ABOUT THE PROJECT
For hundreds of years Europeans and Americans have documented the peculiar otherness of far-away lands, returning with images of the exotic, the disturbing, the primitive, for curious western audiences
eager to be entertained, moved – even
Portraits 4 People began in India, but it is relevant to any population seen as 'different'. India and its people have been such subjects throughout the history of photography, from colonial soldiers and explorers to today's tourists.
India today is an exciting and sophistocated democracy., exciting, fast-growing, economy; some say the next super power. Why then are we so interested in images of the poorest citizens, those reminiscent of Colonial, European photography?
Chicago-area artist, ML Frank, asks, ‘Why?”
Frank, developed Portraits 4 People to contrast
colonial-era imagery and attitudes through
a series of experiential photography events in
Indian villages. These events were designed to
challenge assumptions about photography, selfimage,
India and portraiture. Exhibitions and
discussions further explore western exposure to
images of the people of India, and ideas about
photography, culture and control.
In each village, the artist set up a make-shift
studio and invited anyone interested to have a
portrait made. Each portrait involves collaboration
between subject and photographer. Pose,
dress, expression and setting were controlled
by the subject (with occasional input from the
An important part of experiencing this work lies
in questioning expectations: of photographers,
villagers, the process, the images and the
Frank wants us to examine how we use our cameras, what images say about those afar, those who are different, and what they say about us and our curiosity. Lectures and discussions about this work explore the legacy of Colonial-era attitudes in contemporary photography. Student workshops are planned for next fall.