Through a Lens Darkly
Photoink is pleased to present Through A Lens, Darkly, an exhibition of photographs and photo animations by Madhuban Mitra and Manas Bhattacharya. Through A Lens, Darkly, a collaborative project explores the ruins of India's first and only still camera factory, National Instruments Ltd. in Jadavpur Kolkata. The National 35 was meant to be the iconic Indian camera which, as history would have it, it never quite became. From the late 1980s, the company dissolved its workforce, was declared a sick industry, and eventually handed over to the Jadavpur University in January 2009 for establishing a new campus. Ironically, at the time of the shutdown, the factory had been developing the National Reflex 2000, which would have become India's first SLR camera.
Today, the place where the camera was born is a silent, eerie and dusty repository of broken camera shells, spare parts and debris. In the absence of the workers, the factory bristles with objects of personal significance, scattered on work tables and in the workers cupboards. It seems the workers just got up and left. Rather than invoking a nostalgia for that which is disappearing, the project attempts to excavate a certain history of labour and of technology and their slow but inevitable passage.
Apart from photographs, the work also incorporates photo based animations. The photo animations emerged from the need to record small movements, mutations, discreet and subtle variations in the space that were not possible to examine with the still photograph. Composed of photographs, the animations explore the liminal space between the still and the moving image and invoke both early silent cinema and the photographic slide show. In a way, the photographs and animations are the last images of a shipwreck.
Madhuban Mitra (b.1973) studied English Literature and classical dance and holds a Doctoral degree in Cultural Studies. She worked as Programme Executive at the India Foundation for the Arts and subsequently at the Centre for Studies and Social Sciences, Kolkata. In 2008, she gave up her job to pursue her interests in writing, photography and film. Manas Bhattacharya (b.1977) has a Masters degree in Comparative Literature from Jadavpur University, Kolkata, and went on to study Cinematography in the Satyajit Ray Film & Television Institute. Other than photography, he works with and in many media including digital imaging, film, video and sound. Through a Lens, Darkly is their first collaborative photography project. Photographs from the project have been shown in the Thessaloniki Photobiennale, Greece (May0July, 2010) and, more recently, at the Singapore International Photography Festival in October, 2010.