The summary of the third workshop at Jamia Millia Islamia (India), PART 1

Image by Ghaziuddin and Sohail Akbar

The third research workshop Fast Forward2: Women in Photographyfunded with The Leverhulme Trust International Network Grant, took place at AJK Mass Communication Research Centre at Jamia Millia islamia in New Delhi on February 27-28, 2018, hosted by Professor Sabeen Gadihoke.

Presentations and open discussion took place over the two-day workshop around ideas and themes concerned with the work and position of women photographers today. The summaries of presentations (part one) are below.

VAL WILLIAMS (Professor, UAL Photography and the Archive Research Centre, UK)

Supporting Women’s Photography through Writing and Curatorship

Val Williams spoke about a history of her working practice as a curator of photography. She started by introducing Photography and the Archive Research Centre (PARC) based at University for the Arts London (UAL) where she is the Director and noted that for the last 5 years all of their exhibitions have included a minimum of 50% women. She went on to talk about Impressions Gallery (The UK’s second independent photography galleries and now one of the most significant in Europe) which she started with Andy Sproxton in the 1970’s.  Many of the exhibitions there were men and this is what led Val to do her first book The Other Observers; Women in Photography now in its second edition. The exhibition The Other Observers opened at the National Media Museum and went onto the Photographers Gallery – it got a lot of attention and that because it came at the right moment. In this research project she introduced a number of women who had largely been overlooked or even not considered at all in the burgeoning histories of photography. A major part of the work for this book was looking at archives (often hidden) in big institutions. Along with discovering this lost work came a whole number of fascinating human stories and she emphasised the significance of this for today’s students to think about – research is not just about things (as in objects such as photographs) but research is about people too. During the project Val rediscovered a number of photographers who had literally disappeared including Grace Robertson whose career had faded behind the career of her husband. Val also presented Warworks, – women photographers responding to  war – a large scale museum show and publication that counteracted the conventional narratives of war photography. More recently she has worked on the Janet Mendhelson exhibition and book about a body of work only recently discovered by Tish Murtha both photographers are only recently celebrated.

A slide from Val Williams’s presentation


ANUSHA YADAV (Photo practitioner / Founder of Indian Memory / Visual History Interventionist / Art & Photo Book Design)

Founded in 2010, Indian Memory Project is an online archive tracing the histories and identities of the Indian Subcontinent via personal images and stories. With almost 838 categories devised to understand the Subcontinent, many narratives and images reveal stories on women’s participation in the field of photography. Anusha Yadav presented at the workshop stories about few women, from the archive, or discovered in research who have actively participated in photographic arts – be it printing for their male spouses, art direction, managing the photo studio, and even taking photographs themselves.

A slide from Anusha Yadav’s presentation


SOHAIL AKBAR (Associate Professor, AJK  Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia, India)

An intervention and analysis of my Mother as a photographer and archivist

Sohail Akbar presented his intervention and analysis of his Mother as a photographer and archivist. A Medical professional by training she has keenly documented her life with the camera and the photo album. This is done at a moment of time in India’s history which saw major transformations specially for women. He  drew the attention of the workshop participants towards his research in observing his Mother’s photography.

Image from Sohail Akbar’s family archive


NAGMA SAHI ANSARI (PhD candidate, AJK Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia, India)

Deconstructing traditional Indian family album through conscious self representation of women in Contemporary Visual Practice

“Revisiting the family albums in age of the digital, what one finds is an interesting contrast of experience, mobility as well as re-negotiation against the hegemonic understanding of the intimate family spaces. Through the practices of visuality and spatiality, working its way in our everyday experience, we come to discover a cognitive process of identity creation and bargain. The project opens dialectic on how networked technology opens a space of self discovery and sets a pace for divergent rituals and play of identity in a home space. It not only captures a parallel narrative of everyday experience but looks at the how photographs work as an evidence of mobility. The presentation is a timely intervention to look into the idea of identity, representation and mobility of women who actively captivate their positions in contemporary canon of personalized storytelling.”

Image from Nagma Sahi Ansari’s presentation


NANDINI VALLI MUTHIAN (Photographer, India)

Art Residency work for ACAD Calgary

Art Residency work for ACAD Calgary, Canada which took place in 2012 which will hopefully see the light of day this year, in Calgary and some commissioned briefs that Nandini has worked on in the past . A few recent projects that are yet to be seen/shown. Her work has been more reality and documentary based in the last few years.

Image: Nandini Valli Muthiah, from work ‘And the year was 1988’ (2012).


INDU ANTONY (Visual Artist, India)

A struggle and a voice wanting to be heard

“My work has always been centred around these themes as it has been my own battlefield.”

Indu Antony spoke of the development of her career and how she moved from being a doctor to being an artist and struggled along the way to get approval for her new profession. Her earliest project Broken Strings observed in black and white an elderly person’s home where she found some distressing sites. She moved onto the project It’s a beautiful World Outside that gives a voice to her subjects through sound recordings combined with portraits and images of what they dreamt to see. The next work that she spoke about was initiated by an investigation into the breast tax. In her work Indu makes a contemporary re-presentation of a response to this tax while paying homage to Nangeli who cut off her breast (as a symbolic gesture) in order to pay the breast tax

Image: Indu Antony, from work ‘Broken Strings’.


ANOLI PERERA (Founding member and member of Board of Directors of Theertha International Artists Collective, Colombo, Sri Lanka)

Anoli Perrera’s presentation discussed  her work focusing particularly on those which incorporates photography within its format.  She has been using photographs extensively for her installations and two dimensional work done with regard to the series, ‘Memory Keeper’.  In her photo-performance work, the primary focus is on the performative body and its shifting predicaments.  For Perrera, photography become an essential raw material which refers to socio-political and cultural phenomena the photographs themselves addresses in each context.

Image: Anoli Perrera, from work ‘Dinner Table’ (2013).


CHINAR SHAH (Faculty, Coordinator of Photography Discipline, Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Independent artist&curator, India)

Presentation on contemporary young women photographers who are pushing the boundaries of the medium in India and the role of education in it

The presentation explored ways in which contemporary young women photographers are pushing the boundaries of the medium in India and a close look at the role of education in it. While gender remains one of the important themes for women photographers, they also explore other premises while occupying the position of a woman photographer. Shinar Shah presented these photographies of female students, works of herself and other faculties teaching photography and some of the curatorial engagements she has had in last few years, its challenges and rewards.

Image: a cover of the book