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Dinesh Khanna


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Dinesh Khanna is an Indian contemporary photographer. In the early years of his career, Dinesh sold calculators in Chawri Bazaar, quality-checked garments in a Faridabad factory and cleared tables as a busboy in an Upper Eastside Bar in New York. He believes that these jobs were as good an education, if not better in some ways than the Economics degree he got from Delhi University. This rather chequered career path was due to his teenage belief that if he followed in his photographer father's footsteps, he would be yet another victim of the Indian caste system. This rebellion further led him to a 12-year long career as a client servicing executive in advertising where he finally achieved 'burn-out' at the ripe old age of 33 years and which left him with a burning desire to become a professional photographer. So in 1990 he finally succumbed to what can probably be blamed on genetic coding - the desire to make images - both as a means of making a living and as a form of creative expression. The last 30 years have seen him involved in creating images for advertising, editorial, and corporate clients, specifically in the area of food, still-life, people, and interiors. Dinesh is a managing trustee of Nazar Foundation, and one of the co-founders of the Delhi Photo Festival and was also a photography curator for the Serendipity Arts Festival. He also teaches photography in various institutions and conducts workshops. He is a Director of the Dhrish Academy of Photography at the Museo Camera, in Gurgaon and Consultant with Sahapedia.


I adore colour and am particularly fascinated by the unabashed pleasure with which people in India use them, especially in rural areas. Bhagoriya is a tribal festival that takes place in Madhya Pradesh and people from adjoining villages come to one particular place where they all sing, dance, and treat themselves to games and rides on the fairground. 


While walking around I noticed a couple of make-shift photo studios and stepped in to see what was going on. I was really fascinated by the coloured backdrops and the clothes people were wearing, as they were all dressed up for the festival in their colourful best. Also, everyone was so enthusiastic about getting their portraits shot. I found their delight in getting their photos taken so touching, since this form is more or less dead in urban India and I really love studio portraiture and was just transfixed by the spectacle. After a while, I approached the photographer and asked him if I could just stand next to him and take photos of the people he was shooting without disturbing him. He was really generous about it and asked me to go ahead. So I spent almost 3-4 hours just hanging around the tent with him and taking photos of the people exactly as he directed them, trying to see their world through his eyes and lens.


That afternoon was one of the most fascinating times in all my travels and these are some of the images I shot there. I just love the sincerity and seriousness with which everyone posed and especially in these selfie-ridden times, I felt this was like the last frontier of Portrait Photography.

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