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Mastering the Lens: Before and After Cartier-Bresson in Pondicherry

Event Details

Mastering the Lens: Before and After Cartier-Bresson in Pondicherry

Time: September 19, 2012 to September 30, 2012
Location: Galerie Romain Rolland, Alliance Francaise de Delhi
City/Town: Delhi, India
Website or Map: http://delhi.afindia.org/node…
Event Type: exhibition
Organized By: Alliance Francaise de Delhi and Alkazi Foundation for the arts
Latest Activity: Sep 19, 2012

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Event Description

This exhibition is an attempt to trace the development of photography and the other allied arts in Pondicherry spanning the late 19th and early 20th Century. Drawn exclusively from the Alkazi Collection, at the core of this initiative is the un-published album of Cartier-Bresson, founder of Magnum Photos, who visited the Aurobindo Ashram in April 1950. He clicked the last pictures of Sri Aurobindo Ghose in the company of his spiritual companion, ‘the Mother’. In addition, he meticulously penned his observations, almost daily creating a meta-text to the images featured as part of their biography and relationship to the artist.

Simultaneously, the Ashram harboures young talent by institutionally supporting them in the form of an annual Salon Festival for almost 25 years (1955-80). The visual material is further enhanced by some of the extraordinary images of Indian practitioners such as Tara Jauhar and Venkatesh Shirodkar at Aurobindo Ashram, published here for the first time. There has been little or no in-depth investigation of these photographic prints, together with Bresson’s album, meant originally for private circulation only. 

Travelling further back in time, Pondicherry has been visited by visual artists from the 17th century, who documented it’s serene vistas – an amalgamation of Christian and local elements in architecture and as well as urban sprawl. The use of antiquarian maps from the 18th and 19th Century further reveals an intricately Europeanised town, though segregated between Europeans and Indians, featuring a shared use of motifs and style. The arrival of commercial photographers Bourne and Shepherd, or indeed mysterious French photographer C. (possibly Charles) Moyne brings forth an expansive city of citadels and churches, with broadening boulevards lined with trees.

A conscious effort has been made to bring out a non-linear, yet credible biography through the archive - of how Pondicherry has been witness to the development of a unique visual trajectory. The use of images as ‘evidence’ and ‘document’ creates a subtle interplay between historical context and artistic intent, a conceptual linking of mannerisms and tropes - those of landscape, architectural and portrait photography.

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