‘City of Photos’ explores the little known ethos of neighborhood photo studios in Indian cities, discovering entire imaginary worlds in the smallest of spaces. Tiny, shabby studios that appear stuck in a time warp turn out to be places throbbing with energy. As full of surprises as the people who frequent these studios are the backdrops they enjoy posing against and the props they choose. These afford fascinating glimpses into individual fantasies and popular tastes. Yet beneath the fun and games runs an undercurrent of foreboding. Not everyone enjoys being photographed; not every backdrop is beautiful; not all photos are taken on happy occasions. The cities in which these stories unfold themselves become backdrops, their gritty urban reality a counterpoint to the photo palaces. Desires, memories and stories, all so deeply linked to the photographic experience, come together as part of a personal journey into the city of photos.
Alumni of Jamia Mass communication Research Centre, New Delhi and FTII, Pune, Nishtha Jain lives and works in her adopted city Mumbai.
From her first film City of Photos in 2004 to Gulabi Gang in 2012, she has been exploring the human condition in its myriad states. Politics of image-making and nature of memory; Complexities of social hierarchies and middle class sense of entitlement and privilege; Women’s movements and social change; Ethical implications of documentary filmmaking – these are some of the themes she has explored through her films. In her efforts to bring back documentary to the people, she makes sure that her multi layered work is also highly accessible to people across cultures, classes and age groups.
Her films have been shown extensively in international film festivals and occasionally in art exhibitions. They have won several prestigious awards, been broadcast on international TV networks and are regularly shown in educational institutions in India and abroad.