How is the food photography business in India
PHOTOWALLAHS explores the cultural and personal meaning of photographs based on the encounter with photography in a mountain village in northern India. The ’photowallahs’ are the native photographers of Mus-soorie, a place in the Himalayan foothills that once attracted wealthy Indian princes and British ambassadors, but is now mainly visited by tourists from the Indian middle class. Using the photographers and their customers, local owners of old photographs and these photographs themselves, the film shows the profession as art and business, as a medium of fantasy, reality, memory and desire.
David MacDougall about the film:
The film was born out of a fascination for photography. At first we just wanted to examine a few ideas about photography - what personal meaning photographs have for people, how they reflect social concerns, how people use them to consolidate their identity. ... We were very impressed by the idea of filming in India because we found the whole environment of visual symbolism and the photography techniques practiced there extremely productive. Although the history (of photography in India) is very interesting, we wanted to focus more on filming the current approach to photography in India. For example, middle-class Indians have long gone to photo studios, but only recently have they had their own cameras. Many rural Indian residents may have only been photographed once in their lives. For them, a photo of themselves or a loved one is still something special. In addition, photography in India mixes with other types of visual art, as well as folk art and classical art, and the secular with the religious.
There is no sharp dividing line here that distinguishes photography from painting and other forms of visual representation in the West. In the Hindi language, the same word is often used for a photo as it is for a picture, and pictures are sometimes referred to as ‘photos‘. These points to the difference between the Indian view of photography as a kind of icon and our Western indexical understanding of it - our tendency to see photographs anecdotally in relation to specific moments in people's lives. The film is supposed to work on different levels, and in our opinion it can only be called ethnographic on one of them. First of all, and perhaps most of all, this is a film about the variety of meanings that photos can have to people, and that affects many cultures. There are significant differences between photography in India and elsewhere, but it is important not to overestimate them. It would be wrong to view Indian culture as well as Indian photography as an isolated and monotonous phenomenon. Photographic styles that seem characteristic of India can also be found in the West, and the Western style certainly influences Indian photography. ...
(from: 22nd International Forum of Young Films, Berlin 1992)
Judith Ann MacDougall, born in the USA in 1938. Studied art at Beloit College in Wisconsin. From 1961-63 at Iowa State University and from 63-64 at the University of California in LA. She then studied film and received her PhD from UCLA in 1969. She has been a filmmaker at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies since 1975.
David Cooke MacDougallwas born in the USA in 1938. Studied English literature at Harvard University, graduated from the University of California in 1969. He is the author of numerous articles on ethnographic and documentary films. Since 1975 director of the film department at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. The MacDougall couple worked together on almost all of the films.
A selection of films: NAWI, 1968-70; TOLIVEWITHHERDS, 1968-73; GOOD-BYEOLDMAN, 1970; FAMILIARPLACES, 1980; THEHOUSE-OPENING, 1980; A WIFEAMONGWIVES, 1974-1981; THREEHORSEMEN, 1982; PHOTOWALLAHS, 1991
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