Mumbai, in focus

Mumbai, the photogenic city, is playing host to the first photography festival — titled Focus — which will feature a series of events that will celebrate the world of photography with Mumbai as the backdrop. In its first edition the free-for-all event will highlight the city’s vibrant nature and diverse communities. Multiple city venues ranging from art galleries to nightspots, retail stores, restaurants and even the streets will act as hosts for the event. The festival, to be held every two years, includes 22 exhibitions, three competitions, workshops, talks, tours, an open library, portfolio reviews and more.

Mrs and Mr M.CT. Muthiah from the Family Portraits series by Nandini Muthiah (2005)

Speaking about the event co-founder and organiser Elise Foster Vander Elst, says, “The idea of hosting events across city spaces came from the fact that different audiences move in different spaces. It was an idea of cross-pollinating audiences by engaging with a variety of spaces.”

She adds that it wasn’t tough to get permissions either: “Everyone was so excited about the idea. Since we have allowed the venues to curate their own exhibitions, each exhibition is very much the initiative of the director of the space and their team. Our biggest challenge was gathering the funding necessary to make the festival happen.”

Event line-up
Some of the events to watch out for include the free open library where you can browse through photography books and magazines provided by Pro Helvetia — Swiss Arts Council and Photo Corner (at Cheval Bar & Restaurant, Fort, March 14-27); a workshop on how to click your own photo with a pinhole camera and cool facts about Mumbai’s history (Gallerie Max Mueller, Kala Ghoda, March 16, 2 pm). Film buffs can head to the screening of Annie Leibovitz: Life Through a Lens (GoodEarth, Senapati Bapat Marg, March 20, 6.30 pm) while book lovers can attend the launch of A Certain Grace: The Sidi, Indians of African Descent by Ketaki Sheth (Jnanapravaha, Fort, March 22, 5.30 pm).

The Great Divide, Bombay Races by Sooni Taraporevala (1986)

Watch out for...
One of the highlights of the festival will be Sooni Taraporevala’s chat with Mira Nair on her exhibition of photographs, titled Parsis (March 15, 6 pm at Chemould Prescott Road). She will be talking about the 104 photographs on display at the gallery and recount anecdotes related to them. She will also speak about her photographic journey, which began when she was a Harvard student in 1976, and bought her first camera by borrowing money from a roommate. Her initial days were all about shooting images of her extended family and events happening across the city. It was on the advise of the photographer Raghubir Singh that she decided to focus on the community she belonged to. What emerged from it were several books and exhibitions of photographs on the community. “The focus of the images is on the spectrum of Parsi life. It shows the streets that I was familiar with while growing up and it presents an intimate portrait of people,” says Taraporevala, who adds that as a friend, Mira Nair, witnessed every step of her photographic journey.
She also recounts that when she started off there were very few female photographers around. “It was also difficult to make a living out of photography. Now, there is a greater awareness and newer technology as well. But that also means that photographers now, have to work harder then before because everyone is a photographer now,” she laughs.

From March 13 to 27
At Venues in Colaba, Kala Ghoda and Lower Parel.
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