Painted Photographs - Rahaab Allana

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This volume explores the development of the embellished image in India through the painted photograph, a genre that marks a significant chapter in the history of Indian photography. A crucial embodiment of the colonial encounter, these images abet the notion of modernism in visual practice at the turn of the 19th century. Successfully incorporating existent Indian traditions of illumination in painting, the painted photograph slowly emerged as a self-sustaining convention, a meld of realistic documentation and artistic manipulation that was also a legitimate expression of popular culture. The bold alchemy of brush and lens enabled a riveting third artefact, a synthesis of painting, photography and printmaking - modern art forms that affirmed the links between regional aesthetics, technological innovation and the urban market. These alluring, ambivalent compositions offer an inter-pictorial approach to reality, a remarkable mode of simulation provoked by cross-cultural aesthetic codes as well as profound sociological change. The book accompanied an exhibition at the Brunei Gallery, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London from July to September 2008.