#ThrowbackThursday: Sooni Taraporevala

Photography by Anshika Varma

#ThrowbackThursday: Sooni Taraporevala

A glimpse into Sooni Taraporevala's ongoing solo exhibition at Whitworth Art Gallery, titled Home in the City. This new-old series makes a potent case for her archivist’s eye and her tendency to chronicle the world around her through her insider perspective.

At the 2014 edition of Sensorium at Sunaparanta, Goa, Sooni Taraporevala showcased an exhibition that revealed her twin identities as screenwriter and photographer. The art community is well-versed with Taraporevala’s sprawling series, The Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India, the result of 24 years spent assembling the first visual documentation of India’s Parsi community, but most of her documentary photography beyond that has been less exposed. At Sensorium, curated by photographer Prashant Panjiar, A4 pages of Taraporevala’s screenplay for Salaam Bombay, Mira Nair’s classic, Oscar-nominated 1988 film, were placed next to her film stills. The idea, according to Panjiar, was that the display invoked the notion of cinema broken down to photography.  

#ThrowbackThursday: Sooni Taraporevala Curated by Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi/Sunaparanta

Marine Drive, Bombay 1976

Curated by Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi/Sunaparanta

Four years later, Taraporevala once again shows work that not only exceeds our expectations of her photographic prowess but reveals the immensity of her vastly unseen archive. Titled Home in the City, and spanning 40 years, from 1976 to 2016, Taraporevala’s exhibition at Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester [March 2017 - Early 2018], which will travel to Sunaparanta [October 2017] features her previously unpublished archival work that is centred on the city of Bombay and Mumbai. HarperCollins India will produce a book bringing together this body of work, with a foreword by the eminent writer, Pico Iyer. 

#ThrowbackThursday: Sooni Taraporevala Curated by Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi/Sunaparanta

Marine Drive, Bombay 2004

Curated by Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi/Sunaparanta

Rooted in the street and documentary photography tradition, this new-old series makes a potent case for Taraporevala’s archivist’s eye and her tendency to chronicle the world around her through her insider perspective, the same that was the hallmark of her series on the Parsis. While never ostensibly staged, certain photographs feature the spontaneity and instinctiveness with which Taraporevala is able to capture form, particularly that of the human figure, which, in her images is never static but always fluid, always gesticulating, always existing either in relation to the world around it or the primacy of the camera’s lens. Even the most recent images have an archival quality about, as if they’d already aged. Taraporevala’s intimate engagement with the city is at the crux of this series that captures a sea of moments and the fragility of the crowded megalopolis. The series offers vignettes that attest to the multiple aspects of the city’s personality and the cultural diversity of its inhabitants. Where The Parsis was ethnographic yet characterised by the immediacy of the subject, Home in the City offers a delicate departure, framing the cosmopolitan nature of Taraporevala’s home city while often isolating the individual within the urban landscape as a solitary being at home with his surroundings.

Our conversation with Sooni Taraporevala was first published in our Art Issue of 2017. This article is a part of Throwback Thursday series where we take you back in time with our substantial article archive.



Text Rosalyn D'Mello