When Mumbai-based photographer Pooja Jain met the Jain nuns of Rajasthan she was intrigued by their “grace”. Her series, Renunciation, captures the lives of these women in vignettes, with the sun’s rays lending a sheen to their white robes, offset by the red colour of their food containers.
Jain’s series of photographs will be on display at the second edition of the Delhi Photo Festival. Based on the theme of “grace”, the festival is a tribute to fashion photographer Prabuddha Dasgupta, who died last year. Dasgupta had used the word “grace” to describe his Longing series during the inaugural edition in 2011. The festival combines contemporary and historical projects commenting on the photographic process, nostalgia, myth, identity, and remembrance. Each photo series is a collection of at least eight pictures.
“Dasgupta was slated to hold a workshop this year. Then he passed away and it seemed like a good idea to dedicate the theme to him,” says photographer Prashant Panjiar, one of the directors of the festival. Dasgupta’s early works, from the late 1980s to 1990s, will be on display as well.
This year, 41 printed photographs and 50 digital exhibits have been selected from over 2,349 submissions from across the world—all of which approach the theme of “grace” through a variety of styles and from different eras. “Aesthetics, storytelling, innovation were equally important in the final selection,” says Panjiar. While the print series will be displayed all across the India Habitat Centre (IHC) in Delhi, including the outdoor spaces, the digital works will be screened as slideshows at the Evening Screenings at Amphitheatre.
For French photographer Alain Laboile, a father of six, “grace” finds resonance in the documentary images of his life with his family in the countryside. “I live in a really old house, without unnecessary comfort, or television. La Famille is a documentary of my family life, where the temporality and universality of childhood meet,” says Laboile.
There are Spanish photographers, Alvaro Laiz and David Rengel, whose series Future Plan documents the lives of refugees, displaced by the Ugandan Bush War of 1981-86. One of the subjects is called Grace. “She is now working as a social assistant in Australia. So you see, Future Plan fits in perfectly with this concept,” says Laiz.
Since the world of photography has changed with the advent of digital cameras, there are also photographs taken with iPhones. Natasha Hemrajani’s series Hello, Goodbye has pictures of crowded Mumbai streets and other places depicting the city’s vanishing empty spaces—all taken with her iPhone. “We live in the age of the iPhone and Instagram. I wanted to explore a body of work through these new visual mediums,” says Hemrajani.
But the buzz is not restricted to the IHC. About 20 major galleries, including Galerie Romain Rolland at Alliance Française and the National Gallery of Modern Art, which have partnered with the festival, will showcase their own independent photography exhibitions during the festival. “This is what makes this edition of the festival different and more elaborate from the first one, apart from the fact that we have received much more works from the international photographers this time,” says Panjiar. He adds that this year too, a lot of work that they received from Indian photographers was mediocre. “The reasons can vary from not having proper photography schools in India to the absence of the drive for photography here,” he says.
The Delhi Photo Festival will also feature talks, seminars and workshops by Aveek Sen, Sumit Dayal, Munem Wasif and Raghu Rai. “The aim is to not make this festival a mere networking place, but also a place to learn and share,” says Panjiar.
The Delhi Photo Festival is on from 27 September-11 October at the Indian Habitat Centre, Delhi. The outdoor exhibitions will remain on till 10pm and the Visual Arts Gallery is open till 8pm. Click here for more information.