Showing posts with label Art Photography. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Art Photography. Show all posts

19 Jun 2017

The 'Reality' of Photo Art Today

   The 'Reality' of Photo Art Today
Shibu Arakkal

“The greater the number of people who share a subjective opinion in favour of a work of art, the greater the possibility of that work becoming timeless”

Hiroshi-Sugimoto _ Boden Sea, Image courtesy Uttwil _ https-__fraenkelgallery.com_wp-content_uploads_2012_05_Hiroshi-Sugimoto
Hiroshi Sugimoto Boden Sea
Beginning this article with a quote of my own might seem self-absorbed but the quote itself is my distilled understanding of my learnings about art, having spent the greater portion of my life around art and artists and to later specialising in it as my medium of practice.

This article is my response to John Raymond Mireles’ article on titled ‘Why Photographers Don’t Get Modern Art’, which I found touched on many aspects of Contemporary Art which are close to my heart.

Before I make my way to contemporary photographic art, I would like to mention my dad’s (Yusuf Arakkal) words (possibly someone else’s originally), who is no more and someone who was one of the very significant and relevant contemporary artists from post-independence India. He used to say that any work of art will only be judged by time and no one else. Much as I too believe that, the statement also seems to put current art in a bit of a quandary in the sense of what is widely agreeable, certainly about the credibility and calibre of art done over the last thirty odd years. As Mireles points out that most of the art done over this period, varying in styles and mediums has been rather vaguely termed Post-modernist. Noting Mireles’ article, the most common statement a lot of this kind of art has been faced with from its popular audience is ‘I could have done that too’, to which I go back to what my dad used to say, ‘But you didn’t’.

If I were to name widely agreed-upon greats as Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Rembrandt, Salvador Dali of a few, I would quite confidently say that there would be little subjectivity about the ‘great’ calibre of their work, not just in the art world but even with the art literate. This level of consensus on a type or specificity of art, I fear often comes after the artist’s time and in his day leads to much debate and quarrel about the true ‘greatness’ or calibre of the art itself.
Edward Steichen's 'Road into the Valley' | Negative 1904 / Print 1906, Edward Steichen _ Road into the Valley _ negative 1904_ print 1906 _
Edward Steichen's 'Road into the Valley' | Negative 1904 / Print 1906

Man Ray's Portrait of Dora Maar | 1936, Image courtesy Man Ray _ Portrait of Dora Maar, 1936 _
Man Ray's Portrait of Dora Maar | 1936

Irving Penn's Skulls | Late 1970s, Image courtesy
Irving Penn's Skulls | Late 1970s
Bill Brandt's 'Coal Searcher Going Home to Jarrow' | 1937, Image courtesy Coal-searcher Going Home to Jarrow, Bill Brandt, 1937 _
Bill Brandt's 'Coal Searcher Going Home to Jarrow' | 1937
Up until the point when photography arrived on the scene, painting seemed to be the most ‘realistic’ art form but it obviously couldn’t compete with photography in that department. From then on painting seemed to get fervently preoccupied with philosophical and conceptual interpretations of reality in their widest as well as technical sense.
Annie Leibovitz | The Three Ghost, Image Courtesy
Annie Leibovitz | The Three Ghosts
Although photography due to its ‘realistic’ character became a medium of documentation, there have been several photographers who chose to use the medium artistically. Of the ones who have, I count Edward Steichen, Man Ray, Irving Penn, Bill Brandt and in more recent times, Annie Leibovitz, David LaChapelle, Cindy Sherman amongst others who seem to have succeeded by the earlier stated benchmark of subjectivity.

David LaChapelle 'Icarus' | 2012, Image courtesy DAVID LACHAPELLE _ ICARUS, 2012 _ https-__www.facebook.com_librairiegalerielouisrozen_photos_a.759648724055310.1073741827.759639670722882_1075277845825728__type=3&theater.jpg
David LaChapelle 'Icarus' | 2012
Cindy Sherman's 'Untitled #305' | 1994, Untitled #305, 1994, Image courtesy Cindy Sherman _
Cindy Sherman's 'Untitled #305' | 1994
As Mireles mentions, stalwarts like Ansel Adams became the leaders of a modernist movement in photography, creating a style while crafting techniques that are relevant to this day.

Ansel Adams | Aspens Northern New Mexico | 1958, Image courtesy Ansel Adams, Aspens, Northern New Mexico, 1958 _
Ansel Adams | Aspens Northern New Mexico | 1958
Until recently all two-dimensional visual art forms aiming to recreate or interpret reality have incorporated visually appreciable elements such as the subjective use of colour and contrast, creating an idea of composition relative to the viewing frame of the work itself, the use of lighting as an image enhancing element, amongst other things. This approach made the artwork distinctly ‘artistic' as opposed to faithfully realistic.

Even Photorealism in painting was a visual depiction of the way the camera or the lens saw reality with all the subjective artistic enhancements.

In photography, from Pictorialism to Modernism there was always a conscious effort made to heighten, if not strengthen these aspects of a photograph that made it more appreciable albeit not very realistic. To the point, that true realism was never seen as very interesting a visual idea.

With all art that is very ‘now’ such as a lot of new media or contemporary experimental work, I can’t honestly tell if the demand is due to the hype, which seems to be almost critical to the success of the work or if it is just the reality of the market. I do however feel strongly that in years to come, classical ideas of photography will stand on its own, even if in its own niche. And I think will also be regarded for its unique sensibility and aesthetic, simply because it has a visually rich tradition and processes, unlike any other print medium.
Thomas Demand's 'Clearing' | Gallery Display, Image courtesy Thomas Demand _Clearing_ 2 _
Thomas Demand's 'Clearing' | Gallery Display

Thomas Demand's 'Clearing' | Venice Biennale Display, Image courtesy Thomas Demand _Clearing_ 1 _
Thomas Demand's 'Clearing' | Venice Biennale Display
I see photography's lead into new styles (or movements, we wait to find out) in the digital era that are either a very real interpretation of reality, visually faithful, devoid of artistic enhancements i.e. as the human memory remembers a seen visual, one that tries to harness the power of that memory and to somehow remain austere of those luxuries that we once considered appreciable, even fundamental.

Or tangentially giving rise to a concept such as Hyperrealism, where using, while pushing the boundaries, every available digitally technological means in creating images that are almost too sharp, with colour and contrast in their widest gamut ever seen in the history of photography. And to use photographs in their singular form or as multiples in stitching together, morphing, layering or making seamless digital collages that give one an illusion of a visual that could be real but isn’t really. Hyperrealism in its most experimental techniques challenges dimensions, the vertical and horizontal axes, space and in ways, time and fundamentally obliterates our secure bearings of visual comprehension. It is as much to be understood as accepted that photo editing and processing software from here on will be considered legitimately complimentary tools to photography and not as has been, an unholy convenience or an impurity in the process. This is especially where my views differ from those of Mireles’.
Lee Jeffries' Hyperrealistic Series on Homeless Children, Image courtesy Lee Jeffries _ Homeless Children _
Lee Jeffries' Hyperrealistic Series on Homeless Children
The new wave of western painters seem to already have eagerly embraced these two styles of visual interpretation and will hopefully further the basic premise and idea with more freedom. Especially given that painting unlike photography doesn't have the constraints of working with subjects that are already existent.


About the Author: Shibu Arakkal is a ‘Lorenzo il Magnifico’ Gold Prize winning photo artist, based in Bangalore, who has practised his art for over twenty years, and has shown his work extensively in India and abroad. One might bump into him riding his motorcycle, or cross paths with him while he is satiating his travel yearnings. He is a self-admitted dog-lover and philosopher inspired always by his daughter Zarah. You can connect with him on and

All images are for reference purposes and have been sourced by the author from the Internet, mainly from the artists' websites, Facebook and Pinterest pages. Please view image details for the source.

30 Jan 2015

Art News: Perfect Imperfections by Vivek Mathew

‘Perfect Imperfections’ – photographs that celebrate imperfect beauty

Art News: Perfect Imperfections by Vivek Mathew, Bangalore, Art Scene IndiaIn his fourth solo exhibition, Vivek Mathew, with his keen eye for detail and intent appreciation towards design, brings together a series of 26 eye-capturing photographs based on patterns. With over four years of subconscious photography across several locations, Vivek has now devotedly captured man-made and naturally formed symmetry, focusing on the stark differences and similarities between them. Travelling around Bheemeshwari, Bangalore, Hong Kong, Colombo, Beijing, Nilgris, Delhi and Mumbai, he has observed patterns of both kinds, which makes this world so essentially perfect and beautiful.
Art News: Perfect Imperfections by Vivek Mathew, Bangalore, Art Scene India
Pictures from his travels have culminated into ‘Perfect Imperfections’ – a series that celebrates imperfect beauty, in the perfect flow of sight. There are patterns everywhere. There is a tendency of patterns around us, whether man made or natural. These patterns come together to form intricate designs, that are awe-inspiring and captivating. While mud pots foil the stack of tender coconuts, proportionate pipes come as no competition to the scarred barks of trees. But of course, there is more – leaves and its shadows in perfect balance, the ripples in water that spread in even tune and the evenness of tea plantations. Man on the other hand, has created much symmetry in a bunch of ropes stacked in line, similarly designed stair railings, windows and window shades, coming together in noticeable rhythm. Capturing moments of such outlined design, Vivek introduces the idea of symmetry in life that we all tend to be a part of.

‘Perfect Imperfections’ by photographer Vivek Mathew at the ‘Art of Delight’, Bangalore, from 1st-28th Feb, 2015.
*Excerpt from press release

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3 Apr 2014

Art Buzz: Finding Utopia, Mumbai

The Art Loft and Shoeb Mashadi present Finding Utopia (opening on 11th April 2014 at The Art Loft), a monochromatic noir journey into human emotions featuring supermodel Tamara Moss as the protagonist.

'A journal of everyday chaos and mundane chores - but you lift the veil, dig deeper and there are fragments of what lies inside each of us - the millions of questions about the uncertainty of life, a sense of loneliness and longing to belong to something or someone, or a longing to break free and wander to a road that draws us. To escape the neurosis of the mind and find comfort and security in dreams, dreaming on and on and never coming back - to escape from unrequited love.

This journal is a metaphor of the emotions, feelings and thoughts that are a part of personal experiences. In a candid, non linear narrative, the protagonist represents the morbid that lies in us all - deep within our subconscious. A realm of memories and a scar for life'.

Photograph by Shoeb Mashadi, Fine Art Photography, Image courtesy artistPhotograph by Shoeb Mashadi, Fine Art Photography, Image courtesy artist
Shoeb Mashadi, a fashion and portrait photographer based in Mumbai is noted for his strong individualistic style which is an eclectic mix of fine art and commercial portraiture and has photographed a number of celebrities and supermodels as well as shot for leading fashion designers, cult movie directors, prime television channels and internationally acclaimed restaurants. Last year, Shoeb Mashadi represented the country as one amongst ten photographers in the world who were selected to be a part of the TEDx photo chain, a part of the TEDx annual event held in Amsterdam, where his work was exhibited.

Related Posts,
Guest Post: Photohappiness
A photography show - Bangalore
Fine Art Photography

13 Feb 2014

'Journey Thus Far' by Shibu Arakkal

'Journey Thus Far' by Shibu Arakkal, special viewing of Florence Biennale 2013 Gold Prize winning work along with a special curation of works from his last seven series

Related post,
Guest Post: Photohappiness by Shibu Arakkal

9 Jul 2013

Guest Post: Photohappiness

Introducing a new series by guest writers with the first post by Bangalore based photo artist Shibu Arakkal

Photography and its meaning in the midst of a million clicks

The word 'happiness' to me is so synonymous with taking pictures. There is something so exhilaratingly profound about having frozen a slice of time on film or as in these days, digitally. The mere seduction of a thoughtfully crafted photograph emerging out of nowhere in the red of a darkroom is much the reason for my nineteen year love affair.

I have always maintained that we're all so naturally drawn to photography, maybe because it is the most realistic of all two-dimensional visual art forms or maybe like painting or sculpture, there isn't anything particularly intimidating about it. So whether it is that black and white studio portrait of our grand parents' wedding or that iconic album cover of a favourite music CD, certain pictures have forever found a place in our very being, maybe without much realization. It also goes to show how the emotion is so intrinsic to any photograph as its very soul.
It is also why I am rarely surprised when someone decides to quit an MBA degree or their jobs in software to wanting to take pictures for a living.

I think that we also make too much of being able to articulate our emotions for art in general and in critiquing it. Just that we instantly relate to or even in retrospect feel something very strongly for an art work or even don't realize that an art work has imprinted itself into our subconscious means much more than being able to articulate our emotion for it. As such and particularly in photography there are images that we never seem to forget, irrespective of whether there was an appreciable element of technical wizardry or a very simply execution of a great idea.

Image provided by Shibu Arakkal

As there are photographs that have defined times and moments in this world, there are those single shots that can make one's whole life worthwhile. William Albert Allard's portrait of this crying Peruvian boy who lost his sheep to a hit and run taxi moved so many people around the world to chip in and buy the boy a whole new herd. That single portrait was responsible for a lot of lost sleep for a whole lot of people other than everyone who saw it questioning what was right in this world.

The great American landscapes photographed by Ansel Adams stand tall as a monument to high art and have over the years helped to bring great attention to natural conservation in the country. Interestingly and a less known fact, Adams destroyed a lot of his negatives towards the end of his life as he felt that he didn't have enough time to print them himself. It is a certain happiness that you have gained from what you do that dictates what shall eventually happen of the pictures you have taken.

Life's stories in all its variations are almost normal when compared to the ones photographers tell you. It is sometimes an absolute compulsion to take that one elusive picture that has got someone into heaps of trouble or simply a desire to create something that shall live on, that has seen one scale the very heights of photographic yearning.

In such a world seemed to live Bill Brandt, whose artistic interpretation of early twentieth century middle class English life and portraits of great English names in its soul screamed and cried and at the same time glorified all that was so in essence 'English'.

Like the musicians and poets of a time, the photographers are the ones who remind us what things looked like, their interpretation of it, of course.

It is not often in a world of so many do's and don't's, that we experience true liberation of the mind and the soul. Taking a simple, conscious and intentful photograph does that so very often that, pardon the pun but it seems to instantly put things into perspective.

Shibu Arakkal is a Bangalore based photo artist whose work has been shown at the Royal College of Art in London, the Arad International Biennale in Romania, and the National Exhibition of Art in India over a nineteen year career with his works in private and institutional collections in India and abroad.

For more on the artist go to
To follow the artist go to

Also read on Indian Art,

11 Apr 2011

Photographs as a medium of expression gaining in popularity

As is widely evident, photography as a medium of expression has grown in popularity over the last few years, and has become a highly collectible item. Initially, most people looked at photographs as an affordable option and as an alternate to conventional art forms.

However, the prices of photographs have risen consistently over the years. Still, due to multiples, prices of photographs are comparatively lower than conventional art such as paintings.

During this year's art summit too there was ample emphasis on photographs, with dedicated galleries showing their works. Overall too, the number of exhibitions , photographers and the range of work that is being displayed have expanded tremendously, which augurs well for the collector or buyer.

It does, however, become difficult for buyers to assess whether to invest in photographs or not. In the conventional art market, not every painting or sculpture can provide financial returns, and the same holds true in the case of photographs. There are numerous exhibitions now by both established photographers and budding ones. Therefore, one must put in an effort to understand more, to be able to assess good quality works and in general to get familiar with the medium.

What makes this field particularly interesting is that there is a whole spectrum of photographic works on display . Photojournalists, fine art photographers, conceptual artists, they are all producing some exceptional works and although this is exciting for the viewer and the market, it can be a little confusing for first-time buyers .

It is imperative therefore that one gets familiar with the scene completely before buying. You could begin by looking at works of established photographers to understand the finer nuances of the medium. As always, it is important to buy from galleries of repute and to check the edition size of the photograph.

It does, however, become difficult for buyers to assess whether to invest in photographs or not. In the conventional art market, not every painting or sculpture can provide financial returns, and the same holds true in the case of photographs. There are numerous exhibitions now by both established photographers and budding ones. Therefore, one must put in an effort to understand more, to be able to assess good quality works and in general to get familiar with the medium.

What makes this field particularly interesting is that there is a whole spectrum of photographic works on display . Photojournalists, fine art photographers, conceptual artists, they are all producing some exceptional works and although this is exciting for the viewer and the market, it can be a little confusing for first-time buyers .

It is imperative therefore that one gets familiar with the scene completely before buying. You could begin by looking at works of established photographers to understand the finer nuances of the medium. As always, it is important to buy from galleries of repute and to check the edition size of the photograph.

(Published in Financial Times)

15 Jul 2009

A photography show - Bangalore

(By Nalini S Malaviya)

A few days ago a photography show In Focus previewed at Hatworks Boulevard where six photographers presented their recent works. Photography as a fine art form is still in its nascent stages in the country, and, as this exhibition was organized by a mainstream art gallery, it sounded promising enough to tempt one to venture forth in the evening traffic. And, it turned out to be a very interesting show with excellent images on view.

Gigi Scaria
Most of these photographers have a fine arts background, and with an exception of a couple of them, they have exhibited their works widely. The visuals that they have presented capture delicate nuances derived from and related to urban living. Their inspiration ranges from crystalline reflections in still waters, the rapidly evolving skyline, graffiti on walls, and other urban phenomenon – concrete and emotional. For instance, Gigi Scaria first creates his own sculpture / installation which he then transports to the chosen site before photographing it. And, his sculptures are in fact elaborately detailed artworks that are crafted with meticulous precision. On the other hand, Atul Bhalla, a multifaceted artist, continues his penchant with water, where delicate reflections in the depths of water evoke a sense of beauty and contemplation that is almost surreal.

Atul Bhalla

Preeti Sood, who is a trained printmaker based in the UK has photographed walls with peeled plasters and posters. The images not only capture visual textures but combined with graffiti and torn lettering / pictures give an entirely new identity to the images. Rachel Immanuel is a graphic artist, and this is the second time she is exhibiting in Bangalore. Her intense black and white images are an exploration of the complexities and conflicts arising out of urban dichotomies.

Vivek Vilasini

Bangalore based Vivek Vilasini focuses on the absurd in the most unusual of circumstances. In a dump yard outside London he finds a stone statue of Buddha and a replica of the Statue of Liberty along with heavy artillery. The incongruity of the combination or co-existence of the varied objects cannot escape the viewer. While, Shankar Natarajan presents the fragility of relationships - the alignment of the profiles of the protagonists poses and answers questions that are loaded with a sense of expectancy. Overall, the exhibition is definitely worth a visit.

(The exhibition continues till July 25 at Crimson Art Resource, Bangalore)

(Published in Bangalore Mirror)

15 Apr 2009

Art exhibitions in the city - Bangalore

Slumdog inspires artists
After the movie Slumdog Millionaire captured the imagination of many at the Oscars earlier this year, it is now inspiring visual artists, enough to dedicate an entire exhibition to it. According to Crimson art resource, “Slumdog Millionaire is a story that any one in the world can identify with. It is a story of rags to riches, optimism amid adversity, ghetto-to-glory. It is a story of love until death do us part. It is a story about people who rise above their circumstances, who are given nothing, who create a dream and become somebody. It is a story of survival, of hope, of destiny and of dreaming big.” Well, titled ‘Big Dreams’, this particular exhibition portrays works by 14 artists who attempt to present their aspirations and ambitions on the canvas.

Murali Cheeroth
GR Iranna, KT Shivaprasad, Murali Cheeroth and Babu Eshwar Prasad are some of the artists participating in this show. The works explore urban dichotomies, everyday realities, and consequences of mindless development. Hope and aspirations of people caught up in this web are also dealt with in some places. Slumdog or not, what makes the show interesting is that it is thematic and the most of the works have been created specifically for the event, which adds a thread of commonality that makes it more cohesive.

Incidentally, I must share this piece of new with you, Murali who lives in Bangalore but has shown mainly in Mumbai and Bangalore, is a part of the “Passage to India Part 2 – from the Frank Cohen Collection” which is ongoing in UK. His works are being featured alongside biggies such as Subodh Gupta, Jitish Kallat, Reena Saini Kallat, TV Santhosh and Thukral and Tagra.

(The exhibition continues till April 30, at Crimson - Hatworks Boulevard, Bangalore)

A ‘Skin’ Show
Shibu Arakkal
Shibu Arakkal continues his tryst with photography and his recent series focuses on the human skin. Training his lens on to various parts of the human body, Shibu has come with some poignant and some disturbing images. Using a format where motifs recur, Shibu replicates the images to produce a set of stark black and white photographs. As Giridhar Khasnis, who has curated this exhibition, says, “With Skin, the young photo-artist seems to have scaled yet another creative peak. In this series, Shibu explores the landscape of the body through a language of silence.” Having worked on this project for two years, Shibu has attempted to capture various textures, contours, colours, aberrations and beauty of the skin.

(The exhibition will be held between April 16 - 22, at WelcomArt Gallery, ITC Windsor Manor, Bangalore )
(Published in Bangalore Mirror)