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Who Framed the artists?

Painter Manisha Gera Baswani captures the private lives of fellow artists on camera,creating a unique album.

Written by Vandana Kalra | April 30, 2012 3:07:10 am

Painter Manisha Gera Baswani captures the private lives of fellow artists on camera,creating a unique album.

A unique album of photographs captures a range of eminent artists in their candid moments — Nilima Sheikh installing a show while her grandson plays on her lap; Mithu Sen,Archana Hande and Sharmila Samant doing the jig with art historian-curator Arshiya Lokhandwala; Riyas Komu and Ranbir Kaleka holding each other in an embrace; BM Kamath and art critic Johny ML sharing a light moment; Sheikh,Geeta Kapur and Arpita Singh at a meal at collector Nitin Bhayana’s home; and Bharti Kher hugging Anita Dube. This archive of images,by Delhi-based Manisha Gera Baswani,form a window into the less-known sides of the artists’ personalities.

The project,says Baswani,began over a casual lunch with fellow artists Anjum Singh and Sheila Makhijani in 2002. Singh mentioned that an art gallery had been unable to source an old photograph of her mother,artist Arpita Singh,and Baroda-based artist Nilima Sheikh. Back home,Baswani pondered over how she could document the private moments of artists. “I wanted make their intimate experiences permanent in photographs. I can be with them due to the fact that I am one of them,” says the artist.

Soon,the camera became a companion and now she has a collection of thousands of photographs. The art fraternity responded enthusiastically to the project. “I get a call when an artist is in Delhi,” says the 44-year-old. She photographed New York-based Zarina Hashmi during her solo at Gallery Espace,and Korea-based LN Tallur when he was discussing his acclaimed work Chromatophobia: The Fear of Money with gallerist Peter Nagy. Baswani admits that it is,sometimes,difficult to capture the vibrant or intense character of artists in camera. “I have not yet managed to get nice images of Tallur,” confesses Baswani.

One face she seems to have captured is of Subodh Gupta. The stylised picture shows him in the background,almost dominated by immense packages wrapped in tape. “He was getting ready to hold his show at a gallery,and these packages had just arrived,” says Baswani.

Some photographs also revive interesting memories. Like the time last year when she got so busy shooting US-based Krishna Reddy at the opening of his exhibition in Delhi that she turned up late for a dinner she was hosting at home. Some of these pictures will make it into a forthcoming book or a book series.

The artist regrets losing the opportunity to photograph MF Husain. “I was planning to visit Dubai and had proposed a meeting with him,a month before his death,” she says. She does,however,have the veteran in one frame,taken at Vadehra Gallery,Delhi,in 2001,a year before she had started her project. Another priceless shot is of Manjit Bawa in his studio. “This was a few years before he went into coma,” says Baswani.

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