After India Habitat Centre(IHC) initiated the India Habitat Centre Award for Photography in 2003 to nurture emerging photographers, the institution has felt the need to support and mentor those photographers, who have an eye and knack for their practice, but go unnoticed due to financial constraints. This has led to the birth of an year-long photo festival titled “India Habitat Photosphere”, launched at IHC last week. It offers photography fellowships and a string of activities in the form of seminars, workshops, films and exhibitions to sensitise people towards the need to protect the environment.
The festival in Delhi will focus on the theme of “sustainable development” as the grand narrative, and the panch tattvas — jal, prithvi, vayu, akash and agni — as the micro-narrative. As a part of the programme, four photographers will be awarded Rs 2 lakh each, towards making a body of work on the selected theme. Alka Pande, Artistic Director of India Habitat Photosphere, says, “The submissions need not be still photography only. They could be in the form of photo animation, photo books, photo installations, videos and short documentaries. This is a unique initiative which is looking to help photographers turn their gaze and lens towards creating a new language and use innovation to tackle the pressing concerns of the world at large. The theme of the festival is situated in crucial times, when we are constantly living in fear of environmental decay.”
Beginning February, the list of workshops and talks with photographers, artists and researchers include an interaction with well known shutterbug Aditya Arya, who played a pivotal role in the formation of India Photo Archive Foundation. Through his workshop on “Image Making”, photographer Parthiv Shah, also one of the mentors at the festival, will cast a fresh eye upon the process of photography. He says, “Smartphones have caused a revolution in the world of digital images. All of us have become photographers equipped with our mobiles and ipads. With the advent of selfies, the way of looking at the self has changed. We are no longer taking a picture but looking at what we think of ourselves and how we place ourselves in society. In the ’50s, portraiture existed in a different form and so was the case with Raja Ravi Varma’s portraits. Photography initially had a documentary approach of capturing events and people. Now there is a radical shift in that.”
Through an open call and submissions in February, the list of four awardees will be announced in March, after which an open-air exhibition of their works will take place in December next year. This will be followed by another cluster of workshops by eminent photographers and curators, including Dayanita Singh, Bandeep Singh, Peter Nagy, Prabir Purkayastha and Nathalie Herschdorfer.