sepiaEye Gallery Review: Nandita Raman’s Do Not Forget Me
Nandita Raman’s Do Not Forget Me should be depressing. The artist’s first solo exhibition at sepiaEye is made up of photos of artifacts from India’s film history from her two series, Film Studio and Cinema Play House. There should be a feeling of sadness, isolation, and emptiness brought on by the sight of machinery that used to realize dreams left to gather dust in cupboards, the long dead lighting equipment and worn down sets covered in draping coarse curtains of cloth, and the absence of any human figures in all but one of the photos. This series of images should be mournful, evoking loss and regret, but instead of merely lamenting the passing of time, these photos celebrate these cinematic items and their legacies with subtle techniques of the camera, creating her own story.
Throughout her work, Raman adopts soothing and warm colors, offsetting the dust and occasional debris that has gathered on the lights, cameras, and sets. Raman even uses some of the same photography techniques that these cameras were famous for through the Indian films they were used to shoot decades ago. In “Manik-da’s Camera”, an image multiplier filter from the floating camera is used to create another surreal fantasy, duplicating the subject into floating clones, and even providing subtle rainbows throughout the framed image.
Even the pockmarks, missing chunks, and general wear and tear on the sets and lights that dominate several of the photographs impart a sense of life and warmth to the collection. Rather than being signs of decay, these markings are signs of an earned history of creation and adventure. These subjects form a strong metaphorical resemblance to the trees in the backgrounds of several of the photos; solid wood growing strong and resilient despite the passage of time that has befallen them.
As mentioned earlier, all but one of the photographs present in the gallery have no actual human figures within them, but that by no means that the images seem empty or inhuman. Instead, through simple and subtle adjustments of framing and color, the filmmaking tools themselves becomes characters. A splash of color, the slight tilt of the lens upward and towards the light, the gentle resting of cloth over the delicate lens, all impart a sense of serenity and worth to these items. These shots render their subjects not as objects left out to dry and rust from disuse, but instead as characters in and of themselves, merely resting, waiting to be taken up once more and brought back to life.
Do Not Forget Me will be at sepiaEye until Saturday, November 10th.
sepiaEye, 547 West 27th Street, #608, New York, NY 10001. Open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m, on Tuesday through Saturday.
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