Dayanita Singh revisits her earliest years as a photographer

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The advent of Covid-19 incited the photographer to delve into her extensive archive spanning decades of work

Dayanita Singh’s latest publication revisits her earliest years as a photographer. The advent of Covid-19 incited the photographer to delve into her extensive archive spanning decades of work. 

Here Singh came upon scanned contact sheets from the 1980s and 90s. The tenderness of those early images surprised her: black-and-white, documentary-style photographs of friends and acquaintances, including her mother Nony Singh, her long-term collaborator Zakir Hussain, and her late friend Mona Ahmed, who became a central protagonist in her work.

The photographs embody the physicality that became a central facet of Singh’s oeuvre. However, unlike her later, more conceptual series, there is a certain lightness and simplicity to them. We see funerals, weddings, couples kissing, friends hugging, people resting, dancing, dressing – the mundanity of everyday life.

“I call this book Let’s See,” says Singh, “because these images are about exactly that: how we see, what we don’t see, what only the camera sees…” Indeed, collectively, the photographs reveal the beginnings of Singh’s distinct way of framing the world: her ability to carefully observe while also capturing the movement and vitality of a fleeting moment.

Let’s See by Dayanita Singh is published by Steidl.

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