Got a meritorious portfolio of photographs and want to host an exhibition? Galleries may not be interested unless you’re backed by sponsorships and celebs.
As we flip through pages of a photography magazine or browse online photography forums, haven’t we wondered how a particularly arresting image would look when enlarged and framed? Besides books, magazines and online forums, photographers rarely get physical space to exhibit their work. Art galleries in the city prefer paintings, sculpture and installations to photographs, now and then making an exception to feature travelling exhibitions brought to town by cultural organisations or a collection of photographs depicting royalty or pre-Independence era.
“Galleries in India don’t consider photography as a form of art. In many cases, photographers themselves don’t have the confidence to pitch their work to galleries,” says Ashis Pahi of Kalanirvana. Ashis has been conducting photo walks for amateur photographers and was instrumental in mounting ‘Friends of India’ photography exhibition at State Art Gallery and Daira Art Gallery in the city.
His lament is not without reason. As most photographers will admit, you need more than a good portfolio to showcase your work. Unlike paintings and sculpture that find patrons willing to invest in promising talent, photography finds very few takers. Avid photographer and visual effects entrepreneur Yugandhar Tammareddy explains, “A photographer can make any number of copies of a photograph and sell it. This, the art galleries feel, dilutes the value of an exhibit.” Yugandhar then showcased his work at Mercedez Benz showroom in Madhapur as part of a customer initiative. He says, “I approached art galleries. The price they were willing to pay wasn’t enough to even meet framing charges of the photographs. The situation is better in Mumbai and Delhi galleries.”
Kishore Nagarigari, volunteer with Team HWS (Hyderabad Weekend Shoots) says from experience, “Many things come into play — the number of exhibits, marketing, sponsorships and prospective celebs who will grace the opening.”
Kishore and his friends found a way out of the curator-marketing-sponsorship muddle by pooling in money and booking a gallery within the premises of State Art Gallery and hosted their first exhibition, Reflections, in February this year.
Reflections showcased 75 selected photographs shot by 75 members of Team HWS. The exhibition neither a restrictive theme nor the frills of celebrities gracing the opening. “The lack of theme allowed us to showcase different genres. Each photographer is good at different aspects of photography. Why restrict creative process?” asks Kishore.
As Team HWS gears up for its second edition of ‘Reflections’ in December, Kishore recalls the joy of conducting an exhibition their way. “Reflections became like our carnival,” he says.
The group has more than 2400 members and conducts weekend photo walks in and around Hyderabad. Did the first edition of Reflections lend itself to sales? “We didn’t organise Reflections for business, but we followed a ‘blind bidding’ process. A minimum rate that would cover costs incurred by the photographer was fixed. If buyers felt a photograph merits more, they were welcome to pay a higher price,” says Kishore.
Until the time when photography exhibitions gain momentum, online forums seem to the way out.