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Sunday, July 22, 2018

India Calling: Photographer Craig Semetko’s exhibition captures the humour and irony on Indian streets

Over 40 black-and-white photos show India in a candid and “unposed” fashion, hence the title of the exhibition.

Written by Debesh Banerjee | New Delhi | Updated: June 1, 2017 11:35:47 am
Craig-Semetko-photo1 The American photographer released a photo-book by the same name in the US in April last year. Over 40 black-and-white photos show India in a candid and “unposed” fashion, hence the title of the exhibition.

From the first glance, there is a sense of familiarity in Craig Semetko’s images of Indian streets. Be it the photograph of a man sitting at his shop surrounded by a pile of tyres, lost in thought; a stray dog resting at the foot of a stairway; or a semi-clothed old man washing his face from a tap fitted on a wall. “When I look at anything, I try to focus on the geometric patterns, the irony and the humour attached to that moment,” says Semetko, whose exhibition, “India Unposed”, is at the Vadehra Art Gallery.

The American photographer released a photo-book by the same name in the US in April last year. Over 40 black-and-white photos show India in a candid and “unposed” fashion, hence the title of the exhibition.

Craig-Semetkophoto2 Craig Semetko’s photographs of children in Mumbai

“One early morning in Mumbai I saw steam coming over a small hill in the street. As I approached I saw it was from a pot of boiling water for a man’s tea. After a moment the man tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I’d photograph his daughter. I said yes, the daughter came out of the house and I took three shots with her looking more shy and uncomfortable in each one. I said thanks and she went back inside. I was showing the photographs to her father when I noticed she had reappeared and was watching me from the doorway. I stopped talking and started shooting. Only later did I notice her little sister in the other side of the frame,” he says, about the black-and-white photograph above.

In another taken at Pushkar, a man is smoking, wearing a T-shirt that reads: “Women are such wonderful creatures.”

Semetko’s tryst with the camera is fairly recent, having picked it up at the age of 40. A former sketch comedian and performer from Los Angeles, he mainly performed at corporate functions until he bought a Leica camera from a Hong Kong camera supplies store in early 2000. In a photography catalogue, he saw works by Henri Cartier Bresson. Semetko was hooked by Bresson’s eye for “form, and searching for the decisive moment”.

“India Unposed” emerged from a Leica project titled “10X10”, where 10 photographers were commissioned to take 10 images to create 100 prints. Semetko chose India. “I would just wander the streets and tell a story through a single frame,” says Semetko, who spent three months wandering the streets of Varanasi, Jaipur, Chennai, Goa, Mumbai and Delhi, among other towns.

Among his memorable adventures through India was capturing street dogs, both stemming from his love of canines and that of his mentor on this project and Magnum photographer, Elliott Erwitt. Among other things, Erwitt is known for photos of dogs. A photograph by Semetko in the exhibition shows a stray dog looking curiously at the camera, standing at a ghat in Varanasi. Below him is the writing on the wall, which reads: “Ask Yourself Who Am I?”. “Dogs are friendly and make for good images,” he says.

The exhibition is at Vadehra Art Gallery, D-53 Defence Colony till April 18. Contact: 46103550

India Calling: Photographer Craig Semetko’s exhibition captures the humour and irony on Indian streets

Craig Semetko released a photo-book – India Unposed in the US in April last year. An exhibition on his work was recently organised that shows India in a candid and “unposed” fashion. (Pic courtesy: Craig Semetko and Vadehra Art Gallery)

India Calling: Photographer Craig Semetko’s exhibition captures the humour and irony on Indian streets

One of Craig Semetko’s photographs (Pic courtesy: Craig Semetko and Vadehra Art Gallery)

India Calling: Photographer Craig Semetko’s exhibition captures the humour and irony on Indian streets

One of Craig Semetko’s photographs (Pic courtesy: Craig Semetko and Vadehra Art Gallery)

India Calling: Photographer Craig Semetko’s exhibition captures the humour and irony on Indian streets

“I would just wander the streets and tell a story through a single frame,” says Semetko, who spent three months wandering the streets of Varanasi, Jaipur, Chennai, Goa, Mumbai and Delhi, among other towns. (Pic courtesy: Craig Semetko and Vadehra Art Gallery)

India Calling: Photographer Craig Semetko’s exhibition captures the humour and irony on Indian streets

“India Unposed” emerged from a Leica project titled “10X10”, where 10 photographers were commissioned to take 10 images to create 100 prints. Semetko chose India. (Pic courtesy: Craig Semetko and Vadehra Art Gallery)

India Calling: Photographer Craig Semetko’s exhibition captures the humour and irony on Indian streets

In a photography catalogue, he saw works by Henri Cartier Bresson. Semetko was hooked by Bresson’s eye for “form, and searching for the decisive moment”. (Pic courtesy: Craig Semetko and Vadehra Art Gallery)

India Calling: Photographer Craig Semetko’s exhibition captures the humour and irony on Indian streets

A former sketch comedian and performer from Los Angeles, he mainly performed at corporate functions until he bought a Leica camera from a Hong Kong camera supplies store in early 2000. (Pic courtesy: Craig Semetko and Vadehra Art Gallery)

India Calling: Photographer Craig Semetko’s exhibition captures the humour and irony on Indian streets

Semetko’s tryst with the camera is fairly recent. He picked it up at the age of 40. . (Pic courtesy: Craig Semetko and Vadehra Art Gallery)

India Calling: Photographer Craig Semetko’s exhibition captures the humour and irony on Indian streets

Over 40 black-and-white photos show India in a candid and “unposed” fashion, at the exhibition. (Pic courtesy: Craig Semetko and Vadehra Art Gallery)

India Calling: Photographer Craig Semetko’s exhibition captures the humour and irony on Indian streets

“When I look at anything, I try to focus on the geometric patterns, the irony and the humour attached to that moment,” says Semetko, whose exhibition, “India Unposed”, is at the Vadehra Art Gallery. (Pic courtesy: Craig Semetko and Vadehra Art Gallery)

India Calling: Photographer Craig Semetko’s exhibition captures the humour and irony on Indian streets

Shot at Mahabalipuram (Pic courtesy: Craig Semetko and Vadehra Art Gallery)

India Calling: Photographer Craig Semetko’s exhibition captures the humour and irony on Indian streets

The mood of Ganesh Chaturthi well captured (Pic courtesy: Craig Semetko and Vadehra Art Gallery)

India Calling: Photographer Craig Semetko’s exhibition captures the humour and irony on Indian streets

From Dharavi, Mumbai (Pic courtesy: Craig Semetko and Vadehra Art Gallery)

India Calling: Photographer Craig Semetko’s exhibition captures the humour and irony on Indian streets

Simply India! Man washes his face from a tap fitted on a wall (Pic courtesy: Craig Semetko and Vadehra Art Gallery)

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