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An Economy of Signs: Contemporary Indian Photographs

Exhibition organised and toured by The Photographers’ Gallery, London

Fri 1 Nov – Sat 30 Nov 1991

“This book and exhibition project was initiated as a collaboration with the Photographers’ Gallery, London. I wanted to demonstrate that if we commissioned Indian photographers to the same amount as we do Western ones, they would give us work to an international standard”. Sunil Gupta

This exhibition brings together the work of eight Indian photographers, all born after Independence, who have not only created a distinguished body of work of record, but have broken new ground in establishing photography in India. They include Sheba Chachhi, Ashim Ghosh, Karan Kapoor, Amita Prashar, Ram Rahman, Sanjeev Saith, Ketaki Sheth and Sooni Taraporevala.

The title, referring as it does to RK Narayan’s stories of the mythical town of Malgudi, suggests the myriad complexities and contradictions of the modern pluralistic state of India. The exhibition presents a mosaic or microcosm of Indian society today: Sadhus and Parsis, rural and urban, tradition and innovation.

India provides rich material for the photographer. The almost incredible social change in this century, the contrasts in cultures and races, the surreal visual juxtapositions, the rituals, all overlaying each other – all prime subjects. But the conflicts between and within India’s urban and rural societies – its English-speaking and non-English-speaking citizens, its caste system, its drive to create a national, secular identity and aspirations of its regions and culture – make it possible only to provide ‘signs’ towards understanding.”

Sponsored by CMC Limited and Kingfisher Strong Lager and presented with the aid of Visiting Arts.