Village Studios / Portraits4PeoplePortraits4PeoplePortraits4PeoplePortraits4PeoplePortraits4People  


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 shocked.

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 photographer).

An important part of experiencing this work lies in questioning expectations: of photographers, villagers, the process, the images and the audience.

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.

Some of Frank's more-traditional photography can be viewed at