Two new photography exhibitions, “Refocusing the Lens: Pranlal Patel’s Photographs of Women at Work in Ahmedabad” and “In Context: The Portrait in Contemporary Photographic Practice” debut on Saturday, Feb. 1, at the Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art. Admission to the opening reception at 4 p.m. and the exhibitions is free and open to the public. “Refocusing the Lens” will close on April 15, and “In Context” will be open through July 27.
“Refocusing the Lens: Pranlal Patel’s Photographs of Women at Work in Ahmedabad” is open until April 15 and features images depicting women at work in the homes, neighborhoods and markets of Ahmedabad, India, in 1937. The photographer, Pranlal Patel, died this January at the age of 104 in Ahmedabad. His images reveal a bit about the history of Indian women, particularly members of the working class, as workforce participants in early 20th century.
Patel’s approach was noteworthy because he shot in the field rather than in the studio; the resulting images offer an unprecedented documentary view of Indian society. The show is co-curated by Associate Professor of History Lisa Trivedi, who met Patel and his family as a doctoral student two decades ago, and Assistant Professor of Photography Robert Knight.
“In Context: The Portrait in Contemporary Photographic Practice” brings together the work of 13 conceptual artists whose practices address an underlying sociopolitical agenda as well as photojournalists and social documentarians who utilize conceptual strategies to subjectively shape the portraits they create. The convergence of these approaches yields work that carefully balances aesthetic and political goals to frame important social issues in a contemporary manner.
Both exhibitions were developed in conjunction with courses taught by Professor Trivedi and Assistant Professor Knight; they were, respectively, an advanced history seminar which focused on the early twentieth-century history of Ahmedabad and a photography class titled "Curating the Archive" that addressed the history of documentary photography. The two courses, which met together at times during the semester, provided an overview of the curating process, emphasizing the theory and process of preparing an exhibition. During the fall semester, students contributed to the process, assisting with image selection and exhibition layout, among other curatorial tasks.
The show, which is open until July 27, is curated by Assistant Professor of Photography Robert Knight. Featured photographers include Magali Corouge, Chris de Bode, Laura El-Tantawy, Ulrich Gebert, Jim Goldberg, Mishka Henner, Tom Hunter, Alfredo Jaar, Sharon Lockhart, Taryn Simon, Alec Soth, and Mikhael Subotzky & Patrick Waterhouse.
The Wellin is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is closed on Mondays and college holidays.