OF THE MONTH
Can you please tell us about your background in the arts, and how you ended up working as a curator?
I completed my Bachelor in Fine Art from Art College in New Delhi in 1993 and then went to Kyoto University of Art & Design as an Associate visiting Fellow supported by the Japan Foundation Fellowship for Photography in 2001-2002. I have primarily been a practising photographer in New Delhi. I have exhibited my works with various art galleries, Photo and Art Festivals in India and a few other countries. I have received a few awards and fellowships for my photography. I have photographed for coffee table books, done social documentary photography for UNICEF and various other social organisations and even done different photography assignments. I have also taught photography over the years. My becoming a curator was purely coincidental. I had no aspiration to becoming one till it just happened In 2007, when an art gallery in New Delhi called Art Indus asked me to curate a group exhibition of Photography for them. The show was fortunately taken well and got enough attention of the people and the media. After that I did get a few other opportunities that just came my way, but since I was not pushing myself to become a curator, I did not curate any exhibitions after 2013 until I met Roberto Muffoletto the director of VASA Project in Wilson NC, USA where I was participating in an artist residency programme and a photo festival supported by Eyes on Main Street in 2018. He was there curating an exhibition of Ukranian photographers and convinced me to start curating for VASA. I saw it as an exciting opportunity to start again.
Andrea Torrei, Portrait of Woman
According to your knowledge and experience what does it mean to be a curator in the 21st century?
I can not speak from other curators perspective but my own. I feel it has become way more challenging today, compared to even a decade back. Artists today have become far more contextual and are breaking beyond the mediums physicality. They are addressing numerous issues, may it be Political, Environmental, Social or personal. Every Artist is dealing with their concerns with their own sensibilities and mediums. This makes me work very hard to try and understand their indepth voices. I have to constantly study the artists expression and process to create a show, rather than try to assemble an exhibition. The effort to learn to cope up with changing times and practices in todays time is never ending.
Pooja Iranna, Contemplating the urban
Could you introduce one of your curatorial work?
I will actually pick 2. Gigi Scaria’s “City Unclaimed” and Pooja Iranna’s “Contemplating the urban”. One of the reasons I enjoyed curating the 2 exhibitions is because as a photographer, I have worked on the subject of urbanisation and dealt with it as a metaphor. Both these artists have worked on the issue with a completely different sensibility, experience and treatment. That could be a reason I connected to their works more spontaneously. It could be a bias on my end, but then we connect to what connects to us. I truly enjoyed the experience of trying to understand the individual perspective of their urban lives. As a curator for me it was a newer dimension of understanding the medium.
Gigi Scaria, City Unclaimed
You are the founder of the Grayscale Academy. Can you tell a bit more about the aim of the school?
The idea of Grayscale Academy came to me while I was teaching as a guest faculty with a few photography and design schools in Delhi. My purpose to start the academy was to help beginners simply enjoy the medium, rather than trying to look at the medium as a cut throat competition. Therefore we mostly conduct workshops to enjoy that experience. I presently organise only a few workshops a year so that my photographic practice and curating is not affected. One needs to be a good businessman to run a full fledged institute. I am not sure I am fully ready yet, but it is a long term project and I am learning many things slowly with time. Presently I do not have a dedicated physical space, therefore I collaborated with various interesting venues in Delhi and outside the city. This also gives me the flexibility to keep the balance between my practice and teaching.
CURATED BY THE WALL GALLERY
Taha Ahmad, Swan songs of the Badlas
Currently you work for the VASA Project. Could you please introduce the platform for us? How do you find and choose the artists?
I joined VASA Project as an invited curator in 2018 and last month I became one of their lead curators. “The VASA Projects in an online centre for media studies. The VASA mission is to provide an internet platform for disemminating the works of theorists and image makers on a global scale. The VASA community shares an interest in media studies, photography, film/video and sound. To meet its mission VASA supports Online Exhibitions, Film/Video screenings, The Journal of Images and Culture, Front Page Exhibitions and other projects.”
I choose artists for my exhibitions that I have followed for a good while and when I really start feeling involved with their process and ideas. On the contrary for my Front Page Exhibitions, I mostly have curated exhibitions of photographers I have chanced upon and felt a connect with them and their work. This platform helps me work with both established and upcoming artists. I stick to curating exhibitions that are lens based as it is a medium I am involved with and feel better connected to. I keep myself open to the practice of lens in every possible way, including use of photographic imagery with other multi disciplinary practices.
Raj Kamal, The sound of silence
The Wall Gallery is designed to promote emerging artists mainly. Could you share some tips, ideas on how to find or approach a curator?
In my case, just reach out to me either personally or though an email. I am always on the lookout for interesting work. As a curator, I try to be approachable. I might not connect to every work, but then it is just a personal point of view. Different curators have different sensibilities, so one should not take it as a rejection if a curator does not connect to ones work and keep reaching out to others. As an artist the thicker the skin, the better and longer one will survive.
Do you have any dream projects?
I think I am already making some of my dream projects come true with help of VASA. Sometimes I feel it is best to enjoy what you have in hand and give it your best instead of expecting too much out of the time you are in. But off course I would like to dream bigger and curate exhibitions where I can work with different photographic practices around the globe and hopefully turn it into a travelling festival or a large exhibition in various public spaces. Good dreams need good funds, so if that dream comes true, then I will truly need to wake up to that reality and love to fulfill the dream.
MEET THE CURATOR
Sandeep Biswas is an Indian Photographer with over two decades of experience in Art, Commercial and Social Documentary Photography. Presently he is busy dividing his time between his photographic practice, and as a guest faculty with various Art, Photography and design institutes. His practice as a photographer has earned him a few prestigious Awards, Fellowships like the Japan Foundation Fellowship 2001, India Habitat Centre Fellowship for Photography 2005 and Ministry of Culture Senior Artist Fellowship 2017 and an artist in residence program in the USA in 2018.
CURATED BY THE WALL GALLERY
He has had 7 solo exhibitions, over 50 group exhibitions, in various parts of the world. His works have been invited to be part of various international Art & Photography festivals. He has curated a few Photography and lens based Art exhibitions for Art Galleries and Art Institutions, as well as has written on photography for a few Art Magazines in India. He has been part of various Art Projects raising the issue of Gender equality and Environmental concern. His works have been part of various private and public Art Collections around the world. He has been a panelist to decide awards at various contests including state awards for Jammu & Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and languages, as well as for an Art Awareness workshop for Lalit Kala Akademy in New Delhi.
Sandeep has been a photographer with UNICEF, ILO, JICA, WHO, World Bank and a few other organizations, done commercial photography for Advertising agencies and corporate clients, Editorial photography for ELLE, L'officiel and Interior & Design magazine over the years. His works have been special features with various prestigious Art, Photography and Design magazines and journals around the world including USA, Japan & Sweden. He has worked on a few important book projects on Polio Eradication in India for UNICEF, Bagh Block Printing for Craft Revival Trust, Life and Culture in Rajasthan for Mana Hotels, Biotechnology and Health Development in India for Great Challenges India and BIRAC, Living Traditions of Chhatisgarh with Dr Alka Pande and Ms Tullika Kedia for Must Art. He has conducted various lectures and workshops in India, China and USA.
He is a Lead Curator with an International Media Centre for Photography, Video and Sound Arts VASA Project based out of USA. Sandeep recently founded the Grayscale Academy of Photography and Creative Vision.