For five years, Serena Chopra travelled across the length and breadth of Bhutan, not as a tourist, but as an intrepid photographer. The result was multiple exhibitions and a book of black-and-white photographs that chronicled the people she met, and who later became her family. The next five years she spent with the Tibetan refugees at Majnu Ka Tilla in the city, an idea encouraged by His Holiness, The Dalai Lama, whom she met at The Ashok, New Delhi, at one of the many events she is always a part of. That body of work is now complete and will be exhibited soon along with publication of a book on her experiences at the Tibetan refugee colony.
But before that happens, Serena has something else up her sleeve. She’s been working on this project for a long time; and now watching it come together in the form of a group exhibition, titled France Heritage—part of Bonjour India Festival of France—at Galerie Romain Rolland, Alliance Française de Delhi, her wish to capture life through lens has got enhanced.
Curated by photographer Anay Mann, the exhibition showcases French inspiration in Indian architecture, an idea that Serena has always been drawn to. “Space can create dialogue. The participants as I see them are memory and history on the one hand, and the present moment with its players on the other. The mood of the space slows down time, to allow for reflection on the relationship between the people and their surrounding world. History watches as it creates. Here it could be possible to gain insights into human identity, crossing the boundaries of time as the past merges with the aura and reality of its present manifestation. I participate in the history of a place and its people, and become part of that dynamic whole. The inanimate is not separate to this whole process of participation. It too assumes a role. Space is animated and rendered alive,” she says.
Along with other photographers like Serena Chopra, Anay Mann, Gigi Scaria, Rishi Singhal, Isabel Saij Jean-Pierre Dubois and herself, they have tried to present an incredible slice of Indo-French history. The idea is not only to showcase France’s connections with India and the legacy left behind but also to throw up questions related to conservation, and artistic and social aspects. The exhibition will is open till today. Part II of the exhibition is slated between February 4 and February 10, at Hall 7, World Book Fair, Pragati Maidan, every day from 11 am to 7:30 pm.