about facts in the world, as he points out in his series of lectures in 2016 on the philosophy of digital images, they are themselves processes that make the world.19 Each time we open a digital photograph on our various screens, processing

algorithms recreate the latent image. These algorithms often have no links to reality but have irrational and non-indexical technological imperatives. Parallel to processing algorithms, we have networking algorithms. The digital image on the internet is no longer discrete and singular. Metadata and meta-tags are attached from the moment of image creation. Monetary profit engineers the digital image into a networked image.20 Once it reaches the internet, the digital image exists in an ever-changing relationship with other data rendering the issue of its singularity non-pertinent: on the internet, images are not experienced in an isolated way but in relationship with other images and other types of information. The operations of this relation are invisible and irrational to the observer. ‘Irrational’ in the sense that imperatives of the network are not a rational curation of images and are vastly unknown to us; its preoccupations are not to create meaning but to propagate information. On the internet, the singularity of the body of work of an artist loses its meaning. What is to be made of the thoughts of Henri Cartier-Bresson when his portrait of Giacometti is now sandwiched on my Instagram feed between a photo of a kitten and a selfie? Rubinstein argues that the notion of indexicality can no longer be used at this

juncture: ‘Because the image is continuous, frameless, multiple and processual, it cannot be unpacked with the tools of semiotics and structuralism that were developed to deal with finite, framed, singular and static images’ and finds Jacques Derrida’s notion of ‘undecidability’ more appropriate to qualify the networked image. According to Derrida, ‘undecidability is always a determinate oscillation between possibilities (for example, of meaning, but also of acts).’21 Pertinently, Rubinstein also notes that ‘the algorithmically processed digital

image is undecidable to the extent that material processes involved in its production have less to do with Cartesian perspectival universe with its reliance on the horizon line and the optical vanishing point and more with Gödel’s undecidability theorems, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle and the paradoxes of Turing machines.’22 It is crucial to locate the study of the digital image in the larger frame of work done during past decades in the fields of physics, mathematics

and philosophy. Semiotics, as we saw earlier has limited applicability, and I find it more productive to use information theory, the study of complex systems (selforganization and emergence are particularly interesting) and mathematical and philosophical studies around paradoxes. Our understanding of photography has radically changed during the past

decade: the ‘digital turn’ has forced us into a reevaluation. It is satisfying to see that photography also resists any ‘unifying’ theory of the image: the essence of photography is uncertain, undecidable and paradoxical. Rather than an image of bright and well-organized server rooms, the internet

conjures visions of the dark and dangerous places found in the books of H.P. Lovecraft, Franz Kafka, and Jorge Luis Borges. Borges’s Library of Babel an excess of uncurated information – could be seen as a premonition of the internet. I find Borges’s story an apt metaphor for our emotional responses to the complexity of the current information systems. The library of Babel is an enormous, poorly lit library consisting of adjacent hexagonal rooms; each room has four walls of bookshelves, five shelves per walls, thirty-two books in each shelf. The books are all the possible random permutations of twenty-two characters. It has a total of 25 × 101312000 books. The library contains all the pastwritten, being-written and to-be-written books, and every possible permutation or slightly erroneous version of each one of these books.23 These books are engaged by tribes of frustrated librarians. Their quest is to find meaning among the randomness of the books, a Sisyphean task as the library of Babel in its totality has to the librarian no meaning. Being a random combination of characters, the library as a whole is uninformative: it contains every affirmation and its negation. Too much information distributed in a system does not imply that this system is useful or meaningful.24 (This is the challenge one faces in making sense of the randomness of complex systems like the internet.) Meaning is created from the meaningless totality of the library when a librarian picks up a book from the shelves and peruses its contents. This singular meaning does not obliterate the latent meanings of the other unread books of the library; this latency will be expressed the next time a librarian’s hand opens the pages of a new book. Meaning is found but at the same time it eludes the frustrated librarians because of the possibilities of the other latent unknown meanings.25 This then leads to different strategies: divination, religion and superstition flourish in an attempt to access complexity. Borges with premonitory accuracy and empathic dark humour expresses the manner in which we navigate the corridor of our networked library: finding meaningful patterns in randomness, associating rationale with superstition, supporting divination with science. Subtler articulations of the digital image and its life on the internet would be

more productive and consistent over time (Plate 19). The networked image is the digital image connected to other bits of information on the internet. These connections are not only the meta-tags and metadata but are also the results

of image recognition software, the generative and algorithmic association of the digital image with other images and text, and any other generative or nongenerative types of connections our rapidly evolving technologies are creating. Furthermore, the term ‘digital’ is too transient and linked to a technology that will be replaced partially by quantum computing in the future. A ‘computational’ image is an image one created through the use of mathematical algorithms in its capture and/or processing. Similarly, in the future, the internet will be replaced by different types of networking systems. After all, the internet has had many precursors. The ‘network’ encompasses the web and all of its physical peripherals; it is connected computing in its totality. What follows is an outline of my reflections on the meaning of the networked image, on how this meaning eludes us and an exploration of the access to complexity in the network. The architecture of the networked image has the same labyrinthine properties as the library of Babel. A networked image is all the simultaneous visible occurrences of this image on the network. Mapping it is an arduous and abstract task; also exposing unending layers of paradoxicality and seemingly incoherent complexity. Once uploaded, an image is shared and it automatically clones itself. It will be disseminated at different sizes and levels of compression and some additional information in the form of graphics or text may be injected into its pixels. Finally, it goes on to exist in an ever-changing relationship with other images and other types of information. These connections are operated by algorithms in complex, unknown and invisible ways. Each singular viewing is the image networked. However, since it is impossible to privilege one occurrence against another, a networked image is at once all of its occurrences on the network. This is akin to the randomness of the Library of Babel where it is absurd to favour the meaning of one book against another. Like with Borges’s library, it is potentially possible to find for each semiotic ‘affirmation’ of a networked image, its semiotic ‘negation’. This is the paradox: a networked image in its totality has no meaning, though its viewing on a webpage does produce a singular meaning each time. It has at the same time one meaning in its singularity and no meaning in its totality. This brings us back to Rubinstein’s observation about the undecidable nature of the networked image, which is an oscillation between determinate possibilities of meanings. The meaning of a networked image constantly oscillates between two poles: meaning and absence of meaning, and it will occupy all of the determinate positions between the poles (including the opposites themselves). It is satisfactory to see that the networked image cannot be imprisoned into a binary and hence refuses a dialectical approach: meaning shifts paradoxically between all such possible meanings an image can have on the network. The human tendency to perceive meaningful patterns within random data is

termed ‘apophenia’. First used as a medical term to describe the delusional states of patients diagnosed with schizophrenia, apophenia is explained by Benjamin H.

Bratton as the process of ‘drawing connections and conclusions from sources with no direct connection other than their indissoluble perceptual simultaneity’.26 In an article for e-flux,27 Hito Steyerl introduces the term ‘apophenia’ to qualify USA’s National Security Agency’s data blindness. She discusses the problem NSA had with sifting through the accumulated ‘sea of data’ and in finding any meaningful information. Consider the issue of the accumulation of false positives that impedes the productive use of data collection. A dramatic example of the inaccuracy of the algorithm sieve happened with the ‘metadata kills’ 28 in Pakistan where thousands of Pakistanis were wrongly profiled as couriers for terrorists.29 This allegedly 30 led to the killing of many by drone strikes. If the algorithms of the NSA cannot distinguish meaningful information in this ‘sea of data’, nor can we, the individual users. The network presents a shallow visible interface of simplicity and familiarity. Algorithms operate in the network invisibly and answer to imperatives that are rarely the ones of the users. They function stealthily, hiding their operations in order to preserve their commercial copyrights and their technological advances. The information is networked in a seemingly everchanging, irrational and haphazard manner and creates for the user the sense of white noise randomness.31 As in the Library of Babel, rationality on the network has been quickly abandoned to give place to what we do best: divination. The vocabulary that qualifies the network and the software has quickly changed: the scientific and computational taxonomy is less used, giving way to vocabulary denoting the mysterious and the magical. 32 We are left with our innate pattern recognition ability. Research undertaken by Kokko and Foster in ‘The Evolution of Superstition and Superstitious-like Behavior’ led them to conclude that ‘the inability of individuals ... to assign causal probabilities to all sets of events that occur around them will often force them to lump causal associations with non-causal ones’.33 Mixing superstition and rationality, apophenia is the extreme simplification of a complex system such as the network, giving imbalanced importance to the visible simplicity while discarding most of the complex invisibility. If seeing just the surface, one misses everything because underneath, there is this enormous, rich depth of complexity. The question is one of access to it. Taking stock of the paradoxes of the networked image, a dialectical approach to the network shows itself to be deficient. In trying to approach the complete system through the tension between its binary poles of meaning, the dialectical approach only adds inaccessible and incoherent complexity. It also leads us to try to find meaning in a networked image through its contradictions alone, in shifting our focus successively to either binary pole and in discarding the latent possibilities. For art, the latency of these possibilities of meaning is attractive and needs expression. Perhaps this could be arrived at through a wholesome, 34 simplifying, non-destructive process such as encountered during the elaboration of my first project ‘Send Some Candids’, that is, the self-organization of information and its subsequent visual emergence.

Self-organization and emergence are processes that occur in complex systems. Self-organization is the form of an order in a system that often gets created under the influence of random fluctuations. An emergence is a stable order created in a system where a different and larger entity arises from the smaller components of the system; emergences show properties at the macro-level in the system that are radically different from the properties of the singular and smaller components and which cannot be reduced to the causality of the interactions at the micro-level of its components. Emergences happen spontaneously or through a disruption in the system. Studies of these two processes (long a philosophical preoccupation) are relatively new in physics and mathematics, in which explorations of their relationships to information in complex systems are at their inception. Selforganization and emergence have a bearing on what happens on my screen: through the disruption of an algorithmic process on information (pixels, metadata, etc.), this same information shows visually after the disruption a marked coherent stability in the form that it takes, and this form has visual properties which are different from the initial photographs (colour, shape and more important for me, meanings and aesthetics). Explaining the mechanism of this process and the operations of emergences requires moving in the direction of more and more nuance. This seeming impossibility to speak about the ontological shift in the system is, to my mind, not a limitation but an efficient challenge to delve into complex systems. This ineffability is promising and I cannot help but see emergences as being paradoxical: when does an object stop being its smaller components and become the emergent object? In other words and connecting loosely with the sorites paradox (the paradox of the heap): when does sand stop being a grain and become the emergent dune? The paradox of the emergent object is potentially extremely productive and needs to be thoroughly investigated. Bringing it back to my primary argument – I ask, when does the meaning of a computational image stop being that of its singular occurrence and acquires the proliferation of meaning of the networked image? 35 The essence of the viral image is thus revealed to be paradoxical, and the interesting question is not the whys or wherefores but the ‘whats’: What happens to the networked image when it becomes viral? The answer points to the paradoxical narration of the ineffable and emergent life of the viral image. My exploration of the paradox of emergence continued in 2015 in my project

‘A Thousand Kisses Deep’, (Plate 20) which developed on my interest in sexuality in India and its expression online. Where once relationships were kept secret from the invasive eye of Facebook, photos of kisses started to flourish on the social networks in India signalling that we were in the midst of a radical change. For this project, I worked with algorithms to reveal the ‘energy of the pixels’. While teaching myself coding, 36 I stumbled upon an open-source function that calculates the energy of the pixels and was seduced by its possibilities. 37 Could the energy of a movement for sexual liberation seep into the pixels of a digital

image? I built an algorithm around this function to process the photos of kisses procured from Indian social media. This algorithm required certain parameters to be entered for each photo, which would have an impact on the way each image would be processed. It also produced iterations; albeit this time their number could reach hundreds of thousands of cycles. The processing of a photo was several hours long and an emergence would only express itself randomly. This asked for a state of enhanced awareness and took five months of experimenting and continuously running the algorithm. Recorded on print and resembling self-organizing information crystals, these emergences are beautiful for their metaphorical meaningfulness. More recently, I have also begun to investigate the artistic possibilities of digital apophenia. Astronomical images relayed from satellite probes are scientific

Figure 13.1 Fabien Charuau, the Cassini Conspiracy, The Earth and the Moon seen from Saturn - Digital Print on Archival Paper – Unique – 24 × 24 inches, c. 2016, Courtesy of the artist.

images with specific purposes and are processed by specialized algorithms. Once released in the network – NASA on its website publishes raw images captured by the dozen probes exploring our solar system – they become charged with other meanings. The network is a fertile ground for conspiracy theories, which are extreme symptoms of our digital apophenia. As soon as NASA posts a new image, it is held to intense scrutiny. I was inspired by the artistic and creative methods used to expose NASA’s ‘secrets’. Using rudimentary Photoshop tools, conspiracy theorists open up shadows, sharpen certain pixels and creatively recycle the jpeg compression artefacts. In an imaginative way, they aim to reveal ‘cover-ups’ by NASA. Sure enough, Mars and the moon are teeming with reptiles, mummified aliens and elaborate spaceports. For the Cassini Conspiracy (2016) (Figure 13.1), I was thus inspired to work on the starkly beautiful photographs sent back by the probe Cassini-Huygens of Saturn and its moons. I applied to the photographs a simple process: opening-up the shadows and sharpening the details using a simple image editing application on my tablet. It was an occasion to test the simple creativity of digital apophenia; I set aside my search for meaning and indulged in free-flowing artistic expression. It felt like sketching. We have only just started to understand the radicalness of what the network

implies. It is one of the key drastic changes wrought upon our sense of reality. The complexity of the network can be said to both echo as well as impact other profound changes in economics, politics and culture. What could an artistic engagement be at these times of transition? Meaning is shifting on the network rapidly, and the dualistic perspective on reality in a true/false articulation is fast eroding. The comfort of apparent certainty and continuity is disappearing. Yet I don’t see any political alternative that can accompany these changes, the shift in consciousness needed to grasp this new reality hasn’t happened yet. In a strange reversal of meaning, modernity has become outdated, and the ubiquitous post- and neo- point deceivably to the past.38 The word ‘insight’ returns frequently in my argument, and it is not used as a

lazy resolution of the conundrum of access to complexity, quite the contrary: in times when uncertainty becomes the chief context for interpretation, when our thoughts travel from confirmation to doubt at each click of the mouse, I explore the relation of insight to access. Looking at the network as a transitional process signalling a shift from a static frame to an interactive one (from the framed to the frameless), I wonder if at the core of the transitional difficulty is not our cognitive limitation to fully understand the potentiality of paradoxes (their list grows steadily in mathematics, physics and philosophy, they are the revelators of lacunae in our understanding of reality). They are, at any rate, an integral part of the network and as we have seen with the paradoxical nature of the digital image, they introduce a continuous shift in perception that opens up the space for endless creative manipulations.

It is crucial to understand how this manipulation operates in order to render it transparent. An immediate approach for making sense of the complex network would be apophenia, finding patterns in randomness. This approach, however, is limited by the level of approximation we are willing to use to address the complexity of the system.39 Apophenia ipso facto discards direct causality for an imagined indirect causality. Another approach would be to unravel the chain of causality altogether, a kind of Laplacian deterministic epiphany (the etymological40 and dialectical opposite of the apopheny). This would include attempts to capture in their entirety the causes and effects of the network. This is the stuff of science fiction: the epiphany where the hero fuses with the computer. But as we have seen with the Library of Babel and the networked image, this is an epiphany without meaning. This approach to complex systems reveals nothing of any profundity: a complete capture of randomness, were it theoretically possible, would be as voluminous and complex as the randomness itself. A linear approach to the network brings attempts at its comprehension to a paradoxical grinding halt. Neither apopheny nor epiphany is informative, neither the simple description nor the complete description of the system is useful. This is the Bonini paradox, which frames the difficulty faced while attempting to create models that describe the workings of complex systems. John Mason Dutton and William H. Starbuck in 1971 have stated: ‘As a model of a complex system becomes more complete, it becomes less understandable. Alternatively, as a model grows more realistic, it also becomes just as difficult to understand as the real-world processes it represents.’41 Paul Valéry captures this paradox poetically: ‘Everything simple is false. Everything which is complex is unusable.’42 That is, until the contradiction is resolved in that the implied separation is not so much a separation as a process. Simplicity itself is not something that unfolds to complexity in linear fashion; rather, it is that process of access to an otherwise radically unknowable emergent complexity. As librarians, we can read all the books of our endless networked library one after the other, or rely on superstition and divination. Ultimately, this is not going to alleviate the sense of frustration created by constant obfuscations. In the network, a non-linear approach would be more efficient and insight could be the unfolding of the Bonini paradox. Insight could be at the same time an apopheny and an epiphany, meaning could be found in the simple and the complete, and in neither the simple nor the complete description of the system. It can be located in the oscillation between a partial imagined causality and a total immanent causality, between the singular and the total, between the local and the global, the visible and the invisible: an emergence. Regardless of where it occurs, the event of insight brings order into the whole network, of which the observer is but a part. Emergences are elegant mathematical solutions for art; they bring a system to a higher order of simplicity from the complexity of its lower operations. It

is also never reducible to its parts, but bigger than their sum. An emergence is wholesome and non-destructive. It includes and preserves the dialectic’s opposition binaries that are its condition but never its cause. It is in time and outside of time: it needs a procedural maturity yet the moment of emergence is neither predictable nor observable, it just happens. Its radical novelty brings dynamic stability to the system. An emergence is mathematical poetry unfolding, an insightful expression of ineffable complexity.

Notes 1 2

Phyllis K. Herman, ‘Seeing the Divine through Windows: Online Darshan and Virtual Religious Experience’, Heidelberg Journal of Religions on the Internet, no. 4 (2010): 151–178. ‘Grounded on the principles of direct manipulation and direct engagement, GUIs offer users a way to act and navigate an increasingly complex world. The maps they offer, as well as the paths they outline, seem to give individuals a way to comprehend their relationship to that vaster and properly unrepresentable

3 4

5 6 7

totality which is the ensemble of society’s structures as a whole.’ Wendy Chun, Programmed Visions: Software and Memory (London: MIT Press, 2011), 176. Ibid., 177. ‘Our use of the word daemon was inspired by Maxwell’s daemon of physics and

thermodynamics. (My background is Physics.) Maxwell’s daemon was an imaginary agent which helped sort molecules of different speeds and worked tirelessly in the background. We fancifully began to use the word daemon to describe background processes which worked tirelessly to perform system chores.’ Fernando J. Corbato, ‘The Origin of the Word Daemon’, Richard Steinberg/Mr. Smarty Pants, The Austin. Chun, Programmed Visions, 60. Daniel Rubinstein and Katrina Sluis, ‘The Digital Image in Photographic Culture: The Algorithmic Image and the Crisis of Representation’, in The Photographic Image in Digital Culture, ed. Martin Lister (London: Routledge, 2013). Daniel Rubinstein, ‘Nothing to See Here: Fractal Photography and the Politics of Invisibility’ (2016), 4. _photography_and_the_politics_of_invisibility.


Lev Manovich, ‘The Paradoxes of Digital Photography’, in Photography after Photography, 1995,

-digital-photography/02_article_1994.pdf. 9

‘The other is the strange and untamed world of multiplicity, proliferation and

undecidability in which there are no right or wrong answers because the Archimedean point of external reality has been replaced with self-referential replication.’ Daniel Rubinstein, ‘The Digital Image’ (2013), 9, https://www.academia .edu/4595376/Digital_Image. 10 Daniel Chandler, Semiotics for Beginners (1994), szmanuals/bb72b1382e20b6b75c87d297342dabd7.

11 Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography (1981), http:// André, Bazin, and Hugh Gray, ‘The Ontology of the Photographic Image’, Film Quarterly 13, no. 4 (1960): 4–9. Sontag, On Photography.

12 Lev Manovich, ‘The Paradoxes of Digital Photography’. 13 Paul Levinson, The Soft Edge: A Natural History and Future of the Information Revolution (London: Routledge, 1997), 41. 14 ‘I use this phrase (“visual accuracy and recognizability”) to indicate the manner in which indexicality intertwines with iconicity in our common assessment of photographs’. Tom Gunning, ‘What’s the Point of an Index? or, Faking Photographs’

in Still Moving: Between Cinema and Photography, ed. Karen Beckman and Jean Ma (Durham: Duke University Press, 2008), 41. 15 Ibid., 45. 16 Paul Frosh, ‘Rhetorics of the Overlooked: On the Communicative Modes of Stock Advertising Images’, Journal of Consumer Culture 2, no. 2 (2016): 178. 17 ‘One of the insights afforded to us by computational photography, is the understanding that whether the image has a resemblance to an object or not has little to do with indexicality. Rather, it has everything to do with the algorithmic processes that operate on the raw data collected by the light-sensitive sensors in a camera. The same data could be just as easily output as a text file, a sound, a string of numbers or remain unprocessed.’ Rubinstein and Sluis, ‘The Digital Image in Photographic Culture’, 8.

18 Ibid., 9. 19 Daniel Rubinstein, ‘Philosophy of the Digital Image’ (lecture, The Post Human), 1 August 2016, accessed 11 March 2017, Wi3K2s4o&

20 Daniel Palmer, ‘ISEA2011 Istanbul’, The Rhetoric of the JPEG | ISEA2011 Istanbul, accessed 10 March 2017,

21 Jacques Derrida, Limited Inc (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1988), 148. 22 Daniel Rubinstein, ‘The Digital Image’, 149. 23 ‘Everything: The minutely detailed history of the future, the archangels’ autobiographies, the faithful catalogues of the Library, thousands and thousands of false catalogues, the demonstration of the fallacy of those catalogues, the demonstration of the fallacy of the true catalogue, the Gnostic gospel of Basilides,

the commentary on that gospel, the commentary on the commentary on that gospel, the true story of your death, the translation of every book in all languages, the interpolations of every book in all books.’ Jorge Luis Borges, The Library of Babel (1941), -babel-by-jorge-luis-borges.pdf. 24 ‘Randomness and information are formally the same thing. If we want to emphasize the utility or value of some data, we speak of information content. If we want to emphasize a lack of pattern or order in some data, we speak of randomness. A

high algorithmic information content does not imply that the data are meaningful or useful.’ J. Machta, ‘Entropy, Information, and Computation’, American Journal of Physics, no. 67 (1999), 1075.

25 The Library of Babel now exists online, not as metaphor but as the real thing: All the permutation of the characters within 410 pages books. Or rather ‘as the algorithmic thing’: The Library is generated by an algorithm using user inputted seeds for the random generation of the 25 × 101312000 books of the library. 26 Benjamin H. Bratton, ‘Some Trace Effects of the Post-Anthropocene: On Accelerationist Geopolitical Aesthetics’, e-flux, no. 46 (2013), https://www

-accelerationist-geopolitical-aesthetics/. 27 Hito Steyerl, ‘A Sea of Data: Apophenia and Pattern (Mis-)Recognition’, e-flux Journal, no. 72 (2016), -apophenia-and-pattern-mis-recognition/. 28 Former CIA director: ‘We Kill People Based on Metadata’, RT: Question More, 12 May 2014, accessed 21 February 2017, 29 Christian Grothoff and J.M. Porup, ‘The NSA’s SKYNET Program May Be Killing Thousands of Innocent People’, Ars Tecnica, 16 February 2016, accessed 11 March 2017, -be-killing-thousands-of-innocent-people/. 30 Martin Robbins, ‘Has a Rampaging AI Algorithm Really Killed Thousands in Pakistan?’, The Guardian, 18 February 2016, accessed 18 February 2016, https://

31 32 33 34

-algorithm-really-killed-thousands-in-pakistan. Frosh, ‘Rhetorics of the Overlooked’. Andrei Sorin, Software and Mind: The Mechanistic Myth and Its Consequences (London: Andsor Books, 2013). Kevin R. Foster and Hanna Koko, ‘The Evolution of Superstitious and SuperstitionLike Behaviour’, Proceedings of the Royal Society, no. 276 (2009), 31–37. ‘Simple causal reasoning about a feedback system is difficult because the first system influences the second and second system influences the first, leading to a circular argument. This makes reasoning based upon cause and effect tricky, and it

is necessary to analyze the system as a whole.’ Karl Johan Astrom and Richard M. Murray, Feedback Systems: An Introduction for Scientists and Engineers (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999), 1. 35 While saying this, I am acutely aware of the extreme leap of faith that I propose here: Can meaning be emergent? This hinges on whether or not we can see meaning being a property, it parallels the moot point that the theory of emerging consciousness raises: is consciousness a property? Michel Bitbol, ‘Ontology, Matter and Emergence’, Phenomenology and Cognitive Science, no. 6 (2007).

36 ‘A Thousand Kisses Deep’ uses a Java-based programming language called Processing.

37 This open-source function is normally used for seam-carving i.e. removing the least important pixels or the least energetic pixels of a computational image in order to

resize it. 38 Failing to realize this leads us to intellectual dead-ends, for instance the term ‘postphotography’ is nonsensical: How can one be post a technology? (it calls for a new term). This is obfuscating the fact that we are entering a radically new reality

whose documentation needs a radical new sensibility. After all when it was invented, photography was not called ‘post-painting’. 39 It is important to note the importance of the observer in dealing with complexity: ‘The existence of random or unobservable components in a physical phenomenon, an universal condition, does not mean that all of them are complicated, as we have seen in the previous examples. We most conclude that complexity is a subjective

property. If the observer is satisfied with a simple model with sufficient accuracy, there is no complexity involved.’– Pablo Funes, ‘Complexity Measures for Complex Systems and Complex Objects’ (1997), complex.maker.html. 40 The word apopheny is sourced from the Greek apophaneia which derives from apo (away) and phainein (to show), Epiphany comes from epi (upon) and phainein. It is also worth noticing how the spelling of the initial medical term apophrenia (apo+ phren ‘mind’ or ‘cognitive faculties’) mutated to Apophenia in order to match the

spelling of Epiphenia. 41 J.M. Dutton and W.H. Starbuck, ‘Computer Simulation Models of Human Behavior: A History of an Intellectual Technology’, IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics, no. 2 (1971), 128–171. 42 Paul Valéry, Notre destin et les lettres, 1937 (Paris: Conferencia).

Select Bibliography Chun, Wendy. Programmed Visions: Software and Memory. London: MIT Press, 2011. Frosh, Paul. ‘Rhetorics of the Overlooked: On the Communicative Modes of Stock Advertising Images’, Journal of Consumer Culture 2, no. 2 (2016).

Gunning, Tom. ‘What’s the Point of an Index? or, Faking Photographs’. In Still Moving: Between Cinema and Photography , edited by Karen Beckman and Jean Ma. Durham: Duke University Press, 2008. Levinson, Paul. The Soft Edge: A Natural History and Future of the Information Revolution. London: Routledge, 1997. Manovich, Lev. ‘The Paradoxes of Digital Photography’. In Photography after Photography, edited by Hubertus von Amelunxen, Stefan Iglhaut, Florian Roetzer,

57–65. G&B Arts International. 1995. Palmer, Daniel. ‘ISEA2011 Istanbul’, The Rhetoric of the JPEG | ISEA2011 Istanbul. Accessed 10 March 2017. Rubinstein, Daniel. ‘Nothing to See Here: Fractal Photography and the Politics of Invisibility’. In The Routledge Companion to Photography Theory. London: Routledge,

2016. Rubinstein, Daniel and Katrina Sluis. ‘The Digital Image in Photographic Culture: The Algorithmic Image and the Crisis of Representation’. In The Photographic Image in Digital Culture, edited by Martin Lister. London: Routledge, 2013. Steyerl, Hito. ‘A Sea of Data: Apophenia and Pattern (Mis-)Recognition’. e-flux Journal,

no. 72 (2016).

14 POST-PHOTOGRAPHY AND MISSING IMAGES Joan Fontcuberta ‘Translation by Ana Mahé’

Diarrhoea of images What remains of photography in the era of post-truth and the selfie, of Facebook’s indiscreet rear windows and the sirens of consumerism, emojis and spam? Who will continue to eulogize the art of light? Just as we think we can find answers to our questions about memory through photography, life prematurely changes those questions. Maybe, because life isn’t a problem to be resolved, as Soren Kirkegaard would say, but rather, a reality to be experienced. Kirkergaardian existentialisms aside, photography constituted one of the pillars of the industrial revolution and of the development of a techno-scientific culture in the nineteenth century. Its invention influenced many innovations that dramatically set in motion modern communication and transport systems such as railways, steamships and the telegraph. From an economic and political perspective, photography contributed to the control of the world through its symbolic appropriation, as well as visually formatting its new spatiotemporal models. From a social and cultural perspective, the camera acted as an instrument of truth and the archive, facilitating a mapping and encyclopaedifying of knowledge. From a spiritual or religious perspective, photography transcended finitude and death and aspired to magically supplant reality. The photographic image was destined to reflect the unique particularity of a life. Thus, for Giorgio Agamben, the angel of the end of time, the angel of the Apocalypse of St. John, was one with the angel of photography.1 It is ridiculous to pretend that such values can remain intact in the twenty-

first century. Today, we are confronted by savage globalization and the virtual economy. Commodity capitalism has been swallowed up by capitalism of images, or, as Iván de la Nuez suggests, by an ‘iconocracy’2 – the tyranny that the image exercises over us has taken away our sovereignty and turned


us into subjects. We live in a hyper-modern society marked by consumerism, quantification, excess and urgency; a society in which the emphasis is no longer on the break with the values of modernity but rather on its exacerbation. We discover the world by way of digital screens that give access to a fluid, complex and monitored reality. The internet, social media networks, mobile phones, security cameras and myriad forms of graphic recording devices generate an oversaturation in which images are no longer submissive mediations between the world and us but have become active and furious. This can be imagined excuse the coarseness – as a mega diarrhoea of images. The artistic dramatization of this ‘diarrhoea’ was captured well in Erik Kessels’s installation, Photography in Abundance, presented at the end of 2011 in the FOAM museum in Amsterdam, and later toured to many locations to the point that it became an absolute icon of post-photography. The installation consists quite simply of the dumping of almost a million and a half photos – downloaded from the internet and printed to the size of a postcard – and scattered throughout the different halls of the exhibition space. This enormous amount apparently corresponds to the quantity of images uploaded and archived to Flickr over a period of twenty-four hours. Doing a quick calculation, if a person were to view each image for a brief second, it would take upto two weeks to view them all. It is obvious that faced with such magnitude, the individual qualities and reasons for each image’s production dissipates, while the immeasurable mass imposes the disheartening sensation of impenetrability. Visitors to this exhibition were in effect able to experience the suffocating immersion in an ocean of images, as if swept away by an irresistible current. Beyond a sheer sense of astonishment, audiences experience an unsettling feeling, akin to being swamped (Plate 21). If we now shift our attention to the main social media networks, figures reach overwhelming proportions. At the beginning of 2017, Snapchat had regular uploads of 800 million photos daily; Facebook, 350 million; Instagram, 80 million. Let’s apply the same calculation: if a person were to give just one second of attention to each of these images over twenty-four hours, this individual observer would need almost fifty years to view all of the images that are uploaded in twentyfour hours alone across these three portals. For every minute that you invest in reading this text, one quarter of a million images are uploaded to Facebook. It appears that the paradox now is that we don’t take photos to look at them, we drown ourselves in images that almost no one sees, and what is happening is that the photo’s content barely seems to matter, but other values have become associated with the act of photography such as, for example, connectivity and communication. Post-photography therefore heralds a society that is losing its memory to achieve more interaction while all the time consolidating a utopia of hyper-visibility via a universe of ubiquitous images without meaning or context. It has become obvious that photography is no longer the ‘writing with light’ exercised by a few privileged scribes but rather a universal language that each


of us now come to use naturally in the many chapters of our daily lives. This is what I propose to call the advent of the homo photographicus. But this universality and the excess that it brings exacts a toll on what was the ideological framework of photography: we enter new regimes of truth and memory. The documentary value of post-photography images navigates a painful uncertainty: that the camera has been forced to renounce its power of conviction. But also, memory becomes affected. If photo-chemical photography is associated with an elephant-like memory, post-photography embodies a precarious ‘goldfish’ memory, which it is thought only lasts a few seconds.3 The greatest paradigm of this ‘goldfish memory’ is Snapchat, an application fiercely popular amongst young people in which the messages received, including photos and videos, are automatically deleted after ten seconds. It represents the ecstasy of the present, to the detriment of the past: the suspended present, eternalized, which is a kind of no man’s land between the horizon of experience and expectation. Postphotography substitutes the memory of the past with the nostalgia of the present.

Strategies of resistance We feel as much hope as unease faced with such changes, and this ambivalence generates within artists attitudes of resistance and of critical testimony. For example, one reaction is to return to the artisanal methods of the nineteenth century and to certain discontinued materials, such as Polaroid film. This attitude not only displays a ‘retro’ sensitivity but can also be seen as a critical militancy and activism that go beyond the technophobic or ‘luddite’ leaning to which they have often been relegated. The return by many photographers to analogue film can be understood as nostalgic but also as a rejection of what is represented by digital culture. In the same vein, photographers who engage in daguerreotype processes and other archaic systems will always continue to exist. This can be ascribed to enjoying the actual process itself, more so than for the communicative effect of its result. Today, we travel by car but some continue to travel on horseback, be it for reasons of snobbery or ecology. Neither motorways nor horse riding will disappear completely, but it is obvious that they have become the exception to the rule and are difficult to sustain as a means of transport. It is through different forms of resistance that we recognize what has been left in the margins, what has not merited the consent of canonizing institutions. It is in this light that the timeless phenomenon of revalorizing the vernacular can be interpreted: family albums, amateur photography, old portraits, popular adverts, commercial photography, pornography, forensic documentation and all of those areas of production considered ‘low culture’. We justify it with the excuse of prioritising a sociological viewpoint over this huge amount of photographic trash, which on balance should compensate us by enriching the aesthetic patrimony

with the unexpected, the accidental, the unannounced … The hope in the end is of discovering treasures amongst the lowest classes of iconic repositories; of extracting nuggets of gold from a mass of anodyne images. Aside from academia, which has obviously emphasized sociological and anthropological perspectives over vernacular photography, the pioneers of recovering this type of material for art were Hans Peter Feldman and Sándor Kardos. The latter founded the Horus Archive and claimed that the act of collecting constitutes an art in itself, with equal value as the very act of taking photos: to select an image amongst many is equivalent to choosing a frame amongst many other possible frames. The creative act is not based so much in producing rather than choosing. Today, the legacy of Feldman and Kardos is relived by photographers such as Martin Parr, Erik Kessels and Joachim Schmid. But almost fifty years later, the efforts of a new generation still haven’t translated into a brilliant discovery or a happy occurrence but rather a swan song to a type of photography formerly abundant and now agonized. Perhaps the most common form of resistance to the excess of images is the politics of recycling, excellently synthesized in Joachim Schmid’s statement: ‘No new photographs until the old ones have been used up.’4 Faced with a contamination of images, the hegemonic faction of artistic activism seeks to counter contamination with an ‘ecological’ conscience of contention, which bases itself in the institutionalization of practices of recycling and adoption.5 Penelope Umbrico provides a magnificent pedagogy of this idea in her work and especially her emblematic piece Suns from Flickr which can be interpreted as an eloquent manifesto. Umbrico explains that one day she felt the impulse to take a photo of a romantic sunset. She decided to check how many photos were tagged with the word ‘sunset’ on Flickr and discovered that there were 541,795 appetizing sunsets to be found there; in September 2007, there were 2,303,057; in March 2008, 3,221,717; and in December 2015, 12,012,609. On Flickr alone and within a single search term, the tap gushes out a multimillion magma of sunsets. Is there any sense in taking an additional photo? Will the photo we take add something to what already-exists or just increase its redundancy? Is it worth adding to the already reigning graphic ‘pollution’? Umbrico posits a ‘no’. For this reason she embarked on her particular environmental crusade: downloading 10,000 photos of sunsets from Flickr, which she then recycled to compose a mural with which she covers the walls of galleries and museums following only the alphabetical order of the names of these graphic archives.

Ecologies of testimony Preserving a sustainable equilibrium within this universe of images as Umbrico advocates, requires coordinating the containment of production with acts

of recovery. This approach of ‘abstaining’ and ‘recycling’ can be undertaken in different ways, depending on whether we place emphasis on quantity or availability. In other words, whether we choose to act from the point of view of ‘excess’ or ‘access’. From the latter perspective arises the aesthetics of access; the premise that images appear to us as a continuous flow, an infinite parade, a fluid energy. The internet seems to construct itself upon ‘cascades of images’, according to an expression borrowed from Bruno Latour, which implies that images are threaded, paraded and presented fleetingly without pause, each imprinting itself into the prolongation of the next, each allowing the other to exist, persist and give access to the next, which illustrates the continuous manufacture of the cyber world; a perpetual movement where nothing is ever lost, and less still images; but rather the reverse, where everything remains permanently and adds itself to a totality. It is as if a Heraclitian shadow is flying over the internet. Few artists find they can remain on the fringes of this surge, and most end up taking the path and navigating this new ‘hydro-graphic base’ – to borrow another expression from Latour. The phenomenon of memes follows this same logic of a cascade, procuring active signs of collective participation as a hymn to the occurrence, to the creativity, to the absurdity, to the ironic and playful. A series of memes that are amongst the most popular, and best exemplify these qualities are the Nutscapes: participants must take sublime landscapes, such as grandiose natural scenes or moving ruins of splendid monuments, but always with the prosaic silhouette of their testicles appearing in the foreground. The idea of a vertiginous flow of images is pertinently illustrated in the following works: Roy Arden’s The World as Will and Representation and Dina Kelberman’s I am Google. The title of the former revisits the famous essay that Arthur Schopenhauer published in 1818, considered the most fully developed manifestation of philosophical pessimism. In Schopenhauer’s view, knowledge of what the world is and means can originate only in aesthetic experience. We are slaves to our desires, to the blind will to live – ‘Life is a torment and an opaque yearning’ – but we have art to help us overcome it. Aesthetic contemplation detaches us from the endless chain of needs and desires. In 2004, Roy Arden borrowed the title of Schopenhauer’s major work for his visual essay, which can be considered a precursor to the fundamentals of post-photography. His video, an austere slide show displaying a dizzying succession of 28,144 images found on the internet, evokes a shocking arbitrariness that holds us hypnotized in front of the screen for 1 hour, 36 minutes and 50 seconds. The compiling of this set of images was initially motivated by Arden’s need for raw materials with which to make collages, as since 1985 Arden had decided to take his documentary practice in a different direction and begin to work exclusively with archival images to produce a new type of ‘historical painting’. The kaleidoscopic flow of The World as Will and Representation – Archive 2007 (2007) embraces the most varied manifestations of life and combines an almost exhaustive repertoire of

random inclusions that leave us mired in surprise and confusion. What may seem to be a celebration of encyclopaedic knowledge and triumph of the culture of the archive in fact reveals the subordination of any will for classification and knowledge to the poetic imperatives of chance. In fact, Arden displays an early fascination for this Alí Babá’s cave that has become the internet for searchers of ‘image-treasure’. This work also becomes a hymn to the extraordinary diversity of human experience and the difficulty in synthesizing them. In 1977, when NASA sent the Voyager probe into space, it included a gold disk which contained, as well as sound recordings, a collection of 116 photos to explain to other possible intelligent life forms the ways of life and of human society on earth. Extraterrestrials might certainly appreciate Arden’s selection more today, perhaps because the internet is what best deciphers our chaos and randomness. In I’m Google, this same idea of incessant flow is also highlighted, but in this case, a flow that follows a condition: the images are set by morphological affinity as in those children’s games where the phrase must begin with the same word as the last word of the previous sentence. Instalment after instalment, from one photo to the next, it also seems here that we are reviewing or inspecting every aspect of the world like a never-ending screen scroll. The difference here is that this forward movement follows a chain of content which cannot be ordered into ideological families but rather by similarity in geometry, colour, texture and other formal values. We could posit that Dina Kelberman has invented a particular type of ‘chain reaction’, which overtakes the meaning of this same chemical concept: I’m Google is a chain reaction of online images, images derived from other images, morphologically or semantically related to each other. Another way of describing this would be to say that in I’m Google the images are drawn to each other like the mechanics of a Rube Goldberg machine, as seen in experimental video production (among which is the acclaimed Der Lauf Der Dinge by Peter Fischli and David Weiss in 1985, which became a classic). The thread of continuity of dialectical images – in other words, in conversation with each other – seems to work in I’m Google through an automated programme, a bot acting freely with Google Image Search and redirecting its results to Tumblr; however, in reality the process is based on a manual selective search based on countless hours sifting through photos. But for the user it feels like an inverted turing test intended to elucidate if this consists of the patient work of an artist or if it is computer generated, framing doubt in the confrontation between what is human and what is technological, and putting to the test the limits of our own condition.

Missing images The fact that we have too many images and that we run the risk of being swamped by them shouldn’t make us overlook the reverse problem. Visual saturation forces

us also, and above all, to reflect on the images that are missing: the images that have never existed, and that did exist but are now no longer available, or that faced insurmountable obstacles in order to exist, that our collective memory has not preserved, that have been prohibited or censured. The cinema critic Serge Daney was moved during the Gulf War by transmissions from cameras that were embedded in ‘intelligent’ bombs, that showed the entire ballistic trajectory right up to the final impact.6 This veritable ‘videogame’ spectacle spared the spectator the horror of the war’s ravages and the suffering of victims. Daney foretold then that we were entering an era of absent images, of images that are not there. And it is certain that from a political perspective these are shielded from our eyes. For example, we never got to see prisoners in Guantánamo or the dead body of Bin Laden: the lamely named ‘reasons of state’ justified this absence. But this inhibition or prohibition of the image extends itself to many other areas in life in which the camera – by cultural norm, commercial interest or religious taboo – is unwelcome, and it is on those gaps that attention is placed as a preference. From this perspective, hyper visibility can be interpreted as hyper hypocrisy. As a case study, the project Bin Laden Situation Room by Chinar Shah tackles many of the presuppositions we have cited previously. Barack Obama’s term ended with Operation Neptune Spear which consisted in hunting down public enemy number 1, Osama Bin Laden, an undertaking which his predecessor George W Bush was not able to complete. There only exists one image from this operation, taken by Pete Souza, official photographer of the White House, on 1 May 2011. The immediate view is of President Obama with his national security team in the Situation Room of the White House receiving a direct retransmission of the actions of a navy seal commando who was ordered to ‘assassinate’ or ‘execute’ the leader of Al Qaeda (terms which, like ‘vengeance’ and ‘justice’, depends entirely on the point of view adopted). Given the transcendent nature of the news it was presenting, this snapshot received a lot of attention and once posted on the internet (tagged simply as ‘P050111PS-0210’ on the official White House page on Flickr), became hugely popular. CNN declared it a photo for the ages and compared it to other iconic images which have remained engraved in the visual memory of recent history. This photograph, as was to be expected, drew much attention from political scientists, historiographers and, even, body language experts. For example, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who described this moment in time as the most intense thirty-eight minutes of her life, appears to be covering her mouth with an expression of anguish whilst watching the operation as it unfolds – although later admitted that she was suffering from a seasonal allergy and was likely stifling a cough or sneeze (Plate 22). With the passing of time, more details have emerged of this covert operation. According to veteran journalist Seymour Hersh, a Pulitzer Prize winner famous for his role in exposing the My Lai massacre perpetrated by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War, the operation to hunt down Bin Laden was in reality

largely staged. The terrorist leader, gravely ill, was already a prisoner of the Pakistan secret services who were harbouring him without protection and isolated from the rest of the world in a mansion in Abbottabad. A Pakistani agent was bribed in order to disclose the exact location. Contrary to edited versions collected by the press, Hersh maintains that neither the CIA nor the U.S. Security Services played a significant role when Bin Laden’s hideout place was discovered. There was never any confession obtained through torture from any prisoner which led to finding mail written by the Al Qaeda founder. There never was any shoot out at the house in which Bin Laden lived. And, lastly, the body of the terrorist was never tossed out into the Indian Ocean from the Carl Vinson aircraft carrier. This thread of events appeared, in the end, much less attractive than the official narrative, whose starting point was this precise image from the Situation Room. In any case, it is interesting for now to point out that from such a transcendent

event and in such an era for the image, only one photo has survived. One carefully selected image, whose mission it was to string a series of happenings into a particular visual representation. No image need have been supplied at all but devoid of graphic evidence the epic proportions of the story would have become diluted in the conscience of the public, who would have had to wait to consolidate the myth through fictions such as the movie Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow, 2012). Beyond the notion of censorship, we are taking part in an exercise of control; the control of the image aspires to become evidence of another type of control: the control of reality. Controlling images becomes the same as controlling situations. Because what Souza’s photograph is telling us, with an almost ‘Big Brother’ governing-like tone, is that ‘the American people can sleep easy, all is under control’. In short, this ‘staging’ has the primary aim of transmitting a message of confidence to the population on behalf of their most elite public servants (politicians, civil servants, the military), who on the basis of an abstract idea of the common good, decide what can and can’t be seen. Because in the photo we only see the Americans responsible for security watching what the rest of us mortals have been prohibited from seeing. And it appears that it is for our own good. That this would happen is just more evidence of the power and fear of the image. Would a photo of Bin Laden’s body have copper-fastened the symbolic survival of his spirit? Another notable aspect of the image is the intersection – or cross section – of

viewpoints that it produces, as in a show when attention is placed on the audience rather than the action on stage. The viewpoint of the camera – our viewpoint by extension – collides with the viewpoint of those present in the Situation Room. Souza’s viewpoint – which by extension becomes that of the viewer looking at the image on their screen – offers us the opposite of what we expected. Therefore what we see are a group of people absorbed in something which is not visible in the frame, but whose faces express such tension that it convinces us of

the seriousness of what is being witnessed. This can be interpreted as a device of ellipsis or omission. The commando’s action is what justifies the gathering together of this group of people; however, it remains invisible to us because Souza has decided to place himself between the screen and the audience. Therefore, the camera’s priority is to institutionalize the critical eye and formalize it within an architecture of power. To turn our back on the screen means ignoring what is happening there, it also means pretending that it is not important and that it doesn’t deserve our attention. Souza’s photo evokes a sort of rhetorical auto-deception that can lead to fantastical imaginings but ultimately leaves us content with propaganda. But it also speaks to us of a paradox in regards to the politics of ‘seeing’. The paradox is that what the actors in the photograph can see is shielded from us, the spectators of the photo, and consequently, what we are shown is a ‘quota’, a mere ‘backdrop’, or put even more simply, a titbit. The department of communication of the White House coordinated the instances of this dialectic and, by doing so, demonstrated, as Friedrich Nietzsche proposed, that there are no facts, only interpretations. Shah has created an artist’s book compiling this same image as it appeared on 454 internet pages, with each URL displayed in the final appendix. The same image is replicated in this way, one after the other, but on each occasion the particular properties of each file are respected (its size, embedded photo caption, added margins, light re-framings). To a distracted observer, the presentation of a sequence of the same image with insignificant variations has little meaning. To someone who understands the subtlety of the undertaking, it can be shown that it is within this type of energy/vibe that the promiscuous lives of images resound within the kingdom of the internet: so many images to ‘eclipse’ the absence of a single image, the image that represents what actually happened. This piece of work therefore, constitutes a magnificent response to the mass use of images not as sources of information but rather as smoke screens that cloud the reclaiming of absent images. Perhaps post-photography also engages in a process of unveiling ‘ghost-images’. It is hardly surprising that this relentless initiative aimed at the public attempted

to fill the gap of a lack of images of the lifeless body of Bin Laden and rushed to supply simulations. Different recreations present his disfigured face in a crude appropriation of special effects from horror movies. But although the technique is deplorable, these ‘phantasmagorias’ express a collective impulse to fill the void, to contain the drift of the images that are missing. This urgency to fill the void has overtones of a global necessity shared by all contenders of political dialectics. The most remarkable phantasmagoria of Bin Laden wasn’t created by internet users but by the very FBI. Years after the 9/11 attacks, U.S. intelligence lacked recent photos of Bin Laden and his forensic illustrators had difficulty periodically updating his identikit. In January 2010, the FBI published an image of Bin Laden which had been digitally aged. Madrid’s daily newspaper, El Mundo, revealed

that its composition had as its baseline a photo of Gaspar Llamazares, a past leader, and current deputy of the political party Izquierda Unida (the United Left), a party that had emerged out of the Spanish Communist Party. The image, which corresponded with an electoral portrait used by the United Left during their campaign in the general elections of 2004, was obtained, quite simply, via Google Images. The FBI admitted using the photo and after explanations were requested by the Spanish government, proceeded to remove the polemical image from its website. The identikit had been pasted onto the official webpage of the ‘Rewards for Justice’ Programme, an initiative created in 1984 by the office of Diplomatic Security of the Department of State of the United States to source information that would lead to the capture of terrorists in exchange for monetary rewards. In the case of Bin Laden, the reward was $25 million. Ken Hoffman, spokesperson for the FBI, assumed responsibility for the agency and justified the usurping of Llamazares’s face as the result of a chance accident, one which was linked to the ideological profile of Llamazares. Sources from the United Left believed in return that it was a suspicious coincidence that this would happen to a public personality who had harshly criticized so-called ‘CIA rendition flights’, that stopped off in Spanish airports and through which the United States transferred presumed terrorists to countries which did not respect human rights, where they were subjected to interrogations under torture in order to seal confessions.

Vemödalen The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows is an initiative by graphic designer and writer John Koenig. Koenig has created a thesaurus of invented words that describe concepts or emotions yet to be qualified or named. In this enterprise, Koenig has enlisted the contribution of internet users so as to jointly equip ourselves with the neologisms necessary to express ideas pertinent to the new era in which we live, orphans still of a precise term. Koenig envisaged The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows with the desire to name a series of sensations that he wished to evoke in his poems but that had never been linguistically described. The popularity of his website and YouTube channel began to increase in June 2015 when the first few dozens of words began to be shared across social media networks and the project received very favourable reviews in the media. Amongst the elegant neologisms that Koenig introduced, we fix our attention on vemödalen: –vemödalen – n. the frustration of photographing something amazing when thousands of identical photos already exist – the same sunset, the same waterfall, the same curve of a hip, the same close-up of an eye – which

can turn a unique subject into something hollow and pulpy and cheap, like a mass-produced piece of furniture you happen to have assembled yourself. In effect, we are forced to confront the dizzying reality that everything has already been done, that the world has been catalogued and mapped completely and that not an inkling of terra incognita (unknown land) remains. When we place our attention on the excess of images, we saw this with Umbrico, what is evidenced is that post-photography exhausts the notion of genre – the tag ‘sunset’ – but it cannot exhaust the singularity of each individual image. The problem that the image faces isn’t so much its proliferation, but rather how we interpret it. The experiencing of each image is unique and non-transferrable. Shah brings this observation to its most radical point, with an argument that destroys the position of vemödalen: even when images are reproduced and cloned there persists in their DNA elements that personalize them. To succumb to vemödalen means to renounce resistance; it means to disentangle ourselves from missing images which could be so important to us. Using clay figurines and archival images, the producer Rithy Panh gave testimony to the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia during the second half of the 1970s. The documentary, released in 2015, was titled L’image Manquante (The Missing Image). Explaining this title, Panh declared: There are so many images in the world that we think we have seen it all. That we have thought every thought. For years I have been pursuing one image that was missing. A photo taken between 1975 and 1979 by the Khmer Rouge when they ruled Cambodia. One image alone cannot demonstrate a mass crime, but it gives us something to think about. Something to meditate upon. It helps to construct history. I searched for it in vain in the archives, in newspapers, in every which way across my country. Now I know: this image must be missing; and if I don’t search for it, isn’t that obscene and absurd? So, I decided to create it. What I present to you today is not an image or the search of a single image, but rather the image of a search: that which justifies the existence of cinema. Some images must always be missing, in order to always be replaced by others. In this movement remains life, combat, pain and beauty, the sadness of lost faces, the understanding of what was. Perhaps even nobility and bravery: but never loss of memory.7 Edifying words that point to a pathway through the paralysis of images and call to a post-photography ethic of ‘seeing’: when occulting or destroying images can be interpreted as an extreme form of fascination – all image-making at its root stems from the act of veneration – the search for the image prevails over the actual image itself. The convincing work of post-photographic activism takes place along this intellectual course.

Notes 1

Commenting on one of the first ever daguerrotypes, Boulevard du Temple (1838), created by Daguerre himself from the window of his studio, which shows a bustling city avenue as if it were a desolate and deserted scene because the length of

exposure did not capture the silhouettes of any passers-by with the exception of a shoe shine boy and his customer, the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben wrote: ‘I could not find a more apt image of the Last Judgement. The human throng – in fact, humanity in its entirety – is present, but cannot be seen, because the judgement concerns one person only, one life only: this one precisely, and not another. And by what means was this life, this person, chosen, captured, immortalized by the

2 3 4 5

Angel of the Last Day, which is also the Angel of Photography?’ Giorgio Agamben, Profanations, trans. Jeff Fort (New York: Zone Books, 2005). Ivan de la Nuez, Iconocracy: The Image of Power and the Power of Images in Contemporary Cuban Photography (Madrid: Turner Publications, 2016). Moving beyond this popular belief, Canadian scientists from the MacEwan University in Edmonton demonstrated in 2014 that the episodic memory of these African natives – very common in household fish tanks – can reach twelve days. John S. Weber, ‘Joachim Schmidt and Photography: The Accidental Artist’, in Joachim Schmid: Photoworks 1982–2007, ed. Gordon MacDonald and John S. Weber (Gottingen, Brighton: Steidl and Photoworks, 2007), 12. The scope of this essay does not allow me to elaborate on the concept of ‘adoption of images’ which is post-photography’s version of the traditional appropriation of images. Appropriation puts the accent on taking from, stealing, changing ownership of the image; in contrast, ‘adoption’ emphasizes the act of choosing (‘adoption’

comes from the Latin word: ad optare, to choose). 6

Serge Daney, Cinema, Art of the Present. Anthology eds. Emilio Bernini and Domin

Choi (Buenos Aires: Santiago Arcos Editor, 2004). 7

Rithy Panh, The Missing Picture (2013), [Documentary Film] Dir. Rithy Panh

(Cambodia and France: Catherine Dussart Productions and Arte France).

Select Bibliography Agamben, Giorgio. Profanations, trans. Jeff Fort. New York: Zone Books, 2005. Daney, Serge. Cinema, Art of the Present. Anthology eds. Emilio Bernini and Domin Choi. Buenos Aires: Santiago Arcos Editor, 2004.

De la Nuez, Ivan. Iconocracy: the Image of Power and the Power of Images in Contemporary Cuban Photography . Madrid: Turner Publications, 2016. Hersh, Seymour. The Killing of Osama bin Laden. New York: Verso Books, 2016. MacDonald, Gordon and John S. Weber, eds. Joachim Schmid: Photoworks 1982– 2007. Gottingen: Steidl and Brighton: Photoworks, 2007. Panh, Rithy. The Missing Picture (2013), [Documentary Film] Dir. Rithy Panh, Cambodia

and France: Catherine Dussart Productions and Arte France.


In this volume, we are made aware of the colonial assertion of photography in the nineteenth century to measure and classify India and its denizens as property. Photographs were taken, not made, superimposed upon ambiguities rather than exploring them, reifying knowledge rather than expanding it, confirming preconceptions instead of dissecting them. It then became a task for contemporary researchers to ferret out and redefine this image archive, exposing its systemic flaws while searching for what may lie buried beneath, and in the process both reconceiving and undermining its premises. Then similar work of recalibration had to be done with the more recent

National Geographic-style photographers of the following century who exoticized India in a tourist-friendly way, making it alluring in a Kodachrome version of ‘make believe’ that, while reproducing well on a page, turns India into a land of quasi-apocalyptic theatre and postcolonial misery, its beautified viscera now featured as trophy rather than chattel (where is the politics, the economy, the class issues?). The notion of photographic discovery attributed, for example, to Garry Winogrand that ‘I photograph to see what things look like when they are photographed’ is rejected in favour of a more targeted, mawkish approach enamored of stereotypes, just as Todd Papageorge’s idea to play off Robert Capa as a way of promoting context and history, ‘If your pictures aren’t good enough, you don’t read enough’, is rejected for a frequently facile and insulting romanticism. And as has been seen with current roiling controversies concerning both the altering of photographs and the appropriation of imagery by others, as well as the more serious non-intervention by a young professional photographer as a sixteen-year-old Indian girl is being raped as he photographs her face from


above, witnessing is compromised, at times fatally, by a regressive insistence on the repetition of the trope of the strikingly different other, particularly if she is brown and nearly naked.1 There is, as well, both a confusion and transcendence made possible by

the move to digital mediation, with its quantum uncertainties and code-based ambiguities.2 We are talking less about Susan Sontag’s photograph as visual record, as a ‘footprint’ of the visible 3 or even as a quotation from appearances, but more of the photograph as an outmoded construct in which the signifiers have become increasingly detached and remote from the signified. Has René Magritte’s representation of a pipe (‘Ceci n’est pas un pipe’) been displaced by the perception that an image of a pipe is a more valued currency than the pipe itself, constraining photographic meaning into an ingrown map that references no more than itself, Jean Baudrillard’s simulacrum4 as a multitude of selfies bereft of selves? Does all of this allow a diminishing or even a discarding of the indignities and oppressiveness of the past fostered by image, to begin anew – as in the portentous opening sentence in Fabien Charuau’s chapter, ‘A few years ago, I stopped using photography as a means of artistic expression’. Will the algorithms level the playing fields, oblivious of previous hierarchies, or will they reinforce them and create more nuanced ones as artificial intelligence has greater sway? Has the globalized image already begun to erase the distinction between the Indian image-maker and his or her counterpart in England, or in Brazil, or in Mali – should we rejoice in this burgeoning image Esperanto, or mourn? Are we correct in calling the billions of images uploaded daily an uplifting democratization, or should they rather be labelled an overwrought consumption, or both? And, for those interested in impacting society to diminish conflicts and alleviate poverty, how can it be done if the notion of the photograph as a trustworthy record of the visible has been so broadly denied? Years ago, I pondered what it would have been like if a widely used computer interface had first been developed in a non-Western country, say India, rather than the prevalent Macintosh and MS-DOS varieties. I was particularly interested in the use of ‘avatars’ both in Hinduism and in the digital world, and wondered whether these two parallel universes (‘a manifestation of a deity or released soul in bodily form on earth; an incarnate divine teacher’ versus ‘an icon or figure representing a particular person in video games, Internet forums, etc.’) might have been better melded in digital society, infusing its ‘users’ with more of the reflective and the spiritual and less of the addictive. Here I was reminded of Umberto Eco’s much cited contention5 that the Macintosh is Catholic (‘It is cheerful, friendly, conciliatory, it tells the faithful how they must proceed step by step to reach – if not the Kingdom of Heaven – the moment in which their document is printed. It is catechistic: the essence of revelation is dealt with via simple formulae and sumptuous icons. Everyone has a right to salvation’), that ‘DOS is Protestant, or even Calvinistic’, allowing ‘free interpretation of scripture’,


and that the machine code lying underneath ‘is to do with the Old Testament, and is Talmudic and cabalistic’. Rethinking and realigning these origin myths is long overdue, as is the recognition of the metamorphosis of digital media away from its camouflage as ‘windows’ and ‘mouses’ and ‘apples’, or even ‘digital photography’, into more protean forms such as the ‘liquid photography’ that Joan Fontcuberta describes in a previous essay,6 or the ‘liquidity and slipperiness’ that Aileen Blaney attributes to photographic theory here. We live in different times, less available to Marshall McLuhan’s rearview mirror.7

What a camera records now in code can be output in any medium, including as an image that looks like a photograph, or as a painting, or as music, or as text, or as smell. It might be that atonal photographers record imagery to have it realized as atonal sound, or music, or cross-listed as iambic pentameter if the algorithm permits. It is not so much synaesthesia that we are engaging with as it is an act of recreation, a visceral acknowledgement of the Biblical ‘tohu va’vohu’, of chaos and nothingness, that preceded the moment when God said ‘Let there be light’ during those extraordinary first six days. Code, unlike film, allows nearly any possibility. It is hardly an accident that we created digital, code-based media

contemporaneously with reconceiving ourselves as human beings who are generated via code through our DNA. It seems evident that this shift in media was meant to encourage an exploration of the genotype (digital imaging and the entirety of coded media) over the phenotype (analogue photography and analogue media). There is an urgency to this shift as our species attempts to confront the open-ended apocalypse of climate change, among other complex challenges, trying to reassemble and reinvent the natural as a survival mechanism, while pretending that our interest in this reinvention is merely a cultural conceit. We are also at a moment when an overwhelming number of our photographs are being made by machines to be read by other machines that carry out functions such as surveillance and recognizing identities. Unlike us, these machines have no need to look at the image but only at the code itself (an insight that may be perceived in some sense as god-like). To a greater extent, these machines, and others like them, are being tasked with helping us to survive, although the ultimate control is still an open question. In abandoning the slow and the palpable, the light from the sun and the

chemistry of film and paper, we have chosen the abstractions of integers, attempting to refashion the world in which we live ‘in our own image’, as I titled a 1990 book.8 In societies increasingly enamoured of metrics to the detriment of more qualitative values, some have become frustrated by the finiteness imposed upon us, the expiration date of our mortality (no wonder the spiritualized exoticism of India in many Westerners’ photos), while in an increasingly globalized world the mythic allure of consumer capitalism has made us feel that we deserve an expanding notion of more. But having made these huge gambles with both the

real and the unreal, it is necessary to have media that will help us to confront the profound transformations that we are undergoing in our relationships to time and space, to our pasts and futures, as well as to our spirits and our bodies, everywhere. Much of this change has been accelerated by an underlying worldview that diminishes Newtonian cause and effect and its inherent logic for a quantum probability, a series of maybes and possibilities that, while not completely understood, are seductive in their pull away from the moral and religious strictures that have served as reference points. A powerful argument against paying attention to socially relevant photography, although one without much nuance, is that observation inevitably changes any reality so that we might as well look away. Abetted as well by an aggressive, self-serving sense that the consumer is always right and any information that contradicts one’s worldview can be discarded, it is no wonder then that empathy is being considered to be a large-scale media strategy in sharp decline. As a result, if one wants them to be, the signifiers of the photograph are

easily detached (representation now has an on/off button), their contexts distorted and their authors disparaged (the existence of a camera no longer guarantees much in the way of credibility). An image world is built that reduces the enormous amounts of data available so as to fit into a ‘filter bubble’. For example, Donald Trump placed the photograph of Barack Obama’s previous inauguration into the category of ‘fake news’ because he was piqued that it appeared to show more people attending than the photograph of his own inauguration but also launched fifty-nine missiles at Syria (he mistakenly said it was Iraq) after imagery of Syrians suffering from a poison gas attack appeared, and gave the command while eating the ‘most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you’ve ever seen’.9 It is now the eye of the beholder that may override any evidence from the lens. There is little doubt then that as digital imagery helps us understand the

evolving world we inhabit, the photograph is less frequently the operative referent, its indexicality increasingly viewed as malleable. The greatest challenge facing humanity, climate change, has not been represented by an iconic photograph since Christmas Eve 1968, when an astronaut photographed the fragile-looking planet from outer space, jumpstarting Earth Day sixteen months later and with it a growing concern for survivability in a changing environment. Photographs are less able to provoke discussions among nations that may lead to future arenas of cooperation; in recent years, it is only the appearance of the photograph of the three-year-old Syrian boy, Alan Kurdi, drowned on a beach that led to both articulated concerns and pragmatic responses. (Short videos, many of them made by citizens as well as some made by terrorist groups, have had much more of an impact than photographs, perhaps because of their more sustained narratives.)

The challenge for the contemporary image-maker concerned with social issues is to find hybrid strategies that can work in this transforming media environment. The ‘professional photographer’ (a term that needs redefinition on several levels) is only a tiny minority of those making photographs, given the billions put online daily by humans and those produced by machines, and has a more difficult time having his or her work emerge to command broad societal attention amidst all of the media clutter, a problematic that the social critic Aldous Huxley earlier foresaw. In 1985, as the world appeared to have survived the dire prophecies of George Orwell’s 1984, cultural critic Neil Postman pointed out10 that perhaps the truer and more sinister vision of the future was actually an earlier one, expressed by Huxley in his 1932 novel Brave New World: ‘What Orwell feared were those who would ban books’, says Postman. ‘What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism.’ Both appear to have been right, and we live, more and more, between a rock and a soft place. Photography in India: From Archives to Contemporary Practice both straddles and interrogates these bifurcations, ranging from the anthropometrics of the nineteenth-century caliper cum camera to ‘the work of selfies’ in an age of relentless circulation as discussed in Nishant Shah’s chapter here. Multiple universes from the past and present are contained within this volume, with other universes rapidly unfolding just outside of it. This book’s contributors are sensitive to the enormous distances between the concretizing, classifying, and at times degrading photography of the nineteenth century and the algorithms representing a new liquidity and dynamism for the twenty-first that will be bringing us to parts unknown. Both must be understood, as well as everything in between, and, where appropriate, resisted. As this book attests, image media have transformed India, both its past and its present, and will continue to do so in an unending dialectic. The same could be said, in different ways, for the rest of the world.

Notes 1

See Olivier Laurent’s two pieces online for Time LightBox, addressing both the ethics of the photographer and those of the larger contemporary photographic industry: ‘Souvid Datta: “I Foolishly Doctored Images”’, Time LightBox, 4 May 2017, and ‘Shaken Photojournalism Industry Questions Itself after Souvid Datta Scandal’, Time LightBox, 9 May 2017. There have also been allegations that well-known Magnum

photographer Steve McCurry has both set up some of his photographs from India, as well as digitally manipulated some of his work from India and elsewhere; see Kshitij Nagar, ‘Eyes of the Afghan Girl: A Critical Take on the “Steve McCurry


3 4 5

Scandal”’, that appeared online at Writing through Light, 6 June 2016, and the following day on PetaPixel, as well as Olivier Laurent’s ‘Steve McCurry: I’m a Visual Storyteller Not a Photojournalist’, Time LightBox, 30 May, 2016. Some of these ideas pertaining to the digital shift and its effect on the photographic paradigm are further elaborated in my book: Fred Richin, After Photography (New York: W. W. Norton, 2008), and ideas on the social impact of photography in the digital age are amplified in another book: Fred Richin, Bending the Frame: Photojournalism, Documentary, and the Citizen (New York: Aperture, 2013). See Susan Sontag, On Photography (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1977).

See Jean Baurdillard, Simulations (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1983). Umberto Eco, from his back-page column that appeared in the Italian publication: ‘La bustina di Minerva’ Espresso, 30 September 1994. 6 Joan Fontcuberta, ‘The Post-Photographic Condition’, in The Post-Photographic Condition, ed. Joan Fontcuberta (Montreal: Le Mois de la Photo à Montréal and Kerber Verlag, 2015), 12. 7 See Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964). 8 Fred Ritchin, In Our Own Image: The Coming Revolution in Photography (New York: Aperture, 1990). 9 Donald Trump spoke on a televised interviewed with Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo, 12 April 2017. 10 Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (New York: Viking, 1985).

INDEX Note: Page numbers in italics refer to figures and the letter ‘n’ followed by locators denotes note numbers. Adivasi, 96–7, 101 n.45, 114

Beato, Felice, 25–6, 30 n.11

advertisement, 11, 27, 81, 85 n.11, 136,

Benjamin, Walter, 28, 54–5, 113 Bhabha, Homi K., 107, 135 Bharatiya Janata Party, 11, 129, 136 Bhaskar, Binu, 11, 121, 123–8, 130–1 Bhatia, Naresh, 10, 103, 108

139 Agamben, Giorgio, 211 algorithm, 27, 179, 180, 195–7, 200,

204, 224–5, 227 in governance, 183, 188 networked, 198

the NSA, 201 open source, 202 in photo-based artistic practices, 11 in photography theory, 14 social media, 179, 203 spatial analysis, 165 The Alkazi Collection of Photography, 1, 7

The Alkazi Foundation for the Arts, 75–6.

big Data, 179–80. See also algorithm

Bihar famine, 123 Bin Laden, Osama, 14, 217, 218, 219,

220 biometric, 177–78, 181, 186–7 Bischof, Werner, 123 Bourke-White, Margaret, 4, 8, 56–7, 123

British Raj/British Crown, 2–3, 121 Broomberg, Adam and Oliver Chanarin,


See also photographic archive amateur photography, 3, 213

Camera Indica, 50

analogue, 104, 193, 197, 213, 225

camera phone, 11, 29, 194, 212

negatives, 104 Andaman Islands, 22

Campbell, Sir Colin, 25–6 Cartesian, 107, 196, 198 Cartier-Bresson, Henri, 4, 8, 56, 198 caste, 3, 33, 81, 107, 169 South India, 123

Ansari, Qutubuddin, 12, 151, 154, 157 anthropological, 2, 33, 45 n.9, 104, 214 anthropometry/anthropometric, 3, 8, 22,

33, 104, 227 apparatus of coercion, 22. See also

Andaman Islands architecture, 3, 52–5, 60, 175, 180, 195, 200, 219 Arden, Roy, 215–16

upper, 79, 157

Channa, Imran, 8, 49–50, 56–7, 59–61 Chhattisgarh, 135–9, 141–2, 143–4 Clinton, Hillary, 217 cloud storage, 14, 180, 183, 187 colonial

art gallery, 123, 125–8

administration in India, 8, 43

artificial intelligence, 27, 188, 224 Azoulay, Ariella, 12, 153

archives, 7 control, 3 India, 35, 43 mimicry, 107

Baer, Ulrich, 150 Barthes, Roland, 65, 196

photography, 10, 32–4, 44

colonialism, 31, 44, 89 commodity capitalism, 211 computational, 14–15, 194, 196, 200–2 Congress government, 87, 90, 98

Feldman, Hans Peter, 214 feminist, 90, 100 n.22, 177 Fischli, Peter, 216

Congress Party, 10

FOAM museum, 212 Frosh, Paul, 89, 98, 197

contemporary art, 2, 6, 8, 21, 24–5

Flickr, 212, 214, 217

contemporary practices of photography,

23, 29. See under image Cullman, Olivier, 10, 103

Gandhi, Indira, 10, 87, 89, 92, 94, 96, 171 gendered representation, A1, 94

Dadi, Iftikhar, 58

Dalit, 178 data mining, 181 database, 27, 163, 167–70, 176, 178–81, 186, 188 Datta, Arko, 151 Dayal, Lala Deen, 35

deity, 194, 224 Deleuze, Gilles, 63 Delhi Photo Festival, 105 Demos, T. J., 25 Derrida (Jacques), 108–9, 198 development, 15, 128–9, 135–6, 143 indices, 144

policies, 124, 137 projects, 136–7, 141 digital age, 49–50, 197, 228 n.2

Geographic Information Systems (GIS), 161, 164–7, 169, 172 Gill, Gauri, 10, 103, 114, 116 Green Revolution, 122, 171 Guha, Ramachandra, 88 Hardy, Bert, 8, 56 HG., Arunkumar, 11, 122–8, 130–1 Hindu Hinduism, 194, 224 Krishna, 80 priests, 5

temples, 194 History

access to history, 28 community, 72 historical archive, 10, 103 (see also

Indian Emergency)

Digital India, 6, 178 digital photography, 108, 225

oral history, 9, 63–6, 68, 72

documentary photography/practice, 2,

personal, 72 of technology, 72

5, 10–11, 15, 123–4, 150, 152, 154, 215 D’Souza, Sebastian, 153

homo photographicus, 14, 21 Illustrated Weekly, 4, 81

ekphrasis, 53–4, 60

Emergency, 10 ethnography, 166 ethnological, 33, 123 expatriate, 76, 80, 83-4

Image Aadhaar, 187

anthropometric, 3, 8, 22, 227 Bin Laden, 14 commemorative, 27

Facebook, 181–2, 202, 211–12

computational, 2, 14, 196, 198, 200, 202

facial recognition, 6, 186, 194. See also

the copy, 104, 108

software family album, 7–9, 63, 68, 213 farmers, 5, 11, 122, 169–70

of death, 63, 68–9 documentary, 10–1, 124

livelihood, 167

suicide, 11, 122, 128 farming, 122 income, 167

fashion photography, 76, 81, 84

forensic, 23, 25, 213, 219 geo-rectify, 163 globalized, 224 as iconic, 14, 56–8, 61, 65, 153, 217

as instruments of governance, 27 landscape, 140

Janah, Sunil, 4

landscape photographs, 40–1

Kardos. Sándor, 214

(see also landscape) latent, 197–8

Kaye, J. W., 33. See also The People of


of marriages, 63 (see under memory) memorial, 156 networked, 14, 198–202, 205 passport photograph, 23 performance of power, 89, 102

Kelberman, Dina, 215–16

photojournalism, 143

Lady Dufferin, 8, 31–46 landscape, 2–3, 5, 8, 12, 15

photoshopped, 123, 179 portrait, 12 post-photography, 213 recycling, 14, 214 of riots, 156 satellite, 6, 12–13, 161–72, 187

social documentary, 152, 156 stock, 197 Taj Mahal, 5 tourism, 8, 123, 136, 138, 141, 143–4 trauma, 150

war, 8 Incredible Indial, 5, 136 indexical, 7, 9, 52, 54–5, 60, 65 function, 52

Kerala, 9, 122 Kessels, Erik, 212, 214 Kirkland, Wallace, 111

tourist, 140 (see also tourism,

destination) The Last Supper, 69 Latour, Bruno, 166, 215

liberalization, 5, 122, 124, 130 LIFE (magazine), 4, 56–7, 111 Madras Presidency, 52 Mahatma Gandhi, 109, 111–12, 122 Maiorano, Diego, 90

Matthew, Annu Palakunnathu, 89 memes, 185, 215 memory. See also Channa, Imran

amnesia, 23 collective memory, 50, 154,

rhetoric, 55

175, 217

trace, 9, 60

personal history, 72 middle class, 122

truth, 52, 54 indexicality, 7, 65–6, 196–8, 207 n.14,

207 n.17, 226 Indian Modernity, 104 Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO),162, 164–5, 167, 169–71 industrialization, 114, 137

inequality, 121 Instagram, 27, 198, 212 Internet, 11, 14, 123, 179, 193–4,

migration, 11, 122, 129 Mills, Sarah, 34 mise-en-scène, 104, 110

mixed media, 114 mobile device/phone, 6, 29, 176, 194, 212 Modi, Narendra, 129–30, 176 Mouffe, Chantal, 11, 122, 125, 129 Mumbai Mirror, 152

199–200, 212, 215–17 access, 6

mutiny of 1857, 25–6, 81

big data, 179 Bin Laden simulations, 219–20 image circulation, 14, 123, 183, 196, 215

Nagaraj, D.R., 113. See also Dalit Nandy, Ashis, 10 Narayan, Jayaprakash, 87

image saturation, 212

nation/nation-state, 122, 129, 135, 226 national database, 186 elections, 154 identity, 135, 141

lad culture, 183 networked image, 198–9 vemödalen, 220 itinerant photography, 49–50

NASA, 216

infrastructure, 164 security, 166, 217 National Geographic, 4–5, 223

nationalism, 110, 135, 141

Pinney, Christopher, 1, 10, 33, 50, 103 Polaroid, 15, 213 pornography, 176, 181–2, 213

Naxalite, 12, 143

Portrait family portrait, 9, 63–8, 72–3

Nehruvian India, 9, 76, 81, 84 neoliberal, 125, 129, 187

postanalogue age, 108

photo studios, 105, 108

government, 11

post-photography, 14, 212–13, 215, 219,

India, 108 policy, 124

post-Snowden, 179

networked society, 6, 176, 186

nineteenth century British imperialism, 2 female colonial gaze, 35, 44 (see also

Lady Dufferin) Murray, John, 5, 46

221 poverty, 4, 122, 129, 137, 142, 224 Prasad, Madhava, 104 press censorship, 88 private data, 179 punctum, 2, 66–7 Punjabi, Suresh, 10, 103–4, 106, 108

Tripe, Linnaeus, 8, 50, 52–6, 60–2

Onlooker (magazine), 81–2

race, 9, 22, 76 Rahman, Ram, 12, 151, 155 Rajadhyaksha, Ashish, 113–15 Rajasthan, 84, 122

Parr, Martin, 214

Raqs Media Collective, 8, 21 remote sensing applications, 161, 163,

Victorian, 8, 16, 21, 32–4, 37, 42–4 N, Pushpamala, 10, 103

partition, 7–9, 49, 56, 60, 123, 157 The Peoples Archive of India (PARI), 124 The People of India, 2–3, 33 performative, 24, 83, 108, 110, 135 personal journals, 31 photographic archive, 7–8, 21, 24, 28–9,

123 Daguerreotypes, 15, 22

Galton, Francis, 8, 21 glass negatives, 22 hard drive, 28–9 photography education, 6

photojournalism, 4, 10–12, 143, 152–3. See also image photojournalist, 15, 76, 83–4, 142, 143,

151, 155 Photoshop, 107 backgrounds, 108

image, 105, 123, 179 (see under

image) tools, 204 photo-studio

166, 170–1 Reuters, 12, 151 Rosler, Martha, 152 rural, 12, 94, 122, 125–30, 137, 139, 140 development, 165–7

India, 11, 123–5, 128–30 labour, 121, 123, 125, 129 landscape, 114 transformation, 2 Sainath, P., 11, 122, 124–5, 129–30 Schmid, Joachim, 214 Schopenhauer, Arthur, 215 Sekula, Alan, 123–4 selfie, 10, 13, 15, 27, 51, 175–88, 198, 211, 224, 227 self-portraiture. See selfie

sepia, 10, 113–14 sexuality, 175, 177, 194, 202 Shah, Chinar, 217, 219, 221 Shiva, Cop, 10, 103, 108–11 Snapchat, 184, 212–13

backdrop, 106

snapshot, 51, 56, 90, 177, 217

portraiture, 1–4, 105, 187 small-town, 104

Socialist India (bulletin), 10, 87–98

picturesque, 2–3, 41, 43, 52, 144

social media, 11, 179, 203, 212 software, 195–6

face detection, 194, 200 (see also facial recognition) license, 162 Sontag, Susan, 72, 186, 196, 224

tribal people, 142 Tripe, Linnaeus, 8 2008 Delhi blasts, 151 2002 Gujarat riots, 149, 151, 157

South Asian photography, 50–1, 56, 60

spatial data, 164, 167–70 Spieker, Sven, 28 Spivak (Gayatri Chakravorty), 108, 110 stereotype, 2–5, 223 studium, 66

Umbrico, Penelope, 214 urban, 94, 137, 139

sunset, 214, 220–1 surveillance, 15, 23, 27, 33, 81, 180,

workforce, 5 urbanization, 114, 137, 141

187, 194, 225 Syrian Christian, 9, 63–5, 70–1 Tagg, John, 24 Tamil Nadu, 11, 125, 130


housing, 128

India, 125, 130 migration, 11, 129

Varma, (Raja) Ravi, 104, 115 the Viceroy of India, 31 Victorian feminine, 34, 37, 42, 44 Vyarawalla, Homai, 4, 9, 75–6, 78–9,


depth of field, 21, 41

digitization, 6, 82, 165 high shutter speed, 83 invention of photography, 2, 49

Warli muralist, 114 Waswo, Waswo X., 10, 103, 111, 113

mobile phones, 27, 194, 212

WhatsApp, 184

Weiss, David, 216

Tharu, Susie, 104

woman press photographer, 75. See also

Thurston, Edgar, 123 tourism

Women on the March, 91, 102

destination, 12, 130, 135–8,

141, 144

Vyarawalla, Homai women’s travel writing, 34–5. See also personal journals

imagery, 136, 138–9, 141, 143–4 (see also image)

World Press Photo, 152

landscapes, 140

YouTube, 184, 220

literature, 5

Plate 3 Waswo X. Waswo, April Harvest, Black and white photograph, hand-coloured by Rajesh Soni, c. 2012. Courtesy of the artist.

Plate 4 Arunkumar HG, The Guardians and the Dark Field, c. 2015. Courtesy of the artist.

Plate 5 Arunkumar HG, Vulnerable Guardians, c. 2015. Courtesy of the artist

Plate 6 Binu Bhaskar, Untitled II, from the series Farm, Farmers, Workers, c. 2008-. Courtesy of the artist.

Plate 7 Harikrishna Katragadda, Survival tactics are considered a major part of the course at the CTJW, where recruits are taught to ‘fight the guerrilla—like a guerrilla’, c. Courtesy of the artist.

Plate 8 A retired army officer and expert in counter-insurgency operations, Brigadier Ponwar runs CTJW, from set up to curriculum and training methods, c. 2010. Courtesy Harikrishna Katragadda.

Plate 9 Arko Datta, Qutubuddin Ansari during 2002 Gujarat riots, c. 2002. Courtesy Reuters.

Plate 10 Sebastian D’Souza, Ashok Parmar during the 2002 Gujarat riots, c. 2002. Courtesy Getty Images.

Plate 11 Chinar Shah, Installation Photograph from the project Silenced Ruptures at Gulbarg Memorial, c. 2012. Courtesy of the artist.

Plate 12 Ram Rahman, Rupa Mody’s portrait from the series Untitled at Gulbarg Memorial, c. 2012. Courtesy of the artist.

Plate 13 Postal stamps commemorating Indian satellites in space. Courtesy Samuha. Courtesy Aniruddha Sinha,

Plate 14 Now they can ‘see’: multispectral image merged with panchromatic image provides enough detail for the NGO at a village scale. Courtesy Samuha.

Plate 15 Using satellite image as a base, the NGO adds plot boundaries in grey and drainage lines in blue to red survey number boundaries. Courtesy Samuha.

Plate 16 Fabien Charuau, Send Some Candids # 12, c. 2011, Courtesy the artist.

Plate 17 Fabien Charuau, Send Some Candids – Screen Grab- #11 – Digital Print on Archival Paper – Unique – 10 × 13.5 inches, c. 2011, Courtesy the artist.

Plate 18 Fabien Charuau, Being Seen Trying – Screen Grab #4 – Digital Print on Archival Paper – Unique – 12 × 14.5 inches, c. 2014, Courtesy the artist.

Plate 19 Fabien Charuau, Being Seen Trying and A Thousand Kisses Deep – Installation views at Chatterjee & Lal Gallery – Mumbai – India, c. 2015, Courtesy the artist.

Plate 20 Fabien Charuau, A thousand Kisses Deep #6 – Digital Print on Archival Paper – Unique – 47 × 47 inches, c. 2015, Courtesy the artist.

Plate 21 Erik Kessels, 24 Hrs in Photos, c. 2011. Courtesy of the artist.

Plate 22 Chinar Shah, Untitled from the series Bin Laden situation room, c. 2016. Courtesy of the artist.