Photographers sans borders
A one-off, limited-time only photo print sale hopes to raise funds for vulnerable communities affected by covid-19
Ole Witt’s photograph on the Prints For India Instagram page combines wit and pathos. Part of his award-winning series, Help Desk—Random Acts Of Administration, the image shows a scooter that has been converted into a desk. Standing in front of the highest court of law in Gujarat, this makeshift workspace features a basket of stamps and a big fat register.
Witt has been chronicling the chaos of Indian bureaucracy and condition of government offices across three states in Help Desk since 2018. And now you can buy this particular image from the series as part of Prints For India, a one-off, limited-time only photo print sale.
This initiative, the brainchild of four photographers—Guannan Li, Samuel Beech, Sigga Marrow and Verity Fitzgerald—hopes to raise funds for Goonj, a not-for-profit that is trying to help daily-wage earners, migrant workers and other vulnerable communities hit by the pandemic lockdown. The prints on sale in India have been donated by a mix of established and emerging photographers, such as Martin Parr, Akshay Mahajan, Deepti Asthana, Kenji Chiga, Parth Gupta, Vasantha Yogananthan and Ed Kashi. Showcasing different facets of the country—from the well of death performing tradition to the “factory girls" of Bengaluru—these photographs are available for £80 (around ₹7,800) each till 22 May.
It all started when Li, Beech, Marrow and Fitzgerald met in Delhi earlier this year for a photography workshop led by Parr. There they also met Ravi Mishra, an Indian journalist and producer, whose work has been published by Time and the National Geographic. His personal practice focuses on child labour and women’s rights. “We all stayed in touch in the months that followed. We got to know that Ravi had been aiding some of the families in need during the strict and swiftly implemented lockdowns," says Fitzgerald, a Cape Town-based photographer who balances commercial advertising work with personal projects.
As soon as the lockdown was announced, Mishra, who shuttles between Delhi and Bhopal, packed his car with food rations to be distributed in the Madhya Pradesh capital and surrounding villages. “After seeing the incredible work that our friend was doing almost on his own, with limited resources, we felt a great sense of solidarity and a need to take action as well," adds Fitzgerald. This led to the Prints For India initiative, which was launched on 24 April.
While curating prints for the sale, the four founders ensured they included a wide range of voices and narratives that reflected India’s diversity. The idea was also to showcase different styles of photography, “which is why we purposefully reached out to photographers with a strong connection to the country rather than doing an open call," explains Fitzgerald. “(Now) Prints For India boasts of work from world-renowned, award-winning photographers as well as emerging talent, which offers buyers a selection that caters to a mix of tastes."
So, you have monochrome prints by Dimpy Bhalotia, a street photographer who believes that the universe is a piece of art, as is every soul and street. In sharp contrast to her work is a large-scale landscape by Laura McPhee. It features a sacred Bo tree (Ficus religiosa) emerging from an 18th century terracotta temple in Dwarhatta, West Bengal. The natural and man-made creations seem to be extensions of one another.
Zahra Amiruddin’s black and white image, Somewhere Above The Siang River, creates a fantastical narrative. A tree rises above the mist. A butterfly flits across the frame, almost as if ziplining on the wires criss-crossing the skies. There is a dream-like quality to the image. “Lucid dreaming about The Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton, as she glides into frames outside," is the description that goes alongside.
The sale has seen tremendous response—from single-print buyers to public figures who have placed multiple orders. For the curators, the initiative has been a source of incredible joy, evoking solidarity among artists across the globe.
“Ultimately, the images featured tell their own beautiful, intimate, pensive and inspiring stories that will continue to live on as a reminder of the time we lived in," says Fitzgerald.
The Prints For India sale is on till 22 May. Contact email@example.com or visit www.printsforindia.com
FIRST PUBLISHED09.05.2020 | 10:20 AM IST