Ever heard of photo fiction? Check out Dayanita Singh's new body of work.
Photographer Dayanita Singh's latest body of work “House of Love” links two genres of prose and pictures in an attempt to stretch the scope of both. On display till January 29 at Nature Morte, New Delhi's gallery for the avant-garde, these short picture stories were on display at the Peabody Museum of Harvard University earlier this year. There, as part of a grant from Robert Gardner, the stills making up her ‘photo fiction' have been bound into a book; rather presented as a narrative. Dayanita uses light, colour and angle for a visual take on nine short stories by Aveek Sen. Besides drawing from “long conversations with Aveek”, she admits to being inspired by the word sketches of writers she adores — Italo Calvino, Michael Ondaatje, Vikram Seth and Geoff Dyer.
What emerges from this engagement are frames that are a play of glow and gloom, colours or dearth of it and the shaping of city sights to contour a story. Dayanita says she has tried treating each story differently. “So some images bleed into one another; one story even has captions, others have no captions but some quotes.”
Terming her works as experimental, she talks about giving titles and suite of images “more as clues and suggestions”. It's for viewers to make what they want of it. Known for her arresting frames in black and white, the photo artist has brought colours to some of the frames here, again to “break rules of a photo book”. She states her point, “Photography is just a language. Writing in English or Marathi, as the case may be, does not make one a writer. Similarly now with photography, just making good photographs is not enough. Photography needs to look to the other forms.”
She obviously looks to literature. That's why she says the book born out of the works has the feel and weight of a literary novel. It's the exact size of an American hardback. To create a syllable of her own for photo fiction, she admits drawing from Calvino for the book cover plus “stealing some of the story titles from Calvino himself”. Then there is Vikram Seth's poem “Mistaken”, also a part of an essay by Sunil Khilnani plus art works of her artist colleagues.After a walk through the exhibition, when you take a look at the book (available at the venue), Dayanita says, “I want you to feel you are looking at a novel and then be surprised, page after page, story after story.”
House of Love; Dayanita Singh, Nature Morte, New Delhi, till January 29.