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Mastering the Lens

Mastering the Lens

Before and After Cartier-Bresson in Pondicherry

By (author) Rahaab Allana
By (author) Shilpi Goswami
By (author) Deepak Bharathan


  • Pondicherry is the French connection with India
  • Exhibits Cartier-Bresson's unseen images
  • Followers of Sri Aurobindo Ashram
Full Description

This publication emanates from an exhibition by the same title, displayed for the first time at the Alliance Française de Delhi. It is an attempt to trace the development of photography and the other allied visual arts in Pondicherry spanning the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Drawn exclusively from The Alkazi Collection of Photography, at the core of this initiative is the unpublished album by renowned photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, co-founder of Magnum Photos, who visited the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in April 1950. He took the last pictures of Sri Aurobindo Ghose in the company of his spiritual companion, the Mother. In addition, he meticulously penned his observations almost daily, creating a meta-text around the images, which presents a biographical and anecdotal supplement for his photographic endeavour. The visual material is further enhanced by some extraordinary images of Indian photographers from the same period such as Tara Jauhar and Venkatesh Shirodkar at Aurobindo Ashram, published here for the first time.

In this catalogue a conscious effort has been made to bring out a non-linear, yet credible history of how Pondicherry has been witness to the development of a unique visual trajectory. The use of images as evidence and document create a subtle interplay between cultural context and artistic intent, a conceptual linking of mannerisms and tropes those of landscape, architectural and portrait photography.

Contents: Renewing Ties | Linking India and France through the Art of Photography; The Enduring Image; Silent as an Apparition | A Hidden Legacy of Photography; Mastering the Lens | Before and After Cartier-Bresson in Pondicherry; Diary entries of Cartier-Bresson during his travel to Pondicherry in April 1950; Brief note on Sri Aurobindo Ashram and photography; Biography of Photographers; About Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation.

Mapin Publishing
11th Feb 2013
Paperback / softback
USA & Canada
9.14 in x 9.43 in
88 Pages
77 color
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