FORMAT International Photography Festival recently interviewed Emaho Magazine founder Manik Katyal about Emaho, the state of photography in India and what to expect from them in the near future.
Let’s start with a few questions about you Manik. Tell us your background? When did you get involved with photography?
Well, I come from a financial background. Having completed my bachelors in commerce, I was doing my chartered accountancy and pursuing photography side by side. Learning different things had always fascinated me, so, along with my chartered accountancy I did project marketing for couple of months with Mitsubishi Electric in Delhi. Right after marketing, I worked with a lifestyle channel – NDTV Goodtimes, gaining substantial exposure. Alongside I had been organising my solo shows of photography by the name of ‘JIVA’.
Even before I started understanding photographs, I was very intrigued about the impact photographs would leave upon me. It was sometime in the 2nd year of my college during which I realised I really enjoyed taking pictures. Not being able to afford a camera back then, I would toy around with the phone’s camera. September 2009 was when a café gallery in Delhi gave me a chance to exhibit my first body of work. The body of work that was exhibited included images from my past travels. The encouragement that I received from my maiden exhibit prompted me to focus more on my art and I geared up to work towards it. The exhibit earned me enough revenue to get a basic DSLR and from then on started the journey to express my passion better.
When did your journey with Emaho begin? Tell us more about what Emaho is all about?
Being a photographer myself, it was in June 2011 when it dawned on me that there would be so many talented photographers who are looking for an organisation/platform to promote them, then was born Emaho. Taking forward what began as a passion and celebrating creativity, Emaho is not just a magazine but aims to be a whole platform where we as an organisation promote, exhibit and educate an artist. At Emaho, we cover Travel, Music, Art and Photography although the latter plays a pivotal role.
You’ve spoken before about the lack of opportunities for young, talented photographers. How does Emaho act as a platform for them? How important do you feel it is to champion this talent?
Looking at it from a broader perspective, it is not just India but Asia as whole where there are not many publications with strong ethnic values or publication driven by a vision. There are not too many opportunities for emerging and well deserving talent. There are so many emerging photographers, musicians, writers and so on, but a dearth of platforms to exhibit their talent or elevate them. I felt the same before starting up Emaho so I try and play my part as much as I can.
I recently got back from Cambodia where I was attending Ankor Photo Festival and I was having the same discussion with a Chinese curator and a friend, Wang Xi about the need for a strong publication which particularly aims at promotion of photography as a whole. With many others, he completely agreed and we have together been formulating some really interesting ideas to work toward it.
In fact I am getting in touch with more and more curators from Asia and working to form collaborations where we work together to showcase some very fresh and strong work from Asia. Big support to Emaho, Yumi Goto and I are co-curating an exhibition at Chiang Mai Documentary Festival, Thailand where the focus in on the contemporary work done on Kashmir. The aim of this exhibition is to promote photography in Kashmir and the lack of platform and no exposure to local photographers led me to take this initiative.
At Emaho, our focus is to provide a strong platform, and conduct workshops, kindling the much required exposure. Emaho not only acts as a medium of publication but is a whole package in itself. And it is very important to champion this talent as a lot of publications will never promote/publish certain kind of creative talent until they find a commercial value to it. Bringing worthy talent to the fore altruistically is what makes Emaho stand apart.
How do you feel the state of photography is in India, especially after seeing a boom over the last 5-10 years? How has the photographic community changed or expanded?
The state of photography has always been good in the country; it is just that it was never highlighted much. The recent surge in photography is playing a crucial role in spreading awareness, not only about images but much more than that. It may be socio/political issues, or daily life. The recent boom is responsible for making photography so much more accessible to everyone. Gone are the days, where photography was only a medium of artistic expression and confined only to art galleries.
There was a time when in India, countable photographers represented the nation’s photography but I am personally so glad to see the evolution of photography in the country. There are so many more emerging photographers who are working on very interesting body of work, people are actually considering photography to be much more than just a passion.
I had recently interviewed Christian Caujolle who is presently one of the most important curators in the world and also the founder of Agency VU. During my interview, I asked him what he thought of photography in India and this is what he had to say;
‘India is difficult, India has a lot of interesting photographers but its difficult to find them but by chance I have friends who send me links and email because as there is no festival as there is no structure I would say, the country is enormous of course its not easy to know exactly the scene in India’ – Christian Caujolle
This is why I completely believe that more initiatives are required to get Indian photography on the forefront. The world knows that India has a lot of interesting photographers but they need to be promoted and highlighted. With Photography, the community has also evolved. Very few but yes, some senior photographers have made themselves more accessible, which includes proper guidance and direction in photography. There are more exhibits happening and lectures on photography. Mostly in metro cities, young photographers get to attend lectures/photo talks, which obviously was bleak in the past but it needs to reach out to a bigger audience and out of the city maps.
It is still a community which is getting stronger but needs a lot of attention. Last year India also hosted its first photo festival – Delhi Photo Festival which was a remarkable project taken up by Nazar Foundation and next in line this year we have festivals coming up in Delhi as well as Mumbai. Therefore, I feel the photography community is expanding, pumped by the honest initiatives taken by young and senior photographers both.
Can you tell us a bit about your recent international exhibition POST that occurred earlier this year?
In February 2012, Emaho exhibited a group show of 50 young photographers from more than 20 countries. POST – Photography on Street & Travel had its open call announced in December and in less than 2 months we had received app. 4500 submissions. Being a very young organisation, it was very difficult to host an international exhibition without any kind of support – including no funding of any kind. But with my team’s ability, we were able to organise an interesting exhibit of 50 young photographers thereby earning the support from all over.
Emaho and FORMAT have a collaborative relationship and have recently formed the Emaho Award, which will give a selected EXPOSURE artist a feature and future exhibition. How do you see this team up?
One of the reasons why we guys are working together is because we share same ideologies; just have different ways of doing it. I am really excited about this collaboration as this would open many more doors for Emaho and FORMAT to tap into more talented photography and build a good relationship by working together.
Are you looking forward to the next edition of the festival?
Yes, really looking forward to the festival. It feels great to be invited by the festival to do a portfolio reviews for the fellow photographers. I am expecting to see some really interesting bodies of work at the next edition and meet many more interesting photographers.
What’s next for Emaho? Any exciting projects on the horizon?
Emaho is in dialogue with Pathshala South Asian Media Academy, South Asia’s premier institute of photography situated in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Emaho will be announcing the Emaho Photography Grant 2013 which will sponsor the education of one student from south Asia, each year.
Recently Emaho also collaborated with Reminders Photography Stronghold based out of Tokyo, Japan. I on behalf of Emaho, was judging for the Reminders Project Grant. Emaho ideates to carry forward initiatives to promote photography in and around Asia as well as globally.
February 2013, as part of its second international photography exhibition after Post Singapore 2012 Emaho Magazine, in collaboration with Documentary Arts Asia together will present a showcase of contemporary work on the theme ‘Kashmir’ by local and international photographers at the Chiang Mai Documentary Arts Festival, Thailand between 8th and 14th February 2013. The international photographers participating in the exhibition include Ami Vitale (National Geographic, Ripple Effect Images), Robert Nickelsberg (TIME Magazine), John Vink (Magnum Photos) Gary Knight (VII Photo Agency) and Sami Siva (Redux Pictures) amongst the local photographers from Kashmir are Danish Ismail(Reuters), Showkat Nanda and Sumit Dayal. The main focus of this exhibition is to promote photography in Kashmir.
Where do you want Emaho to be in five years?
I had founded Emaho with a vision to create a strong platform so that we can promote more well deserving and emerging artists from all of Asia and otherwise. I hope that we are able to achieve our goal with the support of like minded organisations. Right now we are working with limited resources but we would like to work on many more initiatives to play an important role in the growth of Asian art scene as a whole.