Notes from the Desert1999 – 2010

This extensive series is drawn from more than ten years of Gauri Gill visiting her friendsamong rural communities in Western Rajasthan, including Jogi nomads, Muslim migrants and Bishnoipeasants. The set of pictures is also structured around performance and portraits; some spontaneous,many posed in collaboration with their subjects. It includes the Balika Mela Portraits at one end ofthe spectrum – posed pictures made in a tent in Lunkaransar town; unplanned and spontaneous,candid portraits at the other end; and finally those photographs that were staged in people’s real lifeenvironments, and so combined both practices. The work references vernacular and popular practicesof photography and image making often found in and around the village – including the studio portrait,passport photo, religious calendar art and Bollywood posters.The exhibition also includes the Birth Series; and the Ruined Rainbow Pictures, the only colorworks in the entire show.“To set up a photographic project in rural Rajasthan, in black and white, stretching over a decade, goesagainst the grain of several stereotypes; and signals the maturing of a ‘voice’ within the corpus of Photographyin India. Defrocked of its color and tourism potential, Rajasthan, is scoured at the nomadic margins; revealinglives in transition: epic cycles of birth, death, drought, flood, celebration and devastation, through which they pass.The extremity of the situation requires no illustration or pictorialism- those vexed twins of the colonial legacyespeciallyfrom an insider, or the one who is led by the hand. Her subjects take her into their world, and she goesthere like Alice. Her method embraces ‘Time’- which does not ‘naturally’ exist inside a photograph, beyond theepiphany and commemoration of a moment (photography’s melancholy and limitation is precisely this)- withina structure of intimacy and relationships that unravel their mysteries slowly.”From Anita Dube’s notes on the show in Delhi, published in Art India and Du magazine 2010.

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