A photobook for Ketaki Sheth’s stark, and moving photographs of photo studios in India, both a tribute and a documentary.
Background Ketaki Sheth’s Photo Studio straddles the line between documentary photography and art. It records the vanishing photo studios in India, and with it, a way of recording ourselves.
The idea was conceived in 2015 when the author visited Jagdish Photo Studio in Manori, Maharashtra. She was gripped by the studio’s quaint setting, fixtures, old-fashioned diaphanous backgrounds coupled with the confident formality of the subjects. Over the next 3 years, she further explored over 65 photo studios across the country, most of which were in a dilapidated state, capturing her experiences.
Strategy Photo Studio strays from the conventional approach many photographers and writers have taken while documenting photo studios in India, so it was a challenge to create a book where aesthetic sensibility is maintained without conceding to either humour or pathos in the way the book unfolds.
The usual response to this has been the classic photo book: a neutral, transparent, orderly display that emulates a ‘white-cube’ gallery experience, hushed and respectful. We started by recognising that this classic photo book needed a rethink in this image-saturated age. If we could do this, we could look beyond the fine art reader towards a broader audience.
Our design responded to this challenge by turning Photo Studio into an object to be experienced, rather than a bare vehicle for images using a series of devices that pulls the reader in, engaging more than just their sight.
Design Designed with the aim of moving beyond the classic photo book, Photo Studio incorporates a series of devices that challenge the norm. Images are cropped, and repeated, made to span pages drawing the reader into the photo studio . Tipped-in glossy prints, like in an album; a glass negative has a positive overlay, as if in film— engage the reader's sense of touch. They force the reader to pause, look beyond the page into the past.
In what was perhaps our boldest step away from the conventional photobook, we added the artist’s voice, as teasing, quasi poetic fragments of text, guiding readers on their journey across photo studios.
Impact and Recognition The result is an experience that can be engaged with, touched and ‘heard’, walking the tightrope between an evocative object and a serious work of documentary photography. Photo Studio was lauded by critics and named as an in-book winner in Design For Books (Culture, Art & Design) at Kyoorius Design Awards 2019.
Partner-in-charge & Creative Director Itu Chaudhuri | Design Concept and Development Aadarsh Rajan | Project Duration 4 months