Chhatarpur: Fine Arts photographs by Rohit Chawla adorn the spaces at a new design centric lifestyle showroom in New Delhi.
The exhibition — The Design Eye — hosted by Spin showcases photographs taken by Chawla over the past 40 years or so including the very first images clicked by him while still at school in 1981.
The exhibition was inaugurated by the French ambassador Emmanuel Lenain Friday. It was followed by a discussion on analogue versus digital, and a conversation with Raghu Rai on contemporary photographic practices. Rai, who is best known for his street and documentary photography, talked about how contemporary photographers do not have the time and patience, they want everything fast, just like “fast food”.
Chawla who started photography at the age of 17 to simply make some extra money while in college said, “It was not purely a creative calling.” But he gradually and willingly created a life around imagery. Having started his career in advertising at JWT or HTA as it was called then in 1987, he “eventually outgrew advertising as I found it too cosmetic and synthetic.”
His real journey as an Editorial photographer began in 2013 when he started working with India Today as a creative director “This is where I embraced editorial photography in all its warts and glory, and those were some of the most satisfying days of my photographic career.”
“At India Today I bought a certain conceptual sensibility to mainstream news journalism.”
In the initial stages of his career, Chawla did start with vanilla street photography, but now his photos are increasingly about a certain design sensibility. He said, “Conceptual photography has always been about staged images to try and communicate an abstract viewpoint in a visual idiom but even within that construct I still try and create imagery that stems from my own head and heart”.
The exhibition is unique in its own way, as Chawla describes his photographs “visuals within a graphic metaphor”.
“I was tired of doing exhibitions in the same galleries, where the same obligatory 200 people come for all exhibitions. I wanted a fresh audience this time. And so to do it in a uber cool design space made perfect sense. And I already feel this experiment of mine is working.”
At the Spin, Chawla emphasised how his photographs complement the design aesthetics of the space.
“My images are about design and having them exhibited at one of India’s biggest design stores is a perfect amalgamation,” he said.
Most of Chawla’s photographs have a certain geometry and symmetry “I like the interplay of form in graphic open spaces,” he said. None of the images have captions though. It’s for the viewer to find their own meaning.
“Fine art photography does not need a caption or that obtuse mandatory curatorial note, the images should speak for themselves without any accompanying crutches, and open to different interpretations.”