Inspiration – Indian Photojournalist – Dayanita Singh

Thought I would introduce you to another inspirational and fabulous photo journalist who is a woman and born in India…..Dayanita Singh

This is from an article in the London Telegraph … written at the time of an exhibition opening in London last year …. to read the full article hit the link below…

“After graduating in photojournalism from New York’s International Center of Photography, she spent a decade, 1987-97, observing Indian life, from idiosyncratic street characters, such as the outcast eunuch Mona Ahmed (who brought her a degree of controversy) to grand society ladies (who proved resolutely indifferent to her attempts to sell them prints). While she had some success in placing her work in the international press, she never felt part of the “boys’ club” of Indian photojournalism, and began looking for other outlets for her work.

A study by Dayanita Singh of her friend, Mona the eununch (Dayanita Singh)
Her defining moment came with the groundbreaking Sent a Letter, published in 2008 by the German photographic imprint Steidl. “Whenever I went anywhere with friends I would make a little book for them, referring to things we had seen together that only they would understand,” says Singh. “When Gerhard Steidl [the company’s founder and proprietor] came to Kolkata with Günter Grass, I made a book for him. He was intrigued, and said, ‘Give me seven of these and I’ll publish them as a book.’”
While Singh had some misgivings about exposing these essentially private works, the box set of seven small books made an immediate impact on publication. The zigzag form allowed each book to be stood up to form a miniature exhibition, an idea that opened up new possibilities for Singh.
Passing a Kolkata jeweller’s shop with empty vitrines, she asked the owner if she could make a display of the books.
He agreed, and five years on, they’re still there. “They’ve been seen by many times the number of people who have seen my other exhibitions and publications. I realised I could create my own spaces. I didn’t have to rely on established structures.” Everything she has produced since relates back to this work.
The folding structures in her Hayward exhibition are, she says, “giant versions of Sent a Letter”. While the subjects are far from exclusively Indian – one case is devoted to chairs snapped all over the world – the exhibition provides a highly personal view of her homeland.

From Dayanita Singh’s 1999 series ‘I am as I am’ (Dayanita Singh)
Yet Singh doesn’t like to be thought of as an Indian artist. Her family are Sikhs, but she considers that irrelevant to an understanding of her work.
“I’m not an ambassador for India. I have conversations and correspondence with people all over the world – mostly writers and publishers – which provides the inspiration for my books. That’s what’s important to me, not my nationality.” Yet surely Mona Ahmed, the tragicomic, self-dramatising eunuch – rejected even by the outsider class of transsexual entertainers – who is the subject of Singh’s most controversial and, to a Westerner, disturbing book, represents a story that could only be from India.
“Why do you say it is so Indian?” says Singh in a tone of mock-exasperation.
“Why don’t you say it is a story about friendship? Mona has become my closest friend. She made me aware of the possibilities of living outside society’s norms. But then my mother did that too. She told me I shouldn’t get married or have children if I didn’t want to, and that I shouldn’t let any man make me feel less of a woman for it.”
To this day, Singh has neither married nor had children. “Why would I want to? I’m married to this,” she says, gesturing towards her exhibition.
“I’m obsessed with what I do. It’s as much as I can do to turn my mind off occasionally, so I can stop thinking about structures to show my work, and get some sleep.”
Dayanita Singh: Go Away Closer is at the Hayward Gallery, London SE1 (; 020 7960 4200) from October 8″

Article by Mark Hudson.


and this in the New York times….

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