Interview with Dayanita Singh | "The Eunuch is the New Maharaja" | Indian Photographies |


"A.S.: In some of the works in Go Away Closer, there seems to be a tendency to create drama out of visual patterns and their behaviour. I refer here to works that create an effect out of presenting objects stacked in a uniform manner - chairs lined up in regular rows in a cinema theatre or in a room, scooters arranged in a warehouse, gloves hanging limp on window bars. Do you feel that as much as one needs to explore the hypnotic quality that repetition as a trope possesses (the incantatory effect that words can achieve and the spectacular effect that objects can), one has also to be aware of the dangers of it being used in a manner that is formulaic?

D.S.: Of course, there is a danger there. If you are seeing a pattern and not the emotion that I am seeing in these photographs, then, it is something that I need to take very seriously. I would definitely not want my work to be dominated by a sense of pattern. There is a kind of conditioning that comes out of practice, thought, and participation. A moment compels me to pull the trigger and take the picture - I respond intuitively. Rather than consciously, with an idea in my head. Perhaps, too often, we are conditioned to think of the photogenic and the photographeable. Some of my latest works look at capturing that which is not photographeable. And that which is not traditionally photogenic.

How you capture an image depends on your instinct - the way you allow your experiences to shape the act. What you draw on could be from literature, from music, from cinema, from life. As well as from your understanding of the medium. Take light, for example, the very basic element of Photography. I am very conscious of light even when I am not photographing. How it falls, how it fills up a space. Where it lingers. Light in complete darkness, etc.

There are images I have taken recently which have stayed on for sentimental reasons. Images I made because I had to, for my own sake, or just because I wanted to share a view with someone. Myself Mona Ahmed (2001) was born out of my admiration for Mona - the tough life she has led, the choices she has made over the years. Quite a few years ago, there could be no shows of Indian art/photography without pictures of maharajas; then, of course, over time, urban family portraits took over. Now, you have to have images of eunuchs if you are mounting a show, especially internationally. The Eunuch is the new Maharaja. It's amazing how fast certain themes become stereotypes."


Interview by Abhay Sardesai | ARTINDIA