Bharat Sikka’s vision of Indian cities is like his portraits of men:1 not easy of access. His in-between territory, revealed here for the first time, bristles with traps and echoes. The sky is low, like a true northern sky.
The space seems open and empty, but it hums, it throws up problems and pylons. The light crushes the passers-by – another problem to cope with. Shepherds and office workers linger on the poor-quality pavements as they watch cable TV. And always the men waiting for the subway. Everything’s shining, it seems. But Bharat tracks down the mess in the grey areas.
I have always been interested in the contemporaneity of India, the cultural and physical change it is going through. While conceiving this project I realized that while India was already identified as a high-tech world, it lacked the standard infrastructures, the result being a space and environment offering a unique mixture of modernity and antiquity. The peculiarity of these spaces was also an effect of the unbalanced growth that India is going through. I noticed that the disparity now lies not only in the economic values, but also in the physical structure of our country. Within this disparity was the space I wanted to photograph, a space for making pictures, a space that was partly frozen in time and partly interspersed with symbols of accelerated growth.
Although my intention was also to photograph the progress and the change that India is going through, I insisted on showing our shortfalls and what we were going to abandon, culturally and ethnically.
These pictures also highlight the inevitable chaos and confusion in a country leapfrogging from a backward, highly traditional environment to an ultramodern one, rather than undergoing gradual change.
These sets of images were photographed over a period of 3 years using a large-format camera. I choose a view camera because it required deliberateness, patience and a clearer thought process; in many cases this led me to visit the sites I photographed more than once before I finally made the picture.
The context we live in can consume us to such an extent that we become oblivious to its uniqueness and the everyday quality of the subject can be easily overlooked. All I have tried to do is capture this changing world around me.
1. It was with his series of portraits Indian Men that he first caught the public eye in New York in January 2003. His work has still not been shown in India.
Exhibition organized with the support of HP.
Prints produced by Dupon Digital Lab.