Amit Madheshiya is a life-sized anthology of film trivia, covering a broad spectrum from Marathi and Telugu regional cinema, to Hindi films and Hollywood blockbusters. “From Om Shanti Om to Avatar to Balirajacha Rajya Yeu de (Let the reign of the farmers come),” he confesses.
Twenty-eight-year-old Madheshiya’s knowledge of cinema is an outcome of his photography project, “People Watching Cinema at the Nomadic Talkies”. The series won him the Arts and Culture Photographer of the Year title at the prestigious Sony World Photography Awards announced on Wednesday in London.
Madheshiya was among the 13 photographers from around the world to be honoured at what is now the most comprehensive photography award in recent times. The only other Indian photographer to have made it to the final shortlist is Bangalore-based Mahesh Shantaram, who won the third place in the Arts category.
Madheshiya’s winning series comprises portraits of patrons— some as young as 6—who frequent cinemas in Maharashtra’s remote villages for nightly screenings. His images cover the whole gamut of emotions that film viewing offers: anticipation, glee, fear, sadness, excitement and boredom.
The portrait series is part of a longer project on travelling tent cinemas which Madheshiya started working on in 2008 with the help of various grants, including one from the India Foundation for the Arts (Bangalore, 2008-09) and a fellowship from Cluster of Excellence (Heidelberg, 2009).
This award makes for a rare twin victory. He won first place in the same category at the Sony World Photography Awards in Cannes in 2009 for his documentary series The Travelling Tent Cinemas.
What drew Madheshiya to the subject was the very concept of nomadic cinemas, which travel with an eclectic mix of films to villages that are too far-flung from fixed-site theatres. The makeshift cinemas offer a uniform seating arrangement under the canopy of a huge tent and the audience pays about Rs 20 for each show.
The winning images will be exhibited as part of the Sony World Photography Awards Winners’ Showcase, part of the World Photography Festival at Somerset House—London’s biggest festival of international photography. The Showcase runs up to 22 May.
Photo credit: Amit Madheshiya courtesy of Sony World Photography Awards 2011
Amit Madheshiya is an independent photographer based in Mumbai.