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Picture this

pg20-1A picture isn’t simply pretty: it’s a souvenir for some, evidence for others and, sometimes, a part of a larger story. And Chennai’s first photo biennale aims to capture the multiple angles to a photograph. The brainchild of Varun Gupta from Travelling Lens and Helmut Schippert from Goethe, the mega series of exhibitions, workshops, talks and symposiums emerged from multiple sessions of brainstorming with a singular objective—of trying to create a space for viewing and discussing photographic art in the city. Featuring collections from the Delhi Photo Festival 2015, works of legendary Indian photographers Kishor Parekh and Raghu Rai as well as international talent like Sarker Protick from Bangladesh and Olivier Culmann from France will be on display at the Lalit Kala Akademi from February 26. One of the core events, the Urban Water exhibition is a culmination of works by 15 photographers at a rather unorthodox location, the Lighthouse MRTS. Faced with the uphill task of finding the right space to showcase enormous prints, Schippert and Gupta set out to haggle for commissions. “We wanted to take the exclusivity out of art and not restrict it to private spaces,” says Gupta, adding, “Public exhibits also remove the implicit pressure of purchase and allow everyone to engage with the art form.”
Outside the frame
With the democratisation of photography, thanks to social media, Gupta says the ability to see, learn and question may have taken a hit. Furthering the discourse on photography through workshops by renowned photographers like Walter Astrada, the biennale wants to bring forward a shift from simply seeing photography as an image to a storytelling tool. Schippert is quick to point out the difficulties of getting an event of this scale running. “If governmental institutions could see art as an empowering way for people to take pride in their spaces, many avenues could open up,” he says. Another intriguing showcase is Chandralekha, curated by Sadanand Menon. It chronicles the legendary dancer’s life as she composed her major choreographic works for over 20 years, and features photographs by her close associates that capture the geometry and abstraction in her performances. For its debut in the city, staying consistent is currently where the bar is set, but for Gupta and Schippert, it’s really about redefining the ways of seeing a photograph.
The Chennai Photo Biennale is from February 26 to March 13. Details: chennaiphotobiennale.com

—Divya Karthikeyan

 

Show and tell
n A Plague ’O Both the Worlds is a unique photo showcase by Russian photographer Olya Morvan, which documents the search for identity after the Soviet separation, among
young Ukrainians.

n Surrealistic by Nature, curated by India-based French photographer Yannick Cormier, is an
exhibition of seven photographers from around the world, including French photographer Denis Dailleux and Spanish
photographer Cristina de Middel, which captures rituals by indigenous communities in their own individualistic lightpg20-2

 

Workshop check
n Philip Blenkinsop: The three time Visa d’Or award winning photographer will assist
participants in capturing stand alone images over a four-day shooting period in Chennai. The workshop will focus on developing skills needed to construct a coherent narrative. `12,000. From
February 19-25

n Walter Astrada: Winner of three World Press Photo awards, he will host a one-day workshop on storytelling approaches and how to finance personal projects with Portfolio Reviews. `4,200. February 25, from
9 am to 6 pm

 

pg20-3Girls in focus
Beyond Boundaries will engage women photographers as well as women who do not practice photography, but who drive social change through their commitment to the cause of humanity, in an effort to address some of these pressing questions. Featuring eminent speakers Smita Sharma
(photojournalist, New York), NayanTara Gurung Kashapati (photographer and curator, Nepal), Bonnie Chiu (co-founder Lensational, England) and Karolin Klüppel (photographer, Germany). The panel discussion will be
moderated by art writer-author Rosalyn D’Mello at the Goethe Institut on February 28
between 10-12 pm.

 

 

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