The First Art Newspaper on the Net   Established in 1996 United States Friday, April 27, 2018

Wellin Museum presents first exhibition of Pranlal Patel's photographs in the United States
Pranlal Patel, Making Brooms, Saraspur, Ahmedabad, Jyoti Sangh Series, c. 1937. Image courtesy of Pranlal Patel.

CLINTON, NY.- The Wellin Museum of Art presents the first U.S. exhibition of photographs by celebrated Indian photographer Pranlal K. Patel. On view February 1 through April 15, 2014, Refocusing the Lens: Pranlal K. Patel’s Photographs of Women at Work in Ahmedabad features 35 images that document the lives of women in the workforce in early twentieth-century India, as well as several other related works by the artist, and the original camera Patel used to capture these arresting images. Taken in 1937 as a commission for Jyoti Sangh, a philanthropic group dedicated to improving the lives of women in India, the photographs provide unprecedented insight into the lives of working-class women as they engaged in a range of labor activities—in their homes, neighborhoods, and the markets of Ahmedabad. Refocusing the Lens is the first posthumous exhibition of work by Pranlal Patel, who passed away on January 18, 2014, at the age of 104.

“Pranlal Patel and I had been working together since 2011 to create this exhibition,” said Lisa Trivedi, exhibition curator and associate professor of history at Hamilton College. “It is with deep sadness that we move forward without him. The exhibition is now a tribute to his skill as a photographer, who beautifully documented the work of ordinary women in pre-independence India, preserving for us perhaps the first records of this segment of the population.”

The works in Refocusing the Lens are unique artifacts and a distinctive record of Indian society in the 1930s. In contrast to the ethnographic photographs commissioned by the state to study “cultural types,” the images are intimate, less stylized portraits of ordinary women at work. The photographs depict women carrying wares to the market, selling goods, weaving cloth, making rope and brooms, and scavenging for metal. These images challenge historians’ accepted views of women’s labor as limited to the domestic sphere, isolated, and sex-segregated. Rather, they suggest a complex labor structure in which men and women worked together in the home, neighborhood, or major marketplaces.

The photographs are arranged by four major themes to tease out further women’s roles and contributions. The themes are: work in the domestic environment, work in marketplaces and on major thoroughfares, women and textiles, and Jyoti Sangh workers. Saris and other objects like those depicted in the photographs are displayed and explained alongside the images to provide context. “Notably, the images did not represent their subjects as undignified or victims,” said Trivedi. “The Jyoti Sangh, comprised of politically active upper- and middle-class women, sought to galvanize women of their own class to work for greater social equality and autonomy by encouraging them to work on behalf of women less fortunate than themselves. And, interestingly, Patel’s photographs did not provide a clear impetus to intervene directly on behalf of those pictured, which may explain why the photographs were not, as far as we know, employed for fundraising as they were likely intended.”

Refocusing the Lens also explores the role of amateur photographers like Patel in the context of the early history of Indian photography. A primary school teacher, Patel was a self-taught hobbyist who supplemented his income by taking pictures of social functions around the city. The commission by the Jyoti Sangh, with its ambitious goals and directions, spurred him to develop an untraditional approach to portraiture. He observed his subjects in their environment over the course of a day, returning to photograph in a particular light. His subjects also played a significant role in influencing how he portrayed them; the women pictured chose how they would present themselves for Patel and his camera. He also carefully framed these photographs so that each woman is part of the broader social and economic world in which she plays an active part.

"Documentary photography today can trace its origins to the 1930s, when Pranlal Patel made his series on women workers,” said co-curator Robert Knight, assistant professor of art at Hamilton College. “Patel's approach, similar to that of other prominent photographers at the time, including Henri-Cartier Bresson, utilized a hand-held camera to provide a lyrical fluidity in his compositions and allowed for a greater degree of intimacy with his subjects. By the 1960s and 1970s, traditional social documentary photography was further developed by three distinct kinds of image-makers: photojournalists, commercial photographers, and ‘street photographers.’ Patel’s project can be seen as an important predecessor in this continuum—and, thus, to the contemporary documentary work being done today."

“Refocusing the Lens is exemplary of the cross-disciplinary programming and object-based learning championed by the Wellin Museum of Art,” said Tracy L. Adler, director of the Wellin. “Patel’s photographs of women in early twentieth-century Ahmedabad are important historical and anthropological documents, which are being used to gain greater insight into Indian society and the lives of working women from that era. In addition, pairing the photographs with objects will provide another opportunity for engagement and learning.”

Refocusing the Lens was developed in conjunction with an advanced history seminar taught by Professor Trivedi, which focused on the early twentieth-century history of Ahmedabad, Gujarat. The course examined the history of photography and the topics addressed in the exhibition, including Ahmedabad’s textile industry, nationalist politics, social reform, and women’s labor. The course also emphasized the theory and process of curating an exhibition. During the fall semester, students contributed to the exhibition process, assisting with image selection and exhibition layout, among other curatorial tasks.

The exhibition is curated by Lisa Trivedi, associate professor of history at Hamilton College, with Robert Knight, assistant professor of art at Hamilton College. A fully illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition with an essay by Professor Trivedi and an interview with Pranlal K. Patel conducted shortly before his death.

Today's News

February 3, 2014

Kunsthal in Rotterdam opens exhibition on the astonishing story of women's shoe design

Between Mountains and Sea: Blanton Museum exhibition highlights art of ancient Andes

Sotheby's exhibits masterpieces by some of today's most highly sought-after artists at Jeddah Art Week 2014

Fondation Beyeler opens major exhibition of works by French painter Odilon Redon

Los Angeles County Museum of Art exhibition examines the sport of Soccer

Two powerful photography exhibitions open at The Hyde Collection in Glens Falls

Experience the phenomenon of eco-friendly artist Hundertwasser at ARKEN

XTO + J-C: Christo and Jeanne-Claude exhibition opens at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

Exhibition of six contemporary Saudi Arabian artists opens at Ayyam Gallery Jeddah

Dictums: Egyptian artist Wael Shawky exhibits new works at Lisson Gallery in London

International Center of Photography explores creative experimentation since the 1970s

Maharaja's $3 million legendary banquet service unveiled at Faberge Museum

Solo exhibition of new work by the Korean-born, Atlanta-based artist Jiha Moon opens at Ryan Lee

Bohun Gallery opens long-overdue solo show of Joe Tilson's work

"Three Michigan Architects: Part 1: David Osler" on view at The University of Michigan Museum of Art

The business of illustrated calendars on view at the Brandywine River Museum

Air de Paris opens an exhibition with artist Jef Geys

Wellin Museum presents first exhibition of Pranlal Patel's photographs in the United States

Painting arranged as a continuous line by Jean-Baptiste Bernadet on view at Rod Barton

The Weather War: Stockholm-based artist duo Bigert & Bergstrom exhibit at Galerie Barbara Thumm

Stay in bed in February as Bookbed arrives in Peckham

Most Popular Last Seven Days

1.- Boy and an amateur archaeologist unearth legendary Danish king's trove in Germany

2.- Exhibition at The Met illustrates what visitors encountered at The palace of Versailles

3.- Philadelphia Museum of Art opens "Modern Times: American Art 1910-1950"

4.- Exhibition at Michael Hoppen Gallery presents a cross-section of works from Thomas Mailaender's career

5.- New York's Chelsea Hotel celebrity door auction raises $400,000

6.- Stevie Ray Vaughan's first guitar drives Entertainment & Music Memorabilia Auction to nearly $2.9 million

7.- Lichtenstein's Nude with Blue Hair tops $2.4 million sale of Modern & Contemporary Prints & Multiples

8.- $6.7 million Fancy Intense Blue Diamond sets auction record at Sotheby's New York

9.- Mexico court blocks sales of controversial Frida Kahlo Barbie doll

10.- Dutch museums to conduct new research on the paintings of Pieter de Hooch

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
Editor & Publisher:Jose Villarreal - Consultant: Ignacio Villarreal Jr.
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. The most varied versions
of this beautiful prayer.
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful