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Bharat Sikka

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Artist with a Camera

People, Communities, Landscape might be part of his repertoire but at the heart of it, the entire image is what resonates and draws him in. One of the most versatile Indian photographers, Bharat Sikka’s artistry is intellectual, deep and captivating. Each image makes you think, feel, and builds a mystery, and that’s the beauty of his craft. His style has undoubtedly influenced many photographers and his subjects have always had a story. 2017 will see him exhibit two completely differing bodies of work. Kochi will see Where the Flowers Still Grow a poignant expression of the beautiful valley of Kashmir, which will later be exhibited at Nature Morte along with a book on the series—his very first book. And Focus Photography Festival on the other hand will see The Marlborough Theatre that explores gender sexuality and freedom photographed in Brighton, once again a first for Bharat as through the series he explores another country and its community. The year will also see him take on the role of a curator for a fine art fashion photography show exhibited at Chatterjee & Lal. In a one-on-one I connected with him to learn more about his art, his process and his subjects.

The Kashmir Series – Where the Flowers Still Grow has been an on-going exercise what inspired you to photograph the valley and the people?
When I first visited Kashmir I was on a holiday with my family. Ameet, my wife was reading a book called The Collaborator by Mirza Waheed. She narrated the story to me and I was very taken in by it and then I saw this kid who reminded me of the protagonist she told me about in the story so I started photographing him and then I started photographing a lot of people. What drew me in was that Kashmir has been under extreme conflict for so many years so I wanted to explore the region, its people, and their thoughts and so on. At times I was very intimidated as well.  So I did many trips over two years. First I photographed the men, and then as I got more comfortable I made the men more ambiguous. Then I began photographing landscape and still life. Each element gives you clues to the atmosphere felt in the valley. The series is going to be presented in a book as well which will be my first book. 

Can you share the curator, Peter Negy’s note on the series that is on exhibit at the Kochi Biennale?
The state of Kashmir holds a mythic place in the mind of India. Long known as one of the world’s most beautiful mountain valleys, since the late 1980s it has become synonymous with a political and sectarian conflict which strikes at the very heart of India’s identity. Bharat Sikka first visited Kashmir in 2013, on a holiday with his family. While there, he discovered Mirzha Waheed’s novel The Collaborator, which tells the story of a young Kashmiri man’s struggle with his own sense of self buffeted by the exigencies of history and the present. This propelled Sikka to make numerous visits to Kashmir in 2014 and 2015, travelling thoughout the region to photograph the people who live there, to attempt to make some sense of their dilemma through his own personal experience.

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