Present frames of the past

France Heritage gives glimpses of the French architectural legacy in the country.

Published: 20th March 2013 10:36 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th March 2013 10:36 AM   |  A+A-


The beauty of art is everywhere to see. A poetic prose that lilts through the air, sometimes, it is more tangible than one can imagine. For instance in buildings. Architecture is the consequential marriage of utility and art, lines merging together to create the illusion of a curve. But there is more to architecture than just an artistic science; it also tells a larger story of the minds and the society that drew those lines. And it is this story and this depiction that the latest exhibition in the city tries to tell.

Curated by Anay Mann, a Delhi-based photographer, France Heritage is a travelling series of 91 photographs taken by six photographers. Being conducted as a part of the Bonjour India – festival of France, the subject of the camera clicks are French architecture in India. Telling us more about the collection Anay says, “The idea was to bring French buildings into focus. There are many parts in India that have a Parisian flair, either because it was chic to have French architecture or because of the French influence. But either ways, that left a rich cultural heritage in the country and that is what we are trying to showcase.”

The six photographers, which include Gigi Scaria, Rishi Singhal, Serena Chopra, and the French couple Isabel Saij and Jean-Pierre Dubois, besides Anay himself, travelled to pockets in India where French architecture was most prominent. This brought forth an interesting collection of snapshots from Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal. While some are more obvious from their location, and others clearly indicate where the structure stands, some are just anonymous crippled and dilapidated structures that hint at a former glory. 

Explaining that they didn’t want to project the building onto the patron by labelling it and giving it an identity, Anay shares that the beauty lies in discovering and interpreting the image for yourself. “We also didn’t want to make it look like the photography was site-specific,” he adds.

He however draws our attention a a very pertinent point. “If you notice, the photographs are mostly that of dwelling places – palaces, apartments, ancestral homes and so on. We wondered why do people make such beautiful big buildings. In many instances, it is a show of ego and pride. In others, it was perhaps to provide employment during a lean economical phase.”

Talking about the process of shooting these places, Anay, who shot the palatial structures in and around Hyderabad, explains that the photographs are also meant to identify with the period they come from. His collection is quite inventive as it shows images of structures planted in postage stamps with almost forgotten currency like 2 anas and 8 pies printed on the stamp. He explains, “We wondered about how we could approach this project by keeping the dialogue between the artist and his subject. I wanted to translate my fascination. Hyderabad in those times was one the few regions which had its own mint and postal service. Which means, they had their own currency and postage. So the frames show postage stamps from that era, printed with the same ink colour used then. It is meant to seem like a post had been sent from Hyderabad and had been received in France.” But more importantly, he adds, was to make the photograph still convey its story outside the context of the exhibition.

France Heritage will remain on view till tomorrow at the Kalakriti Art Gallery (Road no 10, Banjara Hills), before it moves on to Chennai.



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