Lauded photojournalism organization World Press Photo (WPP) released its second “State of News Photography” report in November 2016, a document that addressed many key issues affecting contemporary photojournalists. Most striking was the fact that of the nearly 2,000 news photographers surveyed internationally, a mere 15 percent were female. Also concerning was the revelation that 65 percent were from Western nations, specifically Europe, the United States and Australia. These two statistics reveal that the vast majority of news images are produced by Western-born men. This is the dominant point of view through which the entire world continues to see and understand itself.
Invited by Agat Sharma and Tushar Gupta the hosts for Design Polygon, a week long workshop, I landed in Jaipur to facilitate a photography workshop. This workshop was not aimed at teaching students how to photograph, rather it was aimed at understanding how photographs and images function in our lives and how might we be able to change/alter/modify/play with this using techniques that artists have used. It started off with this manifesto
(Les Recontres Arles Photographie 2011.The manifesto is written by the five curators of the exhibition:Clément Chéroux, curator in the Cabinet de la Photographie, Centre Pompidou. Lives and works in Paris.Joan Fontcuberta, artist. Lives and works in Barcelona.Erik Kessels, founding member and artistic director of KesselsKramer. Lives and works in Amsterdam.Martin Parr, photographer of the Magnum agency. Lives and works in Bristol.Joachim Schmid, artist. Lives and works in Berlin.)
The installation process at Jawahar Kala Kendra was in itself an extremely exciting process as we were not allowed to put anything on the walls. Having taken them on a walk through the Bazaars in the city area in Jaipur we used the methods used there and came up with a wonderful way to display the work. The ropes on which the work was hung ran through the room from window to window, wrapping itself around pillars looking like washing lines. We bought plastic clips that you use on washing lines to hang the pictures.
Photographs that were meant to be touched and not seen were placed on the whiteboard and Eshmita held people’s hands and guided them through the process. Her work was on looking at access to the visually impaired.
Riya’s work that looked at how politics and the resultant laws affected their rights to education wrapped itself around a pillar.
Wish I had had more time with the students, they turned out to be a wonderful bunch – really warm. This workshop wasn’t just about facilitating and giving them information and introducing them to methodologies, it turned out to be such a huge learning graph for me in terms of the whole act of facilitation itself. The even more exciting bit about the workshop was being able to interact with fellow facilitators – Maya KrishnaRao, Anirudh Nair and Amba Suhasini and Agat Sharma our host who is a really exciting artist I have worked with in the past. Hopefully we will all come together again to see how our practices can intersect. And of course Pearl Academy turned out be an extremely generous host, I can’t remember being treated so well ever before!
Having turned up early for work and realizing that the time table had changed I was left with a couple of hours to kill till it was time for photography practicals. Fortunately P.Sainath’s class was scheduled for around that time. I have been following his writing for a while. He is one of those journalists who are an absolutely rare breed in India. He has been covering rural India for decades, it is his work that has brought rural India into urban thinking not so much as the other but within a certain idea of ‘implicatedness’.
“Implicatedness is a concept, practice, and method—an approach to felt, involved and involving, lived politics that can shape who we take ourselves to be and what we might do. Implicatedness is good at raising questions about relations between “me” and “we,” between personal and collective selves.” Margot Leigh Butler. Killing women. Page 159.
P.Sainath came to be known for a book that is more relevant today than ever before: Everybody Loves a Good Drought. I have sat in on a class before and the most interesting thing he talks about is data. How does one write about data? Trying to get the students to start thinking and understanding about the links between information, economics and power he took the class through a journey that started with the Battle of Waterloo and ended in today’s wars. “Warfare as a function of information” he says and looks at colonization of communication spaces and what information means in terms of money and markets.
He concluded with what I have heard him say before about his favourite journalist: the young person who outed the emperor “the emperor has no clothes”.
Listening to him was like letting oneself breathe again. Especially at a time in our lives in this country when people who have power hardly ever speak about it. To listen to a deconstruction of the times we live in by calling it what it is even though he still works within the system – the media that has been so highly compromised, it was brilliant!
As a starting point to listen to him is this video of his talk: