Image above: © Patrick Faigenbaum, Between Salt Lake and Kestopur, northeast Kolkata, July 2014. Courtesy of Aperture Gallery.
Patrick Faigenbaum’s exhibition Kolkata/Calcutta, on display at Aperture Gallery until November 7, portrays a city with two sides: both historical and contemporary. Calcutta was the name of the city when it was still part of the British Empire, but it was renamed Kolkata in 2001. The exhibition therefor also address the city’s colonial heritage.
Faigenbaum started off his project by following and portraying local artist Shreyasi Chatterjee. He portrays her at work doing embroidery or sitting next to her paintings and collages while she explains her work to the photographer. But instead of only focusing on the individual as subject in his photos, Faigenbaum also followed and documented Chatterjee’s daily life. He portrays the neighborhood and landscape in the area where she lives, as well as her immediate family. For example there is a portrait of Chatterjee’s mother and a domestic worker in her mother’s home. Faigenbaum’s portrayal of the artist and her life works as a mirror to show the day-to-day life in Kolkata. He writes “As a whole, the images will constitute both a portrait of this artist in her family and professional settings and a free description of her larger urban environment”. His portrayal of Chatterjee also lead him to get access to other parts of cultural life in the area and portraits of other artists and musicians that are included in the exhibition. He created a story about the cultural scene in Kolkata and its actors.
© Patrick Faigenbaum,In the Santiniketan Express, May 2014. Courtesy of Aperture Gallery.
Faigenbaum makes more than one connection to the western influences on Kolkata. His photo of the New Market is an example of this: a building with clear British architecture, showing that the colonial history lives on in the contemporary Kolkata. He also nods to classic western art with his still life photographs of fruits and vegetables from Dover Lane in South Kolkata, making a clear connection to western still life painting.
© Patrick Faigenbaum, Display of watermelons, the neighborhood of Raja Bazar, north Kolkata, July 2014. Courtesy of Aperture Gallery.
The exhibition definitely shows contrast by portraying both the calm life and landscape on the countryside as well as the bustling city life. The entire exhibition focuses on daily life and rather than dramatic scenes and this is paradoxically what makes the photos dramatically real. Faigenbaum succeeded in forming a realistic portrait of a city and its inhabitants.
by Helena Calmfors
© Patrick Faigenbaum, Shreyasi Chatterjee at work embroidering, Lake Town, north Kolkata, March 2011. Courtesy of Aperture Gallery.
About the Hermès Foundation’s alliance with Aperture Foundation In 2014, the Hermès Foundation launched a program of photographers’ residencies and exchanges, exhibitions, and publications with Aperture Foundation in New York. The program marks the Hermès Foundation’s renewed commitment to intervening upstream in the creative process, with support for the production of new photographic work, and a new partnership with a distinguished, internationally acclaimed photography institution.
About the Hermès Foundation The Hermès Foundation supports people and organizations seeking to learn, perfect, transmit, and celebrate the skills and creativity that shape and inspire our lives today, into the future. Guided by our central focus on artisan expertise and creative artistry in the context of society’s changing needs, the Foundation’s activities explore two complementary avenues: know-how and creativity, know-how and the transmission of skills.