The third edition of the biennial Delhi Photo Festival (DPF) is on in full swing at the sprawling grounds of Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA). Themed “Aspire”, DPF 2015 steps out of the conventional gallery space to bring together works of some of the finest talents in the world of contemporary photography -- from stalwart Raghu Rai to late Kishor Parekh, one of the pioneers of Indian photojournalism, to French photographer Olivier Culmann and Dutch photographer Rob Hornstra. There is quite a lineup of young photographers too.
Co-directors of DPF Prashant Panjiar and Dinesh Khanna are joined this time by a curatorial team of three young photographers who painstakingly put together the mega event. Exhibits apart, there is a cornucopia of workshops, talks, seminars, discussions, gallery walks and performances.
A panel discussion on “What is Photography in the 21st century?” couldn't have been better timed in an age when photographers have stepped out of the darkroom to confront digitisation, online galleries, photojournalism, populism and commercialism. “My advice for photographers is to assume the worst and hope for the best,” said the articulate David Campany, British artist, writer and curator. One of the hazards of the profession, he pointed out was the yawning chasm between popular and populist culture. The former that was rapidly taking over was represented by figures such as media -corporates like Rupert Murdoch, the “lowest common denominator that were manipulative, shallow and populist” On the other hand the real hope lay in popular culture that was informed by a democratic philosophy.
The other conundrum that exercised speakers was whether photographers should adopt a Do It Yourself philosophy or continue to have their work circumscribed by writers, publishers, photo editors, galleries and curators. Increasing photographers are becoming aware that they need to assume all roles to break free of limitations on their work. “I am in favour of a Do It Yourself strategy,” said noted photographer Rob Hornstra from Netherlands who sees a photographer's role akin to that of a film director.
Meanwhile Regina Anzenberger, artist, curator and founder director of Vienna-based Anzenberger Agency gave a rundown of her agency and gallery's work. Photography books she demonstrated are an art form by themselves. “Self published books are the most interesting,” she pointed out.
Devika Daulet Singh, founder of the NewDelhi based- PhotoInk Gallery sounded a note of warning about the future of galleries. “I sense that galleries are ceasing to be as important as they used to be 15 years ago. Collectors visit galleries less frequently while people scout the internet for information, photographs and research. The day has arrived when photographers themselves have to take on the role of curators and writers.”
However, Campany quoted Marshall McLuhan, Canadian communication theory expert as saying, “New media don't make old ones obsolete…”
The discussion was well moderated by New Delhi-based Rahaab Allana curator of Alkazi Foundation and editor of Pix Quarter.