Kolkata: Repertoires of the world’s greatest masters – many of which have never been shown before – while others have remained solitary in the vaults of private collectors are all set to enthral India in Asia’s largest photo festival taking place in Kolkata. The inaugural Kolkata International Photo Festival 2019 – Asia’s largest – will take place for five days from February 28. 

The festival has two of the art world’s formidable giants as directors – Madhuchhanda Sen, founder of the iconic Maya Art Space and Kounteya Sinha – world renowned photographer who critics are calling the modern master of visual story-telling. 

Kounteya Sinha

The festival will turn Kolkata – India’s intellectual capital into a gigantic venerable gallery. Shows will take place in almost all of the city’s top institutions and venues including galleries.

The festival will not just see repertoires of the world’s greatest artists but will also have some of the biggest names from the world of photography come into the city to interact and mentor a giant pool of the city’s best talent, through workshops and debates on new trends and practices.

Sen said: “Kolkata is considered to be India’s Mecca art and culture. Maya Art Space, being one of the most revered art venues in the country has been showcasing the best of photographic works of not only artists in the city but some of the stalwarts of this sub-continent and the world. The thought of doing this festival has been on our mind for over a year and we wanted to deliver one of the best curated and managed festivals India has ever seen”.

“The repertoire we are putting up will make KIPF 2019 a must attend festival for the world’s who’s who. This will the first time that such a festival will take place in Kolkata and it has already shaped up to become the largest in the country, both in terms of the content and the scale of participants,” Sen who is herself a world renowned photographer and film maker and founded KIPF said.

Sinha, who is now one of India’s mostrespected and revered artists – his raw and dry journalistic narrative a toastfor the world of art and story-telling says the festival has already shaken up the art world across the globe with its strong and yet sensitive curatorialdrama.

“India has a very rich tradition of photography dating back to centuries. Erstwhile royal families hold a treasure trove of unknown and unseen works that have long languished in their vaults. However families such as these are now keen for the world to see those treasures. What you will see at the festival is both traditional rare photo works, many of the repertoires have never been shown in public space and the best of contemporary photography from the modern masters,” Sinha said.

Sinha who will himself show some of his works at the festival – his earlier repertoires having taken the world by storm added: “The festival will stitch Kolkata together into a singular platform – homes, galleries and public spaces all becoming platforms showcasing incredible work spanning decades. Madhuchhanda and I want to give India a festival that is best of both the worlds – East and the West and that is exactly what KIPF will be”.

India’s top art historian and curator Uma Nair will herself curate some of the collections. She is also on the advisory board of the festival along with stalwarts like Jogen Chowdhury (world renowned artist), Sandip Ray (multiple award winning filmmaker), Gautam De (director,Indian Council of Cultural Relations), Nemai Ghosh (iconic photographer), AmolGhosh (social activist) and Ganesh Holoi (eminent Indian painter).

Another major highlight of the festival will be Nair’s portrayal of Jyoti Bhatt’s work in a curated show called Living Walls – a testimony of India’s indigenous arts and vanishing traditions. Jyoti Bhatt – world renowned Indian painter, print maker and photographer known for colorfulworks that combine a graphic sensibility with traditional Indian folk designwill show 20 photographs of the Indian countryside. Bhatt’s early studies ofpainting and fresco led to a focus on intaglio printing processes in the 1960sand ’70s, when he picked up a camera and began to take photos of rural life inGujarat and Maharashtra.  Bhatt shareswith KIPF a suite of his works that define him as a documentarian, anethnographer, as an archivist of collective history and one who focussed onartistic terrain in the lives of people who belonged to social margins.

One of the highlights of the festival will be the first ever look into India’s best known living photographer Raghu Rai’s 40 years of photographing Kolkata. Rai will showcase 50 of his works on Kolkata taken over the last four decades, mainly covering the world’s greatest festival– the Pujas. Rai who was awarded India’s highest civilian award – the Padmashree in 1971 and was nominated to join Magnum Photos in 1977 by none other than Henri Cartier-Bresson himself, will also release his first ever bookon Kolkata’s Pujas at the festival. Rai who has served three times on the juryof the World Press Photo will also deliver a lecture on his intrinsicrelationship with Kolkata and its subjects.

Another major draw at the festival will be a rarely seen portfolio of India’s most awarded photographer S Paul. The festival will pay tribute to the man who was referred to as “the humanist photographer” and as “the Henry Cartier- Bresson of India”. Never before hasany festival had access to Paul’s intricate and private works. KIPF will hostthe first such show of Paul’s unseen repertoire. Paul was the first Indian tobe profiled by The British Journal of Photography in 1967.

He is considered India’s greatest cinematic maestro. But did you know that Satyajit Ray was also a tremendously sensitive photographer. KIPF will for the first time ever reveal Ray – the photographer.

Never seen before photographs taken by the Oscar winning filmmaker and kept carefully in the family vault will be shown to the world at KIPF 2019. The photographs will give a new look into the man’s mind and reveal to the world the images that shaped his cinematic brilliance.

Some of Bengal’s greatest names from across fields – cinema to art, literature to music will for the first time ever, show their work behind a still camera.

Aparna Sen

Ace actress and director Aparna Sen, award winning filmmaker Goutam Ghosh, master painter Jogen Choudhury, globally acclaimed writer Kunal Basu, India’s greatest heart surgeon Ramakant Panda to music director Shantanu Moitra will showcase a body of work at KIPF 2019 that has never been exhibited before.

These are photographs clicked privately by these renowned personalities which will be showcased in an entire gallery show.

Arguably, Kolkata’s most revered old man of photography – Nemai Ghosh who is most known for working with Satyajit Ray ashis photo biographer for over two decades, starting with Goopy Gyne Bagha Bynetill Ray’s last film Agantuk will showcase a body of work across his life – notjust on Bengal but also his tryst with Bollywood. The show under the section ofNostalgia will be a resounding reminder of Bengal’s domination in the field ofarts and assert once again why Ghosh’s work is unparalleled even today.

Kunal Basu

Nair said: “KIPF is going to be a watershed moment for the contemporary practice of photography in India. Other than the colossus Raghu Rai it will also embrace the living walls of the indigenous documentation of the master Jyoti Bhatt. It will also straddle fathers and sons years apart like Habib Rahman and Ram Rahman, S Paul and Dheeraj Paul, two Assam born corporate legends who gave up plush jobs to travel into unknown territories and explore terrain and tribes like Prabir Purkayastha and Shyamal Datta and many more. With Prashant Panjiar’s historic Kumbh Mela images we will traverse history and myth and legend as we unravel stories within stories”.

By Manoj

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