A view from the lens

Mumbai and photography share a formidable relationship. The medium has been used as a tool to reflect, challenge and engage with the multi-faceted layers of the urban metropolis. The inaugural edition of FOCUS Festival, the first-of-its-kind photography festival in Mumbai, aims to pay tribute to this relationship.

Boats at port, Bombay, ca. 1860-70, courtesy Gopal Nair, is one of the photographs that will be on display as part of the exhibition: A Fantastic Legacy: Early Bombay Photography, from 1840 to 1900

The event that will be held from March 13 to 27 will feature over 20 photo exhibitions at art galleries, cultural centres, restaurants, cafés, cinemas, outdoor areas and other public spaces. Co-founded by three Mumbai-based expats: Elise Foster Vander Elst, director of Asia Art Project; Nic Antaki, architect and Matthieu Foss, gallerist, the two-week long festival will feature contests, workshops, talks, tours, an open library and portfolio reviews that will help the public to learn about photography. 

However, the highlight of FOCUS will be two pivotal exhibitions at the Max Mueller Bhavan and Jehangir Art Gallery on March 25 and 27 respectively. The former titled A Fantastic Legacy: Early Bombay Photography, from 1840 to 1900, will explore the rich 19th century history of photography in Mumbai through over 100 original pictures, including anthropological studies, architectural city scenes, portraits and some of the first art photographs ever taken in Bombay. It will also feature an interactive learning area and walk-in camera obscura (an optical device that projects an image of its surroundings on a screen) to give audiences an experience of early photography. The latter, Contemporary Photography by Women, will feature a wide variety of works by emerging and mid-career Indian and foreign female photographers and focus on how they used the visual medium to celebrate their diversity worldwide.

Combining years of experience across diverse practices such as architecture, gallery-ownership, art production and photography, the organisers have composed a multi-pronged approach to how the medium can be exhibited in the city and enjoyed by diverse audiences of all ages, including artists, art collectors, professional and amateur photographers, writers, critics, art-lovers and students. “Working with a cross-section of different spaces, we hope to not only celebrate the art form through an eclectic choice of artists and new cultural collaborations, but also to reach and engage with a diverse array of visitors.

Our greatest challenge was to ensure FOCUS Mumbai has as much energy as our participating partners, galleries and artists,” concludes Foss.

When: March 13 to 27
Where: Bombay Electric, Cafe Zoe, Cheval bar and restaurant, Studio X, The Guild
For further details about venues and festival schedule, log on to 

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