Photography is about many things to many people. But when you carve a series of conversations around the discovery of your own intentions it becomes a tenuous journey. SACAC Photography Faculty Chandan Gomes latest work titled 'People You May Know' is amongst the ten projects short-listed for the 'New Discovery Award' and is being shown at Rencontres d'Arles 2018. The exhibition opened on July 2, 2018 and will continue till September 23, 2018.
There are 36 works in total, printed on archival paper and mounted on Aluminum Dibond, with each dibond sheet fitted with a channel on the back, thus mirroring the collapsible borders between the analog and the digital at the conceptual core of 'People You May Know'.
"People You May Know is an archive of the conversations I have with a stranger-friend on Facebook and where they lead me to, sometimes in the real world," states Gomes. " It is a visual document of the intimacies we share, coupled with a sense of distrust and irony—I often find myself speaking to her on Facebook, while in the company of my real friends, family, the people I claim to love."
Gomes plays with provocation, in a person called Tara. An umbrella is enough for him to pen his love note. He also tears away our conventional understanding of photography as a tool, to serve us a body of work that goes where few Indian male photographers dare to — into the vulnerability and fragility of the self, inadvertently contesting any easy perception and representation of masculinity.
"The laptop screen becomes a bricolage of screenshots of our conversation, photos and films that we have exchanged, documents from my past like images from family albums and diary entries, several open chat/browser windows, etc. I carefully arrange all these elements on the laptop screen and then photograph it in the darkness of my room, while it glows and flickers," he adds.
In these photographs are Gomes confessions about his mother's memory loss, his stay at a sanatorium and my increasing anxiety to find Tara in the real world, amongst other things. " Through this work, I wish to throw light on how our dependence on the Internet has reshaped our social interactions, sexual habits and our understanding of the self. In the virtual world everyone appropriates, imitates who they want to be, but hides who they really are," says Gomes.
The curator Devika Daulat Singh of 'Photoink' says that Gomes show is an unconventional exchange of conversations between two strangers who found each other in the virtual world. "This work investigates the boundary-less realm of the "unknown" and "unseen" and reflects on how people interact and influence one another in the age of social media. As the boundaries between the digital and physical worlds get blurred, the phenomenon of the digitised self-finds agency and freedom to be anybody it wants to be.
'People You May Know' is a dark and poignant search for romantic love in the digital age. Its unpredictable and non-linear narrative allows the viewer to experience a relationship as it unfolds, falters, and rebuilds, not always in the same order," adds Daulat Singh.