Is it possible for a photographer's nationality to show in the characteristics of the photographs they make? Is there something inherently Swiss about Robert Frank? Nacho Lopez was deeply connected to
Sent a Letter is a slip-cased set of seven very small and intimate accordion folded books. Each was made as a gift for a friend and serve as a souvenir of a time spent with that person or of a time when that person was on the mind of the photographer. Singh creates two copies of each book -- one that is sent to the friend while the other remains with her in what she calls her "kitchen museum". Each book holds on average 15 to 20 photographs and like her last small book Go Away Closer there is no text in which to guide the viewer. Instead we are left on our own to discover and translate what these small photographic sentences add up to.
Dayanitya Singh is an interesting photographer in which to discuss this topic of characteristics of nationhood as she was schooled in the West at the International Center of Photography and has returned to
Each of these books has its spine labeled with a different city in
The book entitled
The book Padmanabhapuram for me is one of the most interesting in that its tone is the most melancholic of all. It opens with human figures in a museum entrapped in glass cases -- by the fourth photograph the figure has turned into a skeleton. This is followed by a few photographs of seascapes made at dusk with heavy cloud filled skies and then of photographs of rooms in which the flooring shines like blackened water.
Danyanita includes a seventh book to set with a slightly darker colored cover which is a series of skillfully made photographs made by her mother Nony Singh. This book works slightly unlike the others in that it could be perceived as not only a letter sent but it could have been a letter received. The photograph show early family photographs that soon progress into a series of portraits of a daughter in the process of growing up. That daughter seems to be Dayanita herself but what is remarkable is that it also reveals Dayanita's source of artistic influence in that her mother's photographs contain a similar DNA as her daughters would later.
As books, it is refreshing that these stray far from the usual form. This is something that Dayanita started with Go Away Closer by presenting 31 photographs in a small inexpensive paperback book with absolutely no text. This set follows that precedent with the added enjoyment is that they could either be view page by page or by unfolding the accordion out revealing the entire poem at once.
The set also takes into consideration the tactile nature of books as each has a handmade feel due to their construction and the materials used. The rich printing adds to the preciousness of these objects.
The first thing one notice as they remove one of these books from the slipcase is that they want to expand. This is obviously due to the physical characteristics of folded paper that has not yet been forced to relax but for me it is also a metaphor of how these photographs work. They resist an easy translation and reveal themselves on a personal level over time. As the words printed on the cover of the slipcase allude (Sent a letter to my friend, on the way he dropped it. Someone picked it up and put it in his pocket) Dayanita has allowed us to open her mail but what we discover inside may have seemed meant for us all along.
Note: Dayanita Singh will be doing a book signing for Sent A Letter at the International Center of Photography on Friday, April 18th from 6-7:30pm. The ICP Bookstore is at 1133 Avenue of the Americas (6th Avenue) at 43rd Street.