Experimenter presents Making a Photograph, a solo exhibition of works by Sunil Janah (b.1918 – d. 2012), one of India’s pioneering photographers making images at a time in India that marked the emergence of modernity in the country. His work initially came into prominence as he documented the disaster of the Bengal Famine in 1943 and subsequently through a deep engagement in photographing the lives of people, their struggles against colonialism and the emergence of independent India after 1947.
The title of the exhibition, Making a Photograph is borrowed from Ansel Adams book by the same name, which was foundational to Janah’s practice and established for him an initial path in making photographs. The exhibition exemplifies the depth of his practice through an extraordinary body of industrial photography, that he was commissioned in the 1950’s through several projects, to photograph the development and industrialisation of a young, independent Nehruvian India. Janah travelled the subcontinent photographing the massive projects birthed at the time. Majestic structures of iron and steel plants in Bhilai and Rourkela, coal mines in Bihar, fascinating images of the ports, factories and mills in Bengal amongst others that were designed to catapult India into modernity, each image an outstanding composition, a painterly marker of the time the new nation had stepped into. The exhibition shows a body of these photographs, drawing attention to a landscape, its people and the buoyancy of emotion.
Sunil Janah was born in Assam in 1918. He was educated at St. Xavier’s and Presidency colleges in Calcutta. The city of Calcutta, where Janah was based, was at the time the centre of the nation’s intellectual, scientific and artistic life. Borrowing extensively from institutional and private collections these works will return to his beloved city, for the first time in decades, renewing the understanding and significance of Janah’s practice.