PHOTOINK recently announced Ketaki Sheth’s solo exhibition and publication of colour photographs, Photo Studio. She has been photographing for 35 years and until 2014 was a committed analogue photographer who used black and white film. Photo Studio marks her extraordinary transition to colour and entre into digital photography for the first time.
Between 2015-2018, Sheth travelled across India and visited over 65 photo studios, most of which were in a shabby state of decline. Photo studios in India have been explored by many photographers and written about extensively. Sheth’s approach to the photo studios is anything but conventional as she often ignored the strict conventions of making formal, mannered portraits of people with inscrutable expressions. Instead she used ageing studio lights when available, one handheld camera and lens to exhume tales of past glory and draw one’s attention to objects and a cast of characters that surrender gracefully to her gaze.
Photo Studio is as much a story about photography in the age of selfies as it is about contemporary life and attachments. Over the years, Sheth has shown remarkable facility as she shifts seamlessly between two distinct ways of making photographs—the posed portrait and street photography. The book design by Itu Chaudhuri complements Sheth’s aesthetic sensibility without conceding to either humour or pathos in the way the book unfolds. Chris Pinney’s essay provides the historical and theatrical context to photo studios in India and Sheth’s fluid interventions in those spaces.