India has had a long relationship with traditional portraiture. Years ago, people would throng to local photo studios to have their pictures clicked for a few rupees.
From a sociological, cultural perspective – the physical appearance of those photographed in these portraits speak volumes. One can usually tell what religion the person belongs to, the kind of job they might have and where they come from originally by looking at their pictures taken at a local studio. In India, the tradition was to dress up and go to the studio for a portrait, treating the exercise like an occasion.
In his series The Others, Olivier Culmann revisits this tradition. In a society as compartmentalised as India’s, he attempts to portray the numerous factors that go into building an individual’s identity. Through this series, Culmann explores the boundaries of the visual medium, photographing himself in various avatars.
The series is divided into four parts. The first phase explores traditional portraits that are shot in local studios. The second and third phases look at digital manipulation of photographs that are a common practice in photo labs. The fourth and final phase explores paintings that are based on photographs, like movie posters from an earlier era.
Born in Paris in 1970, Olivier Culmann has been working as a photographer since 1992. He is part of the Tendance Floue collective. The core questions that are raised in Culmann’s work are that of free will and social conditioning. His series The Others, for which he lived in India from 2009-2011, has been shown at the Museum Nicéphore Niépce in Chalon-sur-Saône, France and the festival, Images in Vevey, Switzerland. In 2001, his book Les Mondes de l’école was published by Marvel editions.
The Others is part of the exhibitions line-up for this edition of the Delhi Photo Festival starting on October 30 at the IGNCA, Delhi.