Its been a couple of weeks that I spoke to Mahesh Shantaram, about his open house, a open photobook event which he organises every now and then in Bangalore. He opens his home and his photobook library in this event to the public, for them to come, read and discuss works from Alec Soth to Dayanita Singh. I spoke to him about his ideas and the origin of this event.
What are your first memories of a photo book?
Back in the 80s, I dabbled in making hand-crafted books using stickers, writing, and pictures cut out from magazines. I’d try to sell these and also rent out my vast collection of fairy tale books to other kids in school. Looking back, that was my first stint as a creative entrepreneur. Strangely, it mimics what I’m doing today 30 years later with photo books and the Open House library.
From my personal experience I feel photo books or for that matter a body of work is not to everyone’s taste. As you started putting together in collection, what kind of work has drawn you in, what kind of books attract you the most and why?
The library reflects mainly our ever-changing taste and interests. When I started collecting books back in my student days, I was interested in photographers’ portfolios – books with pics, to put it plainly. Today, our interest has matured to include contemporary photo books that are themselves objects of art. Here, the design of the physical book is as much a part of the experience as is the photography.
Being a wedding photographer, do you feel there is a possibility for a wedding book to become part of someone’s photobook collection?
The most successful photo books are those of significant bodies of work. I doubt whether a single wedding–even if it’s that of a famous couple–can have enough depth in its commentary to become a serious body of work. Since 2009, I have been working on a personal project called Matrimania which could one day become a photo book. This work distilled from over 100 weddings that I’ve shot all across India provides a perspective into the lovable ridiculousness of Indian society seen through the prism of its wedding culture.
If you were to pick the top 5 books which you have, which ones would they be.
This is a tough question. Can I turn it around? I’d like your readers to pick their five favourites from my collection and write to me with their choice 🙂
Mahesh & his wife Vidya are now pushing to make this into a bigger event inviting artists to discuss books and their ideas on direction of photography with respect to published work. So if you’re in Bangalore, do come have a look at some great books, discussions and talks!
If you’d like to have a look at more details about the two day event, just click here.