The 2018 edition of Indian Photography Festival opens on 6 September at multiple venues across Hyderabad. Over 500 photographers, veterans and amateurs alike, from 52 countries are participating in this event, writes Bhumika Popli.

For the entire month of September, Hyderabad will be rechristened as the City of Photographers. The Indian Photography Festival (IPF) opens here on 6 September, featuring a series of exhibitions, workshops, panel discussions and portfolio reviews among other events.

In its fourth edition now, the IPF is set to return on a scale grander than what has been seen before. In 2017, photographers from 42 countries participated in the festival. The upcoming edition will be hosting 550 photographers from 52 countries. With the State Art Gallery as its main hub, the IPF will be spread across multiple venues in the city, including public parks, malls and art galleries.

“There aren’t many platforms for photographers,” said Aquin Mathews, festival director, IPF. “I started the festival in 2015 with an aim to build a new place for photographers where they can collaborate and learn from each other. I think every artist requires a constant interaction to build his creativity. Here my aim was to bring iconic names to the event so that people can freely reach out to them and eventually learn from them.”

Top photographers like Nick Ut, James Wellford, Giles Clarke, and Vineet Vohra are among the participants for IPF 2018. Guardian 20 spoke to the American photographer Robin Schwartz, another IPF participant, whose photos explore the ecological relationship between human beings and animals. Her series Amelia and the Animals will be displayed at the festival. According to Schwartz, events like the IPF present the welcome opportunity for photographers to connect with each other and interact with viewers. “Having access to diverse photography exhibitions, panel discussions and presentations is truly a gift,” she said.

Amelia and the Animals, by Robin Schwartz.

Apart from varied photo exhibitions, the IPF itinerary for this year also features a number of photography workshops. James Wellford, senior photo editor at the National Geographic magazine, will be conducting an editing workshop here, titled Purpose, Passion, and Persistence in Visual Storytelling, for budding photographers working on long-term projects. Wellford will be guiding his students using real-life examples from photo projects he has worked on during the course of his career.

Pep Bonet, from NOOR images, is a World Press Photo winner. At IPF 2018, he will be guiding young photographers on the number of approaches they can take when developing their own documentary projects.

The Indian photographer Sharbendu De is also among the participants. His series Imagined Homeland is a six-year-long documentation of the little-known Lisu tribe living inside the Namdapha National Park & Tiger Reserve on the India-Myanmar border near Arunachal Pradesh. He said, “The Indian government has literally abandoned them and engaged in decades of neglect, abuse and deprivation of their constitutional rights. In 1983, India converted 1,985 sq km of their native land into a reserved forest without consulting, and declared them encroachers as well as left a few revenue villages locked between the eastern border of the park and the international border—cutting them off from the rest of India in an unprecedented fashion.”

Through his work, he hopes to put the spotlight on the Lisu people. According to him, there are no roads in the region and no vehicles for commuting. The tribespeople have to walk for three to six days, trekking 120-157km each way to reach Miao, the nearest town—which they need to access for groceries and other everyday needs, including medical attention. The series appears mythical even though it documents the daily life in those surroundings.

An interesting exhibition on photobooks will also be mounted at the festival venue.  Jörg Colberg, who is exhibiting his photobook Dear Japanese, spoke to Guardian 20 on the relevance of the form. His book is about the lives of children of mixed Japanese and Dutch-Indonesian decent.

“A photobook cannot be just a book. Every single detail of a photobook, such as paper type, size, font, and edition number not to mention editing and sequencing, has to be carefully designed to convey a specific meaning. A viewer might experience this intention of a photographer/book maker when he picks up a photobook in an exhibition, on top of what the images tell. Instead of traveling a whole exhibition, a photobook, which is a complete project, can travel to Hyderabad or anywhere in a small packet. And once it is there, it has an ability to give a viewer tangible experience. When the whole world is flooded with the images on SNS, a photobook exhibition can bring a viewer more personal, concrete and valuable experience,” said Colberg.

IPF 2018 runs from 6 September to 7 October in Hyderabad

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