Constellation Cafe Books : The File Room

Recently added to my collection is this grand red book by Dayanita Singh, titled “The File Room”. Now most of you would know that I’ve been a great admirer of her work since my introduction to photography and needless to say she’s also been of great inspiration.

Steidl Publication 2013
Steidl Publication 2013, I bought the book when it was released in the Jaipur Literature Festival 2013

The File Room is Singh’s latest book marking the convergence of her interests in bookmaking and photography. The hardbound book is huge, a brand new direction from her older more intimately sized publications. Printed with Stiedl, the book feels organic, heavy with the weight of familiarity. There is something in this book which makes it feel new yet aged at the same time.


The book comes in multiple colors for the cover fabic (I chose red). Singh has spent a lot of time working on the make of this book, everything from the cover fabric to the font inside, each one has its own poetic purpose. The book as a whole is a celebration of textures right from its cover, its end sheets and the paper.

Inside lie 88 pages of images and short texts along with a afterword by Aveek Sen and a interview with Singh herself. Its all introduced with black and white images printed beautifully on perfectly matt paper which is not only a pleasure to view but a delight to touch. These monochrome images document the many spaces of file storage rooms (either government or personal) in India. Stacks upon stacks of files and precariously standing towers of documents, stored, forgotten. She rarely uses texts in her books but here it comes across as a bridge for the reader, bringing them closer to the work.


The File Room is a beautiful book and Singh earns full points for her craft. Unlike her previous publications, she focuses on the physicality of the work, keeping the images simple and uncomplicated. Everything in this book, from the fabric cover to the texture, smell of the pages and the matt print reinforce what The File Room is about, her obsession with paper, documentation and book making.

I hope you can see the texture of the paper in this image. Its beautifully thick, much like archival quality.
I hope you can see the texture of the paper in this image. Its beautifully thick, much like archival quality.

This is a lovely book and you’d definitely love it more if you’re looking at it away from Dayanita’s earlier work.  For me it moves too far away from photography into craft but it opens doors to a more secretive artist baring herself. The File Room brings to light a body of work which comes only with evolution and refinement, a work without doubt pointing back to the artists roots.

Still, if you’re looking to add one of her books to your collection, I’d strongly suggest her earlier work Go Away Closer or Privacy. I don’t have a copy of Privacy but I’ll surely showcase Go Away Closer in the weeks to come.

In case you’re interested, right before she released this book, Dayanita had a big retrospective in Hayward Gallery London. A preview of that could be seen in the video below :


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