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"Exhibition" Pictures for Discussion and Questions LF Series: Tera Kashmir (Your Kashmir)

So in my previous posts, I mentioned that I am working on a series of LF Paper-negative photographs, for a series of 12 photographs. I am going to start posting them on here as soon as I get them done, which will most probably be weekly now, for your consideration/ questions/ comments/ critiques et cetera.
As this is a somewhat convoluted project, I feel it necessary to give proper perspective.
I am from Jammu and Kashmir, which is a disputed territory between India and Pakistan. I have been in the states for almost 3 years now, working towards my BA in the College of Idaho, with a Major in Art. Now the college here is almost a 130 year old institution. As such, we have a bunch of strange stuff in the archives, where I hang out most of the times. One such collection of things is a collection of dolls made in India.
Now this woman from Idaho did some USAID stuff in india in the early 60's and brought them back to Idaho with her. Well, she dies, and her daughter just drops off this 33 doll set to the college. It has been there ever since.
Now these dolls were made by a doll factory in New Delhi, the capital. They supposedly depict the various people of the country through dolls.
I found two dolls, one of a "Kashmiri Woman", and the other of "Kashmiri Muslim Woman" in that set. Since I had a 8x10 at my disposal, and because I saw that there was some really funky stuff going on in the dolls, I decided to document them. It changed, somewhere into a series of Diptychs, the first of which you will see here.






Asal Kashmir (Real Kashmir) 5x8 Paper negative, Scanned and Inverted
 
Last edited:

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
So in my previous posts, I mentioned that I am working on a series of LF Paper-negative photographs, for a series of 12 photographs. I am going to start posting them on here as soon as I get them done, which will most probably be weekly now, for your consideration/ questions/ comments/ critiques et cetera.
As this is a somewhat convoluted project, I feel it necessary to give proper perspective.
I am from Jammu and Kashmir, which is a disputed territory between India and Pakistan. I have been in the states for almost 3 years now, working towards my BA in the College of Idaho, with a Major in Art. Now the college here is almost a 130 year old institution. As such, we have a bunch of strange stuff in the archives, where I hang out most of the times. One such collection of things is a collection of dolls made in India.
Now this woman from Idaho did some USAID stuff in india in the early 60's and brought them back to Idaho with her. Well, she dies, and her daughter just drops off this 33 doll set to the college. It has been there ever since.
Now these dolls were made by a doll factory in New Delhi, the capital. They supposedly depict the various people of the country through dolls.
I found two dolls, one of a "Kashmiri Woman", and the other of "Kashmiri Muslim Woman" in that set. Since I had a 8x10 at my disposal, and because I saw that there was some really funky stuff going on in the dolls, I decided to document them. It changed, somewhere into a series of Diptychs, the first of which you will see here.






Asal Kashmir (Real Kashmir) 5x8 Paper negative, Scanned and Inverted
Rahul,

You've done well and started a unique project which not only is meaningful to you, but for which you have inside knowledge. So you have the opportunity that an American would not so readily have to be creative and imagine new composition and drama for this pair. I find such old gems with a story to be beguiling. One tries to imagine not only these figures as they were brand new, many decades ago, but also how the lives of the people represented have changed for better or worse in this time! Do the clothes and baskets tell a narrative of what they were doing and their place in society then? It will be fascinating to hear more of this story.

How did you approach the lighting? What lens are you using on the 8x10. I wonder whether you had choices? It might make a difference in mood. Have you considered the pair interacting in some way, based on your intuition and fancy!

Asher
 
What a potential-filled project!

The world of paper negatives is rich with many choices about contrast, tonal rendition, and image structure. All of the paper handling and processing can be done under safelight conditions so the manipulative challenges of film are put aside. And paper is cheap compared to film so experiment and innovation is encouraged. Be prolific.

An alternative to paper negatives is paper positives. Harman Direct Positive Paper is designed for in-camera exposure and affords the advantage that your work is in material form rather than being a derived electronic file; so much easier to sign, title, and present as a portfolio or a gallery exhibition.

The idea occurs to me that you may start your project with the notion of documenting the dolls but it may end with the dolls becoming the agency whereby you document your insights into Kashmir and India. That would be a fine thing to see: art delivering beauty, insight, and a personal agenda.
 
=Maris Rusis;134951]

The idea occurs to me that you may start your project with the notion of documenting the dolls but it may end with the dolls becoming the agency whereby you document your insights into Kashmir and India. That would be a fine thing to see: art delivering beauty, insight, and a personal agenda.
Thank you Maris! And if I may, I really like your work. Your photo of the wave break at noosa beach is inspiring!
Ys, that is exactly what I am doing. When I first took on the project, I was somewhat lost on how to document what I had in front of me, and not make an illustration. Since I had a view camera, I started out using the movements to isolate the obvious discerpencies like the clothing, the jewelry et cetera. But then I did not feel comfortable with the final image. I was telling not showing. So I decided to excercise editorial control and show the images of the dolls straight on. In that manner I could let the viewer take out what he wanted to take out of the image. My statement would in a manner be my statement, but maybe the viewers statement could be completely different.
Also using the format of a diptych was a result of me wanting to not make illustration because I could then take photos in the manner I knew would create the necessary drama required for the topic.
 
Rahul,

You've done well and started a unique project which not only is meaningful to you, but for which you have inside knowledge. So you have the opportunity that an American would not so readily have to be creative and imagine new composition and drama for this pair. I find such old gems with a story to be beguiling. One tries to imagine not only these figures as they were brand new, many decades ago, but also how the lives of the people represented have changed for better or worse in this time! Do the clothes and baskets tell a narrative of what they were doing and their place in society then? It will be fascinating to hear more of this story.

How did you approach the lighting? What lens are you using on the 8x10. I wonder whether you had choices? It might make a difference in mood. Have you considered the pair interacting in some way, based on your intuition and fancy!

Asher
Thank you Asher.
The clothes and all the accessories that the dolls have are actually really high quality stuff. The fiber is either raw silk, burlap, chamois, or wool, each depending on the final requirement for the image. Also all of them are hand painted and hand decorated.
All these things in addition to the naming are what I am concentrating about. Call me paranoid, but I think there is always a agenda behind everything. Nobody does anything for a reason. So in this case, why does the "Kashmiri woman" have the facial features of somebody from the east India ? Or for that matter, why is she called " Kashmiri woman" while the other doll is called "Kashmiri Muslim woman"?
What is the agenda? The dolls were made in the capital of the country. Kashmir is a disputed territory claimed by both Pakistan and India. A maybe it is to create a uniform national identity. Maybe it is an attempt to unify the national narrative. We can never know.
What I do know is the conflict in Kashmir. Grew up when the militancy started. So I. Have seen the virulent rhetoric from both sides. I could use that rhetoric to create drama in the images. Of course the true a nature of the images could be only seen with proper context but I hope that there is a bit of the drama that peers out through the image itself. The image is an image, more powerful, with context. The context gives it its power, but also the composition and the photographic choices made in these images should give a idea of what the context is.
Which is why I use a view camera. I could have used a digital camera and be done with this project in a day. However, the view camera forces you to control your impulses and control your image. I think a view camera is not a tool for a snapshot. It is in a manner, the oil painting of photography. Every thing is controlled, thought out, and planned. It behooves a photographer to do so. If not, then the photographer is not using the view camera to its utmost. In a manner, the view camera is a tool for cool, composed meditative photography. A 35 mm is good for street work, but for a still life, a view camera would be a tool of choice for me.
Again, this controlled approach makes for control in al l aspects of the image. The lighting is done with a direct 500w strobe and a umbrella strobe, both of which are at constant lighting. I have been working on getting better equipment because I am still somewhat I satisfied with the technical aspects. I have been working on a better development process to control the contrast. I also need to work on getting a better scanner to get the images turn out better. (I forgot to mention this in the previous post, but I make negatives because I like to contact print the negatives and pass them around to friends as gifts and what not. Nothing matches the tangible quality of an print made optically, with the action of chemicals rather then squirts of colored gunk)
I use a 300 mm symmar, because it is the only one I have. It is a nice lens and serves its purpose. I guess I don't want to goof around with too many lenses because it changes the dynamics of the picture which I like.
Actually each of the dolls is a separate 4x5 print which is then contact printed together and scanned. Or alternately, each is scanned independently and is joined on photoshop. I started using a reducing back on the 8x10 because I wanted the image to cover the entire area, and still have the flexibility of removing the back and using a normal back for bigger stuff.
I typed out a lot of stuff. Must be the sleep deprivation talking.
Best
Rahul
 
Also, after perusing some of the other posts on this fourm (I have been in the wilderness for a bit, so a bit out of touch on the day to day happenings) PIFFLE!
 
My aplogies for a while since I have posted the rest of the images. Being in college, I was utterly swamped with work, and couldn't get around to scanning the images. But here it is. The series in its entireity.




Zero Bridge




Mein Atanki Hoon (I am a terrorist)




Mein Atanki nahi hoon (I am not a terrorist)




Khoon se sane haath kaise dhoyein? (How do you wash bloodstained hands?)​
 


Hamari maang, Nizam-e-Mustafa (Our demand, Rule of the pure)




Habbakadal Ki Yaadein (Memories of Habbakadal)




Fateh Ka Imaan nahi hota (Victory is faithless)




Aman Ke Rakhwaale (Protectors of peace)



Ami Asto, Ami Asto, Ami Asto (It is here, it is here, it is here)​
 
Hi Rahul,

I like your thread for several reasons. It is a very unique project. The pictures are beautiful. The titles you have chosen scream the message. It also touches a sentimental nerve in me: during my early days of twiddling with photographic techniques I had made a view camera (if you could call it that) using cardboard boxes, a piece of ground glass and a simple convex lens, in which I had used bromide printing paper for capturing the image.

Many of my questions regarding your techniques got answered in your response to Asher, but a few are left. What type of paper do you use? Do you get paper specifically made for negative work? For contact printing you may need a paper with thin backing material with micro fibres. In my early experience I got rather unrealistic images due to the spectral sensitivity of the bromide paper. Could you use that to your advantage?

I wish you success in your project and your mission as a whole.

Reginald
 
Hi Rahul,

I like your thread for several reasons. It is a very unique project. The pictures are beautiful. The titles you have chosen scream the message. It also touches a sentimental nerve in me: during my early days of twiddling with photographic techniques I had made a view camera (if you could call it that) using cardboard boxes, a piece of ground glass and a simple convex lens, in which I had used bromide printing paper for capturing the image.

Many of my questions regarding your techniques got answered in your response to Asher, but a few are left. What type of paper do you use? Do you get paper specifically made for negative work? For contact printing you may need a paper with thin backing material with micro fibres. In my early experience I got rather unrealistic images due to the spectral sensitivity of the bromide paper. Could you use that to your advantage?

I wish you success in your project and your mission as a whole.

Reginald
Gosh, this is strange to get back to after nearly a decade. Much work has been done, and a lot of time has passed.
In regards to your questions Reginald, the photographs were taken on Mitsubishi Gekko paper, and there was really no contrast control such as filteration used. However, rather than using strobes, I used the modelling lamps as my illumination, which probably resulted in milder contrast in comparison to strobes due to the overall yellow cast. In re contact printing, while I have heard that a lot, I have never seen this in my own practice. The fibers in an RC paper are far too short to cause an issue, and the fact that the emulsion is on top of a polyester layer possibly defocuses them to a degree. With FB paper, things are different possibly, but then I would never waste good FB paper on paper negatives, it is far too useful otherwise.

Fibers become a serious issue with 'real' paper negatives, such as calotypes. However, even those can be reasonably mitigated using oiling or waxing. In the capotypes I have made, and printed on albumen, the tooth of the albumen paper naturally helps to hide the fibers to a degree. The choice of paper helps as well, and the architectural vellums that do work with calotype have minimal grain.

In regards to the question of spectral sensitivity, well, it can be as complicated as you want to make it. Paper is of course, orthochromatic, which can be used to your advantage with stuff like landscapes, if you are okay with blank skies (and ofc there are ways around that); and portraiture (such as in the work of Geo. Hurrel and the like). I am currently making landscape work in the Netherlands, and am grateful for panchromatic stock, because orthochromatic just wouldn't cut the peaty skies here. In India, I loved shooting landscapes in ortho, which really accentuated the hard light. As with all things, it is a case of balancing the constraints and the aspirations.

Thanks for your wishes Reginald, I guess they stuck. I stopped shooting the dolls back in 2012, and moved on to greener (relatively) pastures, doing the alt process trajectory with wet plate, albumen, Jim Galli style soft focus etc. Somewhere around the middle I shifted tracks, and moved into art conservation, and completed my MSc in Photograph conservation last year from the University of Amsterdam. I consider myself really lucky that iIsomehow managed to make my life revolve around photographs. :)
 
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Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
So are you now fluent in Dutch?

My engineering colleague is from Nederlands, Cem Usakligil is in Amsterdam, I believe, Frank Doorhof too.

I am so glad you came back!

I would be delighted to see your landscapes shared here!

Asher
 
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