This winter the Whitechapel Gallery brings to life a vivid vision of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh as seen through the eyes of their photographers. A dramatic epic of political and social change – as it has unfolded across two centuries – is set against the continuities of family, ancient culture and the natural environment.
This landmark exhibition gives an inside view of how modern India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have been shaped through the lens of their photographers. From the days when the first Indian-run photographic studios were established in the 19th century, this exhibition tells the story of photography’s development in the subcontinent with over 400 works that have been brought together for the first time. It encompasses social realism and reportage of key political moments in the 1940s, amateur snaps from the 1960s and street photography from the 1970s. Contemporary photographs reveal the reality of everyday life, while the recent digitalisation of image making accelerates its cross-over with fashion and film.
The exhibition is arranged over five themes with works selected from the last 150 years. The Portrait shows the evolution of self-representation; The Family explores close bonds and relationships through early hand-painted and contemporary portraits; The Body Politic charts political moments, movements and campaigns; The Performance focuses on the golden age of Bollywood, circus performers and artistic practices that engage with masquerade; while The Street looks at the built environment, social documentary and street photography. Over 80 photographers including Pushpamala N., Rashid Rana, Dayanita Singh, Raghubir Singh, Umrao Singh Sher-Gil, Rashid Talukder, Ayesha Vellani and Munem Wasif are presented in the show, with works drawn from important collections of historic photography, including the influential Alkazi Collection, Delhi and the Drik Archive, Dhaka. They join many previously unseen images from private family archives, galleries, individuals and works by leading contemporary artists.