Unless something drastic happens, 20 years hence, people who bought photographs today will look like rock stars,” says Ader Gandi fervently about the promise of the world of fine art photography. Gandi and business partner Matthieu Foss are together one quarter of the four-gallery family that forms Tasveer, which was set up in 2006 to promote, archive and document Indian photography through its website and galleries in New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore.
In recent years, watching the trajectory of Indian art and photography has been like following the tale of the hare and the tortoise; while one bounded forward, the other has been on a steady, slow incline. Compared to the stratospheric prices—running into crores of rupees—of the art world, some of the most expensive photography, by the likes of Raghubir Singh at the higher end, costs less than Rs20 lakh.
But fine art photography is slowly opening up to increased demand and visibility. As more and more gallery spaces open up to photography exhibitions, there’s greater acceptance of the form as a work of art.
Foss and Gandi plan to open a dedicated gallery in Mumbai by the end of July, with their first gallery exhibition showing US-based photographer Annu Palakunnathu Matthew (her entire portfolio of 12 prints is estimated at a little more than Rs2 lakh) scheduled for 21 August. “There has been a lot of positive response from collectors and people who can’t afford to buy installation art,” says Foss. And while there’s no set format for photo pricing, Foss and Gandi plan to price the prints they show according to popularity. So, as the edition of a particular print gets sold, the price will increase. Online auction house Saffronart is also getting geared to introduce photography as a genre on its portfolio by the end of the year.
The Internet is already an important selling point for others such as Delhi-based photographers Vikas Malhotra and Sumeet Inder Singh. “Approximately 65 to 70% of my prints sell, including the limited editions, and I am getting orders from the UK, West Asia and even Australia,” says Malhotra.
There is an inherent element of democracy with photography, which is often far easier to comprehend than art, which tends to be more figurative and abstract.
But homework is just as important with photography as it is with art. It is crucial to know the existing work of a photographer and to find out if he/she has established a name and a trend in his/her work.