This is the first of three exhibitions for Makers and Meanings: the Krishnakriti Festival 2020. The exhibitions are collectively titled Deconstructing Paradise: Images and Imaginations of Kashmir.
Ram Chand Mehta’s body of work is a significant professional and personal archive. It constitutes six decades of practice within the history of photography in Kashmir, which began in the 1860s with early European photographers.
Mehta was only seven when his elder brother, Amar Nath Mehta, set up the Mahatta Studio in a houseboat in Srinagar in 1915 —the first Indian-run studio of Kashmir. R.C. Mehta took charge of the studio in Srinagar at a crucial time—a year after Indian ndependence, in 1948, when Amar Nath opened a studio in Delhi and shifted there.
From the late 1920s to the 1980s, he plays the unique role of being a witness (as local), practitioner (as a photographer) and agent (as a studio owner). This exhibition showcases the black and white photographs of Mehts, covering the first four decades of his career.
Beginning his craft within the commercial studio environment, his practice marks a shift from the colonial gaze to a dynamic immediacy, owing as much to individual flair as to the evolution of photographic technology. His archive makes for a consistent layer of photographic narrative that negotiates stereotypes set by early European photographers and responds to changes in aesthetics and markets of the 20th Century.