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Photoworks festival: Dayanita Singh

On 7th October, I joined Photoworks’ zoom discussion with Dayanita Singh, a photographer with strong views on the dissemination of photography and challenger of the conventionality of curators and galleries. Her website is here: https://dayanitasingh.org.

Museum Bhavan © Dayanita Singh, source: https://dayanitasingh.org

Some thoughts on what I found to be an interesting and thought provoking session:

  • DS expressed frustration that despite the versatility of photography, the display/sharing of it has not significantly changed and is still often about large museum or gallery prints. She argued that dissemination in its multiple forms is perhaps more important than the capturing of the image itself. Without it the image remains unseen.
  • DS likes her work to exist in different forms in many places and questioned, ‘how did photography get so fixed and limited’. She has spent much of her career challenging the structure of the museum and suggests that it is up to photographers to determine what changes they would like. She commented that while photography is very tactile, there is often little opportunity to physically engage with it.
  • DS talked about the idea of the book as an exhibition object and her work in this area. A full discussion is available in her recorded interview with hyperallergic (https://hyperallergic.com/468977/the-book-object-as-exhibition-an-interview-with-dayanita-singh/). Interestingly, she created a frame that would allow the book to displayed as an object in the Tate but this had taken quite some persuasion on her part and had conditions attached.
  • She expressed annoyance with ‘photo festivals’ in that they restrict access to art to those who can pay and tend to be limited to specific sites, rather than made accessible. DS believes that accessibility to work is an important aspect of dissemination. Adding that ‘nothing is for free’ – she doesn’t give away any of her physical works.
  • Instagram – DS was surprisingly enthusiastic about IG given her love of the tactile. However, she explained that she uses it more as a publicity machine for her book objects rather than making work specifically for IG (though she commented that she may do this sometime).

Listening to DS has encouraged me to think of my work in multiple-forms, rather than as one thing or the other. The dissemination as a significant additional part of the process that begins with image capture, continues with post-production, and finishes with dissemination. Photography is not simple.

Published inP4: research & preparation

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